Friday, December 29, 2017

Factoring in the dragon

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote “It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” This was the quote that really attracted my attention on a SurvivalBlog article that in turn leads you to Kevin Reeve from onPoint Tactical's piece on urban evacuations. Conveniently done up in a pdf file for portability, he quickly goes over the basics for those who haven't thought it out before.

For those of you who haven't lived in an urban area, let me tell you that bugging out is different. When you and 100,000 of your closest friends all decide that it's time to be elsewhere at once, it looks like every SF movie from Panic in Year Zero to The Stand. Gridlock doesn't quite do justice to the condition of the roads. Even knowing the "back way" won't help, because trust me, you aren't the only one who knows it. If nothing else, there's an app for that.

If you live in an area that is subject to flooding, wildfire, hurricanes or any of the other fun things that nature tosses our way on a frequent basis, going over this information and researching more would be a grand way to spend some of that New Years downtime.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Michael, Michael, in the morning...

This story arrived in my inbox this morning via The Email List That Shall Not Be Named. I've never heard it before, but it's all over the Internet. It somehow seems to be an appropriate story for this time of year.

St. Michael's Apparition to a Marine

Background

What follows is a well-known copy of a letter that was written by a young Marine to his mother while he was hospitalized after being wounded on a Korean battlefield in 1950. It came into the hands of a Navy Chaplain, who read the letter before 5,000 Marines at a San Diego Naval Base in 1951.

The Navy Chaplain had talked to the boy, to the boy’s mother and to the Sergeant in charge of the patrol. This Navy Chaplain, Father Walter Muldy, would always assure anyone who asked that this is a true story.

This letter had been read once a year in the 1960s at a Midwestern radio station at Christmas time. Since many of U.S. troops now are engaged in the Middle East, we include this remarkable story in the hope that many servicemen and their families will invoke the intercession and protection of Saint Michael. We present the letter and let it stand on its own merits.

The Letter

Dear Mom,

I wouldn’t dare write this letter to anyone but you because no one else would believe it. Maybe even you will find it hard but I have got to tell somebody.

First off, I am in a hospital. Now don’t worry, ya hear me, don’t worry. I was wounded but I am okay you understand.. Okay. The doctor says that I will be up and around in a month.

But that is not what I want to tell you.

Remember when I joined the Marines last year; remember when I left, how you told me to say a prayer to St. Michael every day. You really didn’t have to tell me that. Ever since I can remember you always told me to pray to St. Michael the Archangel. You even named me after him. Well I always have.

When I got to Korea, I prayed-----even harder. Remember the prayer that you taught me?
“Michael, Michael of the morning fresh corps of Heaven adorning,” you know the rest of it. Well I said it every day.. Sometimes when I was marching or sometimes resting. But always before I went to sleep.. I even got some of the other fellas to say it.

Well, one day I was with an advance detail way up over the front lines. We were scouting for the Commies. I was plodding along in the bitter cold, my breath was like cigar smoke.

I thought I knew every guy in the patrol, when along side of me comes another Marine I never met before. He was bigger than any other Marine I’d ever seen. He must have been 6-4 and built in proportion. It gave me a feeling of security to have such a body near.

Anyway, there we were trudging along. The rest of the patrol spread out. Just to start a conversation I said, “Cold ain’t it.” And then I laughed. Here I was with a good chance of getting killed any minute and I am talking about the weather.

My companion seemed to understand. I heard him laugh softly; I looked at him, “I have never seen you before, I thought I knew every man in the outfit.”

“I just joined at the last minute”, he replied. “The name is Michael.”

“Is that so,” I said surprised. “That is my name too.”

“I know,” he said and then went on, “Michael, Michael of the morning . . .”

I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. How did he know my name, and a prayer that you had taught me? Then I smiled to myself, every guy in the outfit knew about me. Hadn’t I taught the prayer to anybody who would listen? Why now and then, they even referred to me as St. Michael.
Neither of us spoke for a time and then he broke the silence. “We are going to have some trouble up ahead.” He must have been in fine physical shape for he was breathing so lightly I couldn’t see his breath. Mine poured out in great clouds. There was no smile on his face now. Trouble ahead, I thought to myself, well with the Commies all around us, that is no great revelation.

Snow began to fall in great thick globs. In a brief moment the whole countryside was blotted out. And I was marching in a white fog of wet sticky particles. My companion disappeared.

“Michael,” I shouted in sudden alarm.

I felt his hand on my arm, his voice was rich and strong, “This will stop shortly.”

His prophecy proved to be correct. In a few minutes the snow stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun was a hard shining disc. I looked back for the rest of the patrol, there was no one in sight. We lost them in that heavy fall of snow. I looked ahead as we came over a little rise. Mom, my heart stopped. There were seven of them. Seven Commies in their padded pants and jackets and their funny hats. Only there wasn’t anything funny about them now. Seven rifles were aimed at us.

“Down Michael,” I screamed and hit the frozen earth. I heard those rifles fire almost as one. I heard the bullets. There was Michael still standing.

Mom, those guys couldn’t have missed, not at that range. I expected to see him literally blown to bits.
But there he stood, making no effort to fire himself. He was paralyzed with fear. It happens sometimes, Mom, even to the bravest. He was like a bird fascinated by a snake.

At least, that was what I thought then. I jumped up to pull him down and that was when I got mine. I felt a sudden flame in my chest. I often wondered what it felt like to be hit, now I know.

I remember feeling strong arms about me, arms that laid me ever so gently on a pillow of snow. I opened my eyes, for one last look. I was dying. Maybe I was even dead, I remember thinking, well this is not so bad.

Maybe I was looking into the sun. Maybe I was in shock. But it seemed I saw Michael standing erect again only this time his face was shining with a terrible splendor.
As I say, maybe it was the sun in my eyes, but he seemed to change as I watched him. He grew bigger; his arms stretched out wide, maybe it was the snow falling again, but there was a brightness around him like the wings of an Angel. In his hand was a sword. A sword that flashed with a million lights.

Well, that is the last thing I remember until the rest of the fellas came up and found me. I do not know how much time had passed. Now and then I had but a moment’s rest from the pain and fever. I remember telling them of the enemy just ahead.

“Where is Michael,” I asked.

I saw them look at one another. “Where’s who?” asked one.

“Michael, Michael that big Marine I was walking with just before the snow squall hit us.”

“Kid,” said the sergeant, “You weren’t walking with anyone. I had my eyes on you the whole time. You were getting too far out. I was just going to call you in when you disappeared in the snow.”
He looked at me, curiously. “How did you do it kid?”

“How’d I do what?” I asked half angry despite my wound. “This marine named Michael and I were just . . .”

“Son,” said the sergeant kindly, “I picked this outfit myself and there just ain’t another Michael in it. You are the only Mike in it.”

He paused for a minute, “Just how did you do it kid? We heard shots. There hasn’t been a shot fired from your rifle.. And there isn’t a bit of lead in them seven bodies over the hill there.”

I didn’t say anything, what could I say? I could only look open-mouthed with amazement.

It was then the sergeant spoke again, “Kid,” he said gently, “everyone of those seven Commies was killed by a sword stroke.”

That is all I can tell you Mom. As I say, it may have been the sun in my eyes, it may have been the cold or the pain. But that is what happened.

Love, Michael 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

And a Merry Christmas to us all

Yes, it may be Christmas Eve (Day, actually), but I want to wish everyone who might happen by a Merry Christmas.

