Saturday, August 12, 2017

A modest proposal

(With apologies to Jonathan Swift. Link to "Rebel yell: Southern nationalists again crying 'secede'" via the Drudge Report)

I've discussed the concept that we're in the early stages of a civil war in this country a number of times; enough so that I feel no urge to rehash it. Let's look at another issue: Can we stop it before it gets out of hand?

In a number of science fiction books and series I've read, space travel and immigration to new colonies and planets served as a sort of "safety valve", allowing those who were fed up with the situation here on Earth (or another long settled world) to pull up stakes and leave for greener pastures. Obviously, we aren't in a position where we can do that just yet.

However, another possibility does present itself. I've read various predictions that the US might break up, a la the old Soviet Union. Igor Panarin is one of the better know of these, predicting that it would happen in 2010 after a civil war. History proves that he was a bit off with that prediction, though it may yet prove accurate.

What if, rather than waiting for it to happen amidst fire and sword, we, as a country, decided to voluntarily split? Various Southern groups have pushed this for years, and #Calexit has been a thing since President Trump's election last November. The State of Jefferson has been proposed three times in three places over the years, while the tongue-in-cheek Conch Republic could probably get of the ground tomorrow. Many in Hawaii would like to return to the days of their independence.

I can keep this up for a while, but I hope you see my point. The melting pot that we were all told about in school (well, if you're of a certain age, anyway) may very well never have really existed. Like the nations that were press-ganged into the Soviet Union, there are a lot of groups and areas in the US that would quite happily take their 40 acres and a mule and bail.

Would half of the North American continent suddenly split up into 6 or 8 or 25 nations be a good thing? Would it encourage the remaining large nations such as China and Russia to indulge themselves in empire building? Would the newly independent nations find themselves forming a new Confederation in order to defend themselves from Mexico or Germany or Fiji? Would it be like Europe before the EU, with periods of peace and war?

We have no way to know. I suspect it would be a calmer version of the old Europe with some sort of alliance structure for defense from powers off the continent, but that's a guess.

What I hope it could be is the safety valve that we desperately need. With a number a new, English-speaking nations, hopefully with governments of widely varying stripes, all co-located on the same continent, people could find one that relatively well suited their particular wants and desires and immigrate to it. Some would complain that the new nations would be echo chambers, but so what? Most people prefer to live and associate with those who are like them and who share similar beliefs. Acknowledging that and allowing it to occur peacefully and without interference in another country won't hurt you in yours.

I don't think it's likely to happen, but it's a thought.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Since we were speaking of Google

Breitbart is having a multi-part interview piece with those who are or have been behind enemy lines at Teh Googlez. Obviously there's no way for you or I to be sure of its veracity, but it makes for interesting reading. There are currently two parts out, you can start at Part One and work you way along.

Monday, August 07, 2017

I enjoy making Google publish this

Perhaps you've heard of the latest little row at Google--an employee had the temerity to publish his thoughts on the Google monoculture and suddenly is he is the primary target of SJWs everywhere, but especially those within Google itself. Because by virtue signalling at the top of our keyboards and Twitter accounts we're showing "It wasn't me!", natch. Or maybe you haven't. In the real world it honestly isn't of earth moving significance.

I'm waiting for the inevitable "Boycott Teh Googlez!" to start. As someone who uses Google's email service, search engine, browser and blogging platform, I'm not going to heed the call if it comes, thanks all the same.

First, as an email platform that I don't have to shell out my coin for, Gmail works. I rarely see their advertising, because I use it as an IMAP host. I don't care if they're reading my messages--so is the NSA, CIA, DIA and God knows who else. There is nothing in my email that I would give a rip about seeing on a billboard at this point in my life.

As a search engine, they are one of the best out there. You can do better with some of the metasearch engines, but when you need it quick, Google delivers. You don't want the ads? Use an ad blocker.

I use Chrome because it's support for extensions allows me to add tools to it I need. If Edge or Brave or Firefox or whoever can match it, I may well switch. So far, no one has and I'm not.

And as for Blogger, well, I like that one the best. It allows me to publish things for the entire Intertubz to read, things that would have those virtue signalling Googlites frothing at the mouth (I sincerely hope) and I. Get. To. Do. It. On. Google's. Dime.

Yeah, that's the part I like the best about all of it. Most of the people at Google would detest the hell out of me, but their effort is what allows me to find things, browse the Intertubz effectively and communicate, and their company pays for it all.

If necessary, I can replace all these services in a day or so of concentrated effort and it will probably cost me $30 a month. But I like taking advantage of Google a lot more. It's just a tiny bit of money they can't use to be evil. Smells like a win to me.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Will Amateur Radio become extinct?

