Saturday, September 10, 2005

Change of plans

Blogging is likely going to be a thin after this post, barring a need for me to simply fill time. Yesterday evening, my mother, who has been in poor health for some time now, was admitted to the hospital. The docs aren't sure exactly what is wrong, but they believe an infection somewhere has turned septic. They've pumped her full of antibiotics and are providing supportive care, but in accordance with her wishes, no "heroic measures" will be employed to prolong her life.

She's in bad shape. From all I've ever seen, it doesn't look like she'll pull through this. Her blood pressure is steadily dropping, her body temperature is dropping, her breathing is labored and her consciousness is minimal.

Of course, we're spending a lot of time at the hospital. We're not staying 24 hours a day, but we're there most of it.

We've all known that this time would come, and probably sooner rather than later. We have placed her in God's care. If He is ready for her to come to Him, he'll take her. If she still has business on this earth, then she'll stay. It's that simple.

My Mom's a member of what has come to be known as "the greatest generation". She grew up during the Great Depression in West Virginia. She worked in a munitions factory in Baltimore, MD during WWII. After marrying my father, she worked in a bank until I was born, then she did that so typical thing (at least during those days), she stayed home to raise her son.

During that time, she did volunteer work at the various schools I attended, helped her neighbors and her family when they needed help, and ran the house while my Dad traveled to earn a living.
She had her 83rd birthday last week. She's lived a long life, and by most measures a pretty good one. While we all hope she will see her 84th, the odds are stacked against that.

See you all later.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Beating feet

Short week, but a long day, given the highly disturbing news from New Orleans. Mourn the Republic.

Going to Camp Freehold. Look for an air show report sometime next week.

New Orleans gun confiscation

(Via The High Road)

Here is video footage from ABC of police and Oklahoma National Guard troops confiscating legally owned weapons, legally used, from citizens subjects in New Orleans. (It's been encoded with the Divx codec, go here if you need to get it.)

This is wrong. I'm pissed, but in no position to do much but rant and see if any of the gun owners in New Orleans decide to resist with deadly force. If they do, they will surely die, but it's going to take that kind of wakeup call before someone puts a stop to this.

If a stop isn't put to this, how long do you think it will be before they come knocking on your door?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Lessons You Need To Learn

I know I promised a "lessons learned from Katrina" post, but since I've been one of those e-e-evil survivalist-types for many years, most of this is old news for me. I will admit to being surprised how fast social order broke down in New Orleans, and I'm taking that piece of information to heart.

So instead of "lessons learned", I'm offering you a "lessons I hope you learn" post. If you're an e-e-evil survivalist-type, then much of this may be old hat. If you aren't, then this is a very basic primer. There are some links on the left that can guide you to more detailed information, or as always, Google is your friend.

These are relatively unordered. I have tried, to some extent, to keep like subjects together.

