Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A different sort of survival

Here's a different sort of survival story than we usually talk about around here.  A family on the ocean, anchored in less than 20 feet of water, and their boat sinks under them in the night.  This could have been a disaster, but instead, it was a happy ending, with everyone rescued in short order.  Why?

“These people did everything right in the midst of danger,” Petty Officer Second Class Jonathan Wheatley said later in his report. “They had all the proper safety equipment including a marine radio, life jackets and flares, and they used them properly.”

All the proper equipment and it was properly used.  Often we hear those in the prepping community who will tell us that gear isn't important, it's the attitude, and there is a lot to say for that.  But you can have all the attitude in the world and die for lack of the proper tools.  It takes both attitude and tools, plus the knowledge to use them, and, as was noted throughout this article, the mental discipline to remain calm, cool and collected during an emergency, to survive.

Something to think about.  You've heard "the three legs of a stool" metaphor?  Well, call this "the four legs of a chair".  When a bad situation (or bad times) hit, you're going to need attitude, tools, know-how and mental discipline if you want to get to the other side.  Make sure you aren't missing a leg.

Friday, May 06, 2016

An observation on the Book of Facelessness

Excuse me while I rant a bit.  I'm a little irritated right now.

I thought I might waste a bit of my life trolling Facebook this evening.  It's been a long week, I'm tired and it's a mindless bit of entertainment, right?  It turns out that in some ways it was more of a waste than I expected it to be, not mindless at all and far less of a waste in the long run as I have had something of a moment of epiphany while doing so.

I've been on the Internet since before the Great Renaming.  Yeah, that long.  It was damn hard to get on the Internet back in those days, and I had to do more than a little wheedling and begging to get access.  I had to do more to keep it after I graduated college.  Back in those early days, the Internet was a more civilized place.  This was mostly because the access was hard to come by and you didn't want to get yours yanked because you were a jerk.

Eventually I lost my access for a couple of years due to moves and the departure of friends from jobs where they could grant me access, but I regained it when our small but incredibly forward-thinking local telco started providing the first commercial access in our area, and I haven't been without since.  I can remember when AOL--America On Line--became a thing and started hooking up every mouth breather, pimply faced kid in a basement and grandma who could insert a CD into a drive and type in a credit card number.  All us old hands thought the end of the world was upon us.

In some ways it was.  While the World Wide Web showed up and brought us a whole new way to consume content, early on we lost some things that us old farts really valued--news groups and discussion boards, or as many know them, forums or bulletin boards.  The news groups were the first to go, the signal to noise ratio plunging to almost zero as millions of new people flooded in, asking the same 5 questions over and over and over again, usually in the wrong news group.  Many tried to save them, resorting to things like moderation, but eventually, the tide won.  I think the groups are still out there somewhere, but I can't bring myself to go look for them.

The forums were next.  Even though the WWW gave them some really nice new interfaces, those same interfaces allowed the Mouth Breather Brigades to invade, reducing the quality of discourse to something below the level of 2 year olds in a sandbox.  Over a span of years, I have left every forum I ever participated in except one.  That one is so heavily moderated that it is almost useless for its stated purpose.  We had to destroy the forum in order to save it as it were.

Great.

Blogs had a time where they brought a lot of hope, but they are slowly falling by the wayside.  I know I don't blog as much as I used to because of reasons.  Many others are like me in that regard.  Others, such as Tam, have had to turn off comments because of stalkers, while some like Roberta X have disabled them for periods of time because commenters were being jerks.  Others have simply given up and left the blogging world entirely because some other people decided to try and ruin their lives (Here's looking at you, Kim du Toit).

So here I was on Facebook tonight, looking at some posts and the comments on them by some folks who will remain unnamed but who are in large part professional gun folk.  While a goodly portion of them (all Facebook friends of mine I'm happy to say) acted in mostly mature ways, others reverted to their inner child selves.  In my personal opinion, their inner children needed a serious butt-whippen' and sent to bed without their suppers.

I think some, perhaps most,  people are pathologically unable to behave well in non-face-to-face communication.  I'm not sure why that is, although I'm fully aware of how difficult it is to communicate well in writing.  We lose all visual ques and clues, and being primates, we are highly visually oriented.  I don't know if people simply don't realize this or more likely simply don't care.  Either way, they pretty promptly start acting like jerks.

One thing I have determined with surety after all these years is that I'm tired and increasingly intolerant of it.  The Internet as a whole and Facebook in particular have the nasty habit of being incredible time sinks, and I'm going to do something about that.  I am reclaiming a chunk of my life.

