Saturday, April 16, 2016

Time for some tech support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I'll appropriate this content

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


Knocked that sucker into another zip code....

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bet they will be losing their minds.


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

That shoe's just a bit tight, isn't it?

It may not be big news outside of North Carolina, but we're having a bit of an imbroglio here over two groups of politicians who couldn't craft a decently written law if their lives depended on it.  Allow me to fill you in.  It's worth your time, because it's politics at it's most hilarious.  It's also an edifying case of the shoe being on the other foot for a change.

The city of Charlotte, NC passed a local ordinance that aimed to protect the civil rights of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.  Among the numerous clauses in the ordinance was the now infamous "bathroom clause", which would require all public accommodations to allow people to use the restroom appropriate to the sex they identified with, regardless of the sex they had been born with.

In Charlotte, a large, but very vocal, minority of people disagreed with this particular portion of the bill.  A similar bill had been defeated a few weeks earlier, but a new, heavily Democratic, city council with several new, all Democratic, members, many of whom had campaigned with this as an issue, passed the bill over the objections of this minority.  Obviously the timing of this was not coincidental.

Now, in North Carolina there is a clause in our state constitution that allows the state legislature to override local government laws.  It's there when the need arises to reign in a government body that has strayed off the reservation, or when, for example in the case of firearms laws, the state legislature believes there is a good reason to enforce a level playing field state-wide.  The existence of this clause is soon to be important.

Charlotte, also know as Moscow on the Catawba, is like most metropolitan areas, very liberal.  Oddly enough, a sizable portion of Charlotte's representation in the legislature is Republican, and from appearances, rather conservative Republicans at that.  Overall, the NC Legislature as well as the Governor's Office are controlled by Republicans.  This too will soon be important.

The observant among you have probably already added 2 + 2 + 2 and come up with "train wreck".  But let's unveil the picture in all it's gory detail.

Shortly after the new ordinance was passed, at the behest of a Charlotte legislator, a special session of the legislature was called and in roughly 12 hours, in the process of trying to undo the Charlotte ordinance's bathroom clause, they also managed to revise the North Carolina statute dealing with discrimination in such a way as to override all local laws that granted any special protections to gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, as well as mandating that you must use the restroom appropriate to the sex you were born with in state facilities.  The governor almost broke the nib off his pen signing it.

Herp.

The blow back was immediate and predictable.  Civil rights groups, LGBT groups, Democrat groups, pretty much the entire panoply left of center have lost their mind.  There have been demonstrations, civil disobedience and all sorts of media friendly goings-on.  Many rich, famous, powerful, wannabe rich/famous/powerful, thinks they are rich/famous/powerful and simple loudmouths with no dog in this hunt have weighed in on how evil North Carolina is.

Personally, I think they're wrong.  We simply have the best politicians that can be bought on a low budget.  It is, after all, a part-time legislature.  You an only expect a certain level of professionalism from part-timers.

Various companies have threatened, and in the cases of PayPal, Lionsgate and a couple of others, actually pulled business from North Carolina.  This is actually kind of foolish, because now they have no leverage to get the legislature to change anything.  You don't pay taxes here and your employees don't vote here.  You're not coming here, so why to we care what you think?

Derp.

Personally, I have no dog in this hunt.  To my knowledge, no one in my family or circle of friends fits in any of the categories that have been legislated about.  However, I'm not stupid--"When they came for the trade unionists" and all that.  I think that these folks are just as human as anyone else and therefore have exactly the same rights as the rest of us.  The fact that we have to actually pass a law to get people to understand that fact points out that we as a society have a long way yet to go.

However (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)...

I also note that the folks in those particular classes tend to be pretty liberal in their politics and tend to vote overwhelming Democratic.  Most of them do not support my Second Amendment rights in the least.  These are the people who lobby for yet another anti-gun law and say things like "It's a good first step." or "If it saves one life." or the ever popular "It's for the children!"  It doesn't make a damn to them that all the evidence is to the contrary, we need to pass one more law than we already have on the books.  And the next time we'll need to pass one more.  And the next, and the next, and the next....