It's an interesting question that has been thrashed around the table more than a few times. I know that my club is in trouble--our youngest member is in his 30s, and I, the next youngest, and nearly 60. I maintain our web site and the Silent Key list is growing by several members per year now. At this rate, in two or three more years, we won't have enough members to have a viable club.

We're not the only local club in this fix. There are a multitude of amateur radio clubs across the US and around the world that have this problem. Ham radio is perceived to be an "old guys' hobby", and to a distressing level, it's true. Tam jokes about the number of fat old white guys at gun shows, and she once remarked about attending a hamfest with Roberta X. I told here that she was going to the only place guaranteed to have more fat old white guys than a gun show, and unfortunately, that's all too true.

For those of you who have been to a hamfest recently, ask yourself "How many female hams did I see?" (And I don't mean wives being good sports.) "How many interested young people did I see?" "How many 'people of color' did I see?" I'll give you my answers. It was the last Charlotte, NC Hamfest, and I saw 1 female ham, no kids and no people of color.

I do a hell of a lot better than that a gun show, I'll tell you.

Our national organization, the ARRL, has had its head in the sand for years on this issue, paying it what is essentially lip service. I hate saying it, but as long as we've kept sending in our dues, they kept sitting in Newington and pretending "All is Well!" and playing patty cake with the government on spectrum issues.

Times may be changing.

According to a note that dropped into my inbox this morning from the ICQ Podcast, it seems that the president of that august group may have had a wake up call. This is from the ARRL's 2016 Annual Report (a document I never read, but apparently someone does), and was written by Rick Roderick, K5UR, the president of the ARRL:

“I prepared my usual talk about some interesting ham radio stories over my 50 years as a ham, how we can talk all over the world, and I brought some QSL cards from rare places to show the group. I have given that talk many times, and it usually impresses people — but not this time. I was surprised to see flat, uninterested faces.”

”I realized that I had to change my approach to the presentation if I was going to keep the attention of these young people. After all, what could ham radio offer people who grew up in homes that had computers hooked up to the internet? Today’s young people are used to riding down the interstate at 70 MPH as a passenger while watching high-definition videos on their iPhones.”

”What we’re hearing from what I call the “new-generation ham,” is that they don’t view ham radio as being about talking around the world, contesting, or traditional aspects of our hobby.”

”Change generally doesn’t come easy to us. But when I looked out at that group of young faces and saw their disinterest in traditional ham pursuits, I realized that I had to change. We have to change. It won’t come easy, but it’s essential that we get to work on it now.”

I note the he "prepared his usual talk". The ARRL once again doing the same old thing they've been doing for years, and he expected it to impress people. Really? Even senior citizens these days "are used to riding down the interstate at 70 MPH as a passenger while watching high-definition videos on their iPhones," there, Rick. You're going to have to come up with more than the same old to impress folks these days. Technophobes have nearly been driven to extinction. I literally don't know anyone who doesn't own a smart phone these days. You folks in the League might want to travel outside of the Newington Time Warp a little more often. And while I'm at it, for Pete's sake, can you build a more modern web site?

Honestly, I'm not sure what it's going to take to renew interest in amateur radio as a hobby. Radio communication is still an important thing. It's used every day to communicate by police, fire, aircraft, ships, forestry workers, retail stores and a whole host of others. Even our cell phones, one of ham radios biggest competitors with the younger generations, uses radio. But there is quite frankly nothing out there that is "sexy" about radio. Sure, we have all the new digital modes, but really, no one but us hams cares. We're doing innovative work with Broadband Hamnet, but again, who outside of the amateur radio community and some emergency management types care? Name anything any of us is experimenting with and I'll ask you that same question and grow older waiting for a good answer.

While I'm waiting, the noise floor will continue to rise as poorly designed and cheaply produced electronics continue to flood into the markets in every country. In many urban areas, it's already so high that for all realistic purposes, the ability of hams to operate has ended.

I'll also watch as the national telecommunication agencies continue to delete our spectrum allocations and sell that spectrum off to the highest bidder. Eventually, we'll be back where we started, down in the AM bands. Anyone for a quarter wave dipole on 630? It'll only be 371 feet long, give or take a few inches (if I'm doing my math correctly). You'd better have a big back yard.

Yeah, I'm starting to sound like Debbie Downer here, and that's not really the point I want to make. We, as a hobby, need to start marketing our hobby, and we need to start now. I got into this via the emergency preparedness path, and there are quite a few folks who do. However most of them get a Technician Class license and stop there. I didn't; I have my General and am working ever so slowly on my Extra. I'm a rarity. The hobby can't count on outliers like me.

As a hobby, we have to find a message that takes the best of what we are and puts it out there for everyone to see. We need to put our tradition of experimentation and innovation into developing some new technologies that will attract the attention of generations who were raised on video games and the Internet. We probably have to come up with something I can't even conceive of that is going to drum up some serious interest among the geeks of the world. Face it, that is our target audience.

