Friday, July 31, 2015

What socialism does to you

It makes people very unsympathetic to a Greek bailout by the EU:
Half a continent away from Athens, Milda is unimpressed. Watching reports of the Greek predicament on the news, the Latvian pensioner has little sympathy for her counterparts 1,800 miles to the south.

“Can’t they get by on €120 a week?” she asks, referring to the latest cash limits on pensioners introduced in Greece. “Life’s less expensive down there. It’s warmer, they don’t have to pay for heating or winter boots, and fruit and vegetables must be cheaper.


From central European minnows such as Slovakia to Baltic eurozone republics such as Latvia and Lithuania, hard-pressed pensioners and workers earning barely €500 a month are at a loss as to why Greece should qualify for more largesse.

Milda’s monthly pension is €293 a month , well under half the current level in Greece. When Latvia went through a similar debt crisis in 2009, it imposed swingeing budget cuts and tax increases worth about 15% of GDP over three years. Output fell by a quarter and unemployment soared to more than 20%. The population fell as people left in droves.

These measures were hugely controversial at the time, and many people thought they would lead to catastrophe. The US economist Paul Krugman predicted at the end of 2008: “Latvia is the new Argentina.”

By the second half of 2010, however, the economy had started to grow again, and from 2011 to 2013 Latvia was among the fastest growing countries in the EU. Despite the fact that the currency was not devalued, exports are now at record highs, some 60% above where they were before the crisis.
I remember being in Poland in 1996.  The Poles thought that their long term prospects were better than those of the former East Germany.  I asked why, and they told me "Because we know that we have to do this for ourselves.  Nobody is going to help us out."

A couple days ago, ASM826 posted about the implosion of K-Mart.  It's so bad that they're starting to look like Venezuelan supermarkets:

Basic needs of the people are not being met in the South American country where socialism is in full effect. There have been shortages of toilet paper and diapers, people have to wait in line to pay over $700 for a condom, and most recently the government is asking for a share of produce from shopkeepers following a food crisis.
There was an old saying in Africa, back during the Cold War.  If the ruling elites wanted their kids to grow up to be socialists, they would send them to university in Paris.  If they wanted them to grow up to be capitalist, they would send them to university in Moscow.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

More lies from the NSA?

NSA claimed that they were not allowed to listen in on a call from San Diego to Osama bin Laden in the run up to 9/11, and therefore needed the PATRIOT Act and the massive domestic surveillance program to prevent this from happening again.  Former NSA insiders are disputing this, saying that this was an internal NSA screw-up on multiple levels:
In an agency filled with secrets, the NSA’s failure to detect the 9/11 plot or help other agencies do so is probably its deepest and darkest. For years, rather than reveal the true nature of the blunder, the agency has instead propagated the fable that it missed that San Diego call in 2000 for technical reasons. Consequently, the Bush and Obama administrations conducted what amounted to ironclad surveillance of Americans’ phone activity for more than a decade.

The dragnet metadata operation, finally declared illegal by a federal appeals court this year, was likely the largest and most secretive domestic surveillance program ever undertaken. Yet the public only became aware thanks to the information leaked by Edward Snowden. Today, other NSA whistleblowers are claiming that the program was based on a lie. They’re also demanding answers to tough questions: How were certain key phone numbers missed in surveillance—or were they at all? And why did the NSA refuse to share with the CIA and FBI the full details of what it collected from bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen?

Fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, it seems time for the NSA and the White House to reveal what really happened—and to replace, once and for all, fiction and lies with facts and the truth.
This is Jim Bamford, so you might take this with a grain of salt.  However, he has sources on record here; also, General Clapper is still not behind bars for perjury before Congress.

Told ya

Tam gets her security blogging on:
While the nerd community on social media is absolutely freaking out over the possibility of "hacking sniper rifles", I can't help but think that being able to hack a Tracking Point rifle is like knowing how to hot-wire a Ferrari Enzo: Fascinating at parties, but not a skill you'll get much chance to ever use.
Your humble host on the subject, a couple years ago:
When I saw this I said to myself, "Self, what do you bet that there's no security in that wireless server?"  My Self is pretty nasty and suspicious, and thinks that if he reached into the bag of 'sploits you'd pwn that rifle before you could say "Hey Verne, hold mah beer."  Like I said, he's nasty and suspicious.

