A remote state of mind

When you suddenly see the world a bit differently, noticeably differently, then one might describe that new view as an epiphany. But when one is immersed in that different world, and you only notice ‘differently’ when you get back to the original one, is that return feeling a reverse-epiphany? It is definitely confusion, bewilderment and/or feeling ‘out-of-whack’. Regardless of what it is called, it is also anxiety provoking. For us, anyway….

We used to dread ‘Town Day’. There was the get-up and hurry-up to get in various lines (Ferry, Costco, liquor store and the very worst line-ups at parts suppliers). There was also the clock running out while the chore list remained undone, the hemorrhaging of cash in large chunks, the sheer weight of crap jammed in the car and the logistics of all that which usually also included a doctor visit, a government office visit, accidental encounters, physical limitations, logistics and, of course, Murphy. Sometimes a Town Day felt like undertaking the invasion of the Beach at Normandy.

During our busiest of times, I regularly hit 21 to 22 stops while Sal shopped at two near-to-each-other stores. I would literally drive like a fiend getting in half my ‘calls’, then pick up Sal (laden with groceries and wine) and then we would strategically plan out the remainder of stops with her doing a slow, drive-by tuck-and-a-roll at some stores while I continued down the street to another. If you added bathroom-breaks, a grab-a-lunch, gassing up the car and petting a cute dog, we would approach 30 different stops on a busy summer day between 11:15 (when the ferry got in) until 5:30 (when the ferry took us back out to the other island). And, even then, we were not going to be done and drinking wine until around 8:00 or 9:00pm. Town days were hell.

We have largely improved a lot of that. With the house and large projects complete we have less to do, of course, and so there are less ‘parts’ stops (altho still way too many). We have delegated grocery shopping to ‘online’ and then delivered by water-taxi every two weeks. Same for pharmacy. With other members of the community all coordinating their shopping, the added delivery cost ($20.00 – sometimes less) it is actually cheaper than going into town ourselves!

Yesterday, February 23rd however, we had to do another Town day – first of 2021. We were last in town December 23rd, 2020. That’s two months! And I have achieved at least once a cheater’s version of three months (Sal went in on the second month) but I remained free for three whole months!

We figured we did 9 stops yesterday.

Bear in mind, too, that we have been Covid-isolating as well for a year. I am estimating that Sal and I ‘town-dayed’ (various versions including Victoria trips) maybe 6-7 times over the past year, yesterday maybe being the 8th. That is us engaging with the madding crowd only eight times a year and, honestly, we could get that down to four if we tried real hard (well, Sal’s hair-cut habit and fabric store attraction would keep her numbers up but I could do 4 easily). ICBC is offering us a low-mileage discount!

The point? All this isolation has altered my psyche and not much at all for the worse. I am happier with less town, more time here.

But here’s the weird part: when we left the city and then went back there within a week or so, there was no ‘difference’. It was nothing more than a ‘trip’ or, if done in the summer, a minor ‘break’ or ‘vacation’. Same-same. But, when we moved here and went back to the city say three months later, it ‘felt different’. By the time we were going back only once a year, it was like visiting a different city, it was all changing so fast, Vancouver was no longer home. It was ‘different’. By the time our visits dropped to every two or three years, going to the city was anathema to us and caused mild anxiety. Imagine that, eh? Returning to one’s home of almost fifty years was strange and caused anxiety.

I was literally amazed at how much time was wasted standing or driving in line, looking for parking, looking for addresses, waiting on meetings…..I hadn’t seen that as clearly before but, after a few years away, it seemed like the city just sucked the life out of you while you sat in traffic.

A few years after that, I noticed that my anxiety level started to increase as I approached Nanaimo! It was simply the car traffic and street signs and milling crowds but there was enough of that in Nanaimo that it felt like the BIG city! And, of course, Victoria was the same. Small cities had the same ‘Vampire effect’ as did the Big one – life draining and for no reason.

And a few years after that, Campbell River inherited the mantle of ‘big life-sucking city’ and there were enough chores, line-ups, people and confusion to also start to cause a similar anxiety level (parking is never a problem, tho).

It is truly amazing what these not-so-noticeable-at-first feelings do to you. You feel and act differently. You even think differently. I think I really am different. Now the whole world looks a giant town day and I don’t want much to do with it unless I have to.

Monetary-ness made simple

This entry is written entirely for the purpose of sharing perspective. It was prompted by the debate between two readers stemming from the last blog post. No expertise is claimed by anyone but the right to have an opinion – they are entitled to have them. So am I. This is ‘just a thought’.

Economics is, essentially, the study of human behaviour as exhibited through spending, buying, selling and savings. Basically, money is a form of expression or language that everyone speaks (and NEEDS to) and yet, like our own speaking languages, the body of knowledge keeps expanding and changing and we do not, as a rule, keep up. The result: we do not know what we are talking about. We do not know where we are headed.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34.

(Money is also a ‘storage of energy’but that is a topic for another day.)

