Paying a debt never levied

Rarely is debt repayment fun but, in a special circumstance, it can be. And it recently was just that — fun. But, before I tell you about that, let me just say that there never was an official debt to repay. My friend, J, doesn’t charge. My friend is just a generous and good hearted guy. He never expects anything. And so, of course, I just took. He gave. I took. It is a great relationship!

To be fair, I gave back a bit. You know, a beer. A bit of assistance here and there. Sal made artichoke dip and sometimes chocolate cookies (not at the same time). We are good neighbours but not as good as he is. J is the best. “Why?” Because he is always up and cheerful and you can count on him for anything at anytime. He is always ready to help.

J owns the dock we use. The one we have used for 17 years. Ergo: the debt never levied. Our waterfront is not suitable for a dock but his is and so he gives. I take. Did I mention how great this relationship is?

Anyway, his dock is not a professionally made concrete float anchored by piers or dolphins or even a single pile. It is a ‘raft’ of docks, four separate lengths cobbled together and lashed to shore, anchored to the bottom and tied to each other. Generally speaking, more than a smidge ‘patchwork’. Baling wire, gum, string and duct tape do not work on docks but it is all held together by the marine equivalent. Every conceivable kind of rope, cable, chain and fitting is employed, every part moves differently from the other parts which, of course, works the lines a lot but also gives a lot of flexibility. It is an ‘organic dock’. And it is the kind of dock I am used to and most comfortable with.

Concrete docks or floats sometimes feel like roadways. The old partly-sinking boards-on-logs style of floats are pretty much gone, replaced now with either professionally constructed docks or cobbled-together-with-blue barrels kind of floats. We are of the ‘cobbled’ kind.

J has been busy these past few years and has not had much of a chance to improve his docking facilities — the ones I use. I was gonna complain. But, when one of his floats basically broke up this winter and he was not there to address the problem, it made more sense for me to just fix it. And so I looked at doing that . . .

With S’s professional consulting advice I concluded the float was just too far gone. No amount of cobbling was gonna keep that puppy functional. J needed a new dock.

To make this long story a bit shorter, we built him one. It is 12′ x 12′. All cedar. Well, all cedar with a bunch of heavy galvanized steel fittings and fastenings with, of course, the ubiquitous blue barrels keeping it afloat. What a fun project!

Still, I was somewhat dreading the undertaking because it had to be built on our nearest beach — in the lagoon. That meant that we had about a four hour window each day in which to work because the tide insisted on visiting and filling our workspace. Hard to work wading knee deep. Lumber has gone through the roof (is that some kind of pun?) and so buying and shipping it from town was ruled out. Instead, another friend sold me a beautiful pile of cedar for the old price. And another couple volunteered to help S., Sal and I do the work.

“Great! Piece of cake! We’ll cut the pieces to length, fabricate the fittings, get the materials and tools and beers and we’ll whip this puppy up in no time.”

S estimated it would take the five of us a day. I figured maybe two since we are all so old and slow and don’t know what we’re doing. M and C had two days available (up for the Easter weekend) and Sal and I had time in advance to set it up (materials, getting power down to the beach) and let S design it.

The first workday was scheduled to start around 1:00 when the tide went out. But, of course, the tide did NOT go out until two so we all (wearing gumboots) got started with a foot of water in the lagoon. Yes, a few folks got wet. One fell in! By the time we were all so exhausted we had to quit (five hours later) the tide was coming in and we needed to get all the stuff not used in the build back up to high ground. When the tide came in the float did what it was supposed to – it floated. But, it was not done . . .

One of our helpers had just undergone a tough operation and one day was enough. Day two saw four of us going at it. And that went on for six hours, too. Same cleanup recipe — getting remaining materials and tools to high ground. And the float floated but it floated a bit lower now that most of the decking was on.

Day three it was just Sal and me. And we finished it. And then we cleaned up, mostly. Day four was the BIG day!

Back on day one, Sal and C had removed the old float from it’s position in the giant raft. It was a wreck and not easy to deal with, tow, or do much with but they did it. And day four was — with the tide now high (we are fickle with the tide) and just right — we towed the new float into position. And lashed it in place. Of course there were bits and pieces of odd-jobs to finish up properly and so day 5 and day 6 saw us doing just that.

“Piece of cake! Whipped this puppy up in a bit more than no time but it is there and I like it!”

Surprise, J!! Hope you like it.

Cost of Living

In Canada, the official 2020 ‘inflation’ rate was 1.95% or, as I like to think about it after adding inflation to that number – it makes it an even 2%. But, of course, the official inflation rate has always been a lie or, better put, a generalized guess at some fictitious household lifestyle cost that seems to vary monthly and with your location. This time is no different. The cost of living in Canada is likely to be higher in 2021 and will only get higher again after the economy gets back on track.

