Saturday, June 24, 2017
People often go through a time of existential crisis when they hit an age ending in “9.” 29, 39, 59, 79 -whatever. There shouldn't be anything special about say 39 or 38 or even 40. In the big scheme of things the ages are not much different. However, there is something about a birthday before a decade change that stimulates self-reflection and self-assessment.
It never hit me that way before. The age that got to me was 26. Weird, right? Why 26? Well, I was in a totally different place than most of my childhood friends. I'd been a firefighter for over 7 years, was married,had children and a house. Those all are normal adult milestones. My friends, however, were often freshly out of college and getting into exciting careers. Few were married and even fewer had children. Their lives looked so exciting. While I had no regrets, life had settled into a pattern.
After 26 it was clear sailing. 29, 39, and even 49 were no problem at all. I thought I was immune from the unsettling 9s. Then I hit 59. It caught up to me then. There were a number of things leading up to my 59th year. My dad, who I was very close to, passed away. My lovely wife and I lost our boat in a shipwreck. For the first time time in many years we stayed home during a New Hampshire winter. Then my leg got injured and greatly limited my mobility for months.
Suddenly, staring at 60 felt like a big deal. There is so much yet to do, and mortality is creeping up on me. There are things I've yet to do and experiences yet to experience. There are plans I've been sitting on for years. It's time to move on them or forget about them. I'm even considering things like fixing up the house and selling it in a few years. Not sure that's what will happen, but I'm thinking about things I'd never considered before. It could be worse. I could be looking at getting a sports car or having an affair. There's nothing wrong with change, but there's no sense in being foolish about it.
I've decided to embrace this “9” year and use it to inspire my next adventures.
Friday, June 23, 2017
A knife is a simple and useful tool. People get all worked up about different types, makes and models. There's a certain mystique surrounding blades that goes way back to man's early history. As much as I appreciate a well made knife, I'm not a fanatic.
Frankly, knives have come a long long way. Improvements in metallurgy has made it possible for even cheap knives to excel compared to ancient blades. You can get a better knife by spending a lot of money, but usually a much cheaper one will do 99% of what an expensive one will do. For example, I've a Chinese copy of a sailor's knife. It's folding knife with a stout blade and a marlin spike on the back. It's an interpretation of much more expensive British knives that go way back. My knock off cost about eight bucks. Thanks to its stainless steel construction it has held up for years and I expect to lose it before wearing it out.
A knife with a 3.5 inch blade will handle just about everything you'll ever need to do. To be honest, most of the time the blade I use is on my multi-tool. It's far from being a perfect blade, but it's the one most likely to be in my pocket. That makes it better than the perfect blade back home in a box.
There are some specialty knives are are definitely worth getting if you are going to do a lot of that one thing. Fillet knives come to mind. You can clean a fish with just about any knife, but a good fillet knife does the job a lot better.
Then there is that special subset of blade wielders: knife fighters. They have very specific ideas about what a proper fighting knife should look like. Many of those guys are knife fanatics. I've studied knife fighting and even trained in a dojo. If it comes to self defense, I'm going to carry a gun.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
I try to keep my ear to the ground to hear what's coming my way. It's what a prudent prepared person tries to do. In recent months events have been moving fast and much of it in secret.
Take everything from the Trump presidency for example. There are all his personal problems that everyone knows about so I won't elaborate. Love him or hate him, there is much uncertainty because all the important stuff is happening in secret.
One of the big threats we have to watch for is the chance of war. Frankly, I'm not sure how serious things are with N. Korea, China, or even Russia over Syria. The point is, there is movement in the world's flash points and the average Joe lacks the intel to know what's up. One can only hope those in power have the intel and aren't just guessing their own selves.
Even simple things like health planning is up in the air. With the senate working in secret, it makes me just a tad nervous. When you are doing good things, you want everyone to know. When doing something massively unpopular, you work in secret. With that in mind, I'm guessing I won't like what comes out of that body of politicians.
It's a normal fact of life that we have to make decisions without knowing all the information. If you want to know everything, nothing will get done. We learn what we can then we take our chances. Lately I feel the ratio of knowledge to guesswork has gotten way out of balance. It makes me just bit anxious, not knowing which way to jump.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
One of the weirdest things that happened to me when meeting up with friends is that we became our grandparents. You know how when you are a kid you hear your grandparents talking with their friends about illnesses and injuries? You thought you'd never become those people.
We hadn't seen each other for months. What do we end up talking about? Illnesses and injuries. What that heck? When did we become those people? The funny thing is that we all came to the realization at about the same time. It was kinda depressing.
Yes, I've been dealing with a gimpy leg the last few months. It's an injury, not old age. Then again, the fact that it's been taking months to heal might have something to do with the gray in my thinning hair. At 20 I'd probably have shaken off the injury. Back then my immune system was strong enough to kill squirrels in the driveway.
Both of my friends have the regular assortment of maintenance medications. One just had a cancerous tumor successfully removed and the prognosis is excellent. His cancer was caught because of regular blood tests he has done for another chronic condition. He's had the most serious illness of our group, but looks much healthier than we do. Go figure.
This injury of mine had made me feel old, but I've been injured and felt old before. I've gotten over it in the past and will get over this now. Before long I'll be feeling well enough to do something crazy and foolish. Looking forward to it.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
My lovely wife and I just came back from four days and three nights on the road. We went downstate to take care of some business, but mostly we reconnected with friends. If you don't take the time to connect with old friends, eventually you have none.
It was also a pretty good test of the veggie van. The van burned almost 30 gallons of free waste fryer oil. That's 30 gallons of diesel that I did not have to buy. It appears that finally my assorted fuel problems have been solved -at least for now.
The new tires really improved handling. I'd purchased a set of no name tires while on the road a few years ago. They never performed as well as my Coopers, but that brand was unavailable when I needed to replace the tires. We were heading back into snow country and the van's back tires were very worn. Even no name tires with thick threads are better than name tires with no threads.
The only disappointment was that I'd hoped my mechanic could fix the van's air conditioning before the trip. While he was able to fix the broken AC hose that initially caused the problem, a second issue cropped up while he was pressure testing the system. Nobody in town had the part. It was ordered and I've an appointment to get it installed today.
The lack of AC wasn't a problem until Monday. Temperatures rose to the high eighties and the humidity was even higher. The huge 7.3 turbo diesel engine radiates heat through the doghouse and into the van's cab. My lovely wife and I drank a lot of water on the way home.
All in all, it was a good trip. My wife and I even got our salt water fix by going to a southern Maine beach. There are a few little improvements the van could use before the fall, but they aren't anything major. However, when you expect to spend months living in a van while traveling, even little things make a difference.
Monday, June 19, 2017
The cover of my sand barrel had been removed in the night. My first thought was that the bears were back. The only thing that gave me pause is that they normally just knock the whole barrel over, thinking it's a trash can. Since just the cover was removed, I had to consider the possibility it was the large raccoon that's been hanging around.
Later that day I found evidence that it really was bears. A 5 gallon jug that I use to move diesel fuel had been removed from next to the house. The whole spout assembly had been ripped off. Bears, no doubt. I keep jugs of waste veggie oil to run in my van converted to run waste veggie. Bears have gotten hold of my veggie jugs before. In the past I sometimes left them in the sun to warm up so they pour easier. Bears have been known to snag the jugs and haul them off in the woods. The diesel jug was similar to my veggie jugs
Last year they scratched up the door to my basement, where the veggie oil is kept. Bears are one of the main reasons I keep a loaded gun handy. A friend of mine is doing all he can to keep them away from his chickens. He's even surrounded the chicken pen with electrified wire.
I hope it's a good berry and nut year so hungry bears can find the food they need in the woods.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Old King Louis XV knew things were going to fall apart after his reign. Fifteen years later, the French Revolution took place. That made such a mess of things that this little known Corsican by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte had his opportunity. Interesting times.
So I've been thinking of revolutions and changing times. The French Revolution appears to follow a general pattern. The old fossilized and corrupt system is overthrown. There's celebration in the streets. Lofty ideals are proclaimed. The revolutionaries have difficulties putting ideals into practice. A strong man, taking advantage of the chaos of the times, comes into power.
History doesn't exactly repeat itself, but it does tend to follow certain patterns. Just look to the recent history of Egypt. The Arab Spring overthrew a dictator. A period of high ideals followed. Politics got messy. Now it's basically a dictatorship again.
So I'm a bit leery of revolution. No doubt old and no longer functional systems have to change. The problem is that the high ideals behind the revolution rarely translate into a long term functional government.
The American Revolution turned out better than most. Partly due to the fact that George Washington did not want to become king. There was some amazing restraint, good planning, and no small measure of luck involved. It was a near miracle that a good governmental system was formed.
Even so, tens of thousands of Loyalists were uncomfortable enough that they left the country. Canada took in a lot of them. Even a fairly successful revolution took its toll in human suffering.
It troubles me that so many people today are willing to throw out over two hundred years of successful government. Our system is far from perfect. Parts of it are definitely broken. However, shooting those you politically disagree with never ends well. Those in government right now have a responsibility to fight out their differences in the political arena. Gaming the system for short term political gain will turn out badly in the long run.
Let history be your guide.