  1. You may not have advance warning that there is a disaster coming. Even if you do, you may find yourself in a situation where you aren't able to make last minute preparations. Prepare ahead. If you wait until the last minute, you'll find yourself among the hordes stuck at Walmart, Home Depot and the grocery store. Given that people will tend to get panicy during this time, these are not good places to be.
  2. You must keep sufficient food, water and medications on hand for emergencies. FEMA, the American Red Cross and others have long urged people to keep 3 days worth of supplies on hand. This is insufficient for any major or widespread emergency situation. As we've seen from Katrina, it can take more than 3 days for any sort of outside help to reach you (assuming it ever does). You should consider 7 days of food, water (for both drinking and personal use) and necessary medications the absolute minimum to keep on hand at all times. If possible, you should keep 30 days on hand. (A year is better still. Who know how long until you can resupply?) Remember the food and water needs of your pets as well. As a corollary, be sure to have at least 2 can openers and a way to cook or heat your food (you'll be amazed how many people will forget these). If you can't store enough water, buy water filtration devices and know where the closest sources of water are.
  3. Half = Empty. Never let the gas tank on any vehicle get below half full. How many of the people left in New Orleans could have gotten out of town if they had a vehicle with a half tank of gas?
  4. Have plenty of extra cash on hand, in small bills. When the lights go off, most places won't take credit cards, debit cards or probably checks.
  5. During an emergency situation, personal hygiene counts. You have to maintain a level of personal hygiene sufficient to keep you from getting sick. While you probably will not be able to bathe each day, you must do everything you can to keep clean. Baby wipes work in a pinch; there is also a larger version meant for bed-ridden folks. Additionally, you aren't a wild bear--you do not urinate/defecate any place you please. A 5 gallon bucket, a salvaged toilet seat, a large box of kitchen side trash bags and a gallon of bleach will handle the situation. Double bag it and store it in a trash can for future disposal. If you're female and of a certain age group, you're going to have some...special needs. Those needs may not be current, but they may be current before things are back to normal. Items to meet these needs should to be kept on hand.
  6. If you're well-prepared for emergencies, you must be either A) ready to share with all comers or B) ready to defend yourself from all comers. If you choose to share, expect to be out of supplies and faced with angry have-nots very shortly. If you choose to defend, be prepared to frighten, intimidate and possible kill angry have-nots very shortly. Defense will mean guns, plenty of ammo and several people to assist you. How many combat effectives do you have in your home? Is your home defensible? How much ballistic protection does it offer? Most importantly, can you pull the trigger?
  7. If you have elderly family, friends or neighbors, how far are you willing to go to help them survive? Decide this now, not then, and stock supplies accordingly. You may need to plan on moving them into your home for the duration in order to simplify helping them out. That easy 5 minute drive to their home may turn into a day-long combat patrol in a hurry.
  8. Don't count on a period of time before social order begins to break down--or for it to break down at all. Many survivalists will tell you that in a major emergency situation, you'll have 48-72 hours before there is a widespread breakdown in social order. Maybe, maybe not. In New Orleans, it took less than 24 hours. In Mississippi, there was no widespread breakdown in social order before outside assistance began arriving. Whether or not social order breaks down, how much it breaks down and how long it takes to break down is a function of the socio-economic makeup of the area, population density, actions (and exhibited competency) of local officials in the immediate aftermath, nature and size of the disaster, inflow of refugees from even worse-hit areas, the actions of individuals to defend themselves from predators and the how fast outside help arrives. Know your local area and those who live in it.
  9. Outside assistance will be slower in arriving than you might hope. It will also be variable in quantity, quality and availability, and it may not be what you need when you need it.
  10. If the disaster is bad enough or widespread enough, outside assistance may never arrive. Yes, it could be that bad. What would you do?
  11. Expect humanity and inhumanity to exist side by side and in unexpected places. Things will be weird all over. Be ready for this and prepared to react according to the situation.
  12. You do not want to be a refugee. See the New Orleans Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center for details.
  13. If you evacuate, do it on your terms, not the government's. If you are evacuated by the government, what you take with you will be strictly limited. You will not take your pets, you will not be allowed a weapon to defend yourself, medications may be confiscated and baggage will be limited. If you chose to evacuate, you should make decisions on what you take and where you take it--not a government bureaucrat.
  14. Have copies of all important papers, bank account numbers, address books, etc. in a handy place so that you can grab them quickly on the way out the door. Better yet, scan it, burn it on CDs and stash copies with trustworthy friends and family in geographically diverse areas as well.
  15. Let common sense and past experience be your guide on the decision to evacuate or hunker down and ride it out. If you live in an area below sea level and a Category 5/4 hurricane is bearing down on you, evacuation is probably a smart play. If you live 40 miles inland in an area not prone to flooding and have a substantially constructed house, you might want to hunker down instead. Listen to the weatherdroid, government officials and your gut, but make your own decisions.
  16. If you think you may have to evacuate--ever--know your routes out. Routes, plural. Have at least three separate ways to get out of Dodge. Try to use secondary roads, not Interstate highways. Also know how you're evacuating--will you drive your car, ride with friends, walk? This is important to know well before you need to leave.
  17. Consider where you would evacuate to if you ever needed to evacuate.Take this opportunity to talk to family and friends who might give you shelter. "Hey, if a killer hurricane comes along, would you mind if I crash at your place? I'll bring my RV, food, etc.--all I need is electricity, water and sewer." Have this conversation now, and work out with those who will be taking you in what you need to bring, how long you can stay, how bills might have to be split and so on. I'd suggest having several such conversations with people living in geographically diverse locations. Be prepared to reciprocate with those folks--they may have a disaster in their area, and need your help.
  18. If you decide to hunker down and ride it out, expect people to try to rescue you. As far as they're concerned, if you're in a disaster area, you must need rescuing.
  19. If you decide to hunker down, keep a low profile. It will protect you from predators, those who were unprepared and expect you to care for them, and potential rescuers.
  20. You may need rescuing from the rescuers. It's an unfortunate part of human nature that when we're given authority, it tends to go to our heads. You may find yourself in a situation where your erstwhile rescuers are going to rescue you whether you need it or not. They've come a long way to help you, and You may even be threatened. Determine now what your reaction is going to be--do you hide from rescue teams, go with them if coerced, or resist--and how hard do you resist? (9/12/2005 edit: In light of the confiscation of legal firearms in New Orleans by police and National Guard troops, this take on a new level of importance.)
  21. If you are rescued after a disaster, your pets will be left behind to fend for themselves. There are groups who go to disaster scenes and rescue pets, but I wouldn't bet my pets lives on this. This fact may have a bearing on whether you want to be rescued at all.
  22. Tarps, tools and rope. You may need all these, plus other similar items, to temporarily repair damage caused by the disaster. Be prepared to repair holes in the roof and broken windows or doors. Two specialty tools you may need are a "street key" to turn off the water at the meter and the appropriate wrench to turn off natural gas or propane.
  23. Generators draw attention. They're noisy and things are lit up. You will draw the attention of everyone within earshot. You may will need to be prepared to defend yourself if you chose to use a generator. If you decide to use one, try to use it during the daylight hours.
  24. Lighting. You'll need something for general purpose illumination, something for task lighting, and perhaps something for longer range, such as a spotlight. Don't forget spare batteries, fuel, etc..
  25. Stay in touch.Have at least a battery-powered radio and TV and spare batteries. You will also need short range radios for communications between family and neighbors. CB or FRS/GMRS radios will do, but have plenty of batteries and remember that anyone can listen in on what you're saying. If you are an amateur radio operator (a "ham") be sure you have the equipment to run without grid power.
  26. Keep a positive mental attitude. Everything around you has went to shit--you can't let your attitude go there as well. It is an absolute imperative that you must keep a positive outlook. It's going to be incredibly difficult, but look for positives in everything. Sure, you house is gone, but you just found the family photo album. Keep that positive attitude, and half the problem is solved.
  27. Have backup plans. Have backup plans for everything. What happens if you're going to evacuate and the roads are completely clogged? What happens if it floods in an area that doesn't normally flood? What do you do if you run out of food and water? What happens if you get caught short on supplies? Have backup plans for everything. Working them out now is much simpler than it is during an emergency.
On The High Road, there is an excellent thread on this subject. I suggest you read it as well.