Our spoken languages have categories, specialties and/or dialects. English, especially, has science-talk, techie-talk, street slang, normal conversational English (as does Greek, Mandarin, etc but English is the primary techie language) and there is all sorts of different job-related lingo. There are approximately 170,000 words currently in use in English, 45,000 words in the dictionary NOT used much anymore (methinks, eh?) and the average educated person only uses between 20 and 30,000 words. Throw in ever-evolving techie-talk, street slang and plain-old grammar and ‘speaking English properly’ today is a daunting task mastered by very few. Speaking fluent economics is impossible.

Economics is, in many ways, a language substitute as well as a sub-language (in this blog topic, for sure) and, thankfully, the language is not as complicated or as full in vocabulary as English. It is, however, somewhat harder to understand and the concepts related to economics are just as complicated (it is a subset of human behaviour after all). Ninety-nine percent of the folks don’t speak even a smattering of Economics. And, surprise! like slang, it is also evolving so some so-called economists are also no longer fluent. Bottom line: few people understand economics and fewer still can communicate their understanding in common language.

The ‘substitute language of Economics is the counting of money or ‘accounting’ and data metrics and statistics, all are often used as a ‘common form’ of communicating the concepts instead of us having to learn all the concepts and special words. Numbers are the economist’s shortcuts. Side bar: when I taught business planning, my students were asked to write their business plan as well as they could and then attach their projected numbers. The exercise was to see if the ‘numbers’ read as a precise translation of their sales pitch. In effect, I taught them to wrote two plans: one in English, one in numbers.

Because we know words, we are, therefore, all supposed to know what an ‘estimated drop in durable goods’ is supposed to mean. We are supposed to be ‘happy’ when the price of oil goes up when, indeed, most of us are unhappy when it does. The rationale for the money-talkers explanation is that, “When oil prices go up, that is an indicator of work being done and the economy must be growing, i.e. the numbers are going up. Ergo, we are happy to see the economy grow.”

People (even economists) still think that way. To be fair, rising oil prices is an indicator of more work being done but it is NOT an indicator of all the more damage to the climate, more investment in wrong places (like wars, throw-away plastics and wasteful consumerism) nor is it an indicator of who-gets-what or the long term cost to the planet. Oil prices rising indicates only profitability and business in the short term for a percentage of people. It is a narrow point of view.

The point: the language of economics is ‘workplace jargon’ and is both inadequate and misleading. And I, personally, suspect that is on purpose. Why? Because most of it is stupid but it always serves the wealthy.

Side bar: if your house burns down and you rebuild it, economists add that cost to the GDP. Yippeeee, the economy is growing! That is just plain stupid to my way of thinking. Replacement is not growth. AND, if all the salmon in your area die from disease or something, that is NOT deducted from the economy. And that is even stupider.

Eco-minded economists lament that the cost-to-the-environment is never factored into the price paid at Walmart for a plastic kids pool (for instance). And we consumers don’t seem to ever really ‘get that’ lament. We don’t want to. But we know it is true and we do ‘get that’ in some stupidly obvious and too-late concluded examples such as oil spills and thousands of abandoned oil wells sprinkled hither and yon (although the clean-up costs are added to the GDP) and maybe the loss of over 40% of the world’s wildlife is noted but, generally speaking our ability to see beyond cheap gratification is impossible. We are like Lemmings grabbing a quick bite as we head for the cliffs.

But let us segue back to “What does that mean for me and mine in our situation? We have to pay the mortgage! We gotta eat! You are talkin’ like I am gonna have to pay more taxes!!!”

Well….the carbon tax is supposed to be a baby step in factoring in the cost of our living on the planet. Of course, it will not work. It can’t. It’s stupid, too-little and too late. And, anyway, Nature has already provided the REAL answer and some people can already see it. They call it SUSTAINABILITY. Best quick-read of REAL and possible sustainability is Lovins and Hawken’s book: NATURAL CAPITALISM, published by the Rocky Mountain Institute in 1999, and a life changer for me.

Sustainability is survival. Non-sustainability is extinction.

Occasionally, a species will dominate it’s environment too much and go extinct. That can and has happened. But most species found a balance somewhere along the line. Too many wildebeests for the savannah and the lions start reproducing. Too many lions eating lots and lots of Wildebeest tends to balance out both of them over time….I am guessing it only takes a few generations (for lions and wildebeest). We are clearly too much for our environment – at least the modern consumer is. We are not sustainable.

THAT is the problem.

But we are the apex predator. And more than NOT having to fear the lions and the alligators, we will eat just about anything. Lions eat meat. Wildebeest eat grass. We’ll eat both of them and then go for chocolate ice cream. And there are many, many more of us. More than that, we ‘eat the earth’ (mining and such) and there is no natural balancing force…….

……..well, there is, actually. We do have a few natural enemies and they can reduce our numbers enough to create some kind of balance. Diseases are the most common contrary or balancing force from heart disease to ebola, from diabetes to Covid. We don’t see the really microscopic little guy until that enemy has landed in our blood stream. But we have a Goliath enemy, too. The earth also fights back. It, too, likes balance and when the balance is out of whack, the earth resists and tries to restore the status quo. Climate change is what some are calling that.

“What is the point, Dave?”