The dearth of recent posting has been caused by events in the real world keeping me rather on the busy side. Nothing earthshaking really, with the exception of Son having moved out on his own this weekend. Obviously that's going to be a bit of an adjustment around here. We now have a spare bedroom, at least until I have the moving company bring us the contents of some storage space they've been holding since my father's death.

But enough of that. Those of us at the Freehold, and I'm sure He of The Outpost all wish you a Merry Christmas. May God spread his blessings broad and deep.

It may not be our home, but Christmas is for dreaming, isn't it?



Sunday, December 17, 2017

Need to store cans in a shallow space?

Don't care to build shelves? How about using plastic rain gutters instead? You get the benefit of a system that the cans won't fall off of in the event of an earthquake or explosion or similar event.

Upping your game

I want your to look closely at the frame capture included with this article on an armed robbery that took place here in the AO. Seeing as it's from a surveillance vid, I feel no copyright compunction about tossing it in here.


I even helpfully circled the point of interest for you. Nice grip, isn't it? Matter of fact, it's a pretty nice presentation over all. Someone knows what they're doing. Probably had some training somewhere along the line.

And now they're out robbing banks.

Up your situational awareness and your carry game, folks.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Again, we remember


Once again, we remember our honored dead from the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Modern retirement

I've been thinking about how to write about this subject for some while now and do it in such a way that it doesn't come off as sanctimonious, preachy or whiny. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to strike the right balance, but I'm going to have a try at it.

We've all heard how the "Great Recession" and subsequent recovery have been different from most that came before. Many of those who have lost jobs are still unemployed, are under-employed or have simply given up on the concept of "employment" as most of us are familiar with it. The U6 unemployment number, which includes all these types of unemployment, is a pretty ugly number compared to the usual U3 number quoted in the press. As of October 2017 the U6 is 7.9%. That a lot of people out of work, and it explains why the recovery really doesn't feel so great for so many people.

I believe I've noted somewhere along the line that I lost my job a bit over a year ago. If I haven't, well, I did. I've also said things here and there about what I do, or more accurately, did, in the real world. Just to move this forward quickly, I worked in information technology, and I had the very good fortune to have worked my way up to the top of the food chain, being a Director of Information Technology. Bear in mind that in my case, I was a big fish in a smallish pond.

A career in IT tends to spoil you, because IT people make some pretty stupid amounts of money. Even though I worked at a non-profit, which is at the low end of the IT pay range, I did better than most people. I was spoiled and I recognized that fact. Adding my earnings to Mrs. Freeholder's and a couple of unfortunate but (at least to me) substantial inheritances, and my family has lived a very middle class life style for 30 years.

Believe me, all those gun show posts I've went to cost money, and it didn't grow on a tree in the back yard. The kids' educations and all the other stuff that a middle class life style calls for were also substantial outlays. The house, the cars, all that stuff takes money, and a lot of it. But I haven't forgotten that my parents both grew up in the Great Depression, and I remember the stories told on porches on warm West Virginia summer nights when we "went home" for a visit.

Those stories--my Dad losing the $20 he had in a local bank when it failed, my Mom's family almost starving on several occasions, gardening and hunting for food and not for fun--have stuck with me. My granny washed and saved plastic bread bags, aluminum pie pans and the like because they might "come in handy one day." My grandma gardened and raised chickens nearly as long as she lived. She never owned a car and walked everywhere she went unless someone gave her a ride. She would never borrow money, a trait shared by all my grandparents. Living through a depression leaves some pretty substantial scars.

I grew up with far more material goods than my parents did. We weren't poor by any stretch of the word--we never lacked for food or a home, the bills were always paid on time, and we had everything we needed and more than a few things we wanted. But we were far from middle class, even though my mother in particular aspired to be seen as belonging there. But by some government bureaucrat's definition, we were poor, and so we were. We never noticed it that much.

As my children were growing up in the midst of true plenty, I tried to impart on them the things I had learned as a kid. I can't say how much effect that's had on them, since they've never really known anything but a middle class life style. They've had friends who didn't have that life, and they seem to have dealt with them just fine, not indulging themselves in any of the "We have more money than you do so we're better" business. Good thing, because I would have hated to gather all their crap up and hauled it to the Salvation Army. I went to high school with what I thought of as "snotty rich kids", which I now know were nothing more than middle class kids with poor raising, and I was determined that my kids were not going to act like that.

One thing I remember saying as a postscript to a lot of stories about their great grandparents, grandparents or my own childhood has been "I grew up 'poor' and I have no doubt I will be 'poor' again some day." Boy has that one come home to roost after a fashion.

My far ahead of scheduled retirement has been a wake up call. We aren't poor, and Lord willing, we never will be. We are still on a sound financial footing, but we can't live as we did 18 months ago. You can look back over the last year's posts and you'll note that the "I went to a gun show and I bought this" posts have disappeared. That's because I haven't been going to gun shows much, and I haven't been buying hardly at all. As a matter of fact, I'm starting to look at my accumulation with an eye to thinning the herd a bit. I didn't build a collection, really, I'm a lot like my uncle who infected my with gunny-itis--I accumulated guns. It's time to turn some of that accumulation back into cash. Fortunately, he also taught me to buy good guns cheap. I'll hopefully make a profit on everything I sell.

That money will be funds my other hobbies, such as ham radio. My on again, off again antenna project is funded by that money. It would hardly be right to take money from the household income, to which I now only contribute a retirement check, to buy this stuff. And not as much stuff is being bought. I'm hanging onto that money a lot tighter than I used to. It's a lot harder to generate.

We're fortunate that we had been making preparations for something like this for some time. I was concerned about my employer's financial stability for a couple of years preceding my exit, and that lead to our taking certain steps to be prepared for a quick descent into unemployment.  Only a single major bill isn't paid off, and it's the smallest one we had. We can handle it. Other than the monthly expenses to run the house, we only have to pay groceries, auto expenses, taxes and insurance bills to keep even. That's been a huge blessing.

We had some expenses that we have slowly been trimming or eliminating. When we both worked, cleaning house was something we didn't have time for, so it was hired out. Luckily I remember how to handle that. We scratch cook more than we used to, since I'm around to babysit the crockpot, run the grill or tend the oven. I do a bit of the automotive maintenance now, a big change from previous years. I'm also back to doing more of the remaining reno work on our house. None of these things are big deals, and they're all things that we used to do when we didn't have so much money. We're just going back to the way things were. Just older and slower at getting it done. :-)

We have examined our household expenses with an eye to economy. Cable TV is gone, replaced by the Netflix subscription we were already paying for, a Sling TV subscription and an antenna for the local stuff. We've invested in LED light bulbs and seen a measurable decrease in the electric bill, enough so that we paid for the bulbs in a few months. We plan trips better so that we drive less. In keeping with scratch cooking, we buy fewer processed foods, which is another savings. Things like magazine subscriptions, DVDs/Blu-Rays/CDs and the like also get a sharp eye before the money is spent. Oddly enough, we really don't miss any of the ones we're not buying any longer.

I've also done a couple of small consulting gigs, something I haven't had time for in recent years. Those have brought in some extra coin, which has been handy. I'm hoping to do more. I'd love to go back to work, but the odds of that are declining by the day. IT can be a harsh employment environment, and my age and physical location are working against me. Relocation is out for reasons, and I can't get any younger (the picture in the attic isn't cooperating). I keep looking, but I'm realistic about my chances, which are declining by the month.