If you've never thought about this sort of thing, now is the time. I especially urge you to prepare if you have children or others who depend on you. If they depend on you, that makes you responsible for them. Take your responsibilities seriously.

I'll probably be adding to this for a few days yet. If I do, the final version will be reposted.

Edited 9/7/2005 @ 3:13 PM: changed title and introduction
Edited 9/12/2005 @ 1:30 PM: updated due to event in New Orleans
Edited 9/15/2005 @ 2:10 PM: various small edits
Edited 9/19/2005 @ 11:06 AM: further small edits

Oh, tough guy, huh?

It isn't bad enough that Mayor Ray Nagin screwed the pooch deciding about if/when to evacuate his below seal level city in the face of a hurricane, nor was it bad enough that he allowed looters to run rampant in the city in the days following the hurricane landfall. With the Federal government on hand to bail him out and the water finally receding, "Mayor" Ray Nagin has decided to order a forced evacuation of those citizens who remain in New Orleans.

Fortunately, the US military seems to understand what their duty and mission are:

The U.S. military is on the scene to help rescue people and keep order, as well as to provide food and water for people still in their homes.

Officials stressed, however, that it's the job of the police to force evacuations if and when that time comes.

Thank God we have a professional military.

Interestingly, at least one New Orleans Police officer is not sanguine about serving the Mayor's eviction notices:

Police Capt. Marlon Defillo said that forced removal of citizens had not yet begun. "That would be a P.R. nightmare for us," he said. "That's an absolute last resort."

Although you'll note he isn't concerned about the legality of the notices, just about the "PR nightmare".

This should be instructive to those of us on the outside.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One more thing on the Richmond Showmasters gun show

(I've had this a few days now, and forget the source pointer.)

CNSNews reports that there have been 7 previous sting operations targeted at attendees of gun shows in Richmond, VA in the last year.

You have to wonder exactly who it is with the burr under their saddle--AFT, Richmond PD, Henrico County Sheriff or who. But whoever it is, I'd bet the law-abiding citizens of the area would appreciate it if they got it out from under there.

Presented absolutely without comment of any kind

Mostly because Mrs. Freeholder occasionally reads this blog.

Fall is in the air

Another thing we noticed this weekend at Camp Freehold was the distinct feeling of Fall. The first few leaves are starting to trickle down, reconning the way for the main force which will arrive in a few weeks time. The nights were cool, and the daytime temperatures were in the low 80s. Even better, the humidity was down.