We are all out of balance – especially problematic at this modern, globalized scale, too. Trudeau is NOT responsible. Harper was NOT responsible. Even that bastard Trump is not nor will ever be responsible for the predicament we all face. I am a politician watcher and commenter but, really? They are NOT the problem – just part of the problem because we all rely on the head lemming.

It is not about a small group of self-branded liberal conservative fools meeting in hotels. Not even well positioned and rich fools meeting in Davos are to blame. Our problem is the system we have all embraced. Until we can build in balancing factors to Capitalism (as described in Natural Capitalism), we are headed for the cliff. It is really that simple.

“Dave! I can’t practice Natural Capitalism on my own!” It is hard. I know that. But Ray Anderson did it. So have others. Look up the history of Interface Corporation – they make carpet. The guy was a genius.

Economics -101

Yeah, you read that right, ‘minus’ 101. Read: Confusion. Implied meaning: we are not progressing in our understanding of economics, we are regressing. We might just be getting stupider…hard to say……especially if you are one of those getting stupider (like me).

Quick synopsis: The world economic engine has kinda shut down…that should be a negative influence on all the economies…and it is. Planes don’t fly, hotels don’t book, tourists don’t go on cruises and locals don’t dine out or socialize. They say retail stores are dead. The world has added 24 trillion dollars in debt to the books in one year. That is a pretty big negative, too – less cashflow, more debt payments and way more bankruptcies. Then there was the cumulative effects of the Trump years-of-international-alienation marked so dramatically by the Capitol Building riot and the demolition of the Trump Plaza in Atlantic city. That did NOT Make America Great Again. And it hurt everyone else as well. We could not even make face masks and yet Canadian unemployment is in the double digits. Oil is cheap (and, for Alberta, virtually land-locked). Then you gots your polar vortex and overdose deaths adding to the C-19 death toll (500,000 and growing in the US) and, of course, the significant increase in the homeless population all over North America. And the list goes on and on and on.

Don’t forget, the economy is basically a reflection of the collective MOOD of the people.

And yet…….every real estate market in Canada is up by a huge margin (except Regina). The average price of a home in Canada is $650,000. In Vancouver, it is $1,000,000!!! Toronto is pretty close behind in the high $900’s. And, get this: amongst the fastest growing markets in Canada is ‘Cottage Country’. I read where some modest 2 bedroom cottage on a distant Ontarian lake (think mosquito hatchery) sold for double the asking price! They wanted $400K and got $800K??????

Is the basic MOOD one of escape, retreat, run away?

When I spoke to my Bosch tankless repair guy in Vancouver, he said, “Oh, God! You live OTG? That’s my dream. I gotta get out of this madness. I’m 55 and, if I had the money, I’d leave in a heartbeat.” (I told him that he already had enough money but he didn’t believe me).

Seems the urban dream has been indelibly tarnished and the exodus has finally begun. Maybe. I guess we’ll see. But, let’s be real here: as much of an OTG booster as I am, I know that the urban centres are the economic engines of a country — even ones that rely so much on resource extraction such as Canada. People do NOT get money-rich in the country. Maybe some oil companies or logging companies do but the people working there do not. Living up or down country is NOT Wall Street, Bay Street or even Main Street….it is usually just a logging road.

Put another way; we have more and more homeless. But rents are dropping and, in Toronto, they are dropping as much as 30%. The poorest still can’t afford the rent. In St. John, New Brunswick, the average home can be purchased for $200,000. $500 a month will buy an average home in an urban centre! Pick a small village outside of that and the places are even cheaper!

So, the question students is how does that all work out? Record unemployment and homelessness but increasing real estate prices everywhere? And yet, more and more rental vacancies! More and more debt but the government does not care unless the debt is owed to them. More and more people living online. More and more people exiting real life for the ethereal. More and more people exiting the urban for the wilderness. More and more people incapacitated by climate change, C-19, drug addiction and unemployment. And the Boomers are getting older as I write.

If this is the apocalypse, shouldn’t Facebook tell us?

PS: As of Valentines Day Canada has vaccinated one million people with at least one third having received both doses. We are, in partial effect, 3% done. The dysfunctional, C-19-denying USA has vaccinated 60M people with both shots complete. Their math claims about 13 – 14%. But my math (328M / 60M is 18%). They are 18% complete their population. We are not keeping up with the Bubbas! All I can say is I am unimpressed with our institutions, as you know. I am also disturbed that they have not said out loud what I just did. The good news is that the politicians ARE saying: LET’S OPEN THE ECONOMY UP!!!

Two steps forward……slip, trip and fail!

Life off the grid….not entirely unlike life ON the grid recently.

My water system froze and broke during the cold snap. Given the expertise and skill I implicitly claim by writing an OTG blog, I am embarrassed. Woe is me. I did NOT prepare properly. Perhaps I have some Texan DNA in me?

Nevertheless, plans are afoot for repairing and upgrading the house water system. A new tankless, on-demand water heater is in transit and I am no longer going to rely exclusively on heat tapes and insulation-wrap to save my system. I am gonna build a small, outdoor, insulated closet/half-room in which to install all the vulnerable parts and it will be easily heated by a small propane gas heater or, more likely something even smaller. Oh yeah….upscale!