I can spend more time on our investments (such as they are), just with the proviso that they are a lot smaller than they would have been, so there is much less room for error. I'm doing OK, but that constant knowing that a big mistake could kill us financially really forces you to not take some risks that you would have normally taken. But that safety comes at a cost, and you don't make the kind of returns you really would like to make.

We find ourselves not doing things we're used to doing and that we'd like to do. The RV doesn't go out as often now. Movies and concerts are less common. Eating out is a treat, not how we get our food half the time. We spend more time shopping for good buys and bargains. We are more careful about what we buy--"O-o-oh shiny!" has pretty much went the way of the dodo around here. Besides, we're going to be downsizing in a few years. We need less junk in our lives, not more.

We've also changed the amount of money we give the charity. That's went up. We discussed it, and our feeling was that the need was still out there and that we are still blessed in comparison to many. As long as we have it to give, we'll give. We probably should have given more when we had more, but somehow we just never really sat down and discussed the subject.

Speaking of discussions, Mrs. Freeholder and I actually discuss money now. To be honest, money has never been a big interest for her, since she came from a family that had a surplus of it. With my background, I suppose I'm guilty of being a bit obsessive about it. For years, the family finances have been my "thing". Now that she's the breadwinner, she's taking much more interest in things. She is also discovering how much fun it is to be the breadwinner, and why men have traditionally died early. She's learning some difficult lessons in a hurry. It's a statement of the new depth of her financial understanding that she said a couple of weeks ago "No wonder you're always so grumpy about money."

All this isn't to say that the last year has been a annus horribilis, because it hasn't. My health has improved in many ways, and I have no doubt that some of that is due to the overall reduction in stress, increase in exercise and improvement in eating habits. We have been able to take a couple of wonderful if relatively inexpensive (by our former standards) vacations. Our children are on the verge of flying the nest, which is both wonderful and terrifying at once. We're working out a new retirement plan.

I guess you could say that it's been a lesson in what Jack Spirco of the Survival Podcast calls Modern Survivalism. It's building your life so that you're resilient when something you haven't planned for hits you. Being able to take that big hit and bounce back.

I've planned for this point in my life since my 20s. I've not been obsessive about it, but I have thought about it considerably, and started putting away money toward it in my 30s, once I had a decent job and surplus money. Even at that, it's only been the last 10 years that have allowed us to build a life that was resilient enough to take a hit like this and keep on truckin'.

I hope there is something you can take from this and put into practice in your own situation. Too many people aren't this resilient in their lives, and that's not good. Don't be one of them.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Well, I've heard you're supposed to keep busy in retirement

Retiree, 70, made ricin, tested it on neighbors, feds say.

Edit, 12/2/2017: FoxNew apparently doesn't care for links from Blogger. (Yet another reason to ditch this platform.) For the time being, here is a copy and paste link: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/12/01/retiree-70-made-ricin-tested-it-on-neighbors-feds-say.html

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Power to the people

Not in the dated 70s fashion, however.

.357 Magnum brings up an important issue if you have decided to add solar to your mix of power choices--your choice of storage batteries. She suggests Iron Edison. I've seen the same suggestion in other places.

I suspect if you wanted to substitute them into a Steven Harris battery bank, they'd be a great upgrade.

American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and my future relationship to it

After a number of bad experiences where the politics of an organization have interfered with my enjoyment of what the organization purported to provide (the NRA, my local range, my son's baseball league, etc.) I decided a long time ago to stay the hell away from their internal politics and just let them do what ever stupid things they were going to do. When the stupid starts to effect me, I can just walk away. Saves time and saves wear and tear on my psyche.

Sometimes, though, some of the stupid just manages to intrude into my attention, and then I'm simply compelled to track it down. It's a character flaw.

I got my regular email update from the ICQ Podcast today, and one of the headlines was "Southwestern Division Director Censured by ARRL". Well that sounded pretty drastic, so I wanted to see what it was all about. Reading, it appears that the ARRL has passed a new Code of Conduct for its board members. It seems that Richard Norton, N6AA, Southwestern Division Director, has managed to run afoul of the new code before the paper was cooled from the printer.

OK, so let's look at the minutes of the referenced meeting available on the ARRL's web site. They aren't very helpful as you can see. No details at all about the event that brought on the censure. I don't know about anyone else, but that doesn't make me really comfortable. It smacks of the sound of a rubber stamp hitting an already made decision.

So I Did a web search on "N6AA". Mr. Norton is quite a busy amateur, with a lot of achievements in amateur radio. The guy may be an "amateur", but he's not new to being a ham or being involved in the upper levels of the League. So I had to filter down, and I was able to find a couple of things of interest in the current situation.

The first is from Bruce Parens and outlines what he believes are the portions of the Code of Conduct he believes N6AA violated. He also believes the new code allows the ARRL Board of Directors to draw a curtain around their work, blinding members as to how decisions are reached on various matters of League policy.

The second is from a group calling itself "Hams For a Better ARRL"  where there is currently a single article, "Code of Conduct or Gag Order?" This site purports to have 2 messages sent to the ARRL Board of Directors on behalf of N6AA stating that he did not violate the Code of Conduct and providing evidence to support those statements.

I've read the actual Code of Conduct, and I find it problematic. If I were a current ARRL Board of Director I would have little choice but to resign, as there is no way I could support it in its entirety. While a great deal of it is perfectly reasonable, large swaths of it seem to exist solely to obscure the Board's decision making process from the members. I feel that if the membership cannot see and understand the internal policy debates, then it is impossible for them to make informed decisions on who to support during elections for the Board positions. More importantly, it's impossible for them to know if the League is acting in their best interests as radio amateurs.

I've also read the statements on Hams For a Better ARRL, and if true, there seems to have been a miscarriage of justice in the censure of N6AA.

Obviously, this entire situation is evolving, having been in the public eye less than a week as of this writing. As an ARRL member, I'm concerned. This smells a lot like things I've seen in other organizations, and those things never lead to anything Good.

My membership isn't due to renew anytime soon, but if anyone from the League is reading this, they may rest assured that its renewal will depend on how this is resolved and how the League addresses the issue of this new Code of Conduct and how it should be changed to return transparency to the Board's decision making process. Tada, you just created something akin to a single issue voter. Congratulations.

The League needs to remember that it is made up of radio amateurs. Radio Amateurs are not created by the League. It exists to serve amateurs and not to rule over them. Amateurs can, have and will continue to leave the League if it continues to act against what we perceive as our interests. Wake up, ARRL.

Monday, November 13, 2017

We need more laws to restrict guns!

(Found on Gun Site's Facebook page)

At least that is the hue and cry after any "large enough" crime in which guns play a part. So Dave Kopel and Joesph Greenlee decided to write an opinion piece for The Hill where they took at lot/many/most/all of the laws gun grabbers say we need and listed them for our edification.

The punchline of this is, as any astute gunnie already knows, that all of their demands are already laws, and have been for decades. Kopel and Greenlee play nice and don't call the lying so-and-sos out, but I have no problem doing it. The people who call for these "laws that are already laws" are doing nothing more than pandering to their base in an effort to keep the blood money flowing in after every spree killer plies his bloody trade. They do it because it's their business and it's how they earn their living. They are nothing other than carrion eaters. They no more want these nut jobs stopped than window washers would like to see self-cleaning windows.

