World Class First Responder: Sally

A four hundred foot long barge ran aground on the eastern shore of Quadra Island a few days ago…there were mumblings about the crew and a chart table but, so far, the official explanation is ‘just plain, bloody stupid!’

The American barge hit the under-surface rocky reef with such force that it went ‘up’ the reef and settled heavily on top.  NO longer floating fully.  The tug disconnected and reported the mishap (first to their company), the crew changed their clothes and Canada and BC then came ‘into’ the picture with the Coast Guard boat, the Cape Palmerston – all 48 feet of her – the local police boat, the politicians and, of course, all government-based hands-on-deck.  A lot of people stood there looking.  

“Never mind, I thought, our World Class Marine Response team is likely already steaming underway to the scene.  After all, the Americans are not telling what is IN the barge and whatever it is is either toxic, polluting or, at the very least, foreign to the marine environment.  They’re a’comming’.  The HAVE to be.  Justin says ‘we are in good hands’.”

Sal said, “They are useless.  Thursday morning the tide is 15.1.  Then it will float off.”

Of course, divers went down, boats stationed themselves off the side of the barge, the Palmerston drew double shifts and, in all likelihood, the local fire-stations were jacked up.  Ooooohhhhhhh…the preparation!  The response!  The energy!

But, surprisingly, there was no World Class response team arrival except that of the 100% unequipped-for-spills Cape Palmerston and her plucky crew of four.  Mind you, we’d have a lot of witnesses for the interviews, court cases and speaking engagements.

The barge hung around for a few days and then on (take a guess…) the Thursday morning high tide, the barge floated off.

“Hey, Sal!  Seems YOU are the World Class Response team.  YOU said it right first!”

“Get me some interviews.  I’ll do some speaking engagements!”

The times, bridges and the way of inanimate objects….

Let us start with the inanimate objects – like engines.  Damn them!

I mean; I LIKE engines, I really do.  Power.  Work made easy and all that but…the damn things ‘act up’.  In and of itself an engine that acts up is to be expected but lately every engine in our lives is getting out of sorts.

My trusty little Honda 2000eu has crapped out after almost ten years of very dependable and hardy work.  And that little sucker ran perfectly even after being run over by a road grader!

My ‘pretty new’ Yamaha 50 is beeping when the key turns on…diagnosis to follow.  Sal’s little Suzuki had carburetor problems until I stripped it down, cleaned it in a sonic cleaner and reduced the problem down to the idle jet that I THEN over-reamed and made too big.  Gotta replace that mistake.  Someday.

I gave a small truck (1992  Chevy S10) to a couple of young guys on the island who wanted to ‘do’ firewood for people but they have dropped the ball on it and so I may have a tire to fix.  Not easy out here.  I was gonna get an old Pathfinder (to replace the S10) for tooling about the island but I was just informed the power steering pump on it is on the fritz.  I am afraid to go try and start anymore of the petro-power units I have.  And I have at least four others!

But, honestly…?  Engines that act up are ‘part of the deal’ out here. Fix ’em or buy a new one.  Moving on…..

My supplemental battery charger is also acting up.  Damn!  Seems it needs a temperature sensor but the manufacturer does not make/provide the parts!  WTH!?  Still, a little sleuthing on forums reveals a different mfg’er’s temp sensor will fit so that will require some delicate soldering sometime in the near future.  When the part comes.  Someday.

Technically, a bridge is inanimate but, well, one has to GET animate to build the bridge and the bridge does nothing if one doesn’t walk on it so the bridge is not-quite-so-inanimate I think.  You know?  Organic, anyway.  Alive once upon a time….?

Anyway, we needed to rebuild the second bridge and 3/4 of that is now done.  Three quarters is enough to walk on (no railing) and I have engines now calling to me so 3/4 will have to do for awhile.  We’ll get back to it.  Someday.

And I need those engines!