But the chances that the code is wide open is high.  What would you do if you took over Sund00d's high tech scope?  Change the aim point so that it shoots wide by 10 MOA?  This scenario is filled to overflowing with LULZ.
Not that it took any deep insight or genius to make that particular call, but I did told ya ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Today in 1967

July 29th, 1967 is the day of the fire on the Forrestal.

Up tempo operations had lead to a shortage of ordnance and the day before there had been a delivery of old bombs from Subic Bay, some dating back to 1953. These bombs had been stored outside for years and were so obviously degraded that some officers wanted to dump them overboard immediately.

Instead they were kept with plans to use them the next day. It was a brutally bad decision.

The fire started by the accidental discharge of Zuni rockets across the deck. The rockets tore open the fuel tanks on an A-4 and ignited the fuel. The deck crews should have had 10 minutes to extinguish the fire before the bombs would have be at risk. The first of the old bombs detonated in a minute and half. Those first detonations killed most of the trained firefighters on the ship.

134 died, 161 were injured. They nearly lost the ship.

Non Sibi Sed Patriae 
--Inscribed over the Doors of the Chapel at the Naval Academy


The local K-Mart is closing. I went out there today and walked around. The building and the fixtures looked tired. It was clearly in decline and if other K-Marts look like this it's just a matter of time.
They are consolidating the remaining stock in the front of the store. This is what it looks like in the back.

When we lived in South Carolina, K-Mart used to be the only chain department store in town. There was no on-line shopping, although Sears still had a catalog. Mostly, if K-Mart didn't have it, you put it on a list and went looking for it the next time you drove to Savannah.

I stopped going in K-Marts when they stopped carrying ammunition. I didn't even care why they stopped, it was enough. That was 1999. Looks like my boycott worked.

UPDATE: As twocents pointed out in the comments, Sears continues to have catalog sales. I had no idea. I have not shopped in Sears for years. 

A lesson on discrimination for the USA from Europe

Why a lesson for us?  Because Europe seems to be 20 years ahead of us in the Progressive March, and because we're always told that we "need to be more like Europe" by our Betters™ here.  So what's coming?

George X. Doležal: ČEZ has discriminated against the Romani [Gypsies]. It didn't let them steal power.

The European Court of Justice has made a groundbreaking verdict against our ČEZ. To steal electricity is, as the judges implicitly state, a democratic right. The provider of power isn't allowed to place any technical hurdles that would prevent the consumer from stealing electricity. If the provider does so, it is discrimination.
Get ready, here it comes.  It may be part of Donald Trump's appeal that he's the only one who would actively denounce this sort of thing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Here's your chance to drunk dial Stephen Hawking

Reddit has an Ask Me Anything for the most famous physicist of our day.  Go ahead and ask him - pork or beef for BBQ?

And the title refers to this, of course:

Under The Knife

Not me, at least not this time.

A friend of mine in Atlanta went in for prostate removal. He's in his early 50s. Surgery, then radiation, best prognosis is a month or two to being continent, out of work for three months, six months to resume normal activities.

He's in my thoughts today.

So much security fail

Maybe it's just me, but if I were to design a safe, I wouldn't make it electronic.  Safes have been around for years and years, and any software you might add almost certainly would make it less safe.  Case in point:
"One of the main vulnerabilities we are focusing on comes by way of a USB port that is on the exterior of the safe," Salazar told eWEEK. "We have created a little tool that we can just plug into the safe, wait 60 seconds for the tool to do its work, and then the safe doors will open and you can take all the cash out."
Other than that, it's totally safe.  Right?  Oh, wait:
It might raise eyebrows that the operating system that powers CompuSafe Galileo is Windows XP, which Microsoft no longer supports.
[blink] [blink]

This is why we can't have nice things - they all have software.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The most expensive computer security bug ever?

Chrysler has issued a recall of 1.4 million vehicles that are vulnerable to remote hacking via the Intermet. Basically everything they've built in the 2013 through 2015 model years are effected, including RAM pickup trucks and Viper sports cars. Basically the whole product line.

Owners don't need to take their cars back to the dealer; rather, Chrysler will send them a software update on a USB stick. That got me thinking about what this cost.

Short answer, maybe $20M.

This is based on an estimate of $15 per car to cover the cost of the USB device, loading the software on it, and mailing it to the owner. Sure, customers can download it from Chrysler's website to their own USB. That should cover a couple thousand out of the $1.4M ...

Man, you could have gotten a lot of security design work for $20M.