The hell with them and their demands.

Monday, November 06, 2017

More on EMP

Yep, been going down this particular rat hole. I haven't looked into it for a while, because it's been my opinion that all the really good information has been locked up by various governments and government-supported groups and that the effort was a waste of my time.

Maybe not quite so much these days.


I've done a small bit of research into Advanced Fusion Systems, and honestly, there isn't much. Some of the staff is on LinkedIn. The company was founded in 2008 or 2009 and apparently has around $6.6 million per year in revenues. It appears that they are still in business.

I can say I give Mr. Birnbach, the speaker in the video, props for being as pissed off as I am about this information being locked up. This information should be available to one and all, given the level of importance of the subject.

As far as the quality, I'm hardly a subject matter expert, but I can say that as far as my knowledge of the subject goes, his explanations and graphs match up. As to the claims he makes in terms of the weaknesses of current EMP-proofing technology, I simply don't know. Ditto for his claims about his company's tech.

Interesting to watch, though.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Why haven't I heard about disasterprepper sooner?

(From the email reflector that must remain nameless)

This guy is great!


I'm using this for an example, because it's the first useful EMP information I've seen that actually has anything resembling science associated with it.

disasterprepper is actually Dr. Arthur T. Bradley, and you can see all his work at, where else, disasterprepper.com. There is a ton of free info and more in-depth stuff you can buy (hey, guy's gotta eat).

My basement TV has a device that can stream YouTube attached. I'm going to be watching/listening to this while I'm catching up to some tedious gun cleaning duties I've been ignoring.

The Anti-FAIL

Well, what a difference a couple of day and some bad weather makes. With the exception of a reported 2,000 people in Los Angles, it seems the big November 4 Antifa Gonna Kick "Fascism"'s Butt didn't quite go off as expected.

As the Mountain Man commented to me this weekend, "Protests require better weather." At least the do when the protestors are perhaps not as dedicated to their cause as they are to George Soros's money.

Nevertheless, I would still counsel keeping an eye on this crowd. If you toss enough money at something or someone, you can eventually buy what you want. Always.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Temper tantrums

The long announced temper tantrum begins tomorrow. Antifa, the mis-named group that is actually nothing more than communists looking for a good time, will be taking to the streets in major cities to "remove the Trump-Pence regime". Careful what you seek, kiddies, what you get as a replacement may not be as friendly to you.

Things don't always work out according to plan.
While the tantrums are supposed to begin on November 4, don't be surprised if they start today. Keep your eyes and ears open. If you find yourself in the neighborhood of one, I'd suggest staying or moving away. I plan on being in a locale that should be quite safe from such foolishness, although I will be prepared just in case, as any good prepper should.

Let's all hope and pray cool heads prevail.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I can add 2 + 2

And come up with bullshit.

Will the last bit of common sense to leave the USA please turn off the lights?

Friday, October 20, 2017

I bet you thought I'd never come back around to this (Putting up a 6m/2m/70cm beam antenna, Part 5)

In actuality, I've been working on this since the last post, but a lot of it has been in small parts that didn't lend themselves to writing about. The ones that did, well, more on those later. I think I can write about them now without ranting. Maybe.

So, after getting the mast up, summer heat intruded. No way I was going to be up on the roof for any amount of time in 90+ degree weather, so that delayed things for a while. Two hurricanes didn't help either. Plus the usual mow the grass, go camping, so on and so forth. The life of the retired gentleman. :-)

5/8" pilot hole
2 5/8" finished hole;
note the blowout
The first thing to be accomplished after the mast was to fabricate some sort of entrance facility for all the various antenna cabling. I wanted one not only for items on the mast, but for the coming wire antennas as well. This required some work, namely a 2 5/8" hole core drilled through the basement wall. Once the location was selected and triple-checked for appropriateness, this was accomplished in two steps. First, a 5/8" hole was drilled through the wall. This gives the larger bit's pilot bit a path to follow and helps keep it straight. I picked this tip up from an electrician. Illustrative pictures on the left, click to get the super-sized versions.

On the 2 5/8 hole, you'll see the blowout around the hole. This is what happens when the bit pushes through at the end of drilling a hole in masonry. I have yet to figure out how to stop it, only how to minimize it and patch it after the fact. This one is the best I've ever managed for a hole this size. To do this, you have to learn to feel when the bit is about ready to go through and then back off the pressure you're exerting on the rotary hammer, allowing it to just barely drill through.

The reason for a 2 5/8 hole is so that the fitting end of a 2" fitting would fit through. I'm using 2" PVC Schedule 40 conduit, and normally you would make a 2 1/2" hole, but I wanted this to fit snugly to the side of the house.

Entrance Facility
That's a 2" PVC weatherhead, the sort of thing you normally see for an incoming power line. I chose it using the logic that if it was good enough to handle power lines in a weatherproof fashion, it would be good enough for antenna lines. Obviously time will tell if my logic is correct.

The entire set up is around 40" tall. That gets it up to a nice height to work at.

Antop UFO TV Antenna
Next up was the first antenna. You may recall that we became "cord cutters" some time ago, ditching our over-priced and under-utilized cable TV for Amazon Prime, Netflix and Sling. I had promised Mrs. Freeholder, the Carolina Panthers fan, an antenna so she could watch her football games without my having to pay for them.  Behold the TV antenna. Behold also the Channel Master rotor, which has nothing to do with the TV antenna. I'll come back to it. The antenna is an Antop UFO Smartpass Amplified HDTV antenna, suitable for outdoor, attic or RV use. You can buy it on Amazon for $90. It's lightweight, seems to be well-constructed within reason, and goes up easily. We're in a good signal area, it's 20' or so above ground and we're getting 50+ channels (with a lot of duplicates), some of those from 90-ish miles out. It's simple to wire in. Mine goes to an 8-way powered CATV splitter that feeds the house cable distribution network. Yes, I'm a geek. My house has a CATV distribution network.

The Channel Master rotor also came from Amazon, and it was for this. That is a Cushcraft A627013S 6M/2M/70cm Multi-Band Beam Antenna that I bought from DX Engineering. A better ham radio vendor than DX Engineering I don't know of. A bigger piece of crap than the Cushcraft A627013S I've not seen lately.


I'll keep the explanation simple, just to avoid a pages long rant. Mis-drilled, mis-aligned and missing element mounting holes in the beam. Missing parts. Elements cut shorter than spec. Inadequate instructions. A 24+ hour lag time on tech support questions. An element mounting system designed by a drunken first semester engineering student. Unbalanced weight-wise to the point of stressing the rotor; this last from an antenna designed to mount on standard TV mast and use a standard TV rotor.

Those are my big complaints. I won't bother with the small stuff.

Credit where it is due, DX Engineering really stepped up and helped sort out a lot of this. What they couldn't, MFJ did, although I got the vibe that they were doing so a bit grudgingly.

In the process of assembly, I had the antenna partially assembled and then disassembled 5 times as I found problems and corrected them. Once assembled, I had to partially disassemble it twice more on the roof to correct the weight distribution issues. Once finally mounted in the rotor, I spent several hours trying to true up the elements, getting the 70cm/2M elements as vertical as I could and the 6M elements horizontal. They're close. The 6M side is giving me an SWR of 1.5 in the center of the SSB part of the band, which is what I tuned everything for. I don't know about the 70cm/2M; I'm going to have to find a meter to borrow to test those.