Why is it a ‘lie’? Well, the basket of goods the government uses is very unlikely to reflect the actual basket of goods you or I purchase. Generally speaking, we all face different costs in life. Also because housing, transportation and food make up the three largest components in the theoretical basket and all three have been rising significantly more than 2%. In BC and Ontario housing costs factor in even more hugely and they have also risen more hugely this past year. As has gasoline which seems to defy the laws of supply and demand.

Put more succinctly: everything I buy is more expensive except my shelter. That’s paid up. But I like to do small building projects and that requires wood and wood, of all things, has literally doubled in price this year…tripled when it comes to plywood. Wood is now so expensive people are NOT doing little projects like sheds and decks.

Canadians are, of course, driving less under Covid restrictions but gasoline prices have remained high. It is $1.42 a liter in Campbell River or approximately $5.50 a Canadian gallon. In Phoenix, Arizona, the price per US gallon is US$2.80 a gallon. That is not a fair comparison, however. The US gallon is 4/5’s the size of a Canadian gallon and the Canadian dollar is worth approximately US$ 0.70. I am just estimating/guessing but factoring in exchange and gallon size, the American driver pays maybe C$4.25 cents for the same gallon that we pay almost $5.50 for. Whatever the math, we pay more than they do. ‘Course, we pay more for food, too. And they pay considerably less for housing as a further bonus.

“Why state the obvious?”

Well, both Canada and the US have infused the economy with massive cash bailouts and other stimulus for their economies. That’s heaps more debt to pay off and so taxation will go up. Taxation is not separately included in the basket of goods sample. In addition, the world is in economic turmoil right now and the capitalist mindset is to gouge when the gouging is good. And it seems pretty good-for-gouging on the gas, house, lumber, food front. I think our real cost of living increase in 2021 will be closer to 5-6%.

There are some offsets to that way of thinking. Dining out will remain depressed. And dining out is a big component of the urban Canadian lifestyle. And that change in behaviour will translate through all aspects of the consumer product sales world. We will spend less on discretionary purchases. Travel has also been curtailed so that may compensate for the price of gas – we just drive less, too. Still, all things considered, I think our cost of living will increase, our taxes will increase, our economy will suffocate and the Canadian dollar will drop. None of that – if true – bodes well for the next couple of years.

How do we cope with that restricted lifestyle? I don’t know. I don’t quite live that lifestyle anymore, anyway. I already do NOT go to restaurants, fly to foreign places, drive all over the place and/or spend-for-convenience. But I do build sheds and I will likely continue to do that sort of thing if I can (I am planning at least one more). I do not think my life will change too much. But it will change in a few places that will hurt. Car travel to see my grandkids will lessen (it already is down to about maybe four times a year). Snowbirding seems out of the equation for awhile. Wine consumption is up. Taxes for next-to-nothing will go up.

If I summarize this blog into a punchline, it would be: “We’ve been punched and punched hard. We are still reeling from the blow. Can we get our head/economy/health clear and focused before the next blow comes? Or do we take a double whammy?”

Chicken little syndrome (CLS)

“….inferring catastrophic conclusions possibly resulting in paralysis”. It has also been defined as “a sense of despair or passivity which blocks the audience from actions.” Wikipedia

I am normally a smidge inclined to extrapolate trends to imaginative conclusions and, given my dour nature, I sometimes extend that to imagining the Zombie Apocalypse or, even worse, the End of Days. It comes honestly….. my father used to often say, “We are doooooooooomed!” So, I might be a tad predisposed to CLS. It is only residual testosterone and diminishing macho that makes me put any kind of brave face on things and Pollyanna is just NOT part of my DNA. We may not be doomed but I do not yet see a lot of light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Wim reports that probably only 5% of Belgium has been vaccinated. And I implied from Untidy’s comment that Oz is not leading the pack on vax-efficiency either. That is even more pathetic than us. Not good, and certainly not good enough. Especially NOT good since the virus is on it’s multi-generational variation. Seems BC’s active C-count is currently comprised of 50% variants.

It does not take too many generations of mutations to leap from variant status to a truly different virus.

And India is currently suffering from over 100,000 new cases A DAY!!!

Am I freaking out? No. Firstly, I am already vaccinated (protected, but for how long?). Secondly, what will be will be. Thirdly, I really do not mingle amongst the great unwashed much anymore. But, best of all, both Sal and I are relatively healthy. Our personal outlook is NOT bleak.

But, if one takes a bit less selfish, more global view, there is no doubt that Covid is still winning the battle, generally speaking. Canada is maybe – at best – mediocre on the list of underperforming nations. BC, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec are still setting NEW records for infection and we are part of the 1st world! How is India ever going to get it under control? After a year of this tragic situation, great numbers of folks still protest wearing masks, refuse the vaccinations and continue to believe the reports are, if not a hoax, greatly exaggerated. Covid has a friend in ignorance.

