Friday, June 19, 2015

Thinking ahead

Looking for something else, I ran across these on Amazon.  Cheap enough, and it couldn't hurt to have a few handy against need.

Don't forget the necessary lag bolts to bolt them into the king studs, some good 2x4s and the appropriate tools for installation.

The things we may need in the coming days.  Pretty damn depressing.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The US Government would appreciate it if you took a little more care in expressing yourself on the Internet

(Via Ars Technica)

Because they apparently can't tell a hyperbole from a true threat.  At least Popehat says so.

I'm just waiting for the lights in New York to go off.  That's how I'll know Ayn Rand was actually a time traveler come back to warn us, and we were just too damn stupid to listen.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Attention North Carolina Drivers

The Commandant of the NC Highway Patrol has apparently been ordered to boost state revenue.  This time, it's going to be at the expense of anyone who decides that safety is important and pulls off the side of the road rather than driving sleepy.

It's perfectly safe to pull off the side of many on and off ramps.  Hell, those near my house have, in effect, graveled parking lots apparently built for the purpose.  In the same vein, no one is causing anyone grief by parking in a rest area for a few hours overnight to grab a few zzzzs.  Better to do that than drive sleepy and risk an accident.

Sheer effing genius.  Col. Bill Grey, when the first person dies because of this, the blood is on your hands.  And it will never, ever wash off.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

D-Day + 71 years

I wan't going to post anything this year.  It wound up being a shitty week, and besides, I figure that it's all been said before.  Looking at some pictures of that momentous day 71 years ago, I changed my mind.

These are men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, wounded while storming Omaha Beach, waiting by the chalk cliffs for evacuation to a field hospital for treatment on June 6, 1944.  They were some of the lucky ones--they lived through the bloody hell of Omaha.

Many of their comrades didn't.

To all those who fought, we owe our greatest gratitude.  We should always remember the sacrifice that these young men made on a cold, crappy day in June of 1944.

My shitty week doesn't really count in the great scheme of things, now does it?

What these guys say

In one simple article, John Mauldin and Stephen Moore make more economic sense than every Presidential candidate in my lifetime.

Sorry, I don't think either of them would consider running for the office.  They're busy doing something that's actually useful.  You know, making money.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A long, rambling sort of review of Cool Tools (book and website)

This is going to be different than probably any review you've ever read, if it's even a review at all.  It actually starts in the mid-70s.  Seriously.

As a teenager, I was a serious misfit.  These days, kids like I was then show up at school with a gun and pockets full of ammo because some idiot shrink thought it would be a great idea to pump them full of psychotropic drugs.  In the 70s, we had to figure out how to fit in, make some friends and all that other stuff without the benefit of drugs (well, legal ones, at least).

My problems were that I was way smarter than most kids, wore glasses, and while I was a competent athlete I wasn't interested in being one.  Couple that with living on the wrong side of town, social awkwardness that verged on Aspergers and a total lack of clue what to do about any of it, and I was one miserable wet puppy.

So where does a nerdly, pretty much friendless dork like me spend his spare time?  Yep, the public library.  That's me, taking it to new heights of misfitness.  About the only thing I didn't do was wear stripes with checks.

In the library, I was a voracious reader.  I was fast and had good comprehension to boot.  It was nothing for me to go through several hundred pages a day.  Why not--it isn't like I had a social life.  So I immersed myself in books.  If it interested me, I read everything our middling small city's library had to offer on the subject.

One day I ran across something new--The Whole Earth Catalog.  And what a catalog it was.  "access to tools" it said on the cover, and they weren't kidding.  They covered the tools most people thought of tools, like hammers, saws and such, but also tools for you mind, tools for working with information, tools for building communities--tools for just about anything you could think of and a shitload of things I'd never thought of or heard about.

This led me to a lot more reading as I could find the books the referenced.  My outlook on the world changed, changed and changed again.  I actually made a couple of friends because of what I was reading.  I learned how I could relate to the world, and why I should.  It isn't a stretch at all to say that the Whole Earth Catalog changed my life in some ways.

Not that I agreed with all of it, and I still don't.  The political outlook of many of the people who worked on the catalog is not mine, but that's OK.  These people seemed laid back enough that, if we met in person, I think we could have agreed to disagree and do so amicably.  I took what I needed, what I wanted, and left the rest.  I wasn't harmed by being exposed to Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" for example, instead I knew what I was seeing when I saw it used.  Better yet, I knew just how to fight back--yes, the Catalog had a book that covered that as well.