Cushcraft is owned by MFJ, who gets no link love from me. If it is humanly possible, I will never buy another of their products. I've seen it said that when you buy one of their products you need to remember it's more of a good starting point. If this is what was meant, I'm calling BS.

Here's a picture of what I hope is the finished product, taken in the dying light of day yesterday.

Finally finished?
As you can see, it's still missing feed lines. I'm going to use DX Engineering's LMR-400MAX line. I don't run an amplifier, so I want to send as much power as power as possible to the antenna and not waste it in the feed line. Those are ordered, and my email informed me an hour or so ago that they have shipped. They'll get installed next week, weather permitting.

After that, I'll get on the air and see if I've managed to make a silk purse from a sow's ear.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Desperation is the mother of all spam

Now I'm getting Bitcoin spam on posts that are weeks or months old. The bots are getting desperate if they're pitching Bitcoin here.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

This ought to light off a few

(Via Kim DuToit at Splendid Isolation)

I'm at the age where ladies of quality began being very difficult to come by. Seriously. I've watched guys a decade, perhaps less, younger than I have no end of issues trying to find a good woman to settle down with. They've failed, often repeatedly.

In all fairness, I will also say I've heard the same complaint from women involving quality men. But for this post, we're looking at this from the male perspective.

This seems to coincide with the rise of militant feminism. While I have no issue with women being treated equally in areas such as pay and so on, I differentiate that from the militant brand of feminism which seems to me to be nothing more than an excuse to scream "Down with the patriarchy!" at the top of their lungs while allowing their physical appearance to go to hell, all while not shaving things that their mothers all shaved and ignoring the basic rules of personal hygiene.

This, in turn, has led to something that I don't think anyone would have predicted--the rise of the slut. These are the women who have no understanding of the concept of "morals" and who shave things their grandmothers would have never thought of shaving, all while piercing and tattooing themselves more than the average Amazonian tribe. At least most of them bathe on a regular basis.

There are, however, a fair number of young men and women out there who, often for reasons having nothing to do with what they are exposed to at home, what I would call "normal". They have the usual urges and while their morals would be wholly out of place in the 1940s, in the 20-teens they are comparatively straight-laced. They are not interested in the usual "hook-up culture" that I saw on display during my lately concluded employment in higher education. They are interested in something more along the lines of what their grandparents had in the 1940s or 50s.

And that brings us to the JudgyBitch, doing laundry, cooking and a few other thing for her then boyfriend/now husband. Her advice for young proto-ladies on how to be a lady and not a female is a bit raw, politically incorrect in the extreme and totally refreshing. If I were younger and unmarried I'd ask if she had a sister.

If you're a father of the correctly aged young female and you have the right sort of father-daughter relationship, you could do worse than exposing her to this thinking. The lady has got it figured out IMHO.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stop bleeding all over my floor!

(Via Michael Bane on Facebook)

One of the training points that has come up in the last few years is that "If you carry a gun, you should carry a trauma kit." Not a bad idea; I've carried one in my range bag for years, and it's evolved as available equipment has evolved and as my skill level has improved.

I have to admit to being lax and not carrying one in my vehicle, even though there is always a gun in the lock box. Yes, I will do something about that soon. If necessary I can pull most of what I need from the household stock, but I'd really like to do it with new gear.

It's also a great thing to note that our own Federal Government is finally going to waste money on something that is worthwhile for a change--National Stop the Bleeding Day will take place on March 31, 2018. In light of the recent spree killing in Las Vegas, you can't overstate how important it would have been if a lot of the concert goers had been toting a little trauma training along with them.

If you feel the urge to get training before hand, you can visit www.bleedingcontrol.org/, or try out Dark Angel Medical, also linked on the left. I'll try to find some more trainers to add; perhaps as a new category. You can also check out the "5 Minute Prepping" tag, there are a couple of posts there that fit this subject.

According to the Feds, 20% of trauma victims could be saved if they had gotten their bleeding controlled quickly. Don't be one of that 20%, don't let one of your family or a friend be one of it. Get trained.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chainsaw, use of

(Via SurvivalBlog)

YouTube, even though it's owned by Google and is in the middle of some sort of politically motivated purge, is still a source of much how-to goodness such as this.


 That's part one, there is a Part 2 and a lot more useful videos as well.

Word from Puerto Rico

I need to have the time to read my own blogroll more often. Over at cdr salamander's joint, there is an excellent article on the emergency response to the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. This is from October 2, so it's out of date in terms of news. What isn't out of date is the information on what a worst-case natural disaster scenario looks like. Read, consider and re-evaluate your preps in light of the information. I will be.

Not helping

Seth Smith, the owner and operator of Aynor Armory Firearms Research and Manufacturing in Aynor, SC, is not helping gunnies out.

Speaking to a local news outlet on the subject of bumpfire stocks, he's quoted as saying “It’s definitely not something that needs to be in anybody’s hands."

While he may be correct on some of his technical pronouncements on the subject, we need to present a unified front in the face of our enemy, who has already taken statements made within the gun community on the subject of bumpfire stocks and ran with them.

This isn't the time for grabbing some free publicity, political games, reaching out or any of the rest of it. Right now, we have to knock the gun grabbers flat. After that, once emotions have cooled, maybe then there can be some talk about the subject. But right now, let's all tend carefully to what we put out there.

In which a liberal writer

Learns that none of her anti-gun ideas would actually do any good in the real world.

I have to give credit where credit is due to author Leah Libresco for writing that piece. Far too many who believe as she does would have simply kept quiet after discovering those facts, or may have simply discarded them and written what they started to write anyway. While she and I will never see eye-to-eye on the issue of guns, at least she has the intellectual honesty to admit the facts didn't support her thesis.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I must haz hit the Big Times

Like most people who blog, I probably attract one comment per hundred plus readers. So I'm thrilled to find 6 comments awaiting moderation.

All spam. I can make my girlfriend com crawling back to me (Sorry, I'm married, no time for a girlfriend), I can make a certain body part grow or be harder (OK, this has possibilities if true) or I can increase my Google rankings (Don't give a flip).

You readers are going to have to start finding something to say, even if it's just "You suck!" This spam is depressingly low quality. What ever happened to the funny 419 messages?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Give 'em an inch

And Diane Feinstein will take every firearm accessory she can ban. This is yet another example why there is no way that gunnies can actually cut a deal with gun grabbers.

Here's my deal. Offer an amendment to the Hearing Protection Act that bans bumpfire stock by name and clear description. I'll bet we can get that passed for you.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Yo! Lefties! Read up if you want a clue why we're not going to compromise on guns.

At the Federalist,  Meredith Dake-O'Connor write a very nice, civil piece titled "6 Reasons Your Right-Wing Friend Isn’t Coming To Your Side On Gun Control".

She hits the nail on the head on every one of them. In the gunniesphere, we have thoroughly hashed out every one of these, so no need to go over them in detail, although I will say the article is worth the time to read, as she does a good job pulling together the talking points. You might want to bookmark it for future reference.

While I still believe our side needs to come up with at least one well thought-out proposal that we can live with that would help with the spree killer thing, she is quite right when she says we aren't coming to their side. The NRA is taking increasing heat over their poorly considered endorsement of a bump fire stock ban, and it's only going to get worse. Sorry Wayne and Chris, but calling it as I see it. I'm a Benefactor Member and You. Have. Pissed. Me. Off. I threw two fundraising items from the NRA and the ILA unopened into the recycling bin yesterday, and that is going to keep happening until you screw your heads back out of your asses. I won't resign my membership like some foolishly do, but I won't fund your stupidity either. You can sit in Fairfax and...whatever.

