Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Ho-hum

Just checking in. While there is much going on, both in the world, our country and my life, there isn't a thing that I honestly care to talk much about. I'm working on things around the house and watching entirely too many history, tool and how-to videos on YouTube. I don't know if it's the summer heat of the monotonous drumbeat of a society that seems hell-bent for destruction, but I feel nothing really merits much discussion at this point.

Mark my words, either later this even or tomorrow something will happen that prompts a post. It always does when I put up one of these "Not dead yet!" posts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

This merits some celebration!

I'm not sure why, but I was moved to click on the link to the Home On the Range blog, which has resided in the "Absent Friends" section for quite a while after it was taken private. Guess what--it isn't private any longer! Good news, because Brigid has always been one of the best voices blogging.

The lies about lard

(Via the Woodpile Report)

Growing up, I remember both of my grandmothers cooking with lard. Biscuits, pie crusts, fried chicken--all of these things required lard. You know something I don't remember as a young kid? People with memory diseases like Alzheimer's. I remember one person out of all the ones I knew. He was a nice old guy, who could remember the first World War but not where he lived. Folks in my grandmother's very small town always made sure he got home safely.

It seems that lard, along with a lot of the other fats many of us of a certain age grew up with, got an undeservedly bad rep that is now being reviewed.

About damn time. Biscuits haven't tasted right in years.

Central Nervous System stop

(Via Gab)

Could you deliver a head shot, cold, under maximum stress, on demand? A Texas husband could and did. There is a reasonable chance his wife is alive because he could.

Texas: Intruders Hold Man's Wife at Gunpoint - Man Takes One Out With Headshot, Accomplice Flees

As Freedom Outpost points out, the recidivism rate of dead bad guys is zero. Hard wisdom there.

I was talking with someone over Facebook (when I still did Facebook) some time back, and we were talking about firearms practice. I pointed out that for years, my family has been shooting at 8" round steel plates at our range. When the discussion of Central Nervous System stops came up in relation to shooting terrorists came up, I made the comment that little did we know we had been practicing for just that scenario for years, never realizing that we were doing it.

Time to go practice it some more.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Saving a DeWalt lithium battery

Something that's guaranteed to jerk my chain is going to grab a battery powered tool and finding out that not only does it need charging, but that the battery won't take a charge. Tools with lithium batteries are the absolute worst for "Hey, you've only charged the battery 5 times, but it won't charge now and you need to spend $50 for a new battery."

I didn't like that particular BS when I was working and now that I've retired, I really don't like it. I'm not a piggy bank for DeWalt or aftermarket battery manufacturers. While a number of my tools are corded, I'm like everyone else--I prefer to work without the cords. Especially when you only need to drill one hole, it's just a lot less hassle in you life.

A project I've been putting off, because I knew it wasn't going to be even a little fun, was replacing the throttle cable on our 4 wheeler. It had been allowed to sit for longer than it's a good idea to let such things sit, and the throttle cable had seized. A basic inspection a while back had shown that the thing was routed by way of Albuquerque to get from the handlebars and the throttle body, so I had let it wait until I had no more excuses. Well, I'm now fresh out, so it was time to deal with it.

After considerable disassembly, much speculation on the intelligence of the designers and engineers and some swearing, I determined it wasn't the cable, but something in the throttle body itself that was the problem. After backing off the cable adjuster, I could get things to move, but it felt very...sticky. Some research on the Intertubz brought to light that the throttle plate can get gummed up and cause the problem.



OK, off to the auto parts store for throttle body cleaner. After I got home, I disassembled even more of the 4 wheeler, and found out that a double-jointed monkey couldn't get to a point where he could peer down the opening into the throttle body. Consulting my handy shop manual (You don't think I went into this blind, do you?) on the process for removing the throttle body, I decided that a root canal performed with a jackhammer and hot tongs would be preferable. So I went to get my DeWalt inspection camera.

An inspection camera is one of those tools you don't need a lot, but when you need it there is no substitute. This one has saved my bacon several times since I bought it. I expected the battery to be in need of charge, because I couldn't guess when it was last used. Sure enough it was dead, and when I slapped it in the charger, rather than the blinking red light, I got...

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Well crap, this is the only thing I have out of all my DeWalt tools that uses a 12v lithium battery. After this one and a 20v lithium DeWalt drill, I've sworn off the things, and started buying NiMh rebuild kits (and a couple of compatible DeWalt chargers) and rebuilding my old NiCad battery packs. The Li-ions are just too damn picky--especially if you work them hard and they are discharging fast. They'll turn themselves off and refuse to run. Thanks, but no.

Now the swearing started in earnest. I tried an inspection mirror, but no joy. There is no way to get the angle needed to see down the throat of the throttle body. Nothing for it but to price a replacement on Amazon and wait two days for Prime to drop it on my doorstep.

After a mild case of sticker shock for the DeWalt-branded battery, and briefly considering the no-names, I had this hair-brained idea--Is there was some way to fix this dead battery, even temprorarily?