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Yes, the grilling season is here. Naturally, there are all kinds of articles coming out on how grilling is bad for you. Grilling at high heat creates two known types of carcinogenic chemicals: heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Isn't that a mouthful?
Different studies do point to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, grilling causes cancer. Of course, there have been studies that show certain other chemicals caused by grilling protect against cancer. However, I haven't seen those studies mentioned this grilling season.
I supposed you'd probably benefit from grilling at lower temperatures and creating less smoke.
For many thousands of years, mankind has grilled food. It would seem that maybe we've adapted, at least somewhat, to any bad effects. On the other hand, the immediate benefits of food safety outweighed any potential long term bad effects fifty years down the road.
At any rate, there is one thing I'm going to definitely cut back on: processed foods. Things like hot dogs are pretty mysterious to begin with. Grilling them probably just makes unhealthy food worse. However, I've a couple of nice local porterhouse steaks in the freezer that's going to see a grill one bright and sunny day.
Friday, June 16, 2017
My house water comes from a shallow well. It's about 5.5 feet deep and has never let us down. The well even kept up to the water needs of household with three daughters. For years it didn't even have a filter. In recent years I've added two filters. One is a coarse filter to catch silt and sand, which always was a minor issue. The second filter is finer and takes care of bacteria and many chemicals. I've become more cautious over the years, partly due to neighbors doing extensive work on their land.
Speaking of neighbors, years ago I found a nice shallow well for a guy just down the road from me. It provided gravity fed water to his summer cottage. It was a good well and provided for their needs. Years later new owners came in. One of the first things they did was to take a bulldozer and plow a rough road right over the old well. So much for that.
Now they are building two houses on the property and need water. The old well is long gone. A well drilling company came in to drill a deep well. They were at it for days. The thing about drilled wells is that you pay by the foot. So much for the hole itself, and another fee for every foot of casing pipe needed. Since the company was at it for days, the bill must be amazing.
Another thing to consider: you don't pay a well drilling company for water. What you pay them for is a hole. If you are lucky it fills with water. If it remains dry, they still have to be paid.
The new owners never took the time to learn about the land they bought. They moved in with heavy equipment first thing. They could have used their backhoe to carefully dig a trench to bury pipe below the frost line. That's all it would have taken to turn a summer well into four season water source. Since they already own the equipment, they could have done the job for the cost of a roll of plastic pipe.
I wonder if their new well has water quality as good as what they could have had from the old one.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
I good friend of mine sent me a clipping of a Washington Post article by Tara Bahrampour. It was all about the benefits of getting back to nature. People show benefits from even small slices of nature. The article was worth reading.
It definitely made me grateful for living out in the country. To be honest, since my leg injury, home projects have gotten away from me. My daughter came to visit the other day and ended up cutting my lawn. At the time I was laying down with my leg elevated again. In short, the house isn't going to make the cover of “Home Beautiful” magazine.
However, the day before, while having my coffee in the kitchen, I could watch an eagle circle over the lake. Since the weather's been pretty decent lately we've been sitting outside watching the wildlife. I'm sure just the sound of wind blowing through the trees drops my blood pressure twenty points.
Cities are a pretty recent development. We did not evolve in totally artificial environments. Something in our inner beings responds to the natural world. In Tara's article she noted that many people who added nature to their lives were able to give up their medications for mild depression. Frankly, I know I'd been pretty depressed if I had to live in a big city without a single tree in sight. It would probably make me more than a little crazy.
There are days when I just step outside and breath, taking it all in. So what if the grass gets too long, and the house needs work. It's in the country where I need to be.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
My lovely wife and I went for a drive to a nearby town. They have a new coffee shop and we had to check it out. I love good coffee shops. Some people hang out in bars; I'd rather hang out in coffee shops.
The only problem with the local coffee shops is the hours they keep. They open early but close mid-afternoon. That's fine for people who keep normal hours. I'd like a place where I could get breakfast at 5 in the afternoon and would stay open late in the evening. The closest coffee shop with evening hours is over an hour away in a tourist town. Their coffee and pastries are good, but they charge tourist prices.
I'm also not a big fan of large chain coffee shops. Starbucks suffers from bland corporate sameness. Dunkin Donuts isn't a coffee shop, even though they serve coffee, of a sort, there. It's a place where people end up when the bars close.
Sorry, Waffle Houses don't count either. Don't get me wrong, they have a certain charm. I happen to like sipping bland coffee out of a too small mug while people have fist fights in the parking lot. The hours are convenient, the food cheap, the waitresses hard working -but it's not exactly the coffee shop experience I'm looking for.
I like small independent shops with excellent coffee, acceptable prices, and an atmosphere that lends itself to conversation with strangers. Many years ago there was a local coffee shop run by a semi-retired jazz musician. For a few wonderful years I had the joy of good coffee combined with excellent live music. I knew it would not last. How he thought he'd make a living in a dying mill town is beyond me. However, I took full advantage of his business error while he was around.
My lovely wife and I made it to the new coffee shop by the crack of noon. Their coffee was strong and rich. The food was good and the prices very reasonable. The big downsides are that it's a couple towns over and they close at 2 in the afternoon.
There are rumors of a new coffee shop opening up just 20 minutes away in the next town. They say the new owners plan on having a jazz theme, whatever that means. I hope there is some truth to the rumors.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
To entertain myself while waiting for my leg to recover, I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos. The ones I've picked out have the common theme of travel. My subscription list has people who are hiking the AT, sailing videos, camping videos, and people doing adventure travel on two wheels.
One of the guys I've been watching has been planning a long motorcycle trip from Massachusetts to Alaska. It's been in the works for a while. He bought a big adventure motorcycle and has some very nice top of the line gear. I've paid less for motorcycles than he's paid for his riding pants.
On the other end of the adventure spectrum there's a Kindle Unlimited e-book, Scootin’ to Alaska by Jason Forster. Jason also went to Alaska, but from the Detroit area. Sure, it's a bit shorter, but went on the cheapest 49cc scooter he could buy. Top speed: 30 mph, but he usually traveled slower than that.
I must admit, I've been tempted to try a two wheeled adventure for myself. My budget does not include high end German motorcycles, but I don't want to go all the other way to the other extreme. However, scooters are fun. Almost bought a second hand 250 cc scooter, but the timing wasn't right. It's been an expensive month for me. Still, I've been keeping my eye out for something in that range. While you wouldn't want to go any distance on the highway with that size machine, it's perfect for secondary roads. Interstates are great for covering distance, but all the interesting stuff is on the back roads.
A rack for the scooter could be easily fabricated for the back of the veggie van. It would be handy to be able to leave the van in campgrounds and run errands on the scooter. It sure would be easier to park.
One of the problems with me being forced to take it easy is that it allows me too much time to think. When I think too much, I start planning wacky things.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Some of my blog readers have noted that a certain level of restlessness has crept into my blog. It's true, I've been feeling cooped up for months now. Currently, it's my slowly recovering leg driving me nuts. All it needs is time and rest, the two things I don't want to do. Unfortunately, there is no rushing it.
It's not like I'm stuck in a hospital bed or anything. I get out and go to different events. Saturday night I went to see the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young tribute band, Wooden Ships. It was a great time. However, just before the event I'd spent an hour on my back with my foot in air getting the swelling down. I've learned that I really have to do that at least once a day. While it's annoying, I've been able to forgo medication, so that's a good thing.
Walking any distance or pedaling my bicycle takes a toll. With nice weather finally here, those are some the things I'd like to do. I'm planning on launching my sailboat in the lake. If I'm careful, pace myself, and my lovely wife helps, we should be able to launch. Once the boat is in the water, it will be a lot easier to go sailing whenever I want to. Hope that helps with the restlessness.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Another of my brother firefighters just had a celebration of life service. Not only was he a former firefighter, he was a military veteran. I'd been feeling weird about laying another brother to rest all week. It's reached the point that there may be more of my colleagues who've passed that who are still with us.
There's a special bond that's formed by those who've put their lives on the line for each other. I was fortunate to have experienced that bond. We've had some tough times and we've had some fun times. It's tough to let my brothers go.
So farewell Paul, see you on the other side.
Friday, June 9, 2017
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. He feels pretty stuck in his life situation. His solution? Buying the occasional lottery ticket. Now it might be fun to buy a ticket now and then to enjoy the fantasy, but it's not a plan. Perhaps it does not help that so many of his perfectly reasonable plans just did not pan out. Time and money spent on higher education only got him more debt. Good job offers fell though, and so on. Come to think of it, the occasional lottery ticket is no worse a plan than anything else he's tried.
When you read about success stories, they always start with the successful person and work backwards. You hear about the guy who takes a big chance and it pays off. You don't hear about the twenty guys who did nearly the same thing and had it blow up in their faces.
Successful people, when talking about how they got there, often neglect some key facts or gloss them over. They might have numerous failures before their success, but had family or other resources that allowed them to fail. It's hard to try again when failure leaves you homelessness, in debt, and socially ostracized.
They discount how much just plain dumb luck had in their success. It's the rare person who admits that it was a chance meeting or an accidental discovery that allowed them to succeed. You also rarely hear how they “Came into this town with just two million to my name and I turned it into a fortune.”