I do believe, however, that Meredith missed a few reasons that we won't be coming to the Lefties side on gun control, and I'd like to toss them out here.

Reason #7: You insist on personally insulting us and threatening us with theft and bodily harm. While this is in part contained in some of the earlier reasons, it needs to be pulled out as a stand alone. You want to take our property--our guns, ammo and accessories--by force and without compensation. You threaten to do this by force, and cowardly enough, by using the coercive force of government. You don't even have the minimal guts of the Antifa, who will at least pick up a stick and fight for themselves. You are, in effect, making the case for the Second Amendment that was the very reason the Founding Fathers had for writing it into the Constitution in the first place. Not smart.

Reason #8: Hypocrisy: While there are many "little people" who would like us to give up our guns, the loudest voices come from elected officials and famous people who have the wherewithal to have either state-funded or private armed security to protect them. Yet they would have us be denied the most effective form of self-defense that exists. That doesn't sit well with most of us.

Reason #9: Because Fuck You. Yes, Fuck You. And you, and you and you, and particularly you. Because we see through you. We know that "gun control" itself is just "a good first step." For you, the removal of our gun rights is simply part of a greater project in which you self-appointed smarter-than-everyone-else-in-the-room types will tell all of us how to live, because we're too damn dumb to figure it our ourselves. Well, Fuck You. We know what you're up to. We've seen this movie before. We're not going to get in the box cars quietly. We won't answer that 3 AM knock on the door bare-handed. We will not be sent to re-education camps without a fight.

Yeah, I'm not a civil as Ms. Meredith Dake-O'Connor. I'm a ticked off old fart who is over the BS. As so many others have said, we had a conversation on guns, and you lost the debate. Get off my lawn.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Dear NRA

This was most definitely not what I had in mind when I said "At some point, we gunnies are going to have to come up with some workable ideas to help reduce the number of these acts." This is nothing more than acting like the old NRA that we know and detest. And an extra swat on the behind for bringing up national reciprocity in the same press release. If it's poor form for the gun grabbers, it's poor form for you. Bad NRA/NRA-ILA, no contributions for a while.

My state's bulldog organization, however, probably isn't taking the right track either. Of course, this is just my opinion, YMMV.

I still don't have a fully fleshed-out proposal to offer that I think would actually help. If we're going to be stuck with the NICS system, I'd like to see it ran well, with all states supplying all the necessary information on a timely basis. I'd also like to see it available to all classes of FFL, and if we could figure out a workable way, to everyone, so that face-to-face sales could be checked. I'd also want to know that the use records really, really are provably destroyed at the end of the allowable retention limits. That would at least give everyone a way to ensure they aren't selling to a prohibited person and would shut up all the crap about the alleged gun show loophole.

I suspect I'll see world peace before I see that. Besides, from all available information, it wouldn't have prevented the Las Vegas shooter from holding his little death party.

It's unfortunately quite likely there is nothing we can do, and that the possibility of these attacks are simply part and parcel of living in a relatively free and open society. I would wish it wasn't so, but you can't wish away reality.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Spree Killing, Part n

As Joel at The Ultimate Answer to Kings so elegantly put it, “Oh, hell. Here we go again.”

That's not to belittle the deaths or the suffering. Those are very, very real. For what pathetically little it's worth, I'm sorry this happened.

For me, it's to belittle all the "Our thoughts and prayers" messages, especially the ones from politicians and stars who have no involvement in this whatsoever but who just want to virtue signal. It's to belittle all the gun grabbers who couldn't even wait a decent 15 minutes before they started dancing in the blood. It's to belittle all the well-meaning nincompoops on our side trying to find some way to pin this on the Democrats, psychotropic drugs or Moms Against Something Or Other. It's to belittle the media idiots who feel that it's their God-given right and duty to comment on things that they know less than nothing about. It's to belittle all those idiots who think another law, or fifty or a hundred, will solve the problem. It's to belittle fools who think that any attempt to even consider doing something about the problem is an intolerable infringement on the Second Amendment. It's to belittle the fools that think we need to do away with the Second Amendment. It's to belittle the media who eggs on the next killer with their wall-to-wall coverage.

In short, it's to belittle all the same crap we hear every time some sick, warped individual decides go out and try for a new High Score.

At some point, we gunnies are going to have to come up with some workable ideas to help reduce the number of these acts. Yes, I understand how few in number they are and that firearms deaths are trending down. No, I don't know what those ideas might be, although I have a couple of not even half-baked ideas. But as a community we had better figure it out and soon, before we have something we don't want shoved down our throats. The voting public will eventually perceive this as a problem. Perception is reality and you'd better deal with that reality before it deals with you.

We won Sandy Hook, and we'll probably win this one, but how many more such victories can we stand?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

So this is where the 7 day pain pill business is coming from

(Via the Drudge Report)

It seems our own government is going back to a failed idea from yesteryear--we're going to restrict pain meds that work for people who actually need them because other people abuse them. This, ladies and gentlemen is a crock of horse shit. It smack of what we gunnies rail about after every mass shooting when they want to restrict the gun rights of law abiding citizens because a criminal committed crimes with a gun.

Oh, but Mr. Freeholder, they're going to come up with new and non addictive pain meds. It says so right there in the article! Yeah, and that's what  Oxycontin was supposed to be, Sparky. Here's the down low on pain meds that help people who have the serious, intractable type of pain: They're all addictive. Based on the little pharmacological knowledge I picked up many years ago, I seriously doubt you can come up with an effective pain med for that level of pain that won't be addictive.

There are other, non-pharmacological methods than can give folks relief, but they don't work for everyone. The drugs work for almost everyone, but if you keep someone on them long enough, they become addicted to them.

You know what? I don't have a problem with that. If the choice is a lifetime of debilitating pain or relief but being hooked on the drug that gives me the relief, hand over the pills. I've seen people who have committed suicide because they couldn't stand the pain any longer and they couldn't get relief any way other than a bullet through their head. Three times I've seen this, and it was unnecessary, because the drugs were there to help them. But OMG, we might make them an addict!

I'm pretty damn sure one of my best friends' wife would like to have her brother and her sister back. I'm also pretty damn sure one of my old girlfriends' would like to have her brother back. Three lives lost because they were denied effective relief from constant pain.

Prepare to return to the good old days of endless suffering because the effective pain meds are going to be off limits. Prepare to see people self-medicating. Prepare to see people resorting to the black market, otherwise known as street drugs. Prepare for the suicides. Prepare to see all the unintended but totally predictable consequences we saw the last time we went down this lunatic lane.

Donald Trump, I voted for you, but there are times you're as stupid a fucking idiot as has ever sat in the White House. This is one of them. You need to un-ass yourself. Otherwise, the blood will be on your hands.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The de-Googlefication continues

Slowly, step by sometimes painful step, I continue to extract Google from my life.

Today it was about the browser. I've been using Microsoft's Edge browser on my mian laptop, a Window's 10 machine. It works OK, but there are a lot of extensions I used with Chrome that simply don't exist for Edge, which meant Chrome kept hanging around. An old friend of this blog, Jed from Freedomsight, had suggested Opera, Seamonkey or Firefox. Well, for reasons stated in an earlier post, Firefox is out.