Once again, the Intertubz provideth:



Of course, my situation was different, but as Gunny Highway said, "Improvise, overcome, adapt." I took a 12v NiMh and jumpered it to the dead Li-ion and waited a bit. When the jumpers were warm to the touch, I figured that we had transferred enough juice to give it a try. Guess what?



The little sucker is sitting on my workbench now, charging it's little heart out. I suppose I'm going to have to develop a habit of charging batteries on a semi-regular basis. Bloody inconvenient.

Edit, 7/25/2018: Just for the sake of completeness, the ATV problem was indeed a sticking throttle plate. It took 2 hours of disassembly to get to it and 4 tiny spritzes of cleaner to cure the problem. I don't know whether to laugh or set the thing on fire. I'll probably laugh.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Internet Censorship--Brother, can you spare a mimeo machine?

(Via SurvivalBlog)

As you may guess, I"m catching up on reading some of my blogroll. Rawles, it seems, has been on something of a roll of late. Then again, there's always a fair bit of interesting stuff on his blog.

I want to bring this piece of original content to your attention, where he writes about Internet censorship. You've read me bitching about Google, with who I have a grumble/hate relationship. Rawles goes considerably further in "The Internet Gulag: Demonetization, Demonization, and Deletion", covering a number of disturbing trends that have been going on for some time now--the demonitization of blogs and YouTube channels, the ongoing demonization of anyone who dares contradict Leftist orthodoxy and the outright deletion of content that offends the liberal and self-appointed keepers of the Intertubz.

The important information he provides is, in essence a call to be ready to respond to their overreach with a modern samizdat. I know I've brought this up, maybe here, definitely in other places, by urging people to rebuild the old FidoNet BBS system. While it's still around, it's nothing like it's old self, and it would be a great thing for it to begin rebuilding. There is also amateur packet radio, which is also still around but also not as big as it once was. These alternatives to the big, corporate-controlled avenues of communication could be vital alternatives if things go sideways.

Something more to think about as we wait for whatever it is slinking toward us.

Edit, 7/24/2018: Change to the title to make it flow better and sound more familiar.

Well this could be a little...chilling

(Via SurvivalBlog)

Not everyone donates to political candidates, but some of us do, at least from time to time. While this my by law be public record, did you ever expect that your name might show up on a web site for any nutjob with an ax to grind to see? Yes, in the holy name of "openness" we're going to let fruitcakes like Antifa, Mothers Against Whatever Michael Bloomberg Dislikes This Week or whatever gather intelligence and paint targets on people they don't approve of.

Something to consider before you write that check. Perhaps a good reason to have a legal trust that can do such things for you.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Wise words

The Woodpile Report #536 is out; has been sine July 3. As usual, Ol' Remus says it far better than I can. Please go read the opening portion of #536. You really should read it all, but the opening is incredibly important.

While the winds of change can still decide to blow in another direction, it doesn't seem like that is going to happen. We're due for Bad Times. If you aren't ready, you need to take as much advantage of the time we have left and get ready now.

Seriously.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Higher Education Racket

(Via the Drudge Report)

The headline of the Boston Globe article reads "Lawrence Bacow promises a more outward-looking Harvard". For those of you who have never been involved in higher ed, and a lot of us who have been, the the first thing that occurs to us is "Who the hell is Lawrence Bacow?"

He's the new president of Harvard. As such, he is at the top of the higher ed food chain. Harvard is one of the largest universities in the US in pretty much any category that actually matters--prestige, endowment, quality of students and so on. No, their football team never wins the Rose Bowl. Heck, they never even smell the roses. But in higher ed, while athletics may often be the tail that wags the academic dog, no academic thinks it actually matters. In reality, I agree with them. Any kid who goes to college to play a sport with the hopes of a further career as a pro athlete is a fool. Look up the stats.

Bacow isn't a fool. Sure, he's been in higher ed most of his career, but you don't get to be president of Harvard if you're a fool. He realizes that higher ed is facing challenges unlike any time in its history in the United States. The cost of attendance to any school past high school has been increasing at a rate far past inflation for years. Too many students are getting degrees that, after graduation, qualify them for work at Starbucks. Colleges and universities are seen as cesspools of far left politics. All in all, higher ed has a big image problem, and it's getting worse by the semester. The public's perception of of higher ed as a whole is only somewhat ahead of Congress and the media.

Having worked in higher ed, I can tell you a lot of this is absolutely true. While I miss my old job, there are a lot of things about it I don't miss.