Let's face it, there are some people who are born with what it takes to succeed in a particular place and time. They just happen to have an aptitude for what's valued. Sure, it takes work to develop skills, but don't discount natural ability. Practice and training won't make a five foot tall man a pro basketball player. Someone with a tin ear won't be a professional musician. A person may been born with the potential to be the world's greatest military mind, but was born into a small peaceful country so spends life as a chimney sweep.
Much depends on how you measure success. In our society it often boils down to one's ability to acquire vast piles of money. We aren't selecting for manners and poetry. There have been times and places where manners and poetry have been the skills needed. Those were useful when the key to success was being entertaining at the king's court.
As for myself, I consider myself successful. My time is my own. There's opportunity for travel and adventure. I've great kids. Heck, I even got the girl. The only thing I'm lacking is money. People are often amazed at how much I do with so little. That just might be another one of the skills I have an aptitude for. I won't look down on people who can't do something with nothing. They didn't have my experiences and natural inclinations.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Bug repellent is an often overlooked emergency supply. You don't want to need it and not have it. When the biting insects darken the sky, the lack of good counter measures can drive you insane.
Here's how bad it can get, true story. My uncle was sawing up logs with a chainsaw. The bugs kept getting worse and worse. A large horsefly landed right in the middle of his forehead. By then he'd gone a bit mad. He flipped the chainsaw sideways and swatted the horsefly with the flat of the chair bar. Only later did it occur to him that he had killed a bug on his face with a running chainsaw. He's lucky he didn't cut his fool head off.
Don't assume that any old bug spray will do the job. Test them to make sure they are effective. There is no sense in stocking up on a product that the bugs treat as special sauce on their dinner. Also, make sure the products work on the bugs you find in your area. Something that works on mosquitoes might not work nearly as well on horseflies.
Not every product works for every person. Some people have reactions to using DEET for example. As for myself, DEET doesn't cause any issues, but so called natural repellents drive me into violet coughing fits.
Don't just rely on chemical agents. Physical barriers are important too. Even though it's warm, long sleeve shirts, and long pants tucked into socks eliminate a lot of exposed skin. I'm a huge fan of mosquito head nets. They are cheap and do a good job. You may even want to consider a net that covers your whole bed so the little monsters don't get you while you are sleeping.
Bug protection isn't just to prevent the annoyance of itchy bites. Insects carry a number of serious diseases. It's better to prevent infections than to treat them later. Some serious insect borne diseases don't even show symptoms until damage is done. For example, a coworker had Lyme disease, but had none of the normal indicators. In his case he ended up in the hospital when fluid built up around his heart. It took the doctors a long time to discover the root cause was a tick bite that happened months earlier.
Good bug protection can make sure they stay a mild annoyance rather than a life threatening issue.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
The country of Qatar is in crisis. Land routes into the country have been cut off. 40% of its food came through Saudi Arabia and those roads are closed. Store shelves are empty. The country has only 3 days of drinking water.
What caused this crisis? There are details in the linked BBC article, but basically it's a diplomatic dispute between regional countries.
So picture this from the viewpoint of a Qatari citizen. One day everything is going along fine. The next, for no reason within your control, your country is in crisis. Qatar is heavily dependent on imports. It's land-base can't naturally support more than a tiny fraction if its population.
That's how fast collapse can hit. It doesn't take an earthquake, hurricane, atomic war or cosmic rays from space. All it takes is a few diplomatic missteps.
Now Qatar is a small country in a volatile part of the world. They are like a canary in a coal mile. When things start to go south, it's countries like Qatar that are the first to experience disruptions.
One bright note. Since it is a problem created by diplomatic issues, it could theoretically be resolved rapidly, before things go all Mad Max.
Don't be smug thinking that because you live in a larger country that you are immune from such disruptions. Political idiots can easily destroy countries of any size. Just one threat to be aware of. That's why a general level of preparedness is a good thing. You never know what kind of odd ball threat could come out of left field.
Monday, June 5, 2017
I don't like to announce when I'm going to be away. Often, I can keep up with the blog. This time there were not enough hours in the day.
So what was so important? In short, family. My lovely wife and I were visiting one of my daughters and her family. We also made the effort to catch another granddaughter's softball game. Only a grandparent will travel three states over to watch a 10 year old's softball game.
Cool 50 degree wet weather settled in for a few days. I'd been avoiding lighting my woodstove until the chimney could be inspected. My basement is pretty cramped and with my leg still tender I was concerned about banging it on something. However, it had been a while since the last time it had been inspected. The procedure isn't all that hard. Just take a small mirror and insert it into the chimney clean out. Angle it to see completely up to the top. There should be a nice square of light if it is clean. (assuming you have a square chimney, of course) Any soot and creosote deposits show up as irregularities in what should be a square of light.
After using the woodstove for the winter the chimney is usually in need of a cleaning. This year we mostly burned compressed sawdust blocks. They are supposed to burn cleaner and sure enough, they really do. The chimney looked almost perfect. Since it was good, I had no problem cutting up more pallets to burn in the stove. It's been cool and damp so a nice fire makes the place a lot more comfortable.
My leg is still healing. As long as I could elevate the leg at least once or twice during the day, the swelling wasn't too bad. The trip home was just a bit too far. I had my lovely wife drive the last 15 minutes on the way home. It almost seemed silly not to push on, but my leg was getting numb. Better to have someone fresh at the wheel in the middle of moose country.
All in all, it was a good trip.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
My lovely wife's computer died. She hasn't complained and claims to be satisfied using my little computer to check Facebook. I've found that domestic harmony is improved when we both of us have access to our own computers.
Having just written a bunch of checks to pay medical bills, new computers are not in the budget. Serves me right for squandering money on necessary health treatments.
I do have an older laptop that I've been working to bring back to life. It's time consuming, but I've more time than money right now. Progress is being made. I've been working on installing a stable operating system that will run well on the older machine. To that end a lot of different Linux distributions have been tested. I think I'm getting near to the end. In fact, I'm feeling good enough about it to sit back and relax with a wee dram of Laphroaig single malt whisky.
Once that computer is sorted out I'm going to see how many more files can be salvaged from my lovely wife's old machine. Before the last hard crash some were uploaded to the cloud. In the past I've been hesitant to upload files to cloud storage, but after losing a couple of computers in various ways, having off-site storage is a good thing. Also a big fan of flash drives, as they've proven durable enough to survive being submerged in the sea for two days. The salt has to soaked out of them first, but after they are rinsed and dried, they work.
To me, computers are just tools. The cheapest ones that will do what I need to do are fine. Electronics lose their value so quickly it's not worth spending big money. If you have a job that requires the newest and fastest, then fine. Otherwise, it's a waste of money.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
It's almost June and I've got the woodstove going. 40 degrees Fahrenheit is a tad cool. It will warm up into the 60s later today, but that's later. Hard to believe we've had some 90 degree weather with nights cool enough to keep a fan going.
To keep the stove going I've been cutting up pallets. In some ways they work out pretty well for this time of year. The wood is dry, puts out a lot of heat, but doesn't build up a lot coals. Later in the day when it warms up the stove can die out and we won't overheat.
The big downside is that pallets are full of nails. I've been cutting them up with my electric chainsaw. That worked well, until I hit a nail. It was getting to be pretty rough going until I located my chain file. A quick touch up and I was back in business.
My kitchen woodstove is full of nails and staples. The next time we have a few days where I don't have to run the stove, I'll clean it up. It will go in a metal bucket outside until I'm sure all the coals are dead. The ash/nail mix will then go into an empty dog food bag. Those bags are pretty tough so nails won't poke out when the whole mess goes into the trash.
Back in the old days they used to burn down old houses just so they could sift through the ashes for the nails. Those were painstakingly collected for reuse. We forget how mass production has reduced the price of something as simple as a nail.
Monday, May 29, 2017
There are some personal parts of my life that rarely if ever make it into this blog. If I'd wanted everyone to know everything about my life I'd be on Facebook. However, I feel it's important to share a few lesser known details.
Over the holiday weekend we had a house warming party for one of our friends. She bought a place not that far from my lovely wife and I. It's nice to have another friend so close. Actually, we've been building more than a circle of friends and family. In these troubled times, we've been building our tribe.
A more traditional tribe is basically an expanded family group. Our tribe is more like a modern blended family. We aren't necessarily born into this tribe, we join it. It's good to have people to depend on. We support each other.
Survival is much easier if you are part of tribe rather than a lone wolf. If you want to live more than a subsistence existence, you need other people. Even if you have a vast array of skills and encyclopedic knowledge, there are only so many hours in the day.
To help bind our created tribe together, I did something I rarely do. I preformed a sacred pipe ceremony. The pipe ceremony is perhaps the most important ceremony in Native American culture. Ceremonies vary, and mine was somewhat tailored to our group. My pipe came down to me from my teachers. I have such respect for them that I was hesitant to step up and do a ceremony. Then it occurred to me that the pipe was given to me so that I'd use it. Having it sit on a shelf somewhere does not honor it.
My tribe was respectful and understood the importance of what we were doing. I believe we are all tied together just a bit closer.
Friday, May 26, 2017
What can we do about a Middle Eastern country that invades its neighbors, promotes radical Islam, and suppresses woman's rights? What should we do about another country that just sold that Middle Eastern nation hundreds of millions of dollars worth of advanced weapons?