But that is NOT the point of this blog. The point is that our government/institutions/media are not making a passing grade and, in the long run, their inadequacies may end the long run of the world as we know it. It might not be the Apocalypse but it just might be Teotwawki (the end of the world as we know it). I’d give our 1st world ‘civilization’ collectively a D or C- for results-to-date. Maybe higher for getting the vaccine accelerated. Say, C for effort? But they are not turning the tide. Not yet.

That is not to suggest that they are ‘bad’ but rather that they might simply not be up to the task. Clearly Trump wasn’t, Trudeau isn’t, Ford isn’t. But, to be fair – Belgium isn’t, India isn’t, Mexico isn’t and the list just goes on and on. If your 90 year old grandmother was not up to playing linebacker for the Seahawks, would you blame her? Of course not. But neither would you sign her to a multi-million dollar football contract and trust her to take you to the Superbowl. You might not put your faith in her chances to even make the team. You’d likely think, “Hmmmmm…..Gran probably won’t make the cut. We are gonna have to look elsewhere.”

And so might we …………

“How do we look elsewhere?”

Well, developing a vaccine in your own kitchen is not very likely (on a par with Gran making the cut). Educating the masses is also a non-starter. This may just come down to personal survival, small-group survival, village survival. You know….DOOMSDAY PREPPERS kinda thing? Who knew that ‘the weirded out Preppers’ might be half-right? (They have too many guns and likely not enough bleach and hand-cleaner but they are kinda prepared). You can put your trust in Tam and Bonnie or else you just might have to figure out a way to weather this storm (especially if it kicks up from a category 2 to a full-blown 5) on your own.

Hint: OTG’ing is definitely safer on the epidemic front but maybe not in a full-on Zombie-cum-Doomsday scenario…..

Paradise compromised

Some things about human beans remain the same despite knowledge, facts, science and even a strong sense of society/community trying to change them. People have biases. People have beliefs. Some people even gots religion. There is also (out here, anyway) a very strong vein of contrary or counter-conventional thinking anyway. Yep, we have Q-followers, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. We likely even have believers that Bill Gates is trying to microchip us all.

One might wrap all that contrarian thinking up into the term ‘independent’ or ‘free-thinking’ but that would be wrong. There is nothing independent or free thinking about following Q and giving that same kind of zealous support that the general population has for social conventional wisdom. If you follow A or if you follow B, you are still a follower. Independence is quite different than just ‘opposite’ or ‘contrary’.

Real independence/free thinking requires gobs of knowledge (with, ironically, an emphasis on history), large amounts of thinking/contemplation/meditation and a really good nose for the usual BS and now the extraordinary amount of lies and misinformation out there. And that, I am sure is the very least required. Free thinking is almost impossible since we think with words and ‘canned’ information, constructs, thoughts and values all handed down to us when we were really NOT thinking very much at all (when we were kids).

All that precedes the story that our little community has a new split, a fissure, a divide in it. Everyone and anyone connected to this remote community was offered the shot. We had plenty of notice. Some chose NOT to get the shot. We have some antivaxxers and, in a small community, a group of contrarians – altho usually tolerated very well – are not as warmly embraced during a pandemic. One can tolerate all sorts of eccentricities and even whacky behaviour but it is hard to ignore a contagious disease.

Of course, I am tolerant, easy-going and accept those that I privately consider 100% wrong but that is not because I am enlightened and in the Zen of it all….no, I can tolerate it rather well because I got the shot. In two weeks time, the potentially diseased and contagious can kiss me on the lips and I will not care. I will be immune (or as immune as I can be).

But families with children are a bit more disturbed about this potential tear in our social fabric. Kids aren’t being vaccinated and the system is encouraging kids to go to school. Kids play together, interact in class, ride in boats. That ‘pool’ represents a highly connected network for potentially spreading the disease. If all the kids remain out here all the time, they may still be OK but any anti-vax adult NOT immune can pick up the virus in town or wherever adults go and then give it to their kids who will, in turn, give it to the school. Anti-vaxxers are giving the virus a back-door into the community. The pro-vax mothers are a bit ticked because others are putting their children at risk.

Is it a tempest in a tea-pot? It might be. I hope so. If things go well, it may blow over. But, for things to go well, we have to supplement the inoculation program (as inept as it is) by simultaneously achieving ‘herd immunity’ (generally perceived as being 80% of the population being free of the virus). If we get 80% of us clean and they remain disease free for a period of time, the virus loses it’s potential ‘market’ and has to jump too far and less frequently to keep itself going.

The anti-vaxxers are relying on 80% of the community to do the risk-work for them. I am guessing that, with our recent clinic, we might have around 60% virus free or safe within a couple of weeks. 60% is not 80%. 60% leaves 40% to give host to the virus and it’s variants. 40% can keep this disease spreading.