And the punch line? Good chance the "fix" won't fix everything and so they'll have to do it again. And that we'll hear this from other vendors too.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sweet Southern Comfort

I've got the weekend off and nothing planned. Maybe get to the range tomorrow, sit out on the porch and read a book, probably have to cut the lawn in the evening when the sun is low and the heat of the day is past.

Memories have been dragging at me the last few days. The hot summer days and afternoon thundershowers remind me of Beaufort, S.C. and being young.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

1959 Coranado Century

I didn't know what it was beyond, "Hey, look at the old boat!"

It was a 1959 Coronado Century, a 21 ft. speedboat with a inboard Ford V-8. Here's the company history. They made boats for decades.

Here's pictures of one restored. It was for sale for $47,000.

If the one I looked at is any indication, $47K would be a fair price. I don't think you're going to be able to restore one for less. The bottoms rot out, the transoms go. On this one, it looked like pretty much every piece of wood was good enough to be used as a form for crafting it's replacement. The owner said it had been sitting up for 40 years.

Here's a 1965, with a series of pictures from purchase all the way through the rebuild.

The boat I looked at would need every bit of that work. Here she is:

Should you shoot "Gangsta style"?

Only if you're Jerry Miculek ....

Of course, it's never a bad idea to pattern your shooting off of what Jerry Miculek does. If you can pull it off, that is ...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Who is the Hammer of the Progressives?

Some ideas survive election cycles.  This one is from the last election cycle.  You know - the one where the GOP dude would have given us more gun control?  But what I said back then about Newt is perennially green:
There are many things that I do not like about Newt, but one advantage that he has over the entire GOP crowd is that he knows how to deflate the Democrat's ideology, to show not that it is mistaken, but that it is immoral.  Four years of that hammer will leave the political discussion in this country profoundly different.  The Republic needs that, and someone who will not flinch from repeatedly telling the opposition that they hate the poor:

It's the same conflict of visions.  Today's UK is profoundly different than it was in 1979, because the Iron Lady refused to back down in the face of a left - unions, the media, the universities - that held her in withering contempt.  By returning that contempt with equal fervor and backing it up with unarguable facts, she wrenched the Realm off of the track to ruin, to the point that "Red" Ken Livingston is a curiosity, and not the head of the Labour Party.
So who will fight this fight this today?  Which GOP candidate will attack their world view?  Who is the Hammer of the Progressives?

Sadly, to ask the question is to answer it.  What's been on offer has not inspired us.

Roll Call Stories

A long thread filled with cop stories over at If you ever wondered why cops get cynical and crusty, stories like these might be part of it. The thread starts with an idea, and it doesn't really get rolling for a couple of pages, but then it's stuff like this:
So I am working graveyard in patrol. I am cruising the "Felony Freeway" ( a street that allows crooks to get home and stay off major boulevards or the highway. Usually a street that was a Main Street at some point but got left by the wayside over the years) that ran into our city from Pomona in LA County. I notice off a side street a guy wobbling down the middle of the street headed to a disgusting trailer park. I back up and head down the very dark street. I contact a fairly large Mexican guy who is fairly intoxicated. He didn't speak English so I went through the routine in Spanish. He claimed no ID, no weapons, ....and "two beers" (no matter how drunk, the answer is always "just two beers).

I start doing a pat down on the guy and he has a pistol in his right front pocket. Well, now the fight is on. We are rolling around in the street and it is a brutal brawl. He is not resisting, he is giving it his all. Eventually, he gets beaten into submission, choked out and I cuff him. Just then my back up arrives. It is my carpool partner who is the definition of a "pig cop". He is like a character out of a bad cop movie. He has a trainee with him. He walks up and asks what's up. I tell him the guy has a pistol in his pocket. He gives the guy to his trainee to search. I am bent over catching my breath and my uniform is all torn up. My carpool partner has the gun while his rookie finishes searching the guy. So my buddy walks over with a .25 auto to show me. He has the gun like you would normally hold it, and he just points it right between my eyes and pulls the trigger. Sheer terror......until a flame comes out of the muzzle. It is a fricking lighter. It literally looks exactly like a real gun, but it is a lighter.