This time, the shoe is on the other foot.  All the stuff that has been uttered about the safety of our women and children in the bathrooms if that evil Charlotte ordinance is allowed to stand?  Well, there are laws like Charlotte's all over the place, and damn few cases of anyone using them to sneak into the ladies room dressed as a woman to perv and rape.  Sort of like how the blood stubbornly refused to flow every time another state got concealed carry, and how it still stubbornly refuses to flow when a state goes Constitutional carry.  Damn those inconvenient facts, huh?  We need to pass this law!

Yeah, it really sucks when someone decides to go all self-righteous all over your civil rights, doesn't it?  It hurts like hell when you watch all that progress you've made over the years get torn up by a bunch of elected morons who have no idea what it's like to be you and live your life.  You get really angry when you see the things you hold dear trampled underfoot.

Sort of like us gun folk have felt for the last 40 or 50 years.  Now oddly enough, I hope that your message gets through and the legislature gets off its duff and fixes the mess it's made.  No one should be a second class citizen because of who they love or which bathroom they need to use.

And I hope that the next time someone asks you to help them take the rights of someone else, you remember just how much it hurt when it was your rights that were taken away.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A little something to consider

The weather here in Piedmont North Carolina has been rather odd for the last several months.  We've had a warm winter that was wetter than normal (Thank you, El Nino) and spring came early and has been a bit drier than normal.

However, there have been outbreaks of seasonal if not overly seasonal weather.  We had an interesting sleet/snowstorm in late January, and tonight we are under a hard freeze warning.  While the date of last frost is around April 28 here, that's for a frost--we're in for a hard freeze, and another, probably colder, one is forecast for Saturday night.

For us, in this day and time, it's a minor inconvenience.  Turn the heat pump on, or for us personally build a late season fire in the wood stove.  Get the warmer coat back out for tomorrow.

But let's consider another scenario.  Let's say a large load of feces has impacted the air circulator.  Things are bad.  Not Mad Max bad, but bad enough.  Deliveries to grocery stores are unpredictable, as is grid power.  While lawlessness is contained to the larger cities, it doesn't mean that the suburbs and exurbs are without problems.  Food has been a concern for the last couple of years.  Everyone with a yard has a garden and tries to raise as much of their own food as possible.

You, as a good prepper, had already been gardening, raising a significant portion of your own food and preserving some of it via drying and canning.  You had a number of books on various methods of agriculture and food preservation among your library.  As a good prepper, you made sure that your efforts didn't stand out in your neighborhood--you made it appear as a hobby, and camouflaged some of your food plots with flowerbed.

When things started to get bad, for you it was a matter of ramping up the size of your garden quickly.  Grass and flowers disappeared and garden appeared.  Small hoop houses, cold frames and the other implements of intensive agriculture sprang up almost overnight.  Your neighbors noticed, and because you had always went out of your way to be friendly and approachable, rather than coming to you with "you need to share" on their lips, they came to ask to help--"Will work for food"--and for help--"Can you help us put in our own gardens?"

Smart prepper that you are, you had extra seed stocks (they are cheap, most store relatively well and you could always use them yourself) and teaching people how to do the intensive, "square foot" style gardening you favored was easy and didn't require years of patient soil building before yields were worthwhile.  Luckily things had gotten bad at the right time of year and slowly enough that most of your neighbors who stayed put in the neighborhood were able to raise and preserve enough food that first summer to pad the meager supplies available from the grocery stores that winter.  Everybody lost weight, but nearly everyone survived.

The next year went even better.  Even though the supplies to the grocery stores were still irregular, gardens were bigger and you and your neighbors were able to add chickens, rabbits and a few cattle to the mix.  Even though no one was well versed on animal husbandry, your library saw you through and that winter you all ate far better than the winter before.  There was even enough for trade.

The next spring, warm weather came early.  Taking advantage of the gift, gardens were planted early.  By early April they were a month ahead of where they would have been a year ago.  Everyone was mentally thinking of what the surplus could be traded for that autumn.