The Middle Eastern country in question is Saudi Arabia, of course. It's committing war crimes in Yemen and suppressed democracy in Bahrain. Women are basically their husband's property and aren't even allowed to drive. The royal family supports Wahhabism, a very strict form of Islam in where all non-believers are considered enemies. This is the country that the United States just made a major arms deal with.
Do they sound like our friends? To me they are using us to further their aims and that's all. If any Muslims should be banned, it should be members of the Saudi Royal family and their government officials. Obviously, they exercise undue influence on American politicians.
Something should be done.
Should we do something about that Middle Eastern nation with a secretive advanced nuclear weapon program? You know, Israel?
My point is that the Middle East is a complicated place. Should the United States be involved there at all? How many American lives are any of those places worth? Darn few in my opinion. Any of our efforts there do long range good? Isn't it about time we figure out if there is anything at all in that part of the world worth our trouble?
Thursday, May 25, 2017
It took weeks to get in to see the oral surgeon about my broken tooth. The local dentist didn't want to try to pull it. He was afraid due to my “massive jaw.”
The closest oral surgeon was over an hour away. They scheduled me for a consultation and were very clear that it would cost $150 just to be examined. I drove over and the surgeon thought he could pull the tooth without too much trouble. After weeks of dealing with a tender tooth, I was more than willing to let him try.
Before anything else happened, I had to pay an additional $205 on top of the consultation fee. Only then would he pull the tooth. Seemed a bit cold hearted to me, but I've no dental insurance so it didn't surprise me.
Fortunately, the guy did a great job with the tooth and got it all in one go. Smoothest bit of dentistry I've ever had done. He wasn't cheap, but he knew his stuff. Usually my roots break and I'm spitting out bits of tooth for weeks. That's one reason the local guy didn't want to touch it.
My grandfather was both tough and cheap. He pulled all his own teeth with a pair of pliers. When too few were left, he pulled the rest. Back then you could cross the border into Canada and get good quality dentures at a steep discount, so that's what he did.
Bad teeth run in the family. My dad had dentures at age of fourteen. At least his dad paid for them to be pulled. My father was determined I'd get decent dental care as a kid. I hated it, but I've still got most of my teeth. The loss of one back molar won't bother me much.
I'm glad that's over with, even though it cost a pretty penny.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
The day started cold, but by the afternoon is was nice enough for outdoor projects. A friend had a half dozen of pallets to get rid of. The veggie van was set up for camping. It took about 20 minutes to roll up the mattress and to remove the tables. That gave me room to haul things. All the pallets fit in perfectly.
Re-configuring the van gave me a chance to see just what was left in there. Since the van had not been used all winter there was plenty of time to forget. I like to keep some emergency supplies in the van at all times. It has two camp stoves, cookware, chairs, a folding table, sleeping bags, a spare tent, saws, water and 60 freeze dried meals. There's everything needed for bugging out, including books and playing cards for entertainment.
Then I finally climbed inside the Oday 19 sailboat. Since my leg is still a bit gimpy I made sure to use a really good heavy duty stepladder to climb in. The new registration was swapped out with the old. The emergency gear is all there, and the flares are still good for another year. No cabin leakage was detected, only a small bit of normal condensation.
After that I installed the new battery and hooked it up to the solar panel. It's a great feeling when the charge controller lights came on all green, showing everything is working normally. There is only one thing left to do before launching it in the lake. The tiller spent the winter exposed to the elements and could use sanding and fresh varnish.
That can wait until tomorrow. Then maybe I can get back to my long neglected motorcycle project. That is, unless my wife asks me to do less fun projects like mowing the lawn.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Okay, it's no secret that I've never been a fan of Trump. His poor treatment of everyone from women to contractors is well documented. Personally, I'm not fond of rich, loud-mouthed louts from New York.
In spite of that, I really hoped he'd be good for the country. After all, we elect human beings to office, not saints.
So for those of you who supported Trump, any regrets? Any problems with heath care getting worse and more expensive for the average person? Are you fine with an Education Secretary who's only qualification is being a big money donor? How about the Russia scandals? What if there really is something there? Any problem with there being almost daily scandals?
Now if all your news comes from Fox, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. If you listen to news from just about any other news organization from anywhere in the world, you'd be exposed to a different viewpoint.
It is possible that Fox is right and everybody else in the whole world is “fake news,” but that's not the way to bet.
You get no points for claiming what Obama did or Clinton would have done is worse. That's just trying to change the focus.
Now some people I've talked to forgive Trump for all those things because they really hate Liberals, Mexicans, and Muslims. Since Trump is attacking those people, he's fine in their book. Fear and hate are powerful forces.
I'm old enough to remember Nixon. For months I thought he was being attacked unfairly. About the time he fired Archibald Cox I realized he really was a bad character after all. It was tough to admit I was wrong about him.
Do I want Trump to be impeached? Not particularly. Just being a nasty character isn't enough. He has to be found doing real crimes of a serious nature. That, and a Republican Congress has to decide to impeach him. Even if he was guilty, most lack the stones to do it. If he was removed from office, would the country be better off or worse off? The turmoil would be intense and any replacement could be even worse.
I don't even know what to wish for.
Monday, May 22, 2017
One of my granddaughters had a gymnastics performance. Of course, she had her own cheering section of assorted relatives.
After the event we all decided to go out together for a late lunch. A new burger place opened up nearby, one of those high quality specialty places. They charge more than I'd normally pay for a burger, but the food really was great. Since the weather was pleasant, we decided to take advantage of their outdoor seating.
Most of us were done our meals and had reached that point where we were nibbling at “just one more hand cut herb encrusted fry.” At that point there was a popping noise. The automatic lawn sprinklers sprang out of the ground and turned on. At first they pointed away from the tables, but soon they rotated to where we were sitting.
There was a hilarious scramble as we grabbed the remains of our meals and hot footed it out of the spray. The owner of the burger place ran out and tried to shut down the sprinklers, only succeeding in getting soaked in the process. He never did figure out the shut down procedure.
He was hugely apologetic and obviously worried we'd be upset. I'm proud to say my people could only see the humor in the situation. We all had a good laugh, pleased to have a new story to tell. I'm sure at some point we'll be at another family gathering and someone will say, “Remember the time when . . .”
Then we will have another good chuckle.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
As a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, I didn't even know what a tick looked like. They just weren't a thing here in northern New Hampshire. I thought our vast array of biting insects were bad, but I didn't know what bad really was.
Lyme disease is pretty nasty. In the early days of the disease a coworker got infected. He picked up the disease while training with the National Guard in Massachusetts. Back then nobody knew what the disease was or how to treat it. It almost killed him. He missed months of work and it was years before he received a proper diagnosis and treatment.
In all our travels, my lovely wife and I have not had to deal with Lyme,but our dog had to be treated for it. One time my lovely wife and I were on a camping trip. We picked up so many ticks that we spent a long long night searching for them with headlamps and tweezers. Not only did we have to pick them off our bodies, we had to go through our clothes and everything in the tent. We never camped there ever again.
This year they are particularly bad once more. It seems all we have to do is to walk outside and they find us. Of course, the dog excels at bringing them into the house. I just refreshed her flea and tick medication so hopefully that will be less of a problem. At least most of the ticks we've found are the common wood tick, not the deer ticks that carry Lyme.
Lyme is the big concern here in New England, but we travel all around the country. Ticks carry some other nasty diseases in other regions. To me one of the weirder tick born diseases is Alpha-gal allergy. I know someone who came down this disease. He is now allergic to meat from mammals and is basically a vegetarian because of it.
Yes, ticks are just plain evil.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Last fall I got sick before I could finish all the outside jobs that had to be done before the snow fell. One of the things that didn't happen was removal of the heavy duty marine battery from the boat. It was still hooked up to the solar panel so I had some hope the solar charger would preserve the battery.
What I had not counted on was the battery locker getting flooded. The charge controller was also mounted in that locker. They both spent the winter in a block of ice. Not a good way to treat electrical stuff. I replaced the charge controller with a spare. The battery would not take a charge. My tester showed an internal short.
Last year I bought the battery during one heck of a sale. This year I see the same battery going for over $150. Yikes! Figuring I had nothing to lose, I took the old battery in to see if there was any warranty left on it. Turns out when I bought the original battery, they never ticked off the little circles that indicate when it was purchased. The guys decided to assume it was under the one year replacement and gave me a new one for free.
It was nice of them, but I am a regular there. I always joke around with them a bit when doing business. Does not hurt to be friendly. Sometimes it helps a whole lot.
After that I sorted out the sailboat's new running lights. It's just about ready for the water -as am I.
Friday, May 19, 2017
The free sailboat we were looking into. Someone beat us to the punch. The boat is supposed to be hauled away this weekend. However, if for some reason those people flake on the deal, the owners are saving our number.
It would have been neat to have a good 30 foot boat but it's not the best of timing for us. Coastal Massachusetts is one of the more expensive places to keep a boat, even on a mooring. Don't get me wrong, we'd make it work. It would be close to one of my daughter's and her family, so that would be good. However, we'd have to leave earlier than planned in the fall to beat the cold weather. Still, it's all workable. If for some reason we get another opportunity to take the boat, we most likely would do it.
Our fallback plan is to do a mixture of camping and sailing. We'd hook up our Oday 19 sailboat behind our ambulance/motorhome conversion. The van's fixed and running well. The sailboat basically just needs a new battery. Before heading to southern salt water I'd give it a new coat of bottom paint, but that can wait until the last minute. The big advantage of this arrangement is the fact that we already own everything.