I was pissed at my partner, but what was sort of funny was the look on the crooks face. He was stunned. We get a Spanish translator and it turns out that the guy was drinking at a bar (same one where I had previously shot a guy in) and had bought the "gun" from a guy at the bar. He didn't know it was a lighter and thought it was a real gun. He is mad because he got ripped off and got his ass beat. The thing had to have come from Mexico, because I have never seen anything like it. So, it turns out he his fighting for his life because he knows if he gets caught with a gun he will likely get deported, which is why he was fighting so hard. Pretty soon the crook, my buddy and I are all laughing our asses off like a bunch of old buddies because it is really kind of funny. I end up arresting the guy for public intox and resisting, and everybody lived another day. Sort of shows how you can go from quiet calm in the middle of the night to a knock down drag out fight with a guy you know has a gun, to feeling good about winning, to sheer terror from your crazed buddy, to laughing with the crook about how funny the whole thing turned out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

You gotta watch out for the Old Guy

This is funnier than heck, and I had tears running down my face.  Well played, sir.  So very well played.

May not be entirely safe for work, at least if you have the speakers too loud.  Only a little naughty, but we live in the End Times ...

If you own a late model Jeep Cherokee, you're pwned

And by that, I mean pwned:
The result of their work was a hacking technique—what the security industry calls a zero-day exploit—that can target Jeep Cherokees and give the attacker wireless control, via the Internet, to any of thousands of vehicles. Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.
How bad is it?  This bad:
Miller and Valasek’s full arsenal includes functions that at lower speeds fully kill the engine, abruptly engage the brakes, or disable them altogether. The most disturbing maneuver came when they cut the Jeep’s brakes, leaving me frantically pumping the pedal as the 2-ton SUV slid uncontrollably into a ditch. The researchers say they’re working on perfecting their steering control—for now they can only hijack the wheel when the Jeep is in reverse. Their hack enables surveillance too: They can track a targeted Jeep’s GPS coordinates, measure its speed, and even drop pins on a map to trace its route.
I've been talking about this for years and years.  Here's an example from four years ago:
The rush to computerize your car is basically over, which means the rush to pwn it has begun in earnest.  Fortunately (for the Bad Guys), security was never part of the design - for example, all of the non-critical components (like cell phones, music players, and GPS nav units) are on the same network as the critical ones (brakes, throttle, transmission control).

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

It looks like the automakers are fixin' to learn what software companies learned decades ago:
  • If a software developer finds a security bug right after he wrote the code, it costs a few bucks to fix.
  • If QA finds the security bug a couple months after the developer wrote it, it costs hundreds of dollars to fix.
  • If the customer finds the security bug years after the developer wrote it, it costs thousands of dollars to fix.
Oh, and the rest of you who don't have Jeep Cherokees?  You're probably pwned too.  That's another reason to ride a Harley.  Or one of these:

Remotely hackable cars are a PR nightmare, but I expect there will be a bunch of these stories over the next few years.  The rush to market with lousy security designs will cost the automakers millions of dollars.  All I can say is that stupid is expensive.

Best wishes to Greybeard

Recovering from heart trouble.

Monday, July 20, 2015

In An Old Store Window

I'd venture a guess that the store owner let the Scouts set up a window display some years ago. Now the store is closed and some of the windows panes on the side wall are broken, letting the birds fly in and out. A lantern, a square knot, a fishing pole, a couple of arrows, an old pot over a small pile of wood, the U.S. flag, a t-shirt and a handbook. It was detritus when it was put there, cast off bits of Scouting equipment that people didn't need anymore.

I wonder how long it's been there, this echo from another time, I wonder when the last time was that anyone really looked at it. I stood there this afternoon for several minutes, overcome by memories, then took the best picture I could with my phone.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Back To The Woodlot

This time I had a volunteer. It goes much faster and it's a more pleasant task with hard working company. He told me it was like getting a full body work-out and a sauna without paying the gym fees. This from a guy that used to bail hay in the summer in Texas.

Here's the outcome. One truckload closer to being ready for winter.

 Over the years I have come to love this part of the country. Farmland and woods, empty county roads, the windows down and the radio tuned to some oldies rock station.


I was thinking of SSgt. Wyatt and what I have learned about his life.

When you think of Scouting, you usually think of a group of boys hiking, cooking on an open fire, pitching a tent, or learning to tie knots. And Scouting encompasses those things. But Scouting is more. It is a means for a young man to learn leadership, to prepare for being an adult. It teaches real lessons about honor, trust, and responsibility. Camping is just the vehicle that Scouting uses.

My sons were all Scouts. They did not all become Eagle Scouts, and they were not perfect Scouts. Making every boy an Eagle Scout is not the point of the program, and no boy is perfect. The point is to give every boy the skills to master himself, make decisions, and learn some outdoor skills in the process. Done right, it’s a lot of fun, too.