To be fair to my inner doofus, the heat tape around the old Bosch demand heater failed. Shorted out. As Sal and I were attempting to sleuth out the problem when it occurred, Sal got a shock from touching the tape. If it shorts out, it doesn’t heat up. If it doesn’t heat up, the vulnerable parts in the unit freeze up and then crack. That is not good.

In theory, I should be able to take out the old unit, diagnose and repair it and then reinstall it. That’s the theory, anyway. But, well……the unit is 12 years old. It is currently positioned outdoors exposed to the cold (nice roof over it, tho). It could really use a good checking over, I know of some parts in need of replacement and it never really had the juice to make the water really hot except in the summer. It was only 117,000 btus. The new one coming is 150,000 btus and it includes a built-in ‘freeze’ protection heater. And, since the whole system will all be kept warmer in the ‘little insulated room’, the water should be just that much hotter at the tap as well.

The repair theory also requires that I know what I am doing when disassembling the old unit and I do not. The principle is simple enough…..pressure cold water comes in and ‘charges’ the unit. When the pressure is released by the tap turning on, the gas is also let in, the pilot light creates a controlled but larger burn and the water passes all around the fire in coiled copper tubes. That heated water leaves and heads for the tap. Simple. But the miniature parts and wires and valves all included in the inner workings have specifications, tolerances and very strange shapes and parts. My inner Bosch is a complicated metal kidney, bladder, pipe and control valve all in one. With gas!

We are all personally familiar with similar but organic versions of that system and, when we encounter problems with water flow, well, the pressure is really on to get it all fixed rather quickly. I really do not have the time to sit around scratching my head on this. I have to get the replacement unit in and working as quickly as possible. Learning about brass kidneys will have to wait.

It is February 17th. If the mail hurries, I might get the new unit by maybe the 25th. You can see where this going…..right……? We are likely to still be using the pitcher-and-basin method for personal hygiene well into March. The good news: the heat tape that failed was on the water heater. Our cold water supply is good. We’ll be fine…..

….so we’ll try to get the logs up in the meantime…..

Who woulda thunk it?

It’s cold. It’s winter. There is snow. In Canada, no less!! THAT part we should know by now….but…well, it’s really cold, it includes all of Canada, even balmy Victoria and it is a smidge more winter-y than we (or anyone) expected mid February. Hell, we started seedlings in the latter part of February in other years but clearly, this is not going to be one of those years. This global warming-thing is something, ain’t it?

Oh, I know. It’s really climate CHANGE and the massive ‘dip’ of the polar vortex right down into the US midwest and further south means that we are all in the same weather conditions, give or take a few snow-inches, a few degrees and, of course, the wind chill. We islanders likely have it best. Still, I am now sucking water (siphon through a hose) out of the cisterns and carrying water totes into the house. It’s OK but I prefer the tap. I am getting a bit spoiled.

I am kinda following the impeachment trial but not as much as you might think I would. Why? Well, Trump is despicable and Trump is corrupt and Trump is blah, blah, blah and it really should NOT take even two sane people (let alone 100+ politicians) to know that. This is yet-another made-for-TV reality show. Of course, it is a real impeachment proceeding being exercised over a real high crime, misdemeanor and treasonable act aided and abetted by real liars, crooks, scum and camo-wearing idiots. The crime was and still is real. But the trial is a sham. It’s embarrassing for the US to claim any semblance of a justice system and it is totally condemning of not only the GOP members in the senate but it also makes the whole of Congress look really, really stupid.

All those lawyers and not a drop of morality or even legality! Yes, I know…impeachment is a political act and not a criminal one but why have laws and rules of evidence so sophisticated that there is a Supreme Court as the third branch of government? I mean, if laws, procedures, judges and lawyers are regarded as the highest form of justice, why is that all thrown out for Potus and the Privileged?

Trump is a criminal and his actions have wreaked horror and trauma on the country for four years. People have died as a result of his actions and almost 500K have died as a result of his inactions. But the REAL crime is the ‘rich white boy’ privilege he is enjoying so blatantly and contemptuously in front of the world. Trump has single-handedly destroyed the American Democratic myth. They have no credibility anymore. There is and never has been ‘justice-for-all’ in the US and this manifests that beyond any doubt.

How can any ‘leader’ representing the US chide, cajole, lean-on, persuade or just ‘educate’ any other country on their abuses of power now that this farcical clown has completely had his way with not-only-pussies-for-hire but politicians-for-hire, Bubbas-for-sacrificing and children in cages? One maniac single-handedly destroyed the American image.

The USA is a country that shoots and kills unarmed black people including women and children and yet call themselves ‘home of the brave’? This is a country that allows (if not encourages) crazed individuals to own automatic weapons some of whom now and then wipe out a school or a McDonalds? This is a country where half or more of the people can’t spell the name of their own state, have no idea where Canada is and have never traveled further than to a football stadium. How are they living in the land of the free? It is hard to make free choices when you know nothing!