I tried Opera last night on a different machine, and it seemed to work quite well, and it also had a lot of the browser extensions I was looking for (or at least similar extensions). However, when I tired it on my main laptop today, it exhibited all sorts of weirdness. The other machine is Windows 7, so that may be the issue. In any event, I need something that runs on both versions of Windows.

So off to Bing. Still getting used to it's quirks, and I don't care for the way they serve their ads, but it isn't Google. TechRepublic has an article on "Five free alternative web browsers for Windows", which sounded worth a look. Number 3 was SRWare Iron.

Iron is a Chromium-based browser, which means it is based on Google code. However, it is based on the open source part of the code, and SRWare has eliminated much of the code Google added in to tie the browser to Google services. Some parts do remain, such as the ability to log into Google for personalizations, but it seems much of the under the hood stuff is gone. From my standpoint, all the extensions I was used to having have been downloaded and work. I can substitute XMarks for Google's bookmarks sync (and more if I want to pay for it, which I well may), but I'll have to sync extensions myself. That is a minor annoyance.

I'm still exploring the differences of this browser. It does seem a bit slower, but since that comes and goes it may be from another cause. It hasn't crashed so far, and I've pretty much abused it. It unfortunately doesn't come in an iOS version, which sucks. SRWare provides a specialized search engine interface which is supposed to neuter your favorite search engine's privacy-offensive features. Still using Bing at the moment, but I'll play around with Google and see who it works.

So if you find yourself in the market for a new browser for whatever reason, give Iron a shot. So far I'm glad I did.

Monday, September 25, 2017

See-through suppressors

(Via Michael Z. Williamson on Facebook)

These are simply too cool. Suppressors with the normal outer shell replaced cast acrylic and filmed with a high-speed camera.


This one comes with bonus footage of the CMP Talladega Range facility. That looks road trip worthy in and of itself.

Who and what do you trust?

For months now we've heard the term "fake news" hurled about. We've also heard that "facts are fungible".

There is a certain amount of truth in both. There is now and has always been fake news, news that is heavily slanted in order to push a certain agenda. There is even the famous story of William Randolph Hearst who replied to a January 1897 cable from correspondent Fredrick Remington which read "Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return." with "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." History shows were we went from there.

Facts are also often in the eye of the beholder. "The winners write the history books." How many history books are being re-written as we discover that events were mis-reported, not reported or outright covered up?

Let's cast all this in terms of the now seemingly discredited "global warming", which has lately been rebranded as "climate change" because the fetishists who were pushing it got tired of memes like this one.

In a number of threads on the late Dr. Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor site a number of very smart folks poked huge holes in the data being used to "prove" global warming. These holes usually revolved around the inaccuracy of the data, which often dated back 100+ years, and was gathered under questionable circumstances using instruments that left more than a little to be desired in the accuracy department.

It also didn't help their case when it was found that current instruments were apparently being sited in such a way as to...let's say skew the numbers. It got worse for them when they were caught outright fudging the numbers.

At any rate, eventually the fetishists decided to rebrand their cause as "climate change," because the covers all the bases. If the climate is getting warmer, "Ermagehrd, it's Climate Change!" If it's getting cooler, "Ermagehrd, it's Climate Change!"

Even though I don't agree with the hysteria this crowd is trying to gin up (Hey, you gotta justify your funding somehow), I do agree that climate changes. Eventually. I'll never see it, and I doubt my great-great-great-great grandkids will, but it will change over time. Sea levels will go up, sea levels will go down. Average temp will go up, average temp will go down. So on and so forth. But I don't think that it's something we need to lose our minds about.

That's why this ticks me off.

Hurricane Irma was no doubt a stone bitch. People died and a lot of damage was done. You don't have to exaggerate in order for people to get it. Watch the freaking news. Look at Barbuda for an example. But if what this data shows is correct, then we are outright being lied to about the seriousness of the storm in the context of what happened in the US. By the time it hit Naples, the data and the evidence on the ground says it was a much less dangerous storm than it had been, perhaps as low as a Category 1 hurricane. As you can see in the short video below, there is a fair of difference between a Category 1 hurricane and a Category 3.



If you watch the videos from Naples, you'll see a lot of flooding, but you won't see the level of damage that you should see with a Category 3 hurricane. Don't trust me, go look on YouTube. I have. Even in the Keys, the damage appears to be mostly from flooding. Wind-related damage isn't nearly as bad as a Category 4 hit, which they are said to have sustained, would indicate. Well-built structures fail completely in Category 4 hurricanes. How many mobile homes are still standing in some of those pictures?

So, are we being lied to by our government (yet again)? If so, why? Or is it the weather and news industries, desperate to have the storm live up to the hype? If we were lied to, someone should be held responsible. The fact that the storm died down before it hit the US is something we should be rejoicing in, not hiding because if failed to meet the needs of someone's agenda.

Yes, I am getting very conspiratorially minded these days.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Our judgement is better than your doctor's

I'm not a big fan of The War On (Some) Drugs. The crimes committed in its name are legion. But something that is often overlooked are the non-crimes, the things that are done by those who are attempting to avoid being caught up in one of the multitudinous snares of the law or, worse yet, the acts of the virtue signalers.

That last one peeves the crap out of me. The latest and so far most egregious case I've seen is this crap from the CVS drug store chain, whose CVS Health CEO is the mouthpiece for their corporate decision that they know better than your doctor just how much pain meds you need.

“As America’s front door to health care with a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health. “Today we are announcing an expansion of our enterprise initiatives to fight the opioid abuse epidemic that leverages CVS Pharmacy’s national presence with the capabilities of CVS Caremark, which manages medications for nearly 90 million plan members.”

To support this goal, CVS Caremark will roll out an enhanced opioid utilization management approach for all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients as of February 1, 2018 unless the client chooses to opt out. This program will include limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions for patients who are new to therapy; limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid; and requiring the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed.


The big problem with this isn't for CVS customers, who can presumably got to another drug store. It's for those whose healthcare insurance has farmed out the prescription plan portion of the insurance to CVS Caremark. Caremark will simply refuse coverage for prescriptions that runs for too long, or where the dosage is too high or where an extended-release drug is prescribed. Caremark, in effect, has decided that they are smarter than your doctor and that they know better than your doc, who has actually seen you in person and evaluated your situation, how your pain should be treated.

Yes, Virginia, there is an opioid drug crisis in America. I just returned from West Virginia, which can be said to be ground zero for it. I've seen the damage it does. I've also seen the unintended consequences of the crackdown on prescription opioid abuse, which is a switchover to heroin and a spike in HIV infections. So far, no one seems to care much about that. I guess because those people are now criminals and are no longer sympathetic, like the poor are. No, I don't know what the solution is. Yeah, treatment and such. Maybe a government that doesn't try to destroy your livelihood would be a good thing. Hope that you and your kids actually have a future in the place you love wouldn't hurt.

If there is any justice in the world the jackasses like CVS Caremark and their virtue signaling CEO and presumably board of directors will find themselves in serious, intractable physical pain someday, and denied the effective meds to deal with it.

Because denying people with a legitimate need is always the best way to deal with the illegal use of a legal product.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

There are days when something slaps you in the face

As I age, I have more and more experiences where I feel like something has slapped me in the face. Sometimes it's unpleasant, like the loss of a treasured possession to wear, breakage or theft. Others, it's more like those little taps you see someone do in an old movie when they're trying to bring someone who has passed out back to sensibility.