Being a volunteer leader for a Scout Troop was, outside of my family, one of the most meaningful thing I have done in my life. The other people I worked with, and the Scouts I watched go through the program, are, on the whole, some of the best people I know. Part of that is the type of person drawn to Scouting, and part of it is how Scouting effects those who participate.

Scouting stands for what is best about us. The Scout Law, applied by each of us, would solve most of the problems we face.
A Scout is; trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
–The Scout Law

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pluto: can't we just be friends?


Thoughts about Donald Trump

Boy, the establishment hates his guts.  And he's polling so well that he's the front runner.  These two issues are joined at the hip, as the bulk of the American people despise the establishment.  Trump's candor and forthrightness (well, so far at least) cut through the clutter and resonates with regular people.

This analysis isn't anything new - you've heard it already.  You've also heard that people like him because he fights - he doesn't back down, issue phony "sorry if anyone was offended" apologies.  He's the 2015 version of Newt Gengrich.

Newt did the same thing - see how he instantly rejects the premise of the question?  Notice that the audience cheers this rejection even before he has elaborated on his single word answer?  Notice how when pressed, be unleashes a smackdown on his hapless questioner?  See how the audience cheers, to the point that you have trouble hearing the moderator try to segue to a commercial break?

Trump does that.  The other Republican candidates should be nervous about the first debate with Trump, because The Donald will basically ignore them and simply trash the establishment media moderators.  The audience will love it.

Just like Newt did.

And just like Newt, he will have a metric ton of contradictory past statements that will leave everyone wondering if they can trust him.  Me, I don't trust him - not at all.

But you know what?  I'm getting a bunch of emails from smart people saying they like what they hear from him.  And unlike Newt, Trump can fund his own campaign.  He doesn't care that the panicked GOP establishment just dropped $120 Million into Jeb's coffers.

This is getting interesting.  In a very end-of-the-Roman-Republic sort of way.  Me, I'm getting some popcorn, because this is fixin' to get good.  The circus is entertaining, and the bread is free.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The end of the Lee-Enfield era?

Aaron finds that the Canadian Rangers are fixin' to replace their Enfields.  It seems that this will be the end of that venerable rifle's use by combat units.

That's been a long, long run - it was the Rifle of Empire, serving in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.  Over 19 million were manufactured.  This is unsurprising, since it it not just supremely accurate but a pleasure to shoot as well.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Culture Wars

I continue to be humbled that anyone want to read my words and thank you both for reading and for those of you who take the time and effort to leave comments. Once again, the comments lead to the next post.

Glen Filthie points out that standing up for the free speech of people that do not themselves believe in free speech is the action of a fool. Nonetheless, I think there is no other way to support my own rights.

I have to do my level best to defend all the rights of everyone, even if they use those rights to try to infringe on mine. The guy who stands up and says, "I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but..." does not believe in the 2nd Amendment, or indeed in the ideas of personal freedom enshrined in the whole Bill of Rights.

So too, the guy who stands up and says, "I believe in the right to free speech, but..." doesn't believe in free speech. He believes in regulated speech, approved speech, controlled speech. It's the kind of thinking that puts up cattle fences outside a convention hall and calls it a "free speech zone". It's the kind of thinking that creates a law that bans "hate speech".

So I believe in and defend the right of:

a gay person to speak, write,to create art, take photos, make and wave flags, etc.

a Christian fundamentalist to speak, write, to create art, take photos, make and wave flags, etc.

a gun rights advocate to speak, write, to create art, take photos, make and wave flags, etc.

a Buddhist to speak, write, to create art, take photos, make and wave flags, etc.

a neo-Nazi to speak, write, to create art, take photos, make and wave flags, etc.

<any person> to speak, write, to create art, take photos, make and wave flags, etc.

If they use these rights to advocate for infringing on the rights of others, so be it. They can still say it. You don't have to be right or smart or educated to use free speech. It's a tool anyone can use. I'm using it now. It cannot be taken from me. It's a right, not a privilege.
“We live in a world in which people are censured, demoted, imprisoned, beheaded, simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Tough shit. That's the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas. Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we're in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good, and true, it's time to make a run for the fence.”
― Daniel Gilbert
** EDITED: I had put in "group" where I now have person and I had groups mentioned in the lines above. Burkdoggy, in the comments, rightly called me on it and I edited the post because it is individuals that have rights, not groups.