This blog has rant-like aspects, I know that (I get worked up), but this is not a rant. That Trump is guilty is fact. That liars and cheats and sycophants are aiding and abetting him is fact. That the image of the US is in the gutter internationally is a fact. That their justice system is not anywhere close to fair and equal to all is fact. That their real God is money may not be a fact but it is definitely very, very high on their very, very short list of values.

If they convict him, they will be given a ‘break’, given a reprieve, given a ‘chance’ by the rest of the world to get their act together. But the wounds are deep, the faith is gone, trust has left the building and their leaders look like the fools they are. They have a deep hole from which to extricate themselves and, with their constant worship of money, they may be way too far gone to even see a better way.

BREAKING NEWS! Just as I sent this draft up to Sal for her to proof, the news was relayed in: Trump was acquitted. They could not find enough votes to tell the truth. Their inner turmoil just got worse.

Stone Cold!

Winter hit like a falling icicle the last two nights. It was cold. I am guessing about ten degrees F below freezing or about 20-25 F/-7C. The Monday forecast suggested -2 but that was without a cold outflow from Bute and we had that. I kept the stove burning all night and the house was 60F/I5C when we woke up which is pretty good but, damn it, we were surprised to find some water system parts underneath the house had frozen.

I have a couple of cisterns about 125 feet from the house. The line from them is one-inch pvc wrapped in heat tape and insulated with thick foam wrap and weatherproof tape. The water-line also sits under an inch or two of ground debris and it all sits in a shallow gully. It isn’t warm and toasty in there but it is out of the wind and, with the heat tape, should withstand the cold we normally get. Last night was colder. It was not likely the line but still, something froze. Our water system wasn’t workin’….

I made a small tent today from a plastic sheet and covered up the pumps (all wrapped in insulation and tape, too) valves, pressure tank and such. And then I will plug’n play an electric heater in it. My little plastic room with heater should raise the temperature at that point in the system (the expensive section) and that might help the tapes thaw the line during the day time. I am glad it is sunny – that helps – but it is still cold. The tent idea may not be enough magic. We’ll see.

It worked! Just came in and took my morning shower at 1:00 pm. So, that’s good but, but, but…Thursday is the deepest temperature drop and I have to figure out a way to get us through that night. I may put the little space heater on a timer so it kicks on now and then….

…..and now, the very next (Tuesday night) day, it does not work! The temperature dropped a few more degrees and we are, once again, frozen up….and the little heater is going full tilt. We’ll see. Oooooh, the adventure!

Speaking of cold, I have a weird theory about the GOPs and their ‘plan’ regarding Trump. It is positively Machiavellian. Stone-cold. Now I admit from the get-go that this theory is somewhat along the lines of Kev’s conspiracy theories but, since I made this one up, I am promoting it, you know…like D-Anon (Dave anon). Here it is: The senior scum in the GOP know they have to jettison Trump – the question is how? If they kick him out, they lose millions of tatted up, camo-wearing Bubbas so that is an unattractive option…..their challenge? How to get rid of Trump while looking like they are supporting him?

Lindsay Graham says, “I have a plan. We have a pair of idiot-lawyers whose egos are so huge and brains so small that they will screw up very, very badly. We can get them on Trump’s defense team right now especially since the saner ones walked off the job yesterday. The fools will only have a week to prepare. These guys are the Laurel and Hardy of Southern law. Totally incompetent. So we go in apparently supporting Trump but, before our very eyes the House prosecutors make such a compelling case and the Trump goofs can’t do a thing. We have to vote for impeachment. The defense just kept dropping the ball. Then, voila, Trump is barred from running! We get to blame the defense team because the trial plays out in front of the world! They’ll be so bad even Bubba would vote to impeach!”

Moscow Mitch says, “Da! Is goudt plan, no, Ivan? Get Vlad on the phone, comrade. Make it so, number one!”

Just a thought……

We have some Dr. T. Tam and Dr. B. Henry fans on this blog. I do not wish to offend them. But I am not one of their fans, myself. Not on this pandemic, anyway. I kinda liked Fauci a bit (a very short but very good basketball player) but I totally disliked Birx from the get-go. That doctor was the definition of a spineless do-nothing. I do not think any of them did a very good job, tho. But that is just a tiny part of the topic today.

To be fair, hindsight is easy and, with the exception of New Zealand and some Asian countries, no nation has done very well…well, Australia, too, has done better than us, I think. Because of our being right next door to the Covid Cowboys, some of whom still refute the seriousness of the disease (even as they die), Canada was simply destined for more trouble. Mind you, the Maritimes did rather well. But Quebec and Ontario have multiple, frequent and many undisciplined interactions with the US every day, the eastern snowbirds-to-Florida being amongst them. And Alberta is well, Alberta. That we are not the best nation is no surprise.

But, really? We are not even close! And, despite what they are telling you, it is NOT getting much better. The way I see it, Covid culled the weak and the elderly, the poor and the tight-groupings, the religious and the poor first – low hanging fruit for the virus. But it is NOW going to work at mutating. Of course, anybody past puberty knows that viruses mutate but that seemed to have been a bit of a surprise for our leaders, too.