My lovely wife won't let me take the little Oday across the Gulf Stream,so the Bahamas would be out for next winter. However, the shallow draft opens up a lot of Florida waters that other boats cannot get into. When we get tired of the tight quarters on the boat, we can easily haul it out and stay in the van a while. One big advantages of our trailer sailor arrangement is being able to stick around until after Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.
Of course, anything could happen. We are flexible and ready to make changes at a moment's notice.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
So I went to my doctor's appointment. He took one look at my leg and got very excited. He said: Amazing! Fantastic! Apparently, it was a lot better than he expected -a lot better. The previous visit he was making noises of sending me to a wound clinic. Today he sent me on my way with just a few minor instructions on how to take care of myself. At the end of the appointment, the doctor said he had one request for me. I thought he wanted me to lose weight.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I want you go and have a good time.”
“Okay,” I said. “I can do that.”
A few days back my lovely wife was reflecting on how we've refused two free sailboats. The first one was a 42 foot ketch, based in Maine. The problem with that boat was its wooden hull. The hull was sound, but we wanted to sail warm southern waters. There are critters in tropical waters that eat wooden boats. It would have become a maintenance nightmare. My lovely wife pointed out to me that we don't want to fix boats; we want to sail them.
The second boat we refused was a catamaran. I was salvaging what I could from the wreck of our Ranger sailboat. The tow boat guy said he felt really bad they couldn't save my boat. He knew a guy who was losing his boat storage and was looking for someone to take a catamaran off his hands. I know that my lovely wife was not ready yet. Had I know it would have taken her only a few weeks to get back on the horse, I might have taken the guy up on it. Anyway, at the time she wasn't ready.
So my lovely wife says we better take the next free sailboat that's offered us. Less than two days later we find out from my oldest daughter about someone who's giving away a 30 foot sailboat. They sold their house and are moving away from the ocean. As part of the deal they have until the end of the month to remove the boat from the property. I would have gladly paid to have the boat trucked to the marina and tied to a mooring ball. I've been putting together a sailboat fund and that would have more than covered the expenses.
Unfortunately, it looks like we may have missed our chance on this one. The owner was supposed to get back to us but did not. While I have not totally given up hope, it doesn't looks promising. Of course, someone in the middle of selling their house has a lot of balls in the air, so maybe they just got too busy. We shall see.
Even if that deal falls apart, I'm not too worried. The universe will provide. In the mean time I've been fixing up the Oday 19. The mast light's replaced and new bow lights wired in. All I need is some sealant to finish that job. The old charge controller for the solar panel failed, but I had a replacement that's better than the one that died. The battery itself seems to have developed an internal short, but might still be under warranty. After that it will be ready for sailing.
There's been a huge change in the weather. Sunday we had snow. Wednesday it got into the mid 80s. Thursday it'll be around 90, and records may be broken across the state. How weird is that?
I'm glad my leg looks good enough that I can wear shorts again. Before the ugly zombie flesh could have frightened small children.
Saturday, May 13, 2017
What do you do when life doesn't work for you anymore? We are supposed to go to school, graduate, then go to school some more. By the time we are in our mid-20s we are supposed to find a good job. Then we get married, and have 2.1 children. After that we work until we are near death then retire. Sounds bleak when laid out that way, but for many people it wasn't that bad. People got to eat on a regular basis. They had a roof over their heads to keep the weather off and a place to raise a family. If your job was a grind, at least you had the weekends.
That model, while it wasn't great, had a certain predictability and comfort to it. It never was all that simple, but it was considered what was normal. Normal was good. In the '60s and '70s many young people attempted to break out of that mold. They tried everything from communes, to mind expanding drugs, to free love, to alternative religions. Eventually, most of them cut their hair, got a job, and dropped back in. Not all, but enough for it to look like a failed experiment.
Now we find ourselves at a new societal crisis. Young people with master's degrees are waiting tables. Not just Liberal Arts majors either. Many young working age adults have completely dropped out of the job market. Low skill jobs have been exported, automated or both. Even high skill jobs have gone that route. In their despair, many have turned to drugs and alcohol to get through their days.
Housing? For all too many that means living with mom and dad. Kinda hard to raise a family under those conditions. Social Security and retirement is seen as a scam. If you are a Millennial it may well be.
So how do people for whom the old models not longer work, yet have not given into despair, live?
Well, if can't earn much money, you can learn to live with a lot less. Minimalism has become quite popular. People give up things for freedom and experiences.
I've met people with part time minimum wage jobs who live on old sailboats out on anchor. Some don't even have any sort of real job at all. They live as street musicians, making jewelry, arts and crafts, and as writers.
People who live in recreational vehicles follow the beet harvest or work seasonally at an Amazon warehouse. A few months of work provides all they need to live the rest of the year.
There are digital nomads. It's hard to make enough to live a “normal” life working remotely on-line. The hours can be long and income is uneven. That makes it hard to scrape up cash for car payments, the mortgage, and groceries. However, it's not all that hard to scrape up a few hundred dollars on-line. The trick to living as a digital nomad is to find a place like a third world country with decent Internet. Thailand is very popular. Living is inexpensive, the country is beautiful, and there are many other digital nomads allowing for co-working and a sense of community.
Some folks just grab a backpack, stick their thumb out, and go full vagabond.
People are searching for adventure and meaning in life. Many find it in my previous examples. Others are searching and testing out different ways of living.
One thing they all have in common is that none of those lifestyles provide the excess taxable income the elite have come to depend on. No wonder alternative lifestyles are frowned on by the powers that be. If enough people find ways to live free and easy, they starve the beast.
I'm not sure where it will shake out, but it certainly looks interesting.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
There was fresh snow just to the north of us, to the west, and at slightly higher elevations. Outside of a little tiny bit of mixed precipitation it was all good. As you can imagine it wasn't all that warm. Cloudy wet weather continue, but there's no sense worrying about stuff I can't change.
The bears are back, and they are hungry. They mistook my sand barrel for a garbage can and tipped it over. They did the same thing last fall. Actually, I'm starting to think that the bear knows it is just sand. He's feeling mean.
Really really really miss living the life of a nomad. Spending the winter in the North Country was hard on me. Between being sick or injured most of the time didn't help at all. I've had some seriously itchy feet. I ran into a friend of mine at the coffee shop the other day. He's looking for a second driver to make a road trip ending at his sister's in Florida. That might be just the thing I need.
I've been a bit frustrated with my motorcycle project. It's not nearly as far along as I wanted it to be by now. Of course, being injured set everything back. There have been a few good riding days and I just plain missed them. No doubt I'll miss a lot more before it's done. As much as I'm in a hurry to get on the road, making sure the old KZ 900 is safe is a priority. Might even break down and have the local motorcycle mechanic double check a few things for me.
I've done the math and even if everything that might need to be fixed gets fixed, it will still be cheaper than buying a second hand bike in good condition. At least I know where the problems are on this one. That doesn't mean I'm not tempted when I find a good bike way below book value. It turns out my lovely wife rather do things like fix the deck and pay down debt rather than go riding. Then there's the sailboat fund to consider. Slowly building that up.
Well, at least I'm no longer bored.
Monday, May 8, 2017
My leg continues to improve. Every day my leg looks a lot more human and less like zombie flesh. Slowly, I've been getting back to projects that have long been on the back burner. Feels good to get even a few smaller things done.
The rains continue. There's even a chance of frozen mix on Tuesday. My cousin has people over to shoot pool on Tuesdays. Ever since the fall, the worse weather has tended to hit us on Tuesday nights. In spite of the nasty weather, I've missed few pool nights. I'm not even that great at pool. However, it's wonderful to get together with friends and family.
My once daily blog has become a lot more hit and miss. Part of the reason is that I came to the conclusion that I'd have to work on some projects that might bring in some more money. While I'm not raking it in, there is extra money for things like dinner and movie with my lovely wife. The income stream is either passive income, or income than can be earned remotely on-line. The idea is that I'll be able to live a mobile lifestyle before next winter sets in.
One of the ways I've saved a bundle of money lately is by not buying any more heating oil or fireblocks. (compressed sawdust bricks for use in the woodstove) I keep expecting the oil tank to run dry sooner or later. Because of my gimpy leg I haven't been down to the basement to check on the fuel level in the tank. The weather hasn't been great of late, but it's warm enough that I don't have to worry about pipes freezing.
The last pallet of fireblocks is getting low. That doesn't worry me. Right now I can get around well enough to pick up dead branches from the winter storms and burn them. Heck, I could always cut up and burn the pallets that the fireblocks came on.
Most of my medical bills have not come in yet. I suppose if they are in no hurry to bill me, I'm in no hurry to pay them. I was able to pay one lab bill in full, so it feels good to be done with that part of it. When bills do come in, they will get paid at a rate that does not break the bank. I'm supposed to have a follow up visit with my doctor in about 9 days, but if the leg is healed up I'll just cancel. My main concern was the leg infection and that's cleared. Unless there is a new problem he probably can't tell me anything I don't know.
I'm looking forward to getting more exercise and working off a few winter pounds. The winter sand has been swept off the roads so it's probably safe to take the bicycle out -if the rains ever stop.