We also have a big chore we would like to (…..NOT like to) get behind us as well.  We have accumulated garbage over our 15+ years here on the Rock and we wanna get rid of it.  Hauling garbage is a pain at the best of times but this garbage is the garbage that was heavy and ‘junky’ rather than ‘burnable, recyclable or compostable.  This is REAL garbage –  landfill-type garbage, like non-functioning appliances, batteries, rusty cables and the like.  They present as heavy and awkward and a real schlep.  And uphill both ways.  We are gonna get to it.  Truly.  Someday.

And now….for the times…..the times!

Politics.  Climate change.  E-vehicles.  Protests.  All topics worthy of attention but, but but…..it’s the economy, stupid!  We are (oddly and suspiciously) NOT hearing much about the economy as a whole these days.  (But I cannot go a day without reading about a Kardashian or Trump!).  We get industry specific news but the big picture is obscured or absent in the public discourse.  And, from what I can see, the economy is teetering.

How can it not be?  The US is running a trillion dollar deficit on top of a multi-trillion dollar debt.  The US is not healthy.  Canada?  Hah!  Canada is a dwarf joined at the US hip and led by a little boy with a nice smile.

Do NOT use the stock market or GDP as any kind of real economic indicator.  They are indicators but they are indicators for the uber-wealthy 1% and the corporations.  Main Street Joe is not directly affected by the stock market but he feels the larger, societal economy hard and personally everyday driving down Main St.  And those kind of folks are hurting.

All the pundits have been crying ‘the recession is coming’ for some time but it has NOT arrived.  Close…but NOT yet.  So….why not?  Growth is stagnant.  Debt is immense.  Wages are in retreat.  The population is aging.  The bulk of the ‘wealth’ is in real estate and thus ‘land-locked’ and NOT liquid.  We have more oil but the world is rapidly shifting to e-vehicles.  (And they are SSSssooooooo cool.)  That trend is only going to increase.

So, what am I seeing?  I think I am seeing the calm before the crash.  I am seeing a flaccid market, most BIG item buyers too old to ‘want’ for much these days.  No ‘hunger’.  Diminished consumer lust.  The boomers are just NOT driving the demand side as they used to.  And I see debt beyond manageable levels for the next generations that follow.  Way too many people owe way too much money.

And yet, the world is awash in cash.  Money, money, money everywhere and still no real investment being made.  Which means the money ain’t circulating.  Which means no-growth.  Stagnation.  Which usually means soon-to-arrive recession.

Today, you can get a 30 year loan at 2% interest (if you are a big corporation) and that tells any student of economics a lot.  It means the ‘lender’ is not likely to even get back the cost of living from their capital.  Why would they do that?  LOCK UP for 30 years!!??  That suggests that the big-guys see no real upside for investing even with cheap money and that means things like infrastructure and capital investments are not being planned let alone built.  It feels like the ‘first world’ is coasting economically speaking.

Maybe that’s fine.  Maybe a recession does not happen.  Maybe growth simply grinds to a halt.  Who knows?  But, with the aging first world, the social and political unrest virtually everywhere, the unbelievable shift in technologies and the still-increasing gap between the haves and have-nots, I sense tremors in the status quo, a visceral feeling that bodes ill.

Mind you, anyone who reads me, knows I am quick to sound the alarm and slow to jump on a bandwagon.  So, take it all with a grain of salt and a few glasses of wine.  I have been wrong before.

 

Come Together! Right Now! ‘Cause I am off the grid of the off-the-grid!!

Our life off the grid is still very, very interesting.  A bit less so as to construction and various mechanical things these days (as it gets colder) but significantly more so as the ‘world turns’.  Our community is getting more active.  They are doing stuff.

The community is currently engaged somewhat more than usual and SOMEWHAT is a huge word in a group of people who are notoriously private, independent and generally disengaged on most matters that require more than four people or dinner.  Their basic and very common OTG operating philosophy is something like, “I came out here to be mostly alone and in nature.  I am NOT into being overly social, especially just for the sake of it.  I will contribute when I am needed but, in the meantime, bu**er off!”