We damn sure can't continue to sit around, dumping the legal limit into a dipole and complaining that the bands are dead.


Friday, August 04, 2017

It seems the Deep State just won't stop

(Via Michael Bane on Facebook)

I'd really like to write about something else. Almost anything else, really. But you can't pay attention to current events in the US and not have this come to your attention, and it's too important to ignore, so I'm going to say a bit about it.

I'm referring to the article "The Slow-Motion Coup d’Etat picks up steam" by William A. Jacobson on Legal Insurrection. Excellent article; well written. So well written that I can give you the first paragraph along with the last two for the purposes of my discussion and allow you to read the remainder at your leisure.

First paragraph:

Since the election there has been an unprecedented attempt to unwind the election result. Events have accelerated on several fronts lately with attempts from outside and within to paralyze the Trump administration.

Last two paragraphs:

Not only is the Trump administration under unprecedented attack from outside, the foxes are inside the henhouse, and are gutting it from the inside out.

The attempt to unwind the 2016 election through paralyzing the Trump administration is a serious threat to our liberty. Our most basic of institutions, the transfer of power through elections, is under attack.

Between those Jacobson lays out his case for those statements, and lays it out well. However, as I said, if you've been paying attention, this is already obvious to you. The incessant media drum beating since the morning after the election, the crazed whining of the left, the seeming endless protests from January to May, all of it organized--yes, I said organized--to cripple the Trump presidency.

As Jacobson points out during that time we also had the "All Russia, all the time" crowd and enough leaks to sink a battleship. So far, they've all failed in their primary goal, which has been to force Trump out. The Left has committed the cardinal sin of under-estimating their opponent. He doesn't play by their rules, and the pressure that would have driven a conventional politician out of office and simply rolled off his back.

They have, however, caused no end of trouble and continue to cause it. I suspect the "chaos" that is currently one of the talking points of the chattering class is simply the beginning Trump's effort to put an end to some of this, the leaks in particular. I hope AG Session's moves plus General John Kelly's appointment as White House Chief of Staff indicate that the President is now fully fed up with the situation and is, in effect, taking off the gloves.

Of course, I 've been wrong before, so we'll have to see how this plays out. I will be cheered considerably if we see a couple of perp walks in the next week or two. Or perhaps H.R. McMasters' head on a pike outside of Ft. Meade.

Even if the leaks subside, we still have Special Counsel Robert Mueller trolling about with what appears to be on its way to becoming a years-long fishing expedition, now complete with its very own Grand Jury. Nothing Good Will Come From This. Think Whitewater.

In the meantime, Trump's base of supporters is still as loyal now as they were in November. If you watched any of last night's speech in West Virginia, it's apparent the man still has 100% of their support. They love the guy, and they are not buying into the media narrative. If anything, they are digging in deeper in support of him than they were in November, and he's slowly recruiting more as news such as improving job numbers keep coming out.

You want a civil war? This is how you get a civil war. One side who thinks that they are smarter than everyone else, that they are entitled to lead, that they are, in essence, better, than everyone else. The other side one that looks at those people and their smug self-assuredness in the same way one looks at dog crap that has just been tracked on to the living room carpet.

Let either side get into a position where they can enforce the entirety (or perhaps even the majority) of their will on the other without any sort of escape route (#Calexit, anyone?), and you will see a civil war, or something close enough to it that it makes no difference.

It may already be too late. We don't know what's going on out of our sight in backrooms or via encrypted emails (or unencrypted email servers in someone's bathroom). The events may already be underway for this war's version of Ft. Sumter for all we know.

I'm not going to preach at you to be prepared. You've heard that sermon enough times already. If you haven't taken that step, hearing it again won't move you. I am going to say that this is the time to learn the minds and hearts of your friends, neighbors and co-workers. I'm not saying pry into their business, but listen when they talk. Get a feel for their beliefs and try to get an idea which side they might come down on if push comes to shove.

Above all, pay attention. Don't rely on me or anyone else for information or warnings. While I appreciate your reading my thoughts on the matter, do your own reading and your own synthesizing.
Develop your own sources, get the data and turn it into information yourself.

Remember, the curse has come true--we live in interesting times. Now we get to deal with it.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Let's get some excercise

Since my semi-enforced retirement, I have been attempting, with mixed results, to do something about my physical shape. While round is a shape, it isn't the one I prefer. Various health issues and a job that keeps one mostly behind a desk, plus a simple lack of time once I got home (I always tried to spend time with the kids, my wife or on home projects) have led me into a state where, if I'm frank, I have to describe my level of physical conditioning as simply "bad". Perhaps "poor" is the preferred technical term. Whatever term you choose, it isn't good to be in this spot, especially when you're way on the wrong side of 50 and starting to stare 60 in the face.