But one sunny day, the wind came up and blew a good stiff breeze from the northwest.  While the temperature warmed, thermometers that had read in the low 70s the day before stayed stubbornly in the 50s, even with a bright sun out.  As the sun went past noon and started to move down the sky, the temperature started to drop, and by dark the temperature was dropping below 50.  Anxious eyes watched as it continued to drop during the early evening.  Buckets, old sheets--anything that could cover a young and tender plant--was gathered as men, women and children worked to cover everything that could be covered.  Silent prayers were offered and more than a few spoken ones.  Even working, the chill in the air was evident.  It wasn't just going to be cold tonight.  "Man, I sure miss the National Weather Service" was said with as much conviction as the prayers.

By midnight, everything that could be used to cover plants was used.  Thermometers stood near 40.  The wind had died down, and those who knew of such things were shaking their heads.  It would be better if the air was still moving, they said.  Frost can't form if the air moves.

Mothers took children in and put them to bed in their clothes, since blankets were all in use.  Covering them in whatever they could find, they made sure the wood stoves or fireplaces stayed stoked.  One of the older men had remembered the stories he had read about "smudge pots", used in the Florida orange groves to ward off cold.  Not the same thing, he said, but it might help.  Fires were burning in the gardens in barrels, grills, old rims and anything else that could hold a fire, trying to ward off the cold.

Sometime around 3:30, the thermometer touched the freezing mark of 32 degrees.  No one noticed it for another 30 minutes--not that it would have mattered.  Everyone just kept doing what they were doing, kept on praying for a miracle and cursing themselves for being stupid and greedy.

By the time the sky had lightened enough for the light to be usable, the temperature had bottomed out at a tiny tick below 29 degrees.  It never got that cold here in April--never.  But it had now, and all that remained was to see how bad the damage was.  As the day warmed and the thermometer rose. fires were allowed to die and the wrappings were removed from the plantings.  At first, there were smiles--it had worked!  They had dodged the bullet!

As the temperatures continued to warm, the damage began to be apparent.  Plants began to wilt as the ice within them melted and the burst cell walls collapsed.  By noon, the full extent of the damage could be seen.  Perhaps 80% of the plantings, so healthy a day before, were now suitable only for compost.

There were a few recriminations, but in reality, no one was to blame.  Everyone had participated in the rush to plant early and take advantage of the weather.  Now, a hurried inventory of the remaining seed stocks showed that there might be enough to replant, but there could be no mistakes, no problems, no bad harvest.  There would be no surplus and no trade.  There would probably be empty bellies at times this winter if they were not very fortunate indeed.

There are a lot of preppers who think that if things get bad, why, they'll just till up the yard, toss out the seeds from that Super Survivalist Survival Seed Bank that they bought 15 years ago for $19.95 and just wait for the magic to happen.  There's a phrase used to describe people like that:  dead from starvation.

If you have never gardened, you need to start gardening now.  If you have gardened but aren't gardening now, you need to restart gardening now.  I'm not too proud to say that in this I have to take my own advice.  We haven't gardened, even in containers, for several years.  We won't this year, but by next year will will restart, even if it is just back to containers.

Long term, there is between 1/2 -3/5 of an acre of pine woods behind our house that are long overdue for harvest.  No professional will harvest them, it's too small a patch to be profitable.  I'm looking at economical (read: cheap) ways to harvest it myself so that I can mill the wood (the trees are as much as 32" at the butt and around 90' tall, so it's a lot of board feet of good Southern Yellow Pine) for use in raised beds and an outbuilding or two.

That much land under intensive cultivation will more than provide enough for two people.  I can probably feed 4 from it, given our growing season and what it can be extended to.  Throw in the current back yard, add some chickens and a couple of pigs, and I'd bet on more like 5 or 6 in pretty good style.  The big concern is water.  I have no water on the property, and the nearest open water is around 1/2 mile.  You can only do so much with rain water capture.  A well is a no-go in this area.  I still have to figure that issue out.