The original image is so iconic that it is immediately recognizable and so open to reuse and reinterpretation. It gets used in advertising around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It's been on posters, stamps, memorabilia, sold and resold for 70 years.

I got an email from a friend this morning with an article about the gay pride parody of the Iwo Jima flag raising. If you haven't seen it, here it is.

He was offended by it. For reasons having to do with having served in the Marine Corps and identifying with the incredible sacrifice of those who fought on Iwo Jima and what the image has meant to generations of Marines and the the country.

I'm not saying he's wrong to be offended. I am saying that there's nothing to be done about it. Free speech and free expression are so important that my support for this artist's rights to express himself in just about any way he wants is absolute.

I do not think that this artist, or anyone who has not served in combat, can understand what the fighting on Iwo Jima really was like for the men who fought there. That doesn't change my views on his right to use the image. All of us are free to speak, make art, and otherwise express ourselves in ways that we choose.

Let's go one further. My support for this other artist's rights to express himself in just about any way he wants is absolute, too.

We can't have it any other way. If you start censoring things because someone is offended, there is no place to stop, because someone is always offended. One of the freedoms those Marines were defending in WWII was the right to free speech. It's up to us to decide if we are willing to defend it, too.

So Why Heat With Wood?

 Nosmo King, in the comments, anticipated my next post. I would have used more words, but I would not have said it as well:
"I remember sitting in my chair very late at night, sock feet on the hearth, dogs asleep alongside my chair, the cat asleep in my lap, watching it snow through the sliding doors, sipping single malt. A few nights like that tend to make one forget the personal abuse involved in keeping the stove fed."
 Here's a picture I took in December of 2013.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Free Heat

In the Middle of the Right posted yesterday on the same topic.
Was talking with a dude about what we did this weekend.Mentioned that I had split a rick (8' X 4') and half of wood. Got my exercise."Oh, you heat with wood? Cool!"...."Must be nice to have all that free heat...wish I could do that".
I drive a full size pickup. The primary reason for the truck instead of something like a Mazda Miata is firewood. But ya' gotta drive something, so ignore that.

The chainsaw is a Stihl 044. I have 4 bars. Two 20", one 24", and one 30" bar. I have eight or so chains for the 20", and two each for the larger bars. Call that a grand. The maul, wedges, and sledge are small change, maybe a couple of hundred.

You have to store the wood to season it. Racks, old railroad ties, landscape timbers, and the space it all takes up. Again, if you scavenge most of that, small change.

You need a stove, along the heat shields, the triple wall chimney, and the brick platform it sits on. Let's call that two grand.

Most of that is one time costs and in the end insignificant to the cost of heating with wood. That cost is not measured in dollars.

Wood. I have figured out that I need about 17 or so full truckloads every winter. That's 17 half-days. Leave the house after lunch, drive to the land owned by a very generous friend who lets me cut on his property, cut, split, load the truck, drive home, unload and stack. If a Saturday appears where I think, "Wow, I'm pretty well free today," my next thought is to go sharpen the spare chains and load up the saw.

The cold weather comes. Maybe in October you start having a fire in the evening. The first one is a pleasure, the room warms, and your summer efforts pay off. By mid-November, the stove is running all the time. Might not be stoked up, but there's a little fire going to keep the chill off. The wood pile begins to shrink.

December to March, you are bringing wood to the porch every day, adding wood to the stove every few hours, hauling ashes out. The woodpile disappears and you start to wonder if you gathered enough.

There's a reason people put in gas furnaces. You have to want to heat with wood. You have to be willing to work hard to do it. You are going to sweat. You need to be in reasonable shape. You need the skills to wield that saw, cut down good sized trees and make stove sized pieces, and not kill or maim yourself.

There is nothing free about it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Knowledge is Past Experience

In the comments on my last post, STxAR left a comment about his sister and brother-in-law taking on too much tree. They apparently survived the event uninjured. How do you get to be good at something? You can take lessons, read about it, work with someone who already can do it, but in the end it is practicing that brings competence. It might be driving, shooting, martial arts, swimming, algebra, sex, or a million other things. You start out a beginner and you gain experience by making mistakes. Hopefully you survive those mistakes, but it is not always so.