Frankly, NOT getting the vaccine is a person’s choice. I get that. And driving a car while intoxicated is also a person’s choice and I accept that, too. But, if the drunk kills someone, then they are fully responsible and should have to pay the price which will never be enough for anyone – not even the drunk. That would be a mistake that impacts many forever. Will a person with a political stance on C-19 be seen the same way as a drunk driver? Who knows?

And, even if they are, will they ever know?

In the city, a virus spreader may never know of their mistake in any direct way. They may never encounter one of their victims. They may just go blissfully on unthinking about what role they may be playing in the ever-changing pandemic. But, out here? In a small community where everyone knows everyone’s position on such things? I am not so sure one will have anonymity. This act of social defiance, this act of allegiance to Q or some conspiracy theory, this ignorance of social responsibility may come back to haunt them, may even divide the community, may cause another kind of disease that can never be eradicated.

It turns out that NOT getting the shot is a bigger gamble than the anti-vaxxers may have realized…….

Mundane minutiae and how my world is getting smaller

I am making something. That something requires steel. The steel requires holes. I have the steel and, Oh my God, do I have the drill bits. I got drill bits up the yin yang. Over the years I have acquired the equivalent of twenty pounds of drill bits. Maybe more. One of the reasons I have so many drill bits is that they get dull and I give ’em a sharpen but, of course, my sharpening skills are such that one might describe them as the dullest knife in my drawer. I am bad. So, I do what any privileged, white male does in the so-called first world. I buy more.

Yesterday, I ran out of sharp drill bits. So, I attempted a ‘comeback’ and sharpened a few. And failed again. I was at the miserable grinder sharpening and then over to the little Ryobi drill press (only strong enough to drill through stale bread) slowly trying to get a hole through 1/4 steel by what amounted to not much more than friction. To drill 32 holes took five hours.

Halfway through that embarrassing ordeal I came in and went on You Tube. Watched ‘How to sharpen drill bits’ for about forty minutes. I think you can see how I arrived at the title of this blog. I watched guys who have trouble speaking coherent sentences sharpen drill bits so that they could put holes in aircraft carriers or tanks! Each video is at least ten minutes. Each lesson could be delivered in 30 seconds, one minute if you count the usual safety warning and the ‘please subscribe and like’ entreaty. Sadly, they grunt the lesson and I was only learning a little. My world was getting smaller, shorter and mentally brutish.

The good news is that my first post-you-tube drill bit sharpening attempt was marginally better than the dull-as-rebar last drill bit I used. It was at least ten percent better than a blunt stone. By the third attempt, I could actually go back to the steel and try to push through it with a bit of a sharp edge to help me. It was not easy but some metal shavings were noticed. I think.

By the time I did the last drill bit (#12), it actually cut through the steel like it was supposed to. Kinda. NOT great but much quicker. I was ecstatic. I was exhausted but very pleased with myself despite having developed a cramp in my right wrist and arm while, at the same time, getting a corresponding pain in my left ankle. That is the price one pays twisting torque into your body while you try to press-drill without succeeding. Vibrating drill bits (from imperfect sharpening) also tends to add to the damage. So, I quit hurting myself (no steel was damaged in the doing of this story) and went in to drink wine. It was 5:17 pm. I began that ridiculous debacle at noon.

Real machinist types (Noncon) had to stop reading a few paragraphs back. Too painful. I understand.

I mention this not because drill bits, you-tube, winter, Covid and/or being antisocial are the only causes of my shrinking world. It is because that same dull-guy shows up when sharpening chainsaws, too. It seems I have some kind of genetic sharpening flaw. Neither my mother nor my father could sharpen chainsaws in their latter years either, poor handicapped parents (mind you, they lived in an apartment in the city that was heated by gas so they handled their shortcomings well).

The chainsaw is currently sharp. But that is mostly because it is new – practically just out of the box. I have dulled it with some recent cuts on the log pile described a few blogs back but then I sharpened it. This time I used Stihl’s new file-for-idiots system, a hybrid-file apparatus that thankfully takes all the thinking and the skill out of the equation. I am now good-to-go on the chainsaw front.

Yes, I know all about the Drill doctor for sharpening drill bits. I have two of them (for big bits and smaller ones). Suffice to say, the Drill Doctor was not designed for idiots. If Stihl makes something someday for those challenged by drill bits, I may give it a go.

Follow-up. I told my friend, S, about my inadequacies at sharpening last night and he came by this morning – gave me a few tips (literally and figuratively). The first literal tip cut through the steel like it was Canadian butter. So, this time I listened carefully and watched and damn! I can now drill through anything…..well….it turns out that at first I was still not doing all that well according to S. So he came over to the drill press. “Turning way too fast. You are burning out the bits. Let’s change the belt.” And that, dear reader, was the icing on the cake through which I began to drill. After S left, I went back out and put holes in everything!!!