In a long term scenario, food is going to be one of your three most intractable problems (along with security and medical issues).  Better to figure out how to deal with it now when failure means a trip to the grocery store than latter when it may mean starvation.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Changes on the left

While the political left never really changes, the left side of the blog is changing.  I am going to slowly be reorganizing the various links over there in an effort to assist visitors in finding sites in their various areas of interest.  While no organization will ever be perfect, I hope this will be a move toward "better".  Because some sites may fit in more than one category, they may be listed more than once.

I am always open to suggestions for sites, as long as they aren't from spammers.  Yes, even bitty little me gets hit by spammers, if only occasionally.  If you have a site that you think is interesting, especially if it is in the areas of personal defense, firearms training or disaster preparedness, use the contact me thing on the right or leave a comment on this thread.  No guarantees that I will use it, but I will consider it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

About this long dry spell

No, I haven't decided to call it quits.  Actually, I sort of decided to have a life for a while.  This coincided with an early bout of Spring here in North Carolina, with a couple of weeks of unseasonably warm temperatures with days in the 70s (and a couple of 80s) and nights in the 40s-50s.  Coupled with the blessed coming of Daylight Savings Time (save your breath, I like my extra daylight after work, thanks) and I have been out and about, doing "stuff".

Of course, some stuff has been for those who pay for a goodly chunk of my time each week.  I was hired over 4 years ago to be part of a turnaround team and we are finally getting serious about that.  About freaking time, given that we are just about out of freaking time.  If you've never done this sort of thing, it's a lot of hard work, but it's rewarding when it works.  We're still waiting to see if it's going to be rewarding.

I did spend time in the yard, cleaning up from the winter and enjoying the sun and the breeze.  While this has been a milder than normal winter, we have had some storms, both of the snow variety and of the wind variety.  Either makes a mess.  A lot of it is cleaned up, some of it isn't and all of it is in piles to be burned.  that has to wait for the right combination of moisture and free weekend time.  I haven't gotten that yet.

A bit of time has been spent with the ham radio hobby.  I'm still tweaking programs for the mobile radios.  You'd be surprised just how much time you can spend playing with the programing software.  I'm also looking forward to RARSfest on April 2.  I haven't been in a couple of years, so it's time to go and see what there is to be seen.  And I am working toward my Extra class license.  I hope to be ready to test well before the current pool expires in June.

Son is approaching his 21st birthday, which means he gets his concealed carry class and the fee for his concealed carry license for his birthday present, plus enough money to buy his first pistol.  Well, it would be if he wasn't jonesing for a Berretta.  Fortunately, he has a part-time job while he is in school.

I have been paying attention to things political.  From my perspective they have rapidly went from amusing to serious, with candidates on the (D) side trying to out-statist each other, while candidates on the (R) side are competing to see how much of the Constitution the can trample while trying to tackle Trump, who continues to stay maddeningly out of their reach while picking them off one at a time.  In the meantime, the GOP party functionaries are busy saying that the voters don't really matter while taking money from anyone who will fund an anti-Trump ad.  Local leftist loons backed by Soros money are blocking roads in useless but photogenic attempts to keep people from Trump rallies while actually defeating their purpose by driving undecided voters into his camp.  You could not script a better lead up to a major social dislocation.

So how are your food and ammo supplies?

Financial markets around the globe continue to defy all logic, reason and history.  Returns are impossible to obtain without taking extraordinary risks, so many investors stay in cash or equivalents, and governments and central banks try to force them out with negative interest rates.  Investors take out actual cash, and those same governments and central banks threaten to make large denomination bills or cash itself illegal.

At least you can still spend it on food and ammo.  For now.

All things considered on the cash front, Mrs. Freeholder and I decided to take an unexpected inheritance and make the Freehold itself as truly a freehold as one can make it in the modern world--we have paid off our house loan.  It's an odd feeling, not having to make a house payment or pay rent (other than our yearly rent to the government in the way of property taxes), but I think we can get used to it.  And as an investment, it pays better than leaving the money in a bank account or other cash equivalent.