At any rate, over the years the things I had been exposed to kept coming back to me, affecting my path through life in ways that I only now can look back and see clearly.  The Catalog wasn't the only book that did that; there were many.  But it is the one that stands out in my mind.  It's one of the ones that still sits on the bookshelves behind me now.  And I still pick it up once and a while and page through it, and that 40 year old book still has things to show me.

You need to know all that backstory so you will know why I am so enthusiastic about finding Cool Tools.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to the Freakonomics podcast and there is an interview with Kevin Kelly.  The name felt familiar but I couldn't place it.  Then, as they're going over his background, his connection with the Whole Earth Catalog comes out, I kind of freak out and pause the podcast.  I want to be able to listen to this with my full attention, not as semi-background noise while driving to work.  I'm glad I did.

Besides all the other stuff you get from listening, you find out that Kevin Kelly and some other like-minded folks run a web site, Cool Tools.  I've linked as a blog, seeing as how there's fresh content there more often than I manage it here these days.  (There's lots more over there; you should explore.  Kelly is an interesting guy.)

The idea behind Cool Tools is simple, and I'll quote it here.

Cool tools really work. A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We only post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted.

There is somewhat more to it than that, and Kelly goes into it in the Freakonomics interview.  Cool Tools wants interviews not just from someone who really likes this particular hammer, but who has used many hammers, who is familiar with hammers and knows what makes a hammer good or bad.  Someone who is not necessarily an expert in the hammer field, but someone who knows more about hammers than the average person.

This makes for an eclectic site, with interviews ranging from apps for your iPhone to clothing.  Since finding it, before making a purchase of something that I'm unfamiliar with, such as a recently purchased OBD2 code scanner, I check Cool Tools to see if there is any advice to be had.  It's already influenced several purchases.

The reviews are short, well written (well edited, perhaps?) and to the point.  All have pictures, some have video and even the ones for things I have no interest in (Transformer Pencil Case, anyone?) are still an interesting read.  Each will come with related reviews at the bottom of the page which can lead you to other products that might fit your current need or kindle a new need.  All reviews come with a link to a source for the Cool Tool in question.

The site has other useful features.  One is "Ask Cool Tools", which is exactly what it sounds like--a place where the reader can ask for a suggestion for a tool and have other readers offer suggestions.

Another is "The Daily Rule of Thumb".  Every day, you get a new rule of thumb on some subject.  It may or may not be useful, but it's always interesting.

There is also a link on the site where you may purchase the other subject of this review, the book "Cool Tools:  A Catalog of Possibilities".  Yes, after listening to the interview, I bought a copy.  For me, it was like a walk down an old familiar path that I hadn't walked in many years.  The trees are bigger, and I don't remember that rock, but it is definitely an homage to The Whole Earth Catalog.  The organization is different, and some subjects are handled far differently (for example, there were no personal computers when the original Whole Earth was published), but it has that familiar feel to it.  I didn't read it cover to cover, but I did read the majority of it, and no page was left without something on it being read.

Yes, as a book, it was obsolete before it was published, but that isn't the point.  The point of this book is to open your eyes and your mind to the things that these tools make possible.  What could you do with a hammer that is less fatiguing to use?  Would the knowledge from this book on organizational dynamics make you more effective at work and maybe get you that promotion you've been wanting?  Did you know that there was a tool that allowed you to repair broken tool handles permanently with bailing wire--no spit required?

Kelly recommends that you give a copy of this book to kids in your life.  I heartily agree with that suggestion.  I hope it bends their minds as much as the original bent mine.  But don't forget to get yourself a copy as well.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Something worth blogging--DC police chief has another face palm moment

The US District Court for the District of Columbia has struck down the "good reason" clause of the current DC concealed carry statute.  The picture with the article is precious.

Dear DC Leaders,

How many times do you need to get hit in the face with a clue by 4 before you wise up and figure out the lay of the land re: the Second Amendment?

The Freeholder

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Twenty Rules To Live By as America Goes to Hell

(Prompted by a post on Frugal Squirrels)

When I started to write this post, it was going to be one of those "When you can't come up with anything of your own, steal something good from someone else" posts, and to some extent it's still that.  This has been one of those periods where nothing has moved me to write.  I've been to no gun shows, I've not had time to go to the range, and despite all the crap in the news, it's all the same old crap.

It has been more or less a typical spring.  At home, it's clean up from the winter and make some plans for the summer's efforts around the house.  Winter was hard on the landscaping; my landscaper says that it was more like a Zone 6 winter than Zone 7 (as I nod and wave hi to the Global Warming cultists).  There are things that died or were badly damaged, plus there are changes that we want to make.  May as well spend the money while it is worth something.