Of course, steak on the grill Saturday and burgers on the grill Sunday also go a long way to cure what ails you, as does the company of family and friends.

Looking at the juxtaposition of our weekend and the weekend of folks in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, it makes one inclined to count one's blessings.

An interesting weekend at Camp Freehold

After the news of the week, the short trip to Camp Freehold was very welcome. Camp Freehold doesn't have cable or Internet, so you're connection to the news becomes rather old-fashioned and slow. Just what you need when the news is bringing you to that state of horrified fascination usually reserved for auto accidents involving multiple body bags.

Of course, the biggest topic of conversation was Hurricane Katrina/New Orleans/"What do you think will happen now?". I participated in those, but not for very long at one time. How many times can you say the same things without losing interest?

Far more interesting was the near-inevitable Saturday at the Range, starring yours truly, Daughter, Son and Old Friend. This week was "Shoot Cheap" week, featuring the Remington Sportmaster 512, the Sears 43, the Walther P22 and the Smith and Wesson 22A. The supporting cast numbered in the thousands of rounds.

We set up shop on the 50/100 yard range. Son had a number of crippled skeet from a previous outing, which he lined up at 50 yards. We pinned a number of paper targets at 100 yards and retired to the benches to see how we could do.

Son finished off nearly all the skeet with the Remington. The kid absolutely loves that gun, and he shoots it well. Now if I can just get where I trust him with that tubular magazine.... Old Friend was content to watch for a bit, lending a hand with reloads.

I got Daughter set up with the Sears, which she quickly tired of. She says rifles with scopes are boring, because it's too easy to hit the target. I took over a bit, and shot the pieces of skeet Son had left. He thought that was showing off.

After Son had the Remington well warmed, we moved him to the Sears for a bit while OF and I tried a bit of long-range pistol work with the 22A. After dialing in the sights, we found we could hit a 12" steel at 50 yards from a rested position. Not satisfied, we tried for a 12" steel at 100 yards. You know, there's a big difference there; more than 50 yards should account for. We were eventually able to hit it fairly regularly, with OF exhibiting a 50% hit rate to my 30%.

During this period, Daughter was sulking as only a teenager can do. Not being one to tolerate this sort of foolishness, I tried to jolly her out of it, which predictably failed. Then I tried another tack--if you think the targets are too big to use with a scope, let's try smaller targets. That got some attention.

Casting about for suitable field expedient targets, I saw some old shotgun hulls laying about. During the next cold range, I took a couple down to the 50 yard berm, and set them on top of some steel target posts.

"There, try that out." She went through an entire 17 round magazine in the Sears with no hits and more than a little frustration. "I know I'm holding it still enough!"

So I gave it a try, with OF spotting. It turns out the scope was a bit off zero. A few adjustments, and we were back in business. I was able to take the first hull. OF shortly duplicated the feat with the iron-sighted Remington.

Daughter is unimpressed. "That looks awfully simple." Arching an eyebrow, I asked her if she was up to a true challenge. Sure she was.

So at the next cold range, I gathered up some more hulls, replaced the ones at 50 yards and set up 6 more at 100 yards. Walking back, my aging Mk. 1 eyeballs can "sorta" see the ones at 50, and the ones at 100 may as well not exist. Even through the 4x scope of the Sears, I can just barely make them out.

Son demands to be let in on the game. We set him up with the Remington and the hulls at 50 yards; Daughter with the Sears and the hulls at 100. Setting to their tasks, Son draws first blood. Shortly after, the squeal from Daughter lets us know she too has connected.

In the end, Son has a better hit ratio, taking 15 rounds to knock down 8 hulls. Daughter took about 30 to knock down her 6 hulls.

Nope, no proud Poppa Freeholder here.

SITREP: a small town in Piedmont NC

Gas prices seem to have stabilized around $3.10/gallon. Availability has improved somewhat now that Colonial and Plantation have their pipelines back in operation. Near-term stability will depend on getting the drilling platforms and refineries back online, while long-term stability will depend on getting more wells and more refineries. As I'm sure anyone who's been paying attention has found out, we have no excess capacity in either area. (Stupid, stupid, stupid.)

After Friday, traffic dropped off noticeably. Judging from comments with the neighbors at Camp Freehold, most people are concerned not only about the current price of gas, but about the implications for other prices and the economy at large. My respect for my neighbors goes up another notch.

Reports from various local touristy-type destinations showed a drop in business from slight to large. At a local winery, business seemed to be off rather drastically. Given the season, this is a bad sign.

Further reports if warranted.