  • I don't miss trying to explain to parents why their kid ought to come to college when I didn't send both of my kids to college and firmly believe that not all kids need to go to a four year school.
  • I don't miss watching the cost of attendance ratchet up at a stupefying rate as schools try to outdo each other with facilities that look more like luxury vacation get-aways rather than college campuses. My house isn't as nice as some residence halls I've seen. 
  • I don't miss watching students signing away years of their lives on the dotted lines of student loan forms. Most of them barely understand the concept of borrowing money, let alone the scale of what they're borrowing. Add to that the methodology of calculating how much they're allowed to borrow, which is too complex to go into here, and they wind up with far more than they really should be allowed to borrow. At the beginning of every semester, the new tats, smart phones, TVs, laptops and so one, paid for by that excess borrowed money, boggle the mind.
  • I don't miss watching majors such as sports medicine, art, sports management, religion, communications, religious music and so on being filled up with students attending on borrowed money. The majority of these kids will face three employment futures. They will either A) Never work in the field they're educated in; B) Work in it and face a life of being chronically under-paid and under-employed or C) Both A and B. The world only needs so many of these folks, and the bitty school I worked at graduated enough by itself for the entire eastern half of the US. But they all still have to pay back those student loans, so penury becomes a way of life.
  • That "cesspool of liberalism" thing. Great Bleeding Ghu. Scratch an academic and 97-98 times out of 100, you'll find a socialist or a communist. As a staff member, I got pretty good at biting my tongue. It was that or get fired.
As a college grad, I can tell you that my college experience has paid off for me tremendously. My degree and what I learned lifted me from my blue collar beginnings into the middle class, white collar world. Having lived in both, trust me when I tell you the middle class one is much more pleasant. Mrs. Freeholder has a less dramatic experience, but she tends to agree with the basic sentiment.

As the parent of two recent college age kids, the experience is far different. Higher ed and it's BA/BS degree is becoming the equivalent of the high school diploma of my youth. I feel a large part of that is because our education system, from elementary to college, is not teaching as much at any given level. There were too many times that I saw papers written by students--and I mean juniors and seniors--at my former employer that would have earned a big fat red F in one of my high school English classes. I will guarantee these kids got a C and pushed along toward graduation.

My kids also demonstrate something else I've noticed. Daughter graduated from a well-thought of university with a BA in business. She struggled for 4 years to find a job in her field, went back for a masters degree and still really hasn't found one that's up to her skills and abilities, though she has found something that pays well enough for her to move out of the house. (Yay!)

Son went to the local community college and got an AAS in welding, along with 8 certificates in various aspects of the trade. He had a job lined up when he graduated. He's been working there about 18 months. He moved out before his sister, and on the average week makes at least 25% more than she does. Obviously it's hot, dirty work, but he likes it. His total education cost somewhat less than one year of Daughter's.

You tell me--which kid benefited more from their education, especially in terms of bang for the buck?

I'm not the only parent noticing this sort of thing. Parents across the country are demanding that colleges and universities prove the value proposition of their product. Even Daughter's university made a big point in 2009 when she started that they realized that it was expensive to send a child to school there and their goal was to see their students graduate in 4 years, and they were serious about it. Daughter did it in 4 years and two summer sessions, the summer session caused by a change in major.

The Globe article notes that many smaller schools are "struggling to remain open." That's putting it mildly. Unless they're blessed with a large endowment (say mid-hundreds of $millions) small schools are fighting for their lives. My former employer has been one disaster away from closing for years, and remains one disaster away from closing. In the higher ed press, it's an acknowledged fact that within 10 years, at least 15% of small, rural, private liberal arts schools will be closed. I suspect it will be worse than that.

This will not be confined to small schools, rural schools, private schools or liberal arts schools. The Globe article also notes that "Public universities also saw their second straight year of declining revenue growth...." I know that in the University of North Carolina system, there are at least 2 campuses that are in danger of failing for lack of students. I imagine other large public university systems face similar circumstances. Public university and community college systems are also facing declining taxpayer support at the state level in many states. Several NC community colleges have successfully turned to their local governments and gotten 1/4 cent sales tax levies passed to help with funding issues.

Finally, there is, what from the point of view of many, is the political indoctrination aspect of higher education. From Harvard and UC-Berkeley to Evergreen State, our colleges and universities seem to have become more institutions where our young are taught what to think rather than how to think. Again, from personal experience as both a university staff member and a parent who had kids in higher ed, I can attest that, in my experience, this is true. Only the strong teachings we bestowed on our children before sending them off into these dens of vipers allowed them to emerge without being assimilated by the Academic Borg.

President Bacow may have his heart in the right place, but I have to wonder if he is compromised from the outset. He may also be simply biting off more than he can chew. Time will tell--and given the current state of things in this country, time is the one resource he may not have much of.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Unwanted guests

If you've ever made the mistake of trying to explain to people why they should be ready for emergencies, especially long duration emergencies, you've gotten what I think of as "The Line":

"Oh, I'll just come stay with you!"

To which my answer has often been "Looters are going to be shot on sight," delivered utterly deadpan. That tends to shut the conversation down rather quickly, which at that point is my intention, because I figure they're not taking it seriously anyway.

There are those who are a bit more charitable by nature, or who find themselves in a position where they can be more charitable. On SurvivalBlog, one such has written a well thought-out piece on how they plan on handling the situation.

Personally, I doubt they'll ever need to put it into action, other than sending their messages. The people they're aiming it at will be stuck in the outbound traffic, so it will all be moot.