So all in all, things are slowly improving. Life ain't perfect, but it's good enough.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
It's flooding in the North Country of New Hampshire, worse than snow melt time. We've had few days without rain. In fact, rain is predicted for the next 10 days. It might rain after that, but the forecast only goes out 10 days. Noah was lied to.
Personally, it's not much of problem for me. My swamp might get wetter, but it is a swamp after all. We might have to start picking our roads to get into town. Flooding and washouts will most likely become a travel issue.
I see the the Republicans in the House passed a “Healthcare” bill. For me, it promises to be worse than the programs I already can't afford. It's not all bad news. The wealthy get some nice tax breaks. I guess it's my own darn fault for not being wealthy. Okay, it looks like the unpopular insurance mandate will also be dropped, so I guess that's something.
Of course, now we have to wait to see what the Senate does with it. By the time they are finished, the proposed law could be completely different. The political pundits have serious doubts that a majority will be able to agree on a final package.
Personally, I'm still waiting for the rest of my totally out of pocket medical bills to come in. So far it's been an ER visit, a doctor's visit, two sets of lab tests, three types of medication and at least one more doctor's visit scheduled. Thank goodness I'm actually seeing progress. No doubt it will be weeks yet before I'm all better, but the trend is in the right direction.
I can prepare for natural disasters like flooding. Risks can be mitigated. The disaster known as Congress is much harder to prepare for.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Our poor dog has been sounding miserable. She's been hacking and coughing. Her eyes were red and bleary. We were concerned. The vet took samples. Tests were run and microscopes employed. Turns out it's just allergies. Spring allergies have been terrible for dogs this year. All we have to do is to giver her some Benadryl. If that doesn't take care of it there is the option of taking her back to the vet to give her something stronger. All in all the visit only cost $42. Money well spent.
In other good news my leg is visibly improving, almost by the hour. I've been able to stop taking acetaminophen for the pain. My liver will thank me. A topical anti-itch cream is enough right now. My doctor had floated the idea of sending me to a wound clinic. That doesn't look like it's going to be necessary. If this rate of improvement continues, it should be totally healed before my next doctor's visit.
The vet doesn't have public restrooms so I scooted over to a nearby McDonalds to use theirs. This young woman called my name and hugged me. So, I thought, who is this person? Then I recognized her. We went to college together. She lost a lot of weight and was looking great.
Over the years we've occasionally gotten together with her and her husband. Now you've got to understand I met her at college. At the time she was dating one of these metro-sexual theater types. After college she married a great big jolly redneck. He was no dummy, but he went went to school for diesel mechanics, not Liberal Arts.
So we are at this party full of theater people and writers, that sort of folk. My college friend's husband looked totally out of place. Feeling a bit bad for the guy I went over and struck up a conversation. As luck would have it the vehicle we drove over to the party that day was an old Mercedes diesel that I'd converted to run on veggie oil. Before you know it we had the hood up and were poking around its innards. I became his best buddy after that. It was good to run into he wife and find out that things are going well for them. She lost the weight because of health issues so it's wonderful to see that worked for her.
It's been a good day. The dog's going to be fine. My leg is finally on the mend, and I even got to connect with an old friend.
Monday, May 1, 2017
Picture this: it's 38 degrees out and raining. I'm sitting in my kitchen, coffee in hand, the woodstove going. Looking out at the lake, I see there's a fishing boat on the water. Someone is a lot more into fishing than I am. Maybe his home life is such that fishing in a cold rain is more fun?
I hope the guy just loves fishing that much.
Although, I see so many people who's home life is such that fishing in the cold rain is better than spending the day with their spouse. When I see people who've spent decades in loveless marriages, I just shake my head.
It's not just bad marriages that people put up with. They work at jobs they hate, live in places they don't like, socialize with people they don't like, and even dress in clothes that makes them uncomfortable. The list goes on and on.
Sometimes people fall into a rut, and while they don't love it, it's comfortable. Change always comes with a certain amount of discomfort, even good change.
There are people who put up with bad stuff for a long time, but do it because it's what they have to do to advance some greater goal. That's a noble pursuit. Sometimes you just have to do the work. A guitarist does not become good without working until his fingers are calloused. A successful professional does not just fall into his profession. It takes schooling, work, and dedication. There are no guarantee of success either.
What I have difficulty with are those who do all that suffering for things they don't really want. They may even become proficient at the life they hate. Often they don't see a way out, or even realize there could be a way out.
How many people have to take medication to deal with their jobs? Frankly, I was surprised to learn of the number of people who need anti-anxiety or anti-depressants to go to work each day. Maybe they should take a long hard look at their situation and figure out the real problem.
A buddy of mine was very unhappy with his life. He hated his marriage, the responsibility of raising children, his house, his job and just about everything else. Often when someone reaches that point in their lives, all they can see is that they need a complete break from everything. In his case I suggested he start with the divorce and then see how the rest of his life looked before giving up on everything.
Ending the unhappy marriage got rid of a lot of stress in his life right off the bat. They sold the money pit of a house in the settlement. After that, the rest of his life started to look pretty good. His relationship with his kids improved immensely. His job was no longer a problem and he began to enjoy that too. It took a few years, but he met a wonderful woman and remarried, bought a nice new house, and even his relationship with is ex-wife became civil.
The thing with holding onto a bad life is that it leaves no room for a better one to come in. Your hand has to drop the burning coal before it can grasp the pretty flower.
Looking out on the lake, I hope that guy just really really loves fishing.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
A household takes a certain amount of personal attention to keep things going. When you are kid there's a lot of stuff you never think about. Even if you grew up doing chores, some things never occurred to you. When you become an adult you learn that not only does the house need to be cleaned, you are responsible for the cleaning supplies. The soap, the towels, scrub pads, broom and mops, all that stuff doesn't just magically show up. Not only do you have to figure out what supplies you need, you have to earn the money to buy them too.
That's one more indication that you are an adult. Hardly seems fair to work hard to earn money to buy supplies to do housework you'd rather avoid. However, as a fully functional adult, you shoulder the burdens and move on.
It's when you aren't fully functional is when you realize just how much work goes into this day to day stuff. My leg's been gimpy for about 2 months now and it's really slowed me down. It wasn't too bad when the the weather was terrible out and those outside jobs had to wait. Now that the snow's mostly gone it really hits home how much there is to do.
Yesterday my lovely wife was outside doing work with a shovel and rake. I was able to do some of the heavy lifting for her, but could not stay on my feet for long. She has chronic medical conditions and has only so much energy. When she came in she had to lie in bed to rest up before taking a shower. At least I was able to bring her her dinner as she curled up on the couch to watch British murder mysteries.
As people get older they have a couple of ways of dealing with things. If they have some extra money they can hire people to do the necessary chores. Sometimes they have extended family living under the same roof and the young folks pick up the slack. The last alternative is to greatly downsize. At the end of his life my dad was perfectly happy to live in a retirement community in a trailer. Someone else mowed the lawn and took care of the pool. He had a lost less stuff to fuss with. That gave him more time to shoot pool with his buddies.
My home out in the woods requires a few more things than a city apartment. I'm responsible for everything from electricity to water, to sewer. Wood heat takes extra effort. Heck it takes about 40 minutes to brew a pot of coffee. I have to stoke the woodstove and get the old style peculator up to temperature. At least I'm not running down to the well with a bucket for water first. While the pot is heating up I might use that time to roast the coffee beans for the next day's coffee.
While my home requires more attention, it provides independence, promotes self-reliance, and is a lot less expensive.
My injury has given me insight on what my elderly future could look like. I'm going to be a busy old dude if I'm not careful. The house was a good size when we were raising kids. Now I can the attraction of living in a 20 foot yurt, or a 30 foot sailboat -or both. Anything I build now I'm going to have at least half an eye on how much effort it's going to need to keep it going. There is much to be said for a more minimalist lifestyle. That doesn't mean I'm going to get of my house, at least not yet. I am going to focus more on long term use of things. Well, that and I'm not going to sweat about the projects neither of us has the energy or will to deal with right now.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Well, I finally got hold of an oral surgeon, and it's the close one -50 miles away. It will be almost a month before they can get me in for a consultation. That doesn't sound like they are too keen to do the job that day. However, they were quick to point out that it was going to cost me $150 for that meeting.
Good thing I got in before the college students are let go for the summer. They keep the dentists going full blast through their summer vacation. Those young people want to take full advantage of mommy and daddy's dental insurance while they still qualify. Can't really blame them for that.
The bills for my hospital visit started to come in. The first bill was from the lab. They give me a discount for paying out of pocket. Between that discount and credit for on-time payment, the cost is cut almost in half. Here's there weird thing. If I had insurance they would have charged me 100%. Since my insurance had a $6000 deductible, it might be cheaper for me this way. Our National sick system makes no sense.
The bum leg is really starting to get to me. When I spend too much time on my feet, the leg swells up and gets uncomfortable. Then it's time to lie down with my foot in the air again. Can't get anything done.
At least the weather is nice. My lovely wife and I got to sit in the sun with our coffees this afternoon. The osprey are back at the lake and I heard a loon the other night. Things could be worse.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Life is interesting sometime. My leg injury is slowly getting better. The harsh antibiotics seem to be helping. A steady diet of probiotics and yogurt is keeping the innards from being too messed up.