What a great day in my little world! I just got richer, too. Twenty plus pounds of now USEFUL drill bits!!

I do not think we are winning

They (the ubiquitous they) are providing our remote community with C-19 shots next week. That’s good. Half the folks out here are 70+ and none of them are living in luxury with comforts and elevators, take-out food and handy amenities – but neither are they hob-nobbing with the hoi polloi, either. We are, at once, more vulnerable and less. We/they are more ‘removed’ than most from the danger of the disease but we are also missing the comforts and securities of modern urban living. We are a slightly different category of old people out here.

Still, old is old and with age comes vulnerability and some fragility. Our tough old guys are just as vulnerable to a virus, if not more so. Muscles and true grit do not help against a virus. If some of our guys get C-19, some may not make it…just the way it is.

This vaxxing process is an interesting logistical exercise, too. Since so many people travel by boat around here (no other option) then the community dock will have to accommodate the already-scheduled-by-appointments 200 plus people who have already registered. The community dock can comfortably hold a dozen boats and, jumbled together, maybe as much as another dozen. Thirty small boats will be chaos. So, boat pooling is encouraged but pooling dumps bunches of folks at the dock at once.

Imagine that: a dozen little boats jammed to the gunwales with old people bobbing down the channels. Then the folks cluster on the dock awaiting their turn to hike up the hill to get a shot so they do not contract a contagious social disease. Cluster, disperse then cluster again. I dunno….logistics and logic don’t always work out.

The solution, of course, is the schedule and the efficiencies of the medical team. I am scheduled within five minutes of four others. That’s good. I get there with my boat ‘pool’ and we all get jabbed and then get the hell out so that another small boat can tie up after we leave. Basically a good plan altho…….a jab takes five minutes but coming and going takes 30 minutes in total at the very least. We are going to have a vessel traffic jam out here. We are going to be rubbing a lot of shoulders on the way in and out. This could be a super spreader event.

Am I worried? No. I am not. As readers know, I think Sal and I got C-19 back in March, 2020. That means little, they say, regarding immunity but the virus has mutated so much that, even if having had it last year was a resistance builder, there are way too many mutations/variants for us to have any kind of immunity at this point in time. And therein lies the point of this blog: this is all taking too long.

In effect, we Canadians (with regards to our leaders) are almost passively reacting rather than being proactive and worse, we are reacting too slowly in a battle with an enemy that can change seemingly overnight. Canada has not ever really shut down and isolated for the required time. We have tried to keep the economy going instead of the lives of the people.

Apologies to the believers-in-the-system: I do not think we are winning.

I am, however, thankful (if not still a bit hesitant) to get the jab. But, if we are soon to be facing Covid 20, will it help? No one knows. Variations on the C-19 are likely to be still addressed with the current vaccine but will the soon-to-arrive-all-out, brand new mutants be stopped by it? Will the mutants of next year even look like their recent ancestors?

C-19 is a game changer and it may have changed for the worse. And we are not winning at this one.

OK! Enough wit’ da sex, already!

If you are going to talk about contentious issues, it is always good to start out with one sure to create a buzz and Me Too, Sex, gender politics and personal outrage is, perhaps, the top pop-issue of today (and yesterday and tomorrow). Sexual politics is an easy fire-starter for one’s hair, ya know?

But as good as sex is to get everyone’s attention, let’s be honest – sex is mostly just personally important but it is not as important as climate change, species extinction, micro-plastics and all the other mundane but still lethal threats we all are now facing. I mean, I really should be talking about Gaia, shouldn’t I?

But I will, instead, raise a different and currently (for me) topical issue: let’s go with the economy one more time – but this time, the micro-economy of a small village or loose gathering of neighbours, or just a gaggle of individuals spread out over a large space. In other words, I am talking about here.

I have an old boat. Good hull. Up on the hard. A neighbour asks, “Hey! Wanna talk about that ol’ boat ya got?” I say, “No need to talk. You want it? It’s yours.” “Just like that?” “Yep. I’ll tell the dozens of others who wanted to talk about it that I have given it away!” “How many others?” “None.”

A lot of hard bargaining around here.

Mind you, that kinda barter-gifting-favour-exchange thing is not universal. Young people charge money for their services. Old people generally do not (but then again, old people usually don’t work too long or hard). And old people prefer to deal in favours or exchanges more than cash, as a rule.

It is not that old people are richer or are more or less generous, it is just that young people have children and kids need cash. The going rate for unskilled labour is about $25.00 an hour. If muscles are gonna ache and the body is going to sweat, the price goes up to $30.00 an hour. Skilled labour is generally done on a contracted price. Newbies who come in and say, “Well, I can’t really estimate the time it will take but I charge $30.00 an hour” rarely get the job. Folks out here are cash-strapped and so they can’t take the risk of an un-bloody-guessable non-estimate.