Put succinctly, we have all been more reactive than pre-active and any pre-activity was weak and, I think, just gave the virus more time. We enabled this pandemic! Trump actually aided and abetted it!

Anyway, I am still not yet on topic. The topic is ‘When Does This Thing Go Away?’ Answer: quite possibly never. This is a virus that may, at best, just linger around the weak and the poor all over the world while it mutates up more virulent and/or lethal strains than it has already. Reason: we took too long to get to a controlled stage and, in fact, we are not there yet. We are now officially in the race but the opposition is so much faster and now has more mutant players on the team. The pace at which we are responding to this pandemic is just enough for some stats to improve but the basic one – the infection rate – is still climbing and, with the exponential expansion of the mutations, we won’t catch up unless….

…….unless the vaccines can still cover ALL the different strains that I fear have had too much time to evolve.

Had we had vaccines within the first few months, even 50% effective, we might have nipped it in the bud. If we have efficacious vaccines for ALL the strains discovered so far, we may still have a chance. I think the window on that opportunity is closing and, while it is still partially open, too many people are still ignoring the threat. Logic suggests that we are lacking in logic, pace and behaviour. Covid is winning.

It has been a whole year of victory for the virus. Canada is hurting. The USA is culling themselves at an even greater rate. Our dear leaders are lying to us. “Everyone vaccinated by September” ain’t gonna happen at the rate we are going. And, as some writer put it: ‘Trudeau and the Liberals are proving daily their gross incompetence’.

I would not be so harsh on just-Justin even tho I kind of agree with the accusation. There is little less frustrating than listening to the so-called experts parroting the party line virtually every day. And, amazingly, Alberta, Ontario and a few other places are suggesting NOW might be a good time to open the economy. Schools are open. We chose those imbeciles. We pay them gobs of money. They have degrees up the wazoo. And their pathetic efforts might have, at best, mitigated the effects of the virus – but I say that only because half the ‘Mericans actively denied and resisted their CDC mitigation efforts and their results speak for themselves. We are dumb but they are dumber.

The point of this ‘thought’ being shared is this: if C-19, C-20, C-21 through to C-30 continues, how will you cope? How will you live? Will you just chase the latest vaccine? Will you hunker down and become a recluse? Will you try to relocate to New Zealand?

I am 73 and was considered in the high risk group at the beginning. Now? Well, now I am about four or five tiers down the list. High risk has been redefined. Indigenous people, healthcare workers, politicians-of-course, police, the very elderly, the weak and infirm, CEOs-of-course and so on. How did I drop so low on the priority list? Well, I’d like to think it was common sense (seems Indigenous peoples are more susceptible to catching and spreading the virus) but the real reason is that there is so little vaccine actually out there and being applied, they had to re-prioritize.

I should care. But I do not – not for me. I am a bit hesitant to take the shot anyway. Something about having to keep some of the vaccines at below zero-zero the whole time…I dunno…I just do not have as much faith in this accelerated-and-botched effort as I really need to confidently let them stick me in the arm. Not yet.

So, that is the thought…….if this goes on (and I think it will) and the disease evolves (and it already is) and our response is as pathetic as it has been (and I do not see any indication otherwise), how y’all gonna change what you do, how you do it and who you do it with?

Jus’ sayin’………………

Piece o’ cake (part two)

We got back on the job yesterday to do ‘the easy part’. Hah!

The easy part was just the simple tightening of the highline so that it was taut, off the ground and well-fastened. All I had to do was pull it tight around a block and then bulldog clamp the cable in place. There is a bit of a challenge in pulling a 150′ long cable that is 3/8″ in diameter and that challenge is greater the tighter one wants the cable to be. I wanted tight and taut . . . like hundreds of pounds pull-tight.

I pulled the cable by rubber-gloved brute strength and Sal jammed a tool in the block so that it would stay there. Estimated pull strength…maybe 100 pounds. Then, with the cable slack now taken up, I attached a ring to the tail end and then attached a come-along to that ring. I tied off the come-along to an anchor point and pulled up another 4 feet. That made it pretty good. Tight-like-bow-string. Challenge #2 was that the tail line was just not close enough to the main line and so squeezing them together for bulldog clamping just did not work.

Re-jammed the tool in the block, reset everything. Repositioned the angle of the come-along so that both lines more closely paralleled. Pulled it up again. Nice and tight. And it was now parallel enough that my hand-grip was sufficient to be able to place the bull-dog clamps. Which we did. Ooooh, that line looked nice!

“But, but, but . . . “, said Sal. “I see a bit of sag in the line if I look closely.” And that is where the genius of a large turnbuckle in the system pays off, my little rigging bunny! Let’s tighten the turnbuckle”. And, so we did. That puppy was practically humming like a tuning fork after a dozen turns. And we have only used a couple of inches on the turnbuckle. After a while, the line will stretch some (maybe as much as 6″) and then we will just snug ‘er back up with some more turns in the buckle.

Who woulda thunk it? Two days. Two hours each day. Highline, genset, long electrical line . . . all almost ready to go (I have some wiring and such to do for the electrical line down at the lagoon end but that can come later).