Of course, in life, there's no rule that you have to deal with just one thing. Sunday night one of my teeth broke. There is nothing like a toothache to focus the mind. All day Monday I called around trying to get in to see a dentist. That's when I discovered there is no emergency dental services in the North Country. I managed to get an appointment for Tuesday afternoon.
There was a time on Monday when it hurt bad enough that I was tempted to do what my grandfather did back in the day. He pulled his own teeth with pliers and a shot of whisky. Never saw a dentist in his life. He was a tough man.
So I get to the dentist. He examines me and takes an x-ray. Then we talk. The tooth was in pretty bad shape. I figured it was beyond saving this time. He agreed that made sense. All I wanted was for him to pull it. He said he didn't dare because of my “massive jaw.” Guess he doesn't treat too many Neanderthals. So one out of pocket visit later I'm left with contact info for oral surgeons.
On the bright side, he said the antibiotics I'm taking for my leg should knock out any bacteria associated with the bad tooth. The pain should lessen. It appears he's right about that as it's down to a dull ache. As long as I'm careful how I eat and drink I can live with it for now.
It's another cool rainy day. On the bright side, the ice has finally melted off the lake. Snow has been reduced to random piles in shady areas. The veggie van is running and handling better than it has in some time. I'll take what I can get.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
The good news is that the van has been fixed and passed inspection. The garage is closed until Tuesday so I can't pick it up until then. No biggie. It sat for months so I won't need it in the next few days. It will be nice to have a second vehicle handy.
My physical repairs, on the other hand, aren't going as well. I was going to skip the follow up at the doctor's, except my leg really wasn't getting better. The antibiotics helped for a while, but then the leg actually started to look worse.
As it turned out the antibiotic didn't knock out all the different types of bacteria. Now I'm on a new antibiotic for the next two weeks. Really hope this works, as if it doesn't the doctor wants to send me to a wound clinic. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. The only thing to do is to follow this through to the end. To take stress off the leg I've started a serious weight loss program. Before the injury I was able to carry my weight because I was active. Once injured, it has become much harder than it should to get well.
I will beat this challenge, like the others in the past. One thing about getting older, you understand how to deal with a long hard struggle.
The financial hit from the medical stuff is a bit discouraging. I've been making extra effort in an attempt to bring in some more cash. A simple medical problem sets that back. However, I've decided to budget a reasonable amount and make monthly payments until it's dealt with. Not going to break the bank over this. Life goes on.
My lovely wife and I drove down to MA to visit my oldest daughter and her family. I've missed them so felt it was worth the effort. Good to get out on the road, even for a relatively short trip to the next state. It's also good to see what spring looks like. There are leaves in the trees down here. It's still late winter home north of the White Mountains. We typically have spring weeks later and winter weeks earlier. Good thing summer in the North Country is so magical. I expect to be well to enjoy it too!
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The nice lady at the garage called to let me know what the damage was going to be on the veggie van. As I suspected, not cheap.
The belt noise was caused by two different issues. One was the tensioner wheel. The second was caused by one of the alternators seizing up. Yes, the van has two of them. It started life as an ambulance before I turned it into a camper van powered by waste veggie oil. Medical equipment puts a lot of demand on electrical systems, so that's why two alternators.
The garage wanted to know if I wanted to go with just the stock alternator or to replace the second one too. They needed to know which belt to get. It took only a moment to decided to keep both alternators. The camper conversion has things like electric coolers and a microwave that draw a lot of power. Also, sometimes power tools are run off the inverter. Not a place to cheap out.
To pass inspection it needed some running lights changed and a directional light rewired. The most expensive item on the list was two new rear tires. I'd purchased those tires in South Carolina about two and a half years ago. They weren't too expensive, but they weren't that great either. Never liked the handling. They didn't perform badly enough to justify replacing them, but I kinda wanted to.
The whole thing came in just under a thousand dollars. Ouch! Well, I'd rather pay my local mechanic than some stranger on the road somewhere. I'm going to need that van to haul building materials and to tow boats.
We plan on doing a lot of camping in the van this year. We already have a week booked this summer on the coast of Maine. That van will probably be our home for a good part of the fall and winter. Might as well have it up to snuff. Fixing the van is a lot cheaper than heating the house in the winter.
Monday, April 17, 2017
The snow and ice have melted down enough to access our winter damage.
My boats were not properly covered for the winter. Before I could get the covers on, I got a really nasty cold. While sick the storms moved in and buried the boats in snow and ice. That bothered me all winter and into the spring. How bad was the damage?
The homemade 12 foot scow suffered the worse damage. The cockpit filled with ice and it cracked one of the side panels. Fortunately, because I built the boat, I know how to fix it. The damaged material has to be cut out and new materials glassed in. Since the boat is going to need work anyway, it will be a good time to strengthen other parts. I'm also going to install another deck plate to make it easier to reach things in the cabin. There might even be enough materials kicking around the house so the fixes should be inexpensive.
My lovely wife cleared water and ice out of the Oday 19. So far I've found two problems. Something banged into the mast light, cracking the cover. Next week we are going to be at the coast of Maine so I'll be able to shop at a marine supply. The light was a cheap one and I've been wanting something of better quality anyway. This is a good excuse to upgrade.
I suspect the charge controller for the solar panel is trashed. It was mounted in a compartment that got flooded. The controller was installed in a splash proof case, but splash proof is not water proof. It wasn't designed to be submerged for a few months. I've a charge controller left over from another solar project that should work out just fine. There may be a way to mount it in a drier area. On the bright side it looks like the bilge is dry, so that's a good thing. All the flooding was restricted to the cockpit and an outside compartment.
Then there was the van. It was frozen in place most of the winter. Occasional I'd start it up and let it run for a while. During those test runs it's been making a lot of squeaking noise from the belt area. The Ford 7.3 turbo runs just about everything from one massive belt. Any of the components powered by the belt could be at fault. If I'm lucky it will just be a tensioner wheel. That would be the cheap fix.
The van also needs to pass inspection. I told my mechanic to fix the squeak and anything it needed to pass inspection. However, if he finds a problem that's going to cost thousands of dollars he should call me first. That's not the sort of deal I'd recommend you make with just anyone. We've done business for years and this guy is trustworthy.
My banged up leg is taking its own sweet time healing. Then again, I'm pushing it a bit, trying to get stuff done. Then my leg starts throbbing and rest is needed. As the weather improves I'm getting anxious to knock out some projects.
Of course, the lake is still frozen. There's only open water around some of the edges and by the inlet. There is still piles of snow here and there around house. Such is life in the North Country.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
I'm feeling well enough to get into jobs I don't like. Not sure if that's progress.
One of my toilets was leaking water from the tank to the bowl. It wasn't a lot, but it bothered me. I'm very sensitive to the working systems of my house. It used electricity to run the pump, was a waste of water, and caused unnecessary wear and tear. Another concern was the septic system. Too much water in the leach field can cause it to fail. With the spring snow melt and rain, there's already a lot of water to deal with.
I tried to do some quick repairs. Lesson one: universal flapper valves are not universal. The first one I bought didn't work. Lesson two: even the correct style might not form a perfect seal.
One of my Christmas gifts was a gift card from Lowes. It was enough to buy a complete replacement kit for all the workings in the tank. I was done messing around with sub-par parts. I thought the kit worked reasonably well. That is, until I turned the water one and the bathroom floor was covered in water. It turned out the bolt gaskets that came with the kit just did not work on my toilet. Fortunately, the old parts were still good, so I didn't have to run to the hardware store.
Toilets are pretty basic with a lot of parts in common between different makes and models. Unfortunately, there is just enough variation to cause problems. They are also built cheaply. When the original parts were removed it came as a surprise to see how poorly they were made. All the metal parts were rusty and the plastic parts brittle and weak.
Toilets are one of those things you want to just work. When you think about it, though, there's a lot of stuff that has to function properly for it to do its job. There's a bunch of moving parts in a wet environment. Water and sewage systems have to be functioning. In the case of people with water pumps, the electrical systems must function too.
It kinda made me long for the simple composting toilet I had on the sailboat. It didn't use water, power, or need a holding tank. In an emergency situation a simple Luggable Loo bucket style toilet is fine. I built my own for my first sailboat using a bucket, a toilet seat and some scrap lumber. There was very little odor, and believe me, in a small sailboat there is no place to hide from foul odors. What smell there was mild and earthy.
Having some kind of bucket toilet is a good idea for emergencies. It's easy to build a nice one. Plans are all over the Internet. If you don't want to do that you can often buy simple ones from big box stores for less than $20. Peat moss or coconut husk works well to cover up the deposits. If you don't have that, sawdust or even kitty litter will do.
Modern flush toilets are nice, but a major failure point in an emergency. Sanitation is important and a backup plan is a good idea. In the old days, everyone had an outhouse -and they were disgusting. Wastes are broken down by anaerobic bacteria, and the gases generated are nasty. Composting toilets use aerobic bacteria and the process is much more nose pleasant.
Toilet issues are something most of us don't like to think too much about. However, like they say in the kids books: everybody poops.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Last Saturday, after a sleepless night due to leg pain, I asked my lovely wife to take me to the hospital. While I thought my leg was slowly healing, it was taking longer than it should. Going the the hospital is a big deal for me. First of all, I hate to go there. Sometimes once you get into the system they never want to let you go. There's some bad history between the medical profession and myself.