Facebook, prepared to be pruned.  While I have maintained and will continue to maintain that there is a lot of worthwhile content on the Facebook platform, there is simply too much crap to tolerate any longer.  Most of it comes from my "friends".  Friends, prepare to be silenced.  I won't unfriend you, but I am going to start unfollowing you en masse.  That will allow the interesting things, such as historical interest pages and cat photos, to rise to the top.  I won't be diverted by the drama, and if I feel the need to see what's going on in your life, I'll come look on your wall.  I'm also going to use such tools as the platform provides to organize things into categories so that I can see what my family posts in a single place, rather than having to go hunt it down.

Facebook, you will change from being the master of my time to my servant, or the next step for you will be out the door.  You've been warned.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Argo Adventurer

I can remember seeing the ads  in magazines for as long as I can remember reading magazines.  A 6 or 8 wheel amphibious buggy that was advertised as a go anywhere vehicle for hunters, farmers, woodsmen and adventurers.  Probably how it got its name--the Argo Adventurer.

No, I don't have one.  At the price of a good used car, I have to look reality in the face and admit I have no need for one--except it would be cool as hell to have one!  What's not to like about something can take you and a couple of your best buddies through the woods, through streams and over the lake?

I'm a little surprised they're still in business, but I suppose it's a testimonial to the design and quality of the vehicle.  I don't think there is anything like it on the market.  I know my big 4-wheeler could only keep up with it on dry land.

Maybe I need to buy a piece of land that has enough problematic terrain that I can justify one of these....

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Time to steal some content

Because, when you get down to it, that's what I'm doing.  Fortunately, the good folks on my blogroll don't mind, and they are always a great source of things worthy of stealing.

Arnie Coro has two posts on an antenna I've never heard of--the Bobtail Curtain.  The picture in the first post is of a 2 meter version, while in the second post he speaks of a 20 meter version.  If you are interested in home-brewing antennas, this is one to have a look at.

At Home on the Range. Brigid picks up on a meme floating about the Intertubz but gives it her own special flavor.  There has been a lot of...let's be nice and just call it content...on the web about how hard it is to eat healthy when your on government assistance.  Brigid takes the amount the government-assisted would get, adds a bit from her long-term stores and comes up with a pretty tasty sounding menu in  "Preparing to Prep - Living on a Minimal Food Budget".

Marko Kloos's fourth book is out and has been for some time.  I really need to get to my blogroll more often.  If you aren't reading his Frontlines series, you are missing some good SF.

Once again, Law Dog proves that he is as good a story teller and human being as he is a peace officer.  Damn shame we can't populate all our police departments with men and women like him.

Kevin at The Smallest Minority went to Boomershoot.  All of us in the eastern half of the US can now officially start the Hate-a-thon now.  Just kidding, dude.  Looks like some awesome fun.

That's enough theft for one Sunday.  I need to go get Some Important Things Done.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Eye protection for the birthday boy

I'm running up on yet another birthday.  (Yes, I'm at the age where they have ceased being fun.)  As has long been my custom, I am going to buy myself a present.  Normally, this is a firearm of some sort, but this year, I just don't have a particular itch in that area.  Can't explain it other than to say that short of some esoteric stuff, I'm pretty much as equipped as I want to be for now.  Feels kind of odd, actually.

However, always one to honor a tradition of long standing, I decided to go browse through Cool Tools, which is guaranteed to come up with an entire list of things I can't live without.  As always, the site didn't disappoint me.  Along with a digital depth gauge and a waterproof Bluetooth speaker so I can listen to podcasts in the shower (Hey, I'm efficiently using my time, OK?), I decided that improvements to the current eye protection for shooting was in order.

Damn, but that opened a can of worms.  Nothing is ever simple around here.

Fortunately, this is a subject where science can come to the rescue.  Lucky Gunner had a good look at the subject back in 2012, and the basic data on standards and such is still accurate, even if the tests on the particular models of eye pro might be out of date.

The Smoking Barrel has a review from last year, looking at 5 different pairs of eye pro. It seems that the Champion Over-Spec Ballistic Glasses meet the stringent MIL-PRF-31013 standard and come in under $15/pair on Amazon, where they have very good customer reviews as well. They even have the benefit of being made to fit over existing eyeglasses, something that I have to have. *sigh*

I wish I was back in the days when I could wear contacts and cool shades (I miss my Ray-Ban Aviators) so I could get some seriously high-speed operator-looking eye pro.  However, those days are long past, and us fat old men have to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it would be.  So I'm ordering up a couple of pairs of the Champions for the range bag and I'll spend the rest of the money that I would have spent on the seriously high-speed operator-looking eye pro on something useful, like a plastic scorer.

Happy Birthday to me.  lol

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Time for some tech support

Time for a little pro bono tech support for my readers.  In case you've been hiding under a rock, Microsoft wants you to upgrade to Windows 10.  I mean they really want you to upgrade.  If you don't like the user interface, if you don't think your existing hardware can handle Windows 10 with reasonable performance or if you have software of hardware that isn't supported, there are two tools you must have to keep the Windows 10 menace at bay.