I say that like I know their minds…but I do NOT really know.  I know most everyone to say ‘hello’ to, maybe twenty or thirty rather better, but I really just know me.  And that ‘remove’ is largely how I feel so I attribute that feeling to everyone.  Of course, many old grumps seem to carry that same ol’ crusty ‘vibe’ with them so I am mostly just extrapolating and projecting.

Don’t get me wrong about the people, tho.  Any encounter with anyone out here is pleasant, polite and often fun.  But, unless it is a problem that needs their assistance in the solving, the encounters are usually brief.  Blessedly so.

Especially now.  ESPECIALLY NOW!

Our first guests arrived in June.  Our last guests left November 1.  That is six months of entertaining.  I am done.  D-O-N-E!  I would not even host a Victoria’s Secret Slumber party right now.  NOT EVEN IF THEY DID THE COOKING!!!

But, I digress….back to the rumblings in the community……our community is officially represented by a community association, registered and all that.  A real bona fide society.  Tax receipts for donations.  Meetings.  Minutes.  The whole shebang.  And, for the most part, they are pretty good.  I say, ‘most part’ because, like all societies, there are elections and sometimes you get good, hard-working, unselfish people who carry the load for a couple of years….and sometimes you get a board full of dufusses or those with some kind of personal agenda that mostly just annoys everyone.  But we have been very well served these past few years and we seem to be getting better and better.

There is the land purchase initiative (see Go Fund Me – lot 302 Read Island, BC).  We are buying 20 acres for ‘posterity’.  There is the land-already-purchased initiative (purchased by the Regional District and soon to be leased to the community for a possible ‘village’ site or something).  We have a world famous lunch-on-the-dock every Wednesday in the summertime that is a real ‘bonding casually’ experience and well received by tourists and locals alike.

We have added a Winter Cafe on a similar schedule (coincides with the doctor visits) and we have a one-day-a-week home support worker who travels around five islands using her own ATV and boat.  Of course she keeps her bear spray and a chainsaw handy.  That initiative was also privately funded and it has so impressed the local health officials they are looking at how they might make it more sustainable.  We need only about $18K a year for the program so it is not the money that is spooking the bureaucrats, it is the bear spray, the small boat, the ATV and the chainsaw that makes them cringe.

The pussies!  

And there is the water-taxi food delivery service.  There is the day-to-day ongoing volunteering for all sorts of small issues that crop up (Sal is teaching the school kids sewing skills today) and people just handle all that without fuss.  There are visitors, students, politicians, tourists, new-comers and out-goers.  The place is a ‘hive’.

Well, a remote hive…..

Sal now sits on the Quilting Guild executive (neighbouring island).  I have been ungraciously enduring meetings for the local Health Society.  We have managed the home support program.  We have engaged in the ‘properties’ activities.  Money is moving around from donation to cause.  The people are coming together….but….but….Kumbaya will not be sung all the live-long day.  That is just NOT our style.

Me?  I am warmed by the general goodness of it all, I am motivated to help where I can, I see it all as productive and necessary….but…..right now, after the last six months, I am tired, looking to slow down, stay away, hibernate, get some rest……and leave it – at least for now – to others…..

Pretty cold…

…for us.

0 degrees Celsius is NOT all that cold by any real standards but freezing feels colder when you are on the water.  And, we are.  It feels damn cold.  So, the furnace is cranked up and the house is toasty and the chores are just being left to fend for themselves.  We are still very busy, tho.  Today is the last ‘visits’ day of the season.  We have a large group of students coming from Campbell River plus a couple of friends staying for a few days arriving just after the kids leave.

The kids are great.  They are just happy to be out of the classroom and we happen to be a useful excuse.  We are their ‘field trip’ but only because their teacher read our first book, liked it and wanted out of the classroom, too.  They came last year.  It was fun.  I am guessing we are on the verge of becoming an annual event.