The second major consideration is the fact that I don't have medical insurance. When I told the emergency room receptionist she didn't even blink an eye. She just made a note of it and handed me a large booklet explaining their assistance programs.
Fortunately, the ER doctor on duty was one of the few I respected. Long story short, after an exam, some x-rays and new bandage, they let me go. The doctor wrote a script for antibiotics. It cost $19 for the antibiotics and a new bottle of acetaminophen. The antibiotics are really speeding up the healing process. Seems like it's worth it.
Now all I have to do is wait for the bills to come in. Of course, when I had medical insurance there was a $6000 deductible, so that wouldn't have helped me. Add to that the couple of thousand of dollars I didn't spend on insurance and I'll be ahead of the game. Anybody in other civilized countries would have gone to the hospital a month ago. Only in the United States do we put off medial treatments.
My insurance would not cover me outside of my state. That means for up to half the year my insurance would do me no good at all. We really have the worse of all systems -if you aren't rich, that is.
My parents had what was considered good medical insurance. In spite of that, when my mother came down with cancer, uncovered expenses bankrupted them. Years later when my dad passed away from cancer, he died broke. In fact, it cost me some money to give him a proper burial.
Personally, I'm not afraid of bankruptcy. Yeah, my credit rating would be shredded, but credit is only necessary if you need to buy stuff. I'm pretty good at living a minimalist life.
I'm glad I'm getting better as we've are finally getting some decent weather. It's actually hit 70 degrees the last couple of days. The snow pack is finally melting. In a few days I should be able to get my van out of the ice.
Friday, April 7, 2017
I'm looking forward to getting the old motorcycle back on the road. The 1974 -900 cc Kawasaki will not look pretty, but as long as it runs that fine with me. I'd like to do a coffee shop tour of New England with a friend or two. In my younger days I might have done a brew pub tour, but I'm supposed to be wiser now.
Maybe I'll fit in just one brew put between coffee shops.
Over the winter I've been slowly gathering parts that I need to fix the bike. Also discovered the source of an electrical problem the bike had. Years ago I made a quick field repair while on a trip, then promptly forgot about it. The hasty repair was not meant to last for the years I drove with it that way.
Once the snow is gone I'm going to get my boats in order. I had hoped to get some of that sorted out in the fall, but early snows put a stop to those plans. As I type there's a new LED bow light sitting next to the computer. It's begging to be installed, but the boat is buried in snow and ice.
The deck on the house needs replacement. A new dock needs to be built. Warm weather better get here soon.
I'm also waiting for a big stack of paperwork to hit my desk. When it does I'm going to have to disappear into that for a while. Not fun, but sometimes you have to take care of business. Hope to get that stuff sorted out so I can get back to play time.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
One of the best decisions I made going into the winter was to buy really good snow tires. Last night I came home driving over a mix of snow and ice. It was slow going, but no problem.
It's funny to get a mailbox full of seed catalogs when the yard is buried in snow. My van is sitting in 8 inches of ice with three feet of snow piled in front of it. Of course, a good warm week, and a bit of rain could change everything. Ice usually leaves the lake by the third week of April. It might do so again this year, only because February was so warm, preventing much ice build up.
I'm refraining from talking about politics. Within a year things will have sorted themselves out one way or the other, no matter what I say. All I can recommend is to prepare for interesting times.
It's been an odd winter for me. It's been many years since I spent the whole winter in the North Country. The last time was to help a family member who was going through an rough patch. Between illness and injury I didn't play outside much. Many days I didn't go much further than the wood pile.
On the plus side, we spent a lot of quality time with friends and family. Really strengthened bonds with the tribe. Also got some work done. In a few days I should have some idea what kind of return I'm going to get for my efforts. Hope it's been worth it. However, it looks like the gig I'm going to do in early May will definitely be worth my effort. There will be some “extra” money coming in. As if money is ever extra.
Within the next day or two I'll be plugging away at another project. There are some time pressures on that one, so posting might disappear for a bit. However, I'm hoping to be able to squeeze in more of it. At least during my blogging hiatus I actually really did focus on taking care of business. It wasn't nachos and Netflix time.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
I'm taking a short break between projects, so I thought I'd return to this blog and let everyone know it's still alive.
The work I've been doing is pretty much “on spec.” For a guy who was raised in a blue collar world, that's a weird way to work. I grew up with an understanding: you agreed on so much an hour, you put your hours in and got paid. This new kind of work just feels weird to me. On one hand, it feels like I'm working for nothing. By the time money does come in, (if it does) there's enough time between the work and paycheck that they don't feel connected. Maybe if a few more paychecks come in, it won't feel so weird.
Anyway, we started the month with another foot of snow. Spring is taking its own sweet time here in the North Country. On the bright side, we won't be going into summer with drought conditions. Once this snow melts, it's going to be pretty wet.
My leg injury is still not fully healed, but that's not uncommon for this type of injury. I'm at the point where I feel good enough to overdue it. Then the next day I'm lying around recovering. This could take a few weeks yet. One thing this injury has done is kept me here in New England. A long drive to the sunny south is not in the cards right now.
I've been reflecting on some of the dichotomies in my life. At home I tend to live in comfortable clutter. There are book and magazines everywhere. Projects in various stages of completion are scattered throughout the house, and the whole property for that matter. Dishes might pile up in the sink There is a lot of stuff and things lying around.
On the other hand, I'm very comfortable with a minimalist lifestyle. I can go camping or boating with a bare minimum of gear. It doesn't bother me to live out of a small backpack for long periods of time.
Some people feel smothered by clutter. It hardly bothers me at all. Others freak out by a minimalist lifestyle but others find it liberating. For me, it's not about the clutter or the minimal. It's how they suit what I want to do. Having a lot of stuff around is handy when creating. I can put my hands on reference books, tools, materials -whatever I need. When traveling, it only makes sense to travel light. It's about the experiences and having more than what's necessary gets in the way of that.
I've been looking for a replacement for the small computer I lost in the shipwreck. It took some searching, but something turned up that fit my needs. Right now I'm using a tablet that runs Windows 10 and has a detachable keyboard. With the addition of an extra memory micro SD card, and a wireless mouse, it was good to go. The price was right, so I don't mind hauling it around with me everywhere I go. Should something happen, replacement costs won't break me.
I'm backing more of my stuff “in the cloud.” Actually, I'm using three different cloud storage companies as I'd hate to lose everything if a business collapses.
To sum up, my lovely wife and I are hanging in there. Back to the projects on Monday.
Monday, March 13, 2017
I've missed blogging, but there's been many other demands on my time and energy. Such is life. Right now I happen to have a few moments to myself so I thought I'd write a new post. Since my last post I've been out straight with another creative project. That project has the potential to make a few dollars. The last year and a half has been rather expensive for me; it's time to take care of business.
The weather has been bitterly cold. Now a major snowstorm is on its way. Interesting times. One week I'm running around in sandals and no jacket, the next week we have a wind chill of -29. It was all I could to do keep plumbing from freezing.
I have to be honest and say I'm not too impressed with Trump. His administration looks like the “not ready for prime time players.” It's not all bad. There are a few decent cabinet choices and I was happy to see the Pacific Trade deal get shut down. That deal was negotiated in secret and that made me very wary of it. The best I can figure is that it wasn't so much about trade as it was about political alliances.
Too many people relaxed their prepping when Trump was elected, as if having a Republican at the top was going to change all the basic facts of modern life. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes don't care who's president.
I've made it clear in the past that I wasn't a fan of either Hillery or Trump. There's a reason I'm a registered Independent voter. Trump did upset the apple cart, so there is opportunity in chaos. In the short term, however, I know a lot of people who've personally suffered due to his policies. One example, here in NH we are a big tourist state. International travel is way down. I've friends and family who've lost money and work because of it. One thing about change, you can never do just one thing. Everything has consequences. Enough of politics though. Everyone is still emotional and it's going to to take time for peoples' logic to kick in.
Currently I'm convalescing after bruising the heck out of my leg. Dropped a bundle of firewood on it. Can't really afford to see the doctor, so I'm doing what I can to avoid that. Obama care was too expensive and the deductible too large so I let it go. As luck would have it, Trump care doesn't look any better for someone my age and with my income. One can only hope that the promise of cheaper/better care is fulfilled, but I'm not holding my breath. On the other hand, it certainly looks good for the top 10% or so.
In happier news, the motorcycle project is moving along. Just had three deliveries of parts come in. I've cleaned up some corrosion, (still more to do) and sorted out electrical problems. It might cost me more for riding safety gear than bike parts. Looking forward to getting the old bike out on the road. I'm an adrenaline junkie at heart.
This has been the first winter in many years that my lovely wife and I have stayed in the frozen north. I'd forgotten how pasty white I was under my tan. For years I've been getting enough sun to have some color. This winter I resorted to taking vitamin D3 pills. Next winter we plan on traveling to warmer climes.
We are trying to figure out what to do. There's a chance we'll buy another sailboat to replace the one we lost one dark and stormy night. If that doesn't come together, we still have the Oday 19. We could do a mix of van camping and sailing. There's the possibility that we'll concentrate on camping and just bring the kayak. It's nice to have options.
So I'm still around, just busier than a one armed paper hanger.