For Valentines Day, I ordered Sal a lovely little two-ton chain-hoist. Red, of course. It is Valentine’s day, after all. It comes tomorrow. We’ll set it on the highline and attach it to the pull-line and send it down to the lagoon. Sal will attach a log and, instead of pulling on the old block-and-tackle, she will use the chain-hoist requiring less strength than pulling a curtain cord.

If we keep this up, everything will be easy to do . . . just before we expire.

First 2021 project (a little one)

Yesterday the tide went out far enough for me and Sal to get at the lower terminus end of the highline. That lower ‘end’ is a large rock (bigger than small van) in the lagoon (at high tide, the rock is just submerged). We collected the tools, positioned our old Wacker Neuson genset on a pallet platform I built up (but without the little cover-shed I intend), made up the new 125′ long, 10/2 armored cable and laid out the new highline after pulling up the old one.

The highline starts at the top of the hill (about 75 feet in elevation but spread out over about 125′ of slope – it is a steep climb). We go up and down it pretty well but only because I have a long rope attached like a loose-hanging handrail that we can use to save ourselves from pitching forward as we descend and something to assist us with when coming up by allowing us to use our arms and legs to make the climb. Without that simple rope, we would very likely have tumbled more than a few times. And yesterday was a challenge even WITH the rope.

I had to take my Big Bosch Hammer (BBH) drill down to the big rock to drill a big hole into which I would epoxy a big 8″ x 3/4″ eye bolt. It was NOT a small job. Of course, there were all the logs we had accumulated in the way (they are waiting on the highline to be functioning before they can be lifted). But the Big Bosch man is heavy and the bits it uses are heavy and so is the additional extension cord, the tools and crap one needs to do anything. I figured my ‘tool’ bag weighed 40 pounds.

Forty pounds swinging loosely on you as you climb up and down a steep hill tends to throw you off balance with every step. Not to mention that weight also wanting to drag you down quicker than you want to go and making it a harder climb coming back up when the chore is done. And my balance ain’t what it used to be. I was careful.

But, first let me go on a small tangent: The Wacker Neuson (WN) is something else! I got it from a contractor friend when it had ended it’s second life. First it was a ‘commercial rental unit’ and used and abused by the construction industry for a few years before my friend took it on a clear-out-the-junk sale and he heaped more abuse and neglect on the poor beast for a few years more. When he was gonna chuck it, I came along. This is a poorly cared for (read: never) unit that still puts out 5600 watts while looking like it fell down a few rocky slopes like ours.

I took it because I have a ‘work station’ down at the lagoon for boat maintenance (done but once a year) and I needed power when I do that. That work station was too far to use an extension cord from one of my other two gensets back at the main workshop. I took the WN down to the lagoon a couple years ago and used it. It was good. But, in the tradition of neglect, I used it, I abused it and then I left it there for an entire year….. which, because the bottom of the boat did NOT need cleaning that next year, sat for a second year! The only thing I did right was to fill the gas tank to the top and run the carburetor dry before the two years of ignoring it. I finally went to get it and service it but, before I did, I pulled on the starter cord. Twice. It fired up! Ran like a clock. Left in the weather for two years, two-year-old gas, needing an oil change…..it fired right up!!??? WN uses a Honda engine and that accounts for much that but they must do something more to their ‘package’ for it to be that good.

Hmmm….maybe there is an anti-Murphy out there. Instead of screwing you over, Aunty Murphy sprinkles little miracles now and then.

Anyway, I was not going to repeat that neglect and so I hauled it up the hill and put the love to it and, with an oil change, etc., it ran even better. I then placed it closer to the ‘work station’ but NOT all the way. It was set 150 feet from my workshop but still another 150 feet from the lower workstation. And I think it put on a bit of weight. That old WN has to weigh in at 150 pounds +. In fact, part of the + was the little wagon I fabricated so that I could move it around. That little wagon weighs 30 or 40 pounds. Sal and I had to drag the WN-on-a-little-wagon over 200 feet along a rocky trail to put it in position. In the relocating, Sal must have pushed a switch……..and therein lies the story.

We got all set up. Drill was in place. I was in place down the hill perched somewhat off-balance on the lagoon rock. The genset was running. Everything was plugged in (and everything had been tested as working before we did all that heavy labour). I pulled the BBH trigger….and……nothing! No juice! WTH!!!!

Sal went up the hill to ensure the plug was still in (it had to be, it was a locking plug). Nothing.

For reasons unfathomable to me a lot of machinery no longer sports ‘English’ written labels and instructions. Nowadays, they use so-called universal symbols. Arrows, pictures of rabbits, decals sporting lightning bolts, gas cans embossed on lids and – one of the worst – an I on one side of a rocker switch and an O on the other. One of them means ‘on’, one means ‘off’. BOTH ‘on’ and ‘off’ start with ‘O’ !!!!!!!

Anyway, we worked all the symbols and switches and finally got it going again and the power flowed. I went down and drilled. Turns out the lagoon rock is only a few years away from eventually becoming a diamond. That was the hardest rock I have ever had to drill into. To get in 6 inches, I drilled for over half an hour.