Our friends are great, too.  Well, one is…..his partner is ‘new-to-us’ and so this visit is our formal introduction to his new squeeze.  We’ll like her.  B’s partners are fun.  They are always eccentric, quirky, funny and kinda wild and untamed all at the same time.  I am looking forward to meeting R.

As of this writing, I am pretty happy and content.  The chore list – while still long – was tallied up and we did pretty good this year despite a record number of guests and events.  We both find it crazy that we live remote on an unserviced island, retired and unemployed at anything even similar to work and yet have been busy all day every day since May 1.  That’s wild.  Seriously?  I haven’t worked this hard since carrying sides of beef at Canada Packers.

Well, slaughtering pigs at Swift’s Premium in Richmond was the worst manual job but that was just because of all the blood and screaming (some of that was me).  And pouring concrete with the Italian crew (I was 16) would have been harder had I not fallen asleep at the first coffee break and they ‘sent me home’ thinking I was ill.  I wasn’t – I was just exhausted after the first three hours.

I have had some pretty crazy jobs and done some pretty goofy things but I have never been as busy as we have been this year.

You may have noticed a studied avoidance of politics in the last few blogs.  I have plenty to say, of course but, for the most part, it has all been said and Trump and Trudeau are just carrying on being themselves and creating havoc and stench as they go about their corrupt and stupid ways.  No real news there.

But there is something to add….

……‘T’is the season of our discontent’ was the end-phrase last blog.  In case I wasn’t clear, I was referring to the myriad protests happening around the world.  The interesting thing is that, despite the growing crowds, the issues (although similar) are NOT the same one.  ‘Mericans protest Trump.  Hong Kong protests the PRC.  Brits protesting Brexit.  Chileans are protesting corruption.  Venezuela protesting for food and toilet paper.  The list just goes on and on.  Even Russia is experiencing more public protests.

Ya gotta wonder…’what is it that is prompting all this at much the same time?’

I suggest that it might be as simple as social media.  The way I see it, the only common thread to all the protests all over the world is the unifying, galvanizing force of social media.  The hoi polloi can ‘organize’ and ‘gather’ in a very short time.  They do not even have to ‘stage’ themselves to then march – they can ‘flash’ march (as they are doing in Hong Kong).  And fewer of these protests have prominent leadership or even spokespeople.  These are not your grandmother’s protests!  They are also NOT quite being done anonymously but it is definitely more ‘mouse’ with so many donning masks and NOT setting themselves up to be public martyrs.

Are we more angry or are we just better connected?  I think it is both and I think we are going to see more of this ‘different’ way of fighting back over the next few years.  AND we are going to see more migration.

One obvious-but-incidental sign of the deep underlying discontent (even in the first world) is that the OTG phenomena is still growing.  Seems like a lot of people want to get away……

Ain’t JUST the climate……

Sunday.  Oddly and not just a little nostalgically, I have re-taken up some interest in NFL football.  Not much.  Maybe half an hour a week – enough time to review the highlights of the few teams in which I seem to have an interest.  There are not many.  The Seahawks.  49’ers.  Sometimes Chicago.  Sometimes N’orleans.  And, whatever team some young phenom is playing for that warrants watching his highlights.  Christian McCaffery of the Panthers.  Nick Bosa (49’ers).  ‘Old’ Adrian Peterson, Vikings.  But, half an hour is enough.  It just doesn’t have the same appeal as when I played the game.  And THAT was a long time ago!

That growing ambivalence is even more true for hockey and motorcycle racing.  Also two original sports for me.  Great sports, to be sure, but some activities are audience-oriented and some are participant oriented and some are just made-for-media broadcasting.  My interest lies in what I can still relate to – pretending I can still do it.  Which is less and less every year.

I am likely to maintain some interest in motorbikes (I can still drive them) and golf for obvious reasons (you can ride in a cart).  And, given the road I drive and the speeds at which I drive it, you’d be forgiven if you thought I was heavily into rally-driving.  But…I am not.  NOT watching it, anyway.  Driving-like-a-nut still has some appeal for me.  But, you know what they say, “There’s no athleticism in a lead foot”.  Most sports are over for me.