This also grants us a certain latitude of movement now, in terms of our actions down the road.  It would be much easier to take on a strategic debt to buy a bugout vacation property in the mountains, for instance, if that seems necessary.  Or one of us could leave our employment if the need arose--or was forced on us.  Always remember, when you owe someone, they own you.  (Unless of course, you owe them a *lot*--then that dynamic gets far more interesting, but that's a topic for another time.)

We still have a more than Dave Ramsey adequate emergency fund, so we're not being foolish and leaving ourselves "house poor".  I wouldn't recommend anyone do anything that foolish.  But for now, we are seeing a financial system that is under a lot of stress, perhaps levels of stress that are unprecedented in our history.  Consider your situation carefully and act according.  While cash is king in a poor economy, a bank bail-in could render your king much less powerful than he was on very short notice indeed.  And while Bernie Sanders is a twit, he is correct when he points out that the "too big to fail" banks are now even bigger than they were when they were bailed out.

I also note that the Socialist in Chief has gone visiting the neighbors in Cuba.  Oddly enough, I more or less support this.  We have a 50 year policy that has failed to reach the desired results, but has given us such stirring successes as the Mariel Boatlift and Elain Gonzales.  I've contended for a number of years that it was time to try something else.  I hate for this ass to get credit for it, but fuck him, he can have it.  Maybe if Trump wins the election he will pull a gotcha and appoint Obama as ambassador to Cuba.  Wouldn't that be a hoot?

An uncomfortable item to keep track of is an increasingly bellicose North Korea.  Dear Nut Job is off the rails, and while his nuclear arsenal may be primitive, primitive nukes can still kill you just as dead as the latest and greatest.  Even a conventional attack against South Korea would be nightmare to deal with.  A war on the Korean peninsula is not something the world needs.  What we could use is China reining in their client state, but that unsurprisingly doesn't seem to be happening.

Got a radiation detector?  Might not be a bad idea.

Everything is not a bad and horrible with the world, however.  I read a story today where a baby emu chick has had surgery to mend a deformed leg so that it can survive and grow up to be just like all the other flightless birds.  Sure, only rich societies can afford things like this--that's the point.

Then there is the story of the grandfather who fixed burgers for his grandchildren who were too busy to join him for dinner.  That set off an Internet storm, including a rather touching Facebook post from my son who said he would give anything to be able to eat supper with his grandparents again.  They've been dead several years now.  I miss them too.

Well, it's late, and we took the RV out this weekend.  Probably because of that, the weather forecast is for freezing temps, and since I don't want to have to blow out the water lines, I need to go turn on a heater so the pipes don't freeze.  It's always something, isn't it?  :-)

My friends, take care.  Just because I don't write doesn't mean I've forgotten you.  Like a proverbial bad penny, I will turn up again.  Keep you eyes open.  We live in an increasing interesting and dangerous world.  Make what preparations you feel moved to make and that you are able to make.  I believe they will come in handy sooner rather than later.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Freedom marches on

It's hard to know exactly how to process this sort of news.  On one hand, at a national level we have politicians who are, as a group, mostly so-so on our rights.  However, the closer we get to where We The People actually live, the more interest they seem to take in safeguarding our rights.  Case in point, the West Virginia, who yesterday overrode a gubernatorial veto, told their police pressure groups to go pound sand and pushed through Constitutional Carry legislation.

(I used the WV Gazette article as my link just for fun, so you can get a good dose of "The blood will run in the streets!" rhetoric.  In a year, you have to wonder if they will be willing to look back and issue a mea culpa when the blood has once again stubbornly failed to do so.  No, I am not accepting bets on this.  Call the people in Atlantic City.)

You have to wonder why that is.  Is it simply because, unlike Congress, they can't easily exempt themselves from the laws they pass?  Or is it that they are physically closer to the people they represent, and it's easier for us to get in their face and let them know that their jobs are in danger if they don't represent correctly?  I certainly don't believe it's because they are a better quality politician; too many of them move up to Congress and we've seen how they perform there.

At any rate, as the son of a pair of West Virginia expats, I would like to congratulate the state of my parents' birth.  Love you guys, and see you on the yearly fishing trip this summer.