Then we covered the ‘eye’ bolt in epoxy and hammered it into the hole using a small sledge. That required fifteen minutes of whacking to get it all the way in.

Finally, we attached the new ‘rope’ cable section (rope won’t rust) that is the lowest ten feet and connected it to the galvanized cable that runs the rest of the way up. That ten feet keeps the metal cable at least 6 feet out of the water. My last cable assembly (without the rope section) lasted 15 years. It got rusty and snapped at the very spot you’d expect – at the water line. This one should do at least 20-25. I will be oxidized off the planet by then.

Today, we fasten the top-side end of the cable. That is a simple job except that the cable has to be pulled tight/taught/bowstring-tight. That is a 3/8″ galvanized cable laying slack down a 125′ slope that we have pull taught and then fasten. Should be a piece of cake.

I hope Aunty Murphy is around.

Indomitable old folks, eh?

Like most of us out here (50% anyway), he is over 65. Actually, he is over 75. He is just entering the ‘mature’ senior cohort of the community. But, it ain’t easy even at his somewhat younger end of the geriatric spectrum. He’s still gettin’ on at gettin’ on. Plenty of time. At 85, he will then join the ‘walking antique cohort’ (WAC’d for short). We already have plenty of those!

(And finally, after that, it is just sorta ‘slow composting’, not really much of a segment. Is it? No one really considers the ‘slowly-composting stage.’)

My ‘neighbour’ ten or so miles away, living on an even more remote island than we do with even fewer people nearby (none), is seriously considering spending winters in a place a smidge more comfortable. By his own admission, “Winters are getting a bit harder.” And, of course, they are. Winters OTG can be a bit grim but it only usually takes a few sunny days here and there to make it endurable and I, personally, think a particularly sunny winter is a beautiful time. Mind you, I am relatively healthy. My friend is not.

I am telling you all this because people often wonder about us aging remote and being relatively isolated. They tend to look at the OTG lifestyle with exaggerated fears, visions of doom and they attribute egg-shell-like vulnerability to anyone over 60. “How long will it take an ambulance to get to you?” (Answer: they cannot and will not get to me. I have to go to them.) But most of what they worry about is simply not likely to happen or even totally true. We are all much stronger than our urban counterparts even when we are sometimes even weaker. Strength is really attitudinal.

But…..well……some of it is also physical. My guy had a major accident five or so years ago. He was left almost non-ambulatory. His body had taken a severe hit and every aspect of it suffered as if he had aged more rapidly than just his years would suggest. A following stroke, a few minor falls and way too many months of reduced physical activity restricted recovery and he was eventually left kinda frail. He still works but is no longer a power, physically speaking. Mind you, he is only frail for being out here where physical demands are common. If he was in the city, he would be almost normal (he still does not need regular professional care, a wheelchair or even a walker. Doesn’t need an oxygen tank, dialysis or major surgery. Not obese. Except for working hard, he is pretty good). He could physically do the Starbucks to doctor, library to friends or pub, TV and delivered pizza lifestyle so much appreciated in the city.

He is now on the cusp, on the fence, on the verge of having to decide if he can still stay out here. And he has decided that he can but just not in the winter. I think he is making the right decision. As he puts it, “Well, I can still do stuff but not so much any heavy lifting or hard work anymore. Winter time always requires hard work from wood-getting, hiking all over the forest and upkeep on the house. I am gonna have to find another way.

“But it is not just the strength required or the stamina, it is the little things like hearing, seeing and, most important, balance. I just don’t have that anymore. And, it is only awkward or mildly difficult when I am on land but, when in a boat, in a storm, in the dark and maybe encountering an accident or a challenge or even just hitting a log, well, then things can start to fall apart rather quickly.

“Last week we were coming down a narrow channel and the current was running at 8 knots or more. It was pretty hairy. Then we hit a log while going full tilt and the entire boat was tipped and we all fell every which way. I bruised my ribs. Of course, being in a small boat (14 feet) was not ideal. Had it been dark or snowing, we might have been really afraid but, as it was, I was left a bit shaken. So, we are thinking of maybe winters away”.

So, there you have it. A 75 year old (and his wife) with all sorts of disabilities hikes through the forest in the winter miles from anyone and heads out to sea in a small tin boat. But they are OK with that! It is only when they hit a log in a cauldron of sea-chaos going through a narrow pass with crazy currents (running like a flooding river) that they decide that ‘maybe’ they should ‘perhaps’ spend winters where it is less dangerous.

He wasn’t sure, tho. Key word: Maybe. They are gonna think on it some more.

I think it is all pretty fabulous. I think it shows courage and common sense. NOT necessarily for their possibly leaving but, rather, for putting that plan as STILL just an option. They are definitely NOT going anywhere this winter. They are still mulling it all over for NEXT winter.

Circumstances can kick you in the cajones, push you down a flight of stairs and then run over you with a pick-up truck a few times but, with the right attitude, all that did for them was to consider their options! That’s great. That’s healthy. There is a real pull, a real yearning for out here. That enduring love of nature, and living the lifestyle, is the real power of being OTG.