At work, my small, rural, private liberal arts university lurches on, just like all small rural, private liberal arts colleges and universities are, desperately working to find a new niche for itself, shedding old programs and adding new ones, hoping to find relevance before it becomes another Sweet Briar College.  I'm putting a lot of time and effort into my job as a part of the team making the transition, since I'm not all that confident of my ability to retire with my current resources.

Hell, I'm not sure that there will be such a thing as the traditional retirement when I get there.  I'm not betting on it.  My plan for retirement includes such things as large-scale gardening and a small business of some sort to generate some income.  I'm still trying to figure out what the business will be.  Since I work with computers and technology, you might think that would be my obvious choice, but by the time I hang up my keyboard and mouse I will have been doing that for over 30 years--I'd like to do something else.  Besides, there are a zillion one-man-band computer fix-it operations, and most of them are starving.

At any rate, I guess you could say I'm doing what we're all doing.  I'm here, watching the show that is going on around me, and wondering where it is all going to wind up.  I'm not so sure that the world in general or America in specific is "going to Hell".  Historically, there have been other periods of great change, and most of those caught up in them have been just as scared/bewildered/angry/lost/etc. as we are now.  The fact of it is that the world is not going to end.  It's just going to change, and change a lot.  The world our grandchildren live in is going to be very different from ours.  The question is "Different how?"  The problem is we don't know, and that scares us.  We hope for Star Trek and we're afraid it will be Mad Max.  Given that we don't have a crystal ball to tell us how things will come out, we're led to all those emotions I noted a few sentences ago.  It's human nature when confronted by change to feel that way, and when confronted by change on the epic scale we're facing, it's a wonder we all don't lose it and start running in circles, squalking like Chicken Little.

Well, there are a lot of people running in circles and squalking, and much to their detriment.  That is not how you get prepped.  Our job is to not become one of the squalkers.  How to do so?  One way is to develop some rules, guidelines to organize your life by.  Those of us who are preppers have been doing so for a long time.  It's kind of surprising no one has actually written them down.

The boys at The Deth Guild (and there is a web site I'm going to have to troll through later) apparently had some time and alcohol on there hands, did so and came up with Twenty Rules To Live By as America Goes to Hell.  Here they are:
    1. Be as self sufficient as possible without endangering folks or making life unnecessarily miserable.
    2. Avoid crowds. Crowds are magnets for all manner of trouble.
    3. Build a cushion – then one can choose when and where to interact with others.
    4. Plan first, consider carefully, adjust and only then do.
    5. Have a contingency plan.
    6. Create a backup for the contingency plan.
    7. Always have reserves in a different venue. Always.
    8. Practice regularly with everything you might one day depend on.
    9. A person can know a lot – but can’t master everything. They’ll need tribe to cover the gaps.
    10. Do not bring a knife to a gun fight.
    11. Never shoot a threat in the face when you can shoot it in the back. From 500 yards away.
    12. In a life or death struggle, never employ half measures.
    13. There is no shame in fleeing danger.
    14. Even in the worst of times, humans covet trinkets, toiletries, cosmetics and entertainment.
    15. The constabulary is not your friend. Never involve them in a situation willingly.
    16. Always have a reasonable lie and supporting evidence for anything you’re getting up to.
    17. Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice the little details.
    18. When in Rome, look, smell and act like the locals. Don’t stand out. Don’t gawk.
    19. Nothing you own is worth dying for. Get it back later, on your terms.
    20. One only calls the end of the world right once. Everything else costs credibility needed when the balloon really does go up.
    The folks at Frugal's have already came up with two more:
    1. Be humble and unassuming in a room of people unknown to you. But have a plan ( and enough ammo) to kill everyone in the room if things go wrong. (Gr8shot)
    2. Stack the deck in your favor as much as possible. (Seventh Fleet)
    And I'll add one of my own now:
    1. Be able to communicate over distances--the greater the better,  Knowledge is power and forewarned is forearmed. (The Freeholder)
    Sort of reminds you of Gibbs' Rules on NCIS, doesn't it?

    I think there are a lot more of these rules lurking about out there, waiting to be written down.  If you have a rule, feel free to toss it in the comments.  We get enough of them, I'm going to take advantage of the Blogger "Pages" feature and set up the first "Page" on this blog, just for the rules.  And everyone gets attribution for their contribution.

    Now don't that sound like all kinds of fun?