All that sounds reasonable enough but some folks are better workers than others and so even the ‘general labour rate’ is still hard to peg. Some people work like Trojans, others stand around a lot and do not work hard at all. Both use up time……at $30.00 an hour. So, the local labour pool is a crapshoot. The cost-estimate of getting anything done is nebulous at best. The only thing that is generally always acceptable is free. There are attendant strings, obligations and expectations but they are always more than reasonable. Free+ is a good system.

The labour pool is also small. Out of say 250 folks out here, maybe 25 of them occasionally look for work in the area. Which translates into, “Well, I can get to it in week maybe. When do ya need it? I have to fix a bearing on the machine first. You know, the main one on the swing arm? And Barb wants to go to town soon, too. But, if ya need anything picked up in town, we can do that.”

What does that non-answer actually mean? No idea. He’s busy? Not interested? Barb doesn’t drive? Is it a way of bargaining? Is it avoidance? The usual best answer to that is, “Hey, thanks for the pick-up offer. I’ll get back to you.” (Note that the original topic – work – has been left untouched, unresolved and, for the foreseeable future, undone).

Free old guys and their piles of junk are the best. “Ya wanna get a new roof on J’s place? Aw’right. Let’s go!”

“I have to get in a few roof panels first.”

“Hell, if she isn’t fussy about the colour, I have some in the back she can have!”

“Alright then, let’s get ‘er done!”

Our economy is hard to actually get a handle on out here. As are the people. And it has a bit of a generation gap, too. The market is small, the labour pool is smaller and the discretionary cash-pool is even smaller yet. Attention spans? Non existent. Doing business out here is not at all like doing business in the city….but, somehow it is better. It’s more personal. It builds community. It helps people. But it truly is on the micro-nano-scale of an African village…..and, I swear…half the folks speak a form of business-Swahili and change the topic until, maybe, sometime in the future (could be years) when they bump into you on a trail and say, “Hey? You still interested in fixing that bearing on the swing arm for me?”

There is so much to talk about….

…..and so little courage*.

Police brutality, Black Lives Matter, Me, too, Trumpism, sexism, racism, cancel culture…the list goes on and on and on… much so that I don’t wanna talk/write about any of it. Those topics are toxic, draining and depressing not only for the issues the topics attempt to address but also how the words are interpreted, the remedies that are expected and the price paid for the perceived infractions related. In short; there is very little in the way of constructive discussion on those topics these days. They are fightin’ words! Those are, basically, for-and-against topics. Those topics make all issues black and white and any shades of grey are simply dismissed.

I do not want to write about ’em but I feel I must………may God have mercy on me

Let me tackle one that is a holy shrine of a topic in today’s world: Sexism in the workplace. “He said and did things that made me feel uncomfortable.” Or, maybe a better example, “Well he did nothing, he said nothing but I saw a lewd photo on his computer. It was a scantily clad woman objectified on a motorcycle! I just felt uncomfortable to the extent that I filed this Human Rights complaint.”

Now, before the heads pop off your pimples, let me be very clear: it is very unfortunate that someone might feel uncomfortable in the workplace. It is also bad behaviour to have pics of scantily clad women in the workplace where women might be exposed to them (unless it is a strip club, maybe?). Bad as in naughty. Bad as in rude. Bad as in ‘someone should have a word with him’. But that is it. That is all there is to it. It is NOT ‘bad’ as in irreparable harm-has-been-done. If some adult woman felt a smidge put off because some guy had a biker chick on his screen saver, well, she should just ‘get past it’ or, at the very worst, tell the offender that she doesn’t like seeing it there. But then THAT is it. Move on.

Doesn’t empowered also mean ‘not thin skinned’?

“Dave, why go on about this?” Well, things are getting crazier and crazier and someone has to speak up on some of these topics. And that example of the biker-chick on a screen saver was a real example from when I took a job as an investigator with the Human Rights Tribunal back when I was in my late 20’s. Their (HRT) decision (against my recommendation) was to pursue the matter against the fellow which eventually resulted in a fine and an official reprimand on his file. That he had a private office with a door, that it was just a screen saver and depicted nothing really, really rude save for legs and bosom, that she infrequently went in to his office and dropped off mail as opposed to being forced to see it all day long- all that made no difference. They slapped that guy with a fine and a record-of-sorts.

I resigned. I had to. The tribunal had a huge agenda and it was, in my opinion, biased against men.

Why would I resign (thin-skin, of course)? Well, the attitude of the HRT appointees (all female) was that all men are pigs and worse than that, they are already guilty of promoting swine-ish behaviour all the time everywhere they go. I saw no future for the likes of me there. Oink. Furthermore, no woman should have to suffer that kind of humiliation at work and a stiff fine is the only recourse for correcting that quasi-criminal behaviour. An apology was simply not good enough!