A good while back, you may remember I talked about going back to old-fashioned shaving with a safety razor. I wish I was still steady enough to use a straight razor, but the migraines have stolen a number of things from me, that level of steadiness of hand among them. At any rate, being a prepper, I had a stash of canned shaving crème, and I wasn't about to waste the stuff, so I've been slowly using it up over time.

I'm just about out. It's time to take the next step--back to a mug, brush and proper shaving soap. Off to Amazon. And then a couple of the add-ins I use to track prices zoom me off to eBay instead, because I can get the same nice badger hair brush there for a few bucks less. Color me frugal. I'm retired; the money doesn't come in the same quantities any more.

In all truth, I should always have been so careful. I was once I found the tools, but I should have looked for them sooner. It's worth keeping Chrome around to use Honey and Wikibuy. You can get Honey as a Firefox add-in I see when looking up the link for them. Options are good.

At any rate, I also need a mug. I guess I could just use a mug that's sitting around the house, but there are also proper shaving mugs that fit shaving soap pucks. So I looked on Amazon and saw nothing I liked. I tried eBay, and found a far wider selection, including a lot of "vintage" ones, some inexpensive and some at unholy prices.

Then I was slapped in the face. Fortunately it was just the picture of a shaving mug and not the mug itself. But it was a blast from the far past, call it high school. When I was in high school, I was a total dork. Utter and complete. One of the many things that branded me a dork was a penchant for old ways. I carried a pocket watch for one thing. On a chain. And although people didn't know it, I shaved with a straight razor and shaving soap that lived in a mug. I couldn't find an old mug, so I bought a new one. It was an Old Spice mug, with the Cutty Sark on it. I used an old brush my dad had around for some reason or another.

I told you I was a dork.

So there I am, going through the mug shots, and there are some Old Spice mugs. They're different from the one I had, and I kept going, looking for an old one that spoke to me. I found an old one that spoke to me. One exactly like the one I had, with a brush exactly like the one I used--a red and white Erskine brush. To make things even weirder, it's local, about 30 miles away. It even comes with a note from the owner. Yes, it's on the way.

I know my dad sold my old one in a yard sale. So what are the odds that this one is my old one? I'd say stupidly high. They must have made the things by the railroad car load, even back in the 70s.

But still that picture slapped me lightly in the face, and said "See here, boy. You may have been a dork, but don't be an idiot."

I'm learning to pay attention to slaps in the face and listen to quiet little voices in the night.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A quiet voice

Last week, I went to West Virginia for the unhappy duty of attending a family funeral. My family on both sides are Baptists and have been for generations. They have attended mostly smaller, more fundamental and evangelical Baptist churches. I was raised in a larger but still pretty fundamental Baptist church, so I'm steeped in it from birth.

I will also note that I stopped going to church regularly as a teenager. It isn't that I don't believe, but that version of church simply didn't speak to me then. It doesn't exactly speak to me now, but it does come a lot closer than it did. I've seen a lot more of life and I question a lot of things I once was sure of.

At any rate, the funeral was for a cousin's wife, so this was family by marriage. Still, this is West Virginia and her family is much like mine. Also, in West Virginia, things like funerals are often done differently than they are in more...metropolitan areas. Often, especially when one is "up in years", the visitation, funeral and burial are held together on the same day. My cousin's wife was at the low end of the up in years scale, but her family is old WV, and they work for a living. No life on public handouts and no pills and booze in this bunch. So for the sake of frugality in both cost and time, her services were set for one day. Family visitation at 10, friends from 11 to 1, funeral at 1 and burial to follow at the family cemetery in the next county over. (We'll talk about the burial another time, because it's a story in itself.)

She was from a family of 7 brothers and sisters, and they had followed the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply. I'm not sure how many of their kids there were. There was no way to count grandkids, because they moved too fast. She also had plenty of friends, including those who had cared for her in the final months when her health declined. They all showed up for the service. I should draw such a crowd at my funeral.

The preacher (that's what we call them) was about her age, and had known all of them since they had all grown up as kids. He had been pastor to many of them over the years. I could tell he took this hard. This funeral was as rough on him as it was on any of us, and rougher than it was for many. But he was going to do his duty to a member of his flock.

Now, at any sort of a Baptist event, there is going to be an altar call--you never miss an opportunity to save a soul. Even at a funeral, you're going to have one. I remember the first family funeral Mrs. Freeholder, who was raised as a proper Methodist, attended. Shocked is a bit of an understatement.

She would have passed out cold at this one. The preacher was obviously moved in a way that you rarely see in a minister at a funeral. Rather than speak of the dearly departed's life, which he knew we all knew in detail, he decided to speak about hope, and how one found hope in a situation like this. He spoke of the Word and the Promise of God and how the departed was surely in Heaven, and that we could find our hope by being saved and knowing that we would join our family and friends there in due course.

I'm not sure, but it may have been the longest alter call at a funeral in history. It was definitely the longest one I've ever experienced. It didn't seem in the least out of place.

One thing he said, though, has been resonating in my head. I've always said that I have the "soul of an engineer", and that I have a difficult time believing in things I can't see, can't quantify, can't measure. Some years back, someone heard me say that, and asked if I believed in mathematics. Well obviously that's a "yes". So they hit me with set theory. Right down there to the left is what he nailed me with.

Pretty simplistic, but also damn hard to argue with. Enough to turn someone who thought of himself as "agnostic leaning atheist" into "What just happened to my world view?" I've always held that there were many things that we couldn't explain simply because we didn't know enough to understand them. Asimov said that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," which is, in its on way, another version of the same sentiment. He didn't know this about me. He simply drew this on a napkin and laid it in front of me.

I can remember hearing, Sunday after Sunday, that you had to take the existence of God on faith. You couldn't prove it. You had to make that leap. I just never was able to make it.

After seeing that diagram, I always hoped that God was going to give me some sort of unmistakable sign, some sort of flashing billboard on the highway of my life that even someone as dense as I can be couldn't miss or misinterpret. I still had to have my proof. "Lord, send me a sign!"

But that thing the preacher said is resonating in my head. "God's not going to shout it to you. You have to be quiet, be still, like you're out hunting. At night, after you go to bed but before you go to sleep, you need to be still, and listen for that quiet voice in the silence. Because God doesn't shout."

"He whispers."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

So yeah, I've been laying low

I've been busy. I don't even remember if I've noted that the New Employer and I have parted ways (there's a long story for another time), but I've been taking advantage of the freedom and the fall-like weather to catch up on things that I've let slip around here. It's amazing how anything that steals the first few hours of the day from you hammers your productivity for the remainder of the day. That's not something that I ever noticed up until now, because it was always "Into work and hit it hard." A part-time job that stole those first precious hours was worse for my non-work productivity than a full-time job ever was. I would get home at 1 or so, grab a bite and then the next thing I knew, it was supper time and I'd accomplished exactly squat.

I've accumulated some tabs that all deserve better than a tab-clearing post, and they are going to get it, even if it takes some time to work through the backlog. I've also had a couple of experiences that deserve the same. You won't get them in a specific order other than how I decide to write them.

As is the nature of blogs, this post will get pushed down by those posts, so I'm going to throw it up and then start writing the next one, which I'll schedule for posting. I think the thing I've recently learned about productivity is about as important as any of the others posts, so it deserves it's time in the sun.

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.