If I want to reach 60 and spit in its face rather than meekly shake its hand, Something Must Be Done. One of the things about working strenuously around your house on things like landscaping and such is that you will get something of a work out. While it's better than nothing, it isn't exercise. It doesn't get you heart rate high enough long enough to do the cardio-vascular system any good, although it will tone the muscles to some extent.

There are some things that are off the table, such as running. I gave myself enough stress fractures in my younger days that those alone have cured me of the concept of running as an exercise. Add to that the damage to your joints over time and I'm happy I had the stress fractures. I enjoyed running, and by now I'd probably be looking at knee replacements. Thank you, but no.

Swimming is a PITA. I'd have to go to a pool, which around here would mean the YMCA and all the festivities that entails. Pass.

Walking I can do. I have an excellent neighborhood for walking. Very little is flat, so you are constantly walking uphill or downhill. It makes for a good if somewhat boring workout.

Many years ago, I rode a bicycle, a lovely blue Peugeot road bike. Man, but I loved that bike. I dropped something near a grand on it around 1980. It was a nice bike, and I rode the crap out of it for years. But eventually we moved to a place where riding drew more beer bottles and deliberate near misses than I was willing to deal with, and I hung it up, eventually selling it.

Last weekend, Mrs. Freeholder and I accepted an invitation to spend the weekend in Boone, NC, in the NC mountains at an altitude guaranteed to get us out of the upper 90 degree heat and miserable humidity we were then currently suffering through. While there, I gave in to an urge I've had for a while and bought a new bike, which you can see below.

Specialized Roll Sport
That is a Specialized Roll Sport. They categorize it as a "fitness" bike. Yeah,it's definitely not a road bike. I'd love to have one, but the years at a computer keyboard have given me a mild case of carpel tunnel syndrome. I do fine as long as I behave--pay attention to the ergonomics of my workstation, arch my blasted wrists--but things like being on the drops of a road bike don't qualify as behaving.

A true mountain bike doesn't work well either. There is still too much weight on the hands. Tried one of those a while back, made it a couple of blocks. Glad I didn't buy it.

However, the bicycle industry listens to its customers and its potential customers. Us old folks who need to sit up straighter, not put a lot of weight on our hands, who would like a more comfortable seat and so on, well, there are bikes out there for us now.

The technology on this thing is amazing, and when you take he price point into account (a bit over half my old Peugeot), it is astounding. 21 speeds vs. the 12 I had. The derailleurs don't click. It has, for cryin' out loud, disk brakes. Yes, like a car. It will stop in a big hurry. I think I could actually stand it on the front wheel if I tried.

On the new hitch-mounted Curt carrier, ready to go somewhere.
It doesn't have 120 psi skinny tires I was used to, instead it has 60 psi big fat tires, the better to deal with greenways, which are often packed dirt or gravel. It can do limited service as a mountain bike, but the tires themselves are a smooth tread, not suited for it. They can be swapped out if I wish, but I don't see the point with this bike.

I had to take the front wheel off (quick disconnect, so it's easy) and carry it home in the back of my Subaru Outback. Not an optimum solution. So I got a Class II Curt hitch and a Curt Tray-Style Bike Rack (both from carid.com, great folks to deal with) to carry the bike to places I can ride. I used to think this was stupid, but after my experience with the beer bottles, not so much. The hitch is great, the carrier is OK. It doesn't cost as much as say a Yakima, and I think I see why. It will do for now.

As a matter of fact, that is sort of the motto for the entire thing. This is something of an experiment/learning experience. Just riding so far has been a bit tentative (and wobbly). It's also shown me just how pathetically out of shape I truly am.

I've also dropped some coin on all the crap you need if you plan on riding away from home--stuff to patch tires, bike bags, lights in case you get caught out near or after dark, water bottle and cage and so on. You can see those a bit in the second picture.

I'm currently scoping out nearby places to ride, just to get used to pushing pedals again. I tried it out my neighborhood, and that was a bit of a farce. Even with 21 gears, my legs were on fire, and I didn't even try the steeper part of the hills.

I've really missed riding. I know I should probably not do it alone, but I always enjoyed the solitude of me and the road. It's really different than driving. You move at a speed where you see so much more of the area you traverse, but you see so much more area than you do walking. In some ways, it may be the ideal way of transportation.

As long as you live somewhere that doesn't have steep hills.

Why the Tier 1 guys love their big SUVs

Ars Technica has a rather fluffy piece on operators and their love for big SUVs. As a Suburban owner, I can tell you that it's hard not to love a vehicle that has room for you and your friends plus enough gear to take over a small banana republic--or a week at the coast--in total comfort. Plus fools in their Toyota Piouses Priuses tend to get the hell out of the way when 7500# of 4WD truck is bearing down.

Don't miss the link to The Range Complex. I haven't been but I hear it's a heck of a place.