First, you need the GWX Control Panel from Ultimate Outsider.  It's free and it works against every trick Microsoft has tried to sneak Windows 10 onto machines so far.

Second, you need Spybot Anti-beacon, also a freebie.  Actually, you want this if you're running Windows 7 or above, because it shuts down all the interesting ways Windows phones the Microsoft Mothership with information on what you are doing on your personal computer.

Personally, I have a number of reasons I don't want 10 on my machines.  I have two that are simply too old and anemic to run it.  They exist to run special purpose software, each machine for its own special software.  Neither ever talk to the Internet.  (One can't--MS-DOS, baby.  Living history at The Freehold.  Admission:  One 3.5" floppy diskette.)  I have another that runs software that doesn't currently care for Windows 10.  It runs Windows 7, so it's fine for now.  It isn't up to running Windows 10 on its bitty Atom processor and it never will be.  It's a Win 7 box forever.  Hopefully by the time it dies the software will be updated for Windows Whatever.

The one I'm writing this on I tried the Win 10 upgrade on.  I tried it for 3 days.  Three days of slow motion lockups.  Thankfully I have an iPad, so at least I could still have access to the Internet for troubleshooting.  Day 4 was spent pulling Windows 10 off (not as simple as they say it is, at least not in my case) and Day 5 was spent making sure Humpty Dumpty was properly back together again.

I do have one very new computer that probably could run Windows 10, but at this point, the question is sort of "Why bother?"  It runs Windows 7 just fine, even though it was a bit difficult finding the last couple of drivers.  Yeah, it came with Windows 10.  Took it off when I stripped the hard drive out and replaced it with a solid state drive.

I will run Windows 10 at work, probably starting in June.  That goes with the job--you have to run the latest and greatest as a technology professional.  People expect it from you, and they get concerned when you don't.  And it isn't horrible--it's actually pretty solid and the UI is decent once you get used to it.

But if you don't want to get used to it, grab GWX Contol Panel and Spybot Anti-beacon.  They'll keep you Windows 10 free.

(Edit, 4/21/2016:  Damn.  I don't need to write blog posts under the influence of migraine attacks and/or rescue meds.  Wow.  Fixed it all.  Sorry for inflicting such poor writing on you.)

I think I'll appropriate this content

And to double my evil, I'm doing it twice--once from Jerry Pournelle, who mentioned it at Chaos Manor, and once from the author, Bill Whittle.  Feel free to appropriate it from me.


Knocked that sucker into another zip code....

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The dreadful truth at the heart of Trump's message on paying for American troops on foreign soil

There probably should have been one of those Joker meme's for it--"Someone says something outrageous and no one bats an eye, Donald Trump says American allies need to start spending their own money on defense and everyone loses their minds."

Of course, that isn't exactly what Trump said.  What he said was a bit more along the lines of if a nation wanted the US to protect them by stationing troops there (Japan and Korea) or to send in troops to straighten out a mess they'd gotten themselves into (a goodly portion of the rest of the world) they' should be prepared to pay for the service.

Still, a lot of people lost their minds.  Why, how dare he suggest that the American military be whored out as mercenary soldiers!  The cad!

Why not?  It isn't like we haven't walked up to that line a few times before and wiggled our toes over it.  I think the Hawaiians might have a few words to say about it.  So might  the Cubans or the Dominicans.  For quite some time, our armed forces were our big agriculturists' best friends.  Some banana republic threatening to nationalize your holdings?  We'll handle that for you.  1-800-USMARINES and it's done.

A slightly different situation has been NATO.  Born from the ashes of World War II, NATO was formed to give the United States a international legal framework that could be used to block the Russian bear from swallowing a pretty much defenseless Europe after the war was over.  The US provided the vast majority of the military might for the alliance, the European nations of NATO provided the land and took the risk of being the battleground should war actually break out.  Not the greatest basis for a relationship perhaps, but it worked for almost 50 years.

Unfortunately, as time passed the fact that the US did so allowed the recovering European nations to use money that they had traditionally used to build armies and navies for other things, such as highly socialized societies.  It is our fault that we allowed this to occur.  If we had more backbone, we would have told the Europeans to spend it on guns rather than butter, and made it stick by withdrawing some amount of our combat troops per year.  But for various reasons we didn't, and Europe got to have their socialism and their defense from the Russian bear too.  Europe got soft and as time passes is getting softer and softer.  Now they're being invaded by people with few to no weapons and they're losing badly.  Another generation and having been swallowed up by the Russians might be looked on as having been a good thing.  Damn those meddling Americans!

Once again George Friedman has penned a magnificent piece, this time on the history and lack of future for NATO.  As usual, it's a great read and worth your time and effort.  He goes into far more depth than I'm capable of.  He's in Europe now, laying out the truth of things for the Europeans.

I bet they will be losing their minds.