Those past feelings, attractions, desires, interests are waning now.  Age can diminish one’s passions.  I do not lust after the next highly touted set of skis, the latest whacked-out moto-crosser or even a new set of high-tech golf clubs.  Skiing is over.  Motocross is way, WAY over and my old clubs are just fine, thank you (even tho golf is also largely over).  No need to even buy a new golf glove.

And the new ‘recreational’ crap is not in the least bit interesting.  The 20th generation of a phone?  A new video game?  Mountain-biking, Tattoos, aspiring to various victimhoods, being allergic to stuff and turning myself into a techie just to park my car?!  Sounds exceptionally boring to me.

And so the circle of life shows up again as the world shifts more and more away from the elderly (baby boomers) and back to selling crap to the youth.  The Millennials will get their revenge but first they need to get a condo and a Tesla.  Poor babies. 

Mind you, they ARE kinda annoying me….already…

I have no interest in professional sports as I am not engaged in the amateur version anymore. And that translates into LESS consumerism.  No purchases from me.  Don’t even watch the whole game.  I don’t buy the equipment AND I do not buy Budweiser beer, Domino’s pizza or even contemplate a new Ford F-150.  Ol’ Dave just ain’t the advertiser’s target anymore.  Hell, I do not even have a TV.  

But, boding ill for the ‘establishment’, the Millenials are NOT as into the old pillars of the  culture industries (football, etc.) as we used to be.  All ‘establishment’ industries are shifting.  Or dying.  Major League Baseball is feeling that quicker than others.  So has the music industry.  Politics. Climate.  Cars (somebody should put GM out of it’s misery).  TV.  Even relationships, sex and all the newly-released genders!!!

The times, they are a’changing……everywhere.  Everything.  There is a major quake in the space-time continuum, a rip in the dimension curtains, a shift in the larger consciousness and a shake-up coming for the old ways of doing things. 

Slowed down only by the wealth so deeply embedded in the old and hoary……..

Sports is just one of the most obvious and so I thought I’d take a Sunday stroll down memory lane and, tellingly, I am comfortable here.

But make no mistake.  Now is different from then.  Now?  Now t’is the season of our discontent.

 

Glad that’s over…..

….the solar panel installation, I mean.

They were installed and hooked up yesterday.  The sun shone.  Power was made and the batteries are a’ humming….yesterday was a good day, a very good day.  Both Sal and I are exhausted but, get this: we did not do the hard part!  In fact, we didn’t even do the ‘brain-work’.  Mike did.  Sal was the monkey and I was the gopher (monkeys are gophers on the roof).

Mike is a local guy, kinda.  I met him up here when he was around 28.  He helped us install the first solar panel rack/array.  Volunteered.  Mike knew his stuff from having done the ‘system’ for his parents a few miles away.  After helping us, we encouraged him to ‘get in to the business’.  He did.  He is the principal shareholder in HORIZON ENERGY SYSTEMS now operating out of Victoria (but he will go anywhere in the province – single, young, energetic, strong-like-bull, honest.  A great guy.)  And, of course, I bought my next set of stuff from him — he’s dealer now!  I expected to install it with only Sal’s help.  As usual, bad planning…..

Mike insisted on being here.  He insisted on helping.  He kinda quietly insisted we accept the roles of monkey and gopher which we did.  That was a very good decision.  Things got done.  They got done right.  And nobody got hurt.

But we had a bit of tidying up to do today and that required one more foray onto the roof.  Up went the monkey.

The chore was not overly difficult.  We had to waterproof the roof-side connection where the wire ran down to the ‘power’ closet.  That required some fittings, some rubber sheeting and some hose clamps.  Basically an hour or so.  The HARD part is that the roof is metal, obviously on a slant (about 30 degrees) and slippery.  Sal was in a harness and roped off.  She was safe.

It WAS uncomfortable.  Awkward.  A bit scary…..things kept sliding away from her….but she prevailed and everything was fine…she started to come down…..