I just felt the process was riddled with bias and lacked humanity, perspective, tolerance and balance. I was NOT defending the man’s actions but I could not extract more penance than an apology and removal of the screensaver. And that was simply not good enough!

Mind you, in case you don’t say it, I will, “Dave! You are male! Maybe you are biased?” And that comment would be fair. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe being male is synonymous with porcine. But, you see, it is impossible to be both male and female (well, for me, anyway. Others these days seem to be making a go of it) and so I openly confess to a bias (and try to make sure the bias does not influence my logic or my overall humanity).

That kind of disproportionate kangaroo justice (in my opinion) has prevailed and grown since then. I must (out of self preservation) restate with volume that I know that sexual harassment has been a curse for women for years. I understand that and I sympathize. Corrections were needed. I also understand that it was worse back in the bad old days and, tho still somewhat prevalent, it seems much less these days. HUGE improvements……

....mind you, studies also indicate that penises are shrinking and sperm count is down…..jus’ sayin’...

Put more bluntly: women used to only file charges against rapists. Now they are getting men fired for flirting. The severity of the crime has dropped but the deep-rooted anger and vengeance seems escalated.

Seems Andrew Cuomo used to allude to or suggest sexy things at his office now and again – even once attempting to massage some woman’s shoulders – and it made some women in that office feel uncomfortable. Again with the bottom line: he shouldn’t have done that.

But, he did. Men tend to do that kind of thing as a logical extrapolation of the old saying, “Faint heart n’er won fair maid”. That will change over time, I suppose. Some. But no one got hurt if we do not count ‘discomfort’. No one was forced or coerced in any way. Now the governor of New York is being pressured to resign?! That’s just a stupid over reaction to me. Politics.

He is getting threatened with a de facto life sentence for a misdemeanor. Maybe he offers a sincere apology, instead? Maybe he just promises never to do that again? Maybe the people vote him out of office next election? Does he have to be dragged through the media mud and forced to resign? Does he have to hide in shame? Do all men have to ‘behave’ as dictated by some women?

Bear in mind a lot of couples (happily married for decades) met at work. Some couples in the same workplace even made attempts at lasting relationships that did not work out – heart break resulted and feelings might have been hurt. Some may have even heard naughty stuff and/or danced naked with a lampshade on their head at the staff Xmas party. There is a huge area of all-too-human inter-staff relationships that is going to happen at work no matter what. Tolerance and understanding is needed.

The biggest irony in all of this is if a guy hits on a girl and she is pleased with that attention, it is quietly deemed OK, no one lights their hair on fire and jobs are safe. But, if a guy hits on a girl and she doesn’t find him worthy or is not in the least amused, he then has to resign? If the man is supposed to have all that incredible power, how could that possibly happen? Answer: most men do NOT have all that incredible power – NOT anymore. And most NEVER did.

“Flirting should not happen at the workplace!” Yeah. I know. And I almost agree…kinda…but what about mutual attraction and one of the basic reasons for living – i.e finding a mate? Are we to assume that the primal man or woman has to be expunged from society because some women or men are so thin-skinned about another’s initial advances? And how is anyone to know where the desire-of-their-heart stands on the possible relationship unless they express their own desire out loud? Doesn’t someone have to take the first ego-threatening chance?

And this blog is just about romance and sexualized behaviour at work. What a topic that has become! There is so much more. I do not really want to go there. Honest. NOT REALLY. But, for evil to be done…..

*I may be a fool but I am NOT stupid! Of course the content of this blog was vetted and pre-approved by Sally, she-of-a-thicker-skin, larger brain and warm heart.

It’s been awhile….

…we’ve been busy. We have been getting in the wood.

As readers know, we first catch wayward logs floating by in the sea and corral ’em in the lagoon out back. Then we sort and cut ’em to length based primarily on weight. Our winch won’t pull up much more than 400 pounds so I guess at the weight of the log, cut it and leave it there for Sal to hog-tie or ‘choke’. Then I go back up the hill, about 125 feet up and at a 30 degree angle. I send down the highline and, on that line is chain-hoist. It used to be a block and tackle but a chain-hoist is easier for Sal and she has developed quite an efficient technique now that she is used to it. After she gets the hoist, she hooks on a ‘choked’ log and lifts it up in the air. It usually hangs about five feet off the ground. Then, when the log is in the air or at least mostly off the ground, I haul it up with the Honda powered winch. When the log has been lifted up the hill I lower it, disconnect it, drag it by brute force off to the side and send the whole hoist and choke assembly back down the hill to Sal where she awaits with the next log ready and already wearing a ‘choke’ (a nylon belt).

It is not the hardest chore in the world but it takes time, it requires strength and it can get dangerous. Well, it is always a bit dangerous but sometimes it is a smidge scary-dangerous and almost every time it is my fault. If I guess wrong on the log’s weight, the winch stalls out about half way up. When that happens, Sal climbs up, lowers the log and disconnects it – wherever it is. That’s right…she disconnects a 400+ pound log on a 30 degree slope. As a rule, they usually don’t just sit primly on the hill where they are dropped either. They kinda want to settle in where they want to settle in so the ‘release’ can be a bit dicey.

Once, when we were first starting out in years one or two, Sal had to do just that and yelled to me to ‘Drop the tension.” So, I did. While I turned my back to operate the machinery, Sal had (inexplicably) straddled the recalcitrant and heavy log like a cowgirl and, next thing you know, she is sliding backwards downhill with the log slowly rolling over her. She just disappeared under it as it rolled her into a bush and then, like a giant rolling pin, it just kept on going down hill. Sal lay upside down in the bush looking a bit flat.

“You OK?”

“Oh yeah. The bush cushioned the weight. I am fine. Bit scary, though!”

We try to be careful but the lagoon is all slippery rocks, the logs are always all akimbo and also (*six words in a row all starting with the letter ‘a’, eh?) slippery to some extent and they are all lying like the game of pick-up-sticks only writ very large.

Today I went down to cut a big log with a tiny battery-powered chainsaw (my new more powerful one is coming Friday). This little one has a 12 inch bar. The log was about 15″ thick. The little saw worked hard and I used up half the battery on that one cut but we got ‘er done. Problem was the log was also quite jammed on the rocks. Lots of heavy lifting, rolling and jockeying to get at the cut and get it over to the chain hoist. I probably cut from three different sides of the round log and it took forever. As it turned out, that log was cut to within five pounds of the winch limit. It just barely made it up.

We now have about three years of wood given ‘normal winters’. Abnormal can be so defined if we go away like snowbirds are inclined to do. That will save wood. It can also apply if we stay home and it is extra cold for a longer time (like this year). That will double consumption. We may get four years, we may only get two. Still, a pile of drying wood is like money in the bank.

I need…..

…..a new chainsaw. My old Jonsared (the company is no longer in operation, it seems) was a smaller powered 45cc with a 16″ bar. Model 2145. It was pretty good. I liked it. To be fair, it was a smidge underpowered and I kinda wanted 50cc or even 55cc but, well, I didn’t have it so I just ‘worked’ the smaller unit a smidge harder. Still, it lasted 17 years. The upside of a 2145 is that it is relatively light (about 12 pounds) and it is amazing how heavy even that begins to feel after an hour or so of continuously risking blood loss on a remote beach somewhere.

The other day, I had been working it down at the lagoon and stopped it to move around a log I was working on and, when I went to pull-start it up (usually instantly), I heard a clunk and nothing would move after that. It felt like the piston came off the wrist pin and seized. Of course, no one can tell that simply by pulling on a cord but that was what came to mind – ‘Engine went, I think it is the wristpin’.

Sal said, “Yeah, sounded like that to me, too!”

Chainsawing logs strewn higgledy-piggledy over treacherous slimy-boulders-on-the-beach is not my idea of fun at the best of times and so the engine seizing was OK with me. Good excuse to quit doing that. Expensive, to be sure, but so is a leg or arm replacement. I took it as a sign to start taking care of myself and went in for tea and a cookie.

Since then I have been ‘shopping online’ for a new chainsaw. I am thinking of a Stihl 50cc or a Stihl 55cc. There’s a MS271 called a Ranch Boss or something silly that has good reviews and, as I get older, 50cc feels powerful enough…but..but….well, I think I want the MS 291 at 55cc and a man wants what a man wants, ya know?

Is this a big deal? No. Buying a chainsaw should NOT be a big deal but you would probably NOT be surprised to learn that one is judged a bit by their chainsaw choices out here. Like one’s outboard choices, ya know (I am happy to be in the Yamaha cohort now).

To be fair, you are more likely to be judged by the size and shape of the sawdust your chainsaw spews (that is how guys know what kind of a chainsaw sharpener you are and that is a skill with a huge status metric and not one to be ignored) but the saw itself is a close second. Big engines and long bars are signs of manliness. So are big scars and so there is an off-setting influence there, too. Fear and ego. Fear has always influenced me. Ego is beginning to wane.

There is a grim deliberation at play here…..just how long and rosy is my chainsawing future, anyway? Do I have to buy for the 15 year rule? Will I be chainsawing at 88? Maybe buying a good chainsaw is not the best investment……long term….ya know? In fact, maybe getting a good, newer, sharper, more powerful chainsaw is the very reason I never get to the grand old age of 88?

I wonder if Hasbro makes a nice light, cheap and safe chainsaw?