When my son was in college, he took a class on outdoor experience and he shared part of it with me. The instructor spoke about the adventure/chaos continuum and how it changes over time. I'll use canoeing as an example. You're 12 and at Scout Camp for the second time. You can swim and have signed up for canoeing. The instructor takes you out on the lake every day. You learn the strokes, learn to capsize and right a canoe, learn some basic safety rules.

Years go by. You perfect your strokes, can use a J stroke to travel in a straight line, have done some river trips, learned to read the flow of a stream. You get more adventurous. Other experienced canoeists invite you to take on white water canoeing and you learn more skills. At each stage, it is an adventure. The thing that changes is your level of competence and experience. As it goes up, the previous experience that was interesting and adventurous is no longer enough, you want something more. What started out as a very safe, supervised activity on a lake is now a kevlar canoe, a helmet, and a high speed descent through a rock garden with no room for error. At each stage, the amount of adventure felt about the same to you. What has actually changed is the margin between adventure and chaos. Yes, your skills are much better, but the situations you put yourself in no longer allow for mistakes. Now if you miss a line between the rocks, you capsize and are swept under into the rocks and pinned.

You can see this in rock climbing, hang gliding, wing suit BASE jumping, and so on. This is not a reason not to do things. It is knowledge to apply to what you are attempting as you assess the risks. Sometimes you just decide to portage around a stretch of rapids.

A tree I might cut on the edge of an open field is also a tree I would hire a bonded professional for if it was near a building. A tree that is solid and healthy is different than one that is rotten most of the way through. I cut one tree for a friend last year in return for the wood. It was 20 feet from a trailer, but I had an open line, it was leaning slightly and the crown was weighted nicely in the direction I wanted to go. I refused to attempt another tree that was also nearby. Told him to hire a pro with a bucket truck.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Heating With Wood

Heating with wood means getting wood. I can still do it with a chainsaw and a splitting maul.

So yesterday was a wood gathering day. I usually try to recruit help so I am not alone in the woods with a chainsaw. I also recruit help because cutting, splitting, hauling the wood to the truck, and unloading and stacking it is a lot of work.

My best help is in Texas on vacation. My other best help was working. I took the saw and went to the woods alone. I picked an oak tree that was leaning and and had some vines that I didn't see and promptly leaned it the rest of the way into another tree.

This was not my first rodeo and I made my cuts and managed to get the tree down without anything more than a severe case of adrenalin overload.

True Blue Sam posts videos of chainsaw advice. On his front page he has a how-to dealing with making cuts on a tree that has tangled itself into another tree appropriately titled Staying Alive While Cutting Lodged Limbs. The links you can follow on YouTube from this video will make you think that a chainsaw and a standing tree are just about the most dangerous thing in the world.

He also has a list of rules for using a chainsaw in his sidebar. It's longer than the 4 rules of gun safety, but it seems to cover yesterday's festivities pretty well. Here's three of them I can give an AMEN to:
12. Make a plan for every tree you cut. Assess hazards, lean, escape routes, forward cuts, and back cuts. Evaluate the forward or backward lean, and the side lean of every tree you cut. Know your limits.

13. Clear your work area and your escape path of brush, vines, and other hazards that can trip you or catch your saw.
22. Do not cut a tree that is holding up a lodged tree. Do not work under a lodged tree. Think about a mouse trying to steal the cheese out of a trap.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Friday, July 3, 2015

4th of July, 1965

I was eight. It was the 4th of July and we were at my grandparents house.

My grandfather had some real firecrackers. Big around as a road flare and about two inches long. They had long heavy green fuses sticking out of the side. He would put one under a coffee can in the driveway and light the fuse that stuck out under the side, then hustle back to where he had me standing.

BOOM! Loud as a shotgun. The can would launch up in the air about as high as the trees in the front yard and then drop back somewhere in the yard. We probably did that together for an hour. My grandmother and mother were not amused.

We had the old woven folding chairs out of the garage and put charcoal on the grill. Burgers, corn on the cob, baked beans, and Cott ginger ale.

When it got to dusk we lit sparklers and I ran around the yard waving them in circles.

Sometime about 8:30 we climbed in the old Ford station wagon and rode into town for the fireworks.

No one wondered if the flag was a symbol of oppression. The fireworks my grandfather set off rattled the windows but didn't bring the police. We were unashamedly patriotic and knew we lived in the greatest county in the world.

Someone should remember.

15 Minute Lunch -- Laugh Till You Cry

Ever open a grease trap? We had one on the kitchen drain in an old house in S.C. It apparently catches the grease before it gets into the