“Throw that safety line over the peak of the roof.  I’ll collect it.  You still have the other line to hook onto and we can get that next.”

She threw the first line perfectly and down it came. She got to the valley she was going to descend to the ladder and took off the second line. She didn’t throw it far enough and it got hung up at the top of the roof.  We had a schmozzle.  A ‘knot’ was right where the panels are.  And you can’t climb on panels.  We needed a real monkey.  A spider monkey.

After rigging a new safety line Sal could just access the tangled one and we got ‘er done.  That took another half hour or so.  When we were finished, we were both exhausted again……

Is it the work?  No.  Not really.  Mike worked.  A lot!  And I ran around quite a bit yesterday steppin’ and fetchin’ for the roof-crew so physicality was involved but today, it was not so much ‘work’…but still…fatigue…why?   Primarily because, when Sal is up a roof or on a tower or hanging from a tree (just a matter of time) I am nervous for her.  Makes no difference if she is strapped and wrapped in all the safety gear, I am tense.  I am like a squirrel on amphetamines, twitching.  Looking everywhere.  Nerves a’janglin’.  And Sal feels much the same way although she thinks it’s worse for the one watching.

I think it is that way, too.  Thank God that’s over!

Planning is just another word for ‘not going to happen’.

Raining.  But not cold.  A bit bleak but not too bad.  The sun is definitely going down earlier.  Wood stove runs every day but not all day.  We are starting to ‘feel’ winter coming on.

Our last guests for the season are coming at the end of the month – a day or so after a classroom of high school seniors come to ‘visit’ an off the grid home (us) as that same class did last year.

This has been a very, very busy year.

And, even though we got a lot done, we did not get ENOUGH done so outstanding chores still beckon.  Too many.

Yesterday I received my six new solar panels.  They will add 1900 watts to my already 2100 watts but this next grouping will be on the roof of the house rather than my tower-of-power array behind the house.  I think it will work well.  Eventually.  We still have to install them and working on the roof (slick steel) in the rain is just asking for an accident.  We’ll just have to pick the right DRY day (when there are no guests, yoga, bookclub, post office, community efforts, meetings, whales, ravens, squirrels, gatherings or quilting).

I also have to build a second bridge (amongst other things).  The first one we built this summer (to the back of the house) is great!  And we had W’fer help to remove the lower, rotten-to-the-core one last month (a bridge to access the under-house).  But there is a major gap-on-a-severe-slant where the old bridge was that is now slippery-with-rain and so getting under the house is a smidge difficult. 

Reason for telling you something rather boring….?  Well, you see, like so many things out here, one thing affects the other.  Putting solar panels on the roof requires running cable down through the house to the underside and then running it back to the power-room and so, roof installation requires under-house access.  Slippery roof.  No safe access to the underside.  More danger than there should be.  Classic Dave planning.

A recent guest casually remarked, “I love the way your buildings and decks are all connected in such an organic way.  It all just kinda flows.  Eclectic.  Did you plan it that way?”

Words failed me.

Speaking of failure…..

Scheer and Trudeau are vying to be the front runner in a race that is destined to be so close that the party that comes in third is likely to hold the balance of power.  We’ll probably have a minority government.  I am OK with that.  It’s worked well in BC.  I like minority governments.  Well, I HATE all governments but the weaker they are, the more I prefer it.  Why?  Because power corrupts and they are all corrupt.  Take away some of the power and they are less corrupt. 

Maybe.  We’ll see.  Jagmeet Singh – king maker.  Who woulda guessed?

And – just an observation: At a Scheer rally recently, Andrew Scheer mentioned Trudeau’s name.  His supportive crowd jeered Trudeau and chanted ‘Lock him up!’ Very reminiscent of concerts by Trump and the Deplorables.  That kinda says something about the current group of Conservatives, don’t you think?

Speaking of success….?

Proof that there really is a God:  little Great Thunberg was well received in Alberta.