Monday, September 11, 2017

New firearms parts resources

(Found on Facebook)

While they may not be new to you, They're new to me. Jack First Gun Parts is another online resource for hard-to-find parts for old guns. I've used Numrich for years, but it never hurts to have alternatives.

Another resource is Out Back Gun Parts. They do have a web site, but you have to call them to find out about parts availability or to order. According to their minimal web site, "We currently inventory approximately 6 million gun parts and could not possibly list everything we carry." As an IT person I'm not buying that, but it's their business, they can run it as they wish. I'll keep them on my list, but they will be at the bottom. I like convenience. It's not convenient to have to call you.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

All Irma, all the time

My apologies if things around here feel like it's "All Irma, all the time", but when you have a storm of this magnitude in the neighborhood, it is.

As of 0800 Irma was officially rated as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 MPH after her interaction with the island of Cuba. However, strengthening is expected.

Irma's predicted track continues to slide to the west. The Georgia coast is now out of the cone of uncertainty as is all of South Carolina and all but a tiny sliver of North Carolina. Given the storm's size we'll still feel the effects. At my location, the current forecast is for 24-36 hours of winds up to 35 MPH and 2+ inches of rain. Compared to what things looked like earlier in the week, I'll take it.

However, I am mindful that others will now be getting the weather that I had expected. As you can see in the graphic, the cone of uncertainty is ballooning going into Wednesday/Thursday. This is likely in part due to the number days out on the forecast (chicken bones again), but it also due to the storm's interaction with the continental land mass and interactions with other weather systems which themselves are only marginally predictable at this point. Also note that there is only a little movement predicted between Wednesday and Thursday--a Hurricane Harvey scenario. Let's hope that some steering currents show up and keep her moving.

I also picked this tidbit up on Facebook. It's from Eric Burris, a meteorologist with WESH-TV in Florida. It shows the sizes of Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Irma. Note that, with Irma's size, when the eye hits the southernmost part of Florida the outermost edge will be in central Georgia. This is one big storm. I know there is a lot of hype going on around it, but I don't know  that's a bad thing this time around.

I'll be back this evening after the 5 PM forecast is released. In the meantime, I'm still going through my prep routine, just in case the weather decides to throw me a big curve ball.

Edit, 9/9/2017, 18000: Irma has dropped to a Category 3 storm and her forecasted track continues to move to the west. This is causing some consternation in Florida, as areas on the Gulf Coast that apparently thought they would somehow magically be spared from a storm that can swallow Florida whole are now behind the curve in preparing to take the hit. Despite the fact I'm shaking my head in disbelief at such hubris, I wish them well in getting ready for the storm.

The outer bands of the storm are already over Florida and the storm is expected to strengthen. I've been watching various Florida webcams from time to time today. So far all that can be seen is wind, some rain and empty streets. It seems most people have taken this seriously.

The current forecast track appears to put landfall at or near the Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg area. After making landfall, the track would have Irma continuing up the coast, passing between Birmingham and Atlanta, then over western Tennessee and curving into Missouri.

My home state of North Carolina is now completely out of the cone of uncertainty. Our weather forecast for the Monday/Tuesday period is now calling for winds no higher than 25 MPH and 1.3" of rain total.

I won't lie and say that I'm not perfectly happy to have this thing go somewhere besides here. I do hate it for the people who are in the path of it, because they are going to catch hell.

Given that, barring some seriously odd quirk of fate, Irma isn't going to be much of an event here, I'll stop inflicting my amateur coverage of it on you unless there is some major story that's directly prepping related. I had hoped to have one of my own, but honestly this was about the same as getting ready for a major snow storm  here, minus the snow. At least I had a good excuse to PM the generator.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Passings, indeed

It is my unhappy duty to report the death of Dr. Jerry Pournelle.

He was one of the writers who helped shape a lot of who I am and who I have become. A world with no new Pournelle novels to look forward to is a darker world than I prefer to consider right now.

Irma: No news is good news

There is no good news on the hurricane front. The models that were predicting a turn toward the open sea are all gone now. Barring divine intervention, Florida is going to take it in the shorts. North Carolina and South Carolina are looking at a decreased impact, although that means others will now take the hit on our place. Not that we'll escape Irma's wrath, mind you. We can still expect high winds and flooding rains over large portions of both states.

I'm still working on my preparations as if nothing has changed. That cone of uncertainty can move right back, and I've seen hurricanes do odd things before, especially right at landfall.

I'll check back in after the 5 PM update.

Edit, 9/8/2017, 1924: It seems that Irma has decided to follow Horace Greely's advice to "Go west". Nearly all of North and South Carolina are out of the cone of uncertainty at this point, although we will surely still feel the effects. Florida will still be hammered, and Atlanta is now bracing for a hard hit, as is Tennessee. If you're of a mind, pray for those in the path of the storm. They can use all the help they can get.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

On the practical side

I've been cruising a Facebook group that's dedicated to one of the areas Mrs. Freeholder and I are considering as a possible retirement location. It has in common with most of our locations a "beachy" locale, which at the moment means it's under threat from Irma.

This one is just outside of the current "cone of uncertainty", and a lot of people are on the fence on leaving. Me, I'd leave, but a lot of people fall in love with houses. So I'm trying to dispense a little bit of helpful knowledge; things they can still do in the time they have to put themselves in a better position if things do get rough. I thought I'd share them here. Maybe some of you will find yourselves in a position to share them as well.

These are all from Steven Harris, a frequent guest on Jack Spirko's The Survival Podcast. Steven's background is in automotive engineering, but he is a fair whiz at a lot of technical subjects.

The first is his "over-arching site", Steven1234.com. You can get to any of this stuff from there with some digging. It's a bit...wordy.

The two really important ones for our current issue are Solar1234.com, in particular the "How to Power Your House from Your Car with an Inverter" podcast. The next is BeforeTheStormHits.com. This one is the "You have screwed up and not evacuated and have limited time to get ready" podcast. You have to sign up but it's a freebie. Both are Good Stuff.

Let's go do some good out there.

Continuing with Hurricane Irma

I wish I was able to say "What a difference a day makes." Maybe I can, but not in a good way, especially not for those of us further inland on the east coast.

Based on the current projected track, it looks like we'll see two landfalls, one in Florida somewhere around Miami and one near the GA-SC border. After that, Irma will move inland, and if things go as they normally do, weaken rapidly. That will be cold comfort to those who will still be hit with tropical storm force winds and deluged by many inches of rain. Many of these areas already have had a wet summer, so the ground is pretty wet and rivers and lakes are full or nearly so.

I keep up with the area near Myrtle Beach, SC as we have friends there and it is one of our potential retirement areas. Rivers there are already at or above flood stage. While the current track spares them some of the worst weather, they will still get a lot of wind and rain, and things will get bad fast. This is one single example of what is awaiting a huge and heavily populated swath of the southeastern US. Folks, we're going to have a bad week next week.

The news is full of stories, video and photos from the Caribbean showing wide-scale disaster. We're also getting reports from Florida that the evacuation is going as well as we preppers would expect it to. Gas stations are running dry despite government efforts to get fuel supplies in. Stores are running out of supplies of water, food, batteries and so on as desperate people who have come to the realization they can't get out or who won't leave are preparing to go to ground and ride the storm out. Walmart and Home Depot among others are trying to send in fresh supplies, but it will be a case of "too little, too late" as it always is. May the Lord lay his protection over them during their hour of need.

Those of us further north still have considerably more time to prepare for a storm that will not be as bad, but that will still cause us no end of trouble. I remember Hugo all too well. We were spared the worst, but I had friends who were out of power for a week or more. Stores were closed because of no power--it seems that no one can sell anything without a functioning point of sale system these days.

Obviously I'm going to keep watching this storm, and I'm going to keep posting about it as time permits. Today I'm making grocery store runs. I'd do that anyway today, but these will be a bit larger than normal due to the storm. I'll also make a few other stops to top off a couple of items we've allowed to run low as we do on a seasonal basis.

Tomorrow is the day I'll service the generator, blow off the pine needles on the roof and give it a good once over and begin battening down the hatches, so to speak. There really isn't much I can do besides putting up things that could blow around, but the activity makes me feel that I'm doing what I can not be a problem.

As we move closer to Tuesday and Wednesday, we will be charging batteries and battery-powered devices, making sure laundry is done and so on. Any last minute items I can think of will also be attended to.

When I was younger, this sort of thing was an excuse to "have an adventure". Hell, I'd probably go to the beach to get the experience. I was pretty stupid when I was younger. Now, I'm older, perhaps wiser, and a sight more concerned about what can happen when the weather goes bad. Within the last few years I've had friends and family flooded out, a tree on my own house, seen roofs collapse from too much snow in a part of the country that doesn't usually see it, killing frosts too early, spring in February and so on. The weather, for lack of a better term, has been weird.

I'm hardly a Global Warming fetishist, and I'm not jumping on the "Ermagherd Climate Change!" bandwagon. However, I'm not unaware that climate does change, and some of the changes don't happen over thousands or tens of thousands or millions of years, and I'm really starting to wonder.

The kid who was raised a Southern Baptist is also starting to wonder if we're not at the beginning of some of the tastier parts of the book of Revelations. No man can know the mind of God, so until there is a truly undeniable sign, I'll just have to wonder.

Whatever it is, I don't like it. Perhaps it's just age, and I'm starting to feel my mortality creeping up on me. But Things Are Getting Too Weird For My Taste.

Edit, 9/7/2017, 1823:  The latest word from the weather mavens still has Florida in the bulls eye, with the storm coming onshore for good in pretty much the same area as this morning. The predicted course is no further west than it was this morning, but that still in the chicken bones area of the forecast. Weather Underground has a good write-up on the whole thing.

One thing I noticed while I was out and about is that some people here are taking this seriously. I assume Hugo is in their minds as it is mine. No panic, but the big thing I noticed was water and easy to prepare food disappearing off the shelves. Not a run yet, but the weekend might be interesting.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Time for a Public Service Announcement

(Image and links via the Drudge Report)


This is not a joke. If you're in the path of this hurricane your life is in danger. This isn't an excuse for a party. This isn't an opportunity to test your preps. If you are in the area that takes a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, this is Armageddon.

If you're in the maybe 100 mile wide path of the worst winds, this is a storm with winds like an EF4 tornado that will go on for hours. Unless you happen to have a concrete and steel-reinforced tornado shelter, you probably won't be around for the full experience, because there is a very good chance you will be DEAD. Feel free to write your name and Social Security Number on your arm with a Sharpie. They might find your body.

185 MPH winds are not something to trifle with. These are images of what an EF4 tornado does. Imagine that sort of wind when it has a few hours to do its work. This thing is showing up on seismographs. This is not something to fuck with.

If you're near the coast where Irma makes landfall, you're also going to get the Storm Surge From Hell. I don't want to think of how much water 185 MPH winds can pile up. I suspect it will be epic. Add in flooding rains, and the damage from water will add insult to injury.

This is one of those situations where the best thing to do is bug out. Get your family, your valuables, your critters and put 500 miles between you and this bitch. Watch it on TV.

As of this writing, it looks like Florida, starting with the Keys, is the target zone. Irma is going to monster walk right up the peninsula and then barrel up the East Coast in some form or fashion. I'm starting to make my preparations, basing this on storms like Hurricane Hugo, which have come inland, still packing a considerable punch. If we take a hit, it will be bad, but nothing like Florida.

You folks in Florida still have days to make your move. Make the right one. Leave.

Edit, 9/6/2017, 1520: The 5 PM track update has Irma taking a harder turn to the north than this morning. If this track holds. it's a good thing for Florida and a bad thing for those of us further north. Of course, we are talking about a weather forecast for 4-5 days out, so this is only somewhat better than reading chicken bones. The change doesn't make me change my advice one whit, but it does make me expand it further north. Now folks in the Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina coastal areas, as well as those as far as 100-150 miles inland are in the bulls eye. Maybe we'll get lucky and the turn will just keep on increasing and Irma will head out into the Atlantic and scare the fishes.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Eating my words

Well, to today to an extent. Eventually I get to eat them all.

Last week I was smirking about how I like making Google foot the bill for me saying things that they wouldn't approve of. This week, they have to go do something stupid enough that I finally feel it's time to do a little something to begin de-Googling my life.

God certainly hates a smartass, doesn't he?

It isn't like I haven't considered it before. Google used to be the "Do no evil" folks. Well, they've blown that off for years. Cooperating with China to block their population from freely accessing information, slowly but surely impinging more and more on their users' privacy, their increasing internal ideological purity requirements--all of it has sit increasing less and less well with me. But the difficulty and amount of work, plus the issue of most of the options being less useful and less usable, has kept me in the Google fold.

Well, that's stopping now. It's going to take a while, and it's going to cost me some money, up front and probably in on-going costs, but Google and I are getting a divorce. And I'm going to take all their shit out, pile it up in the yard and set it on fire.

The first thing is search. Right now I've swapped over to Bing, but I might go on over to DuckDuckGo. It will depend on the browser I decide to move to, because Chrome is on it's way out. I really want to go to the Brave browser, not only because it works, but because it was started by the guy Firefox ran out in a bout of political correctness.

Email will be a lot more work. I already have a Yahoo email, but I really like the look of Proton Mail. There are also some other alternatives out there, including getting my own domain or three and hosting my own. No matter what, it'll be a lot of work--all those email lists and such that I'll have to change.

This blog will be the biggest PITA. I can do a Squarespace site easy enough and they aren't horribly expensive. They also come with a handy website and some ecommerce abilities, which opens up the possibility of making this pay for itself. I know that I'll have a bunch of folks saying "WordPress!" WordPress is a big dog on the Internet, and there is a lot of ready-made stuff for it. But for the blog, I'm not going to be in a hurry.

Remember when you used to see these all over the Intertubz? Well get ready.

8/19/2017, 11:00 PM: I have just finished converting nearly all the web and forum logins I have to the new email address. I decided to go with Outlook.com for the email. Yes, I'm trading evil Google for evil Microsoft, but I find their corporate evil to be of a more palatable version. Plus it's free, no ads, and it allows me to consolidate my calendars, which simplifies my life and allows me to loose a kludgy piece of sync software. I didn't know how many logins I had and how many needed to be purged. I guess you need to do that bit of housekeeping every 15 years or so. I found a few websites that are throw-backs to the late 90s/early 2000s where I can't change my email address, and one browser add-in that won't work in the new browser of choice for now, MS Edge. Wheelgun has made an intriguing suggestion that I'm going to explore, along with some others. Brave unfortunately sin't working well for me, loading slowly, loading sites slowly and slowing down as more tabs are opened. I'm pretty disappointed at that.

This is being even more work than I expected, and I expected it to be a lot. I hope a freaking asteroid drops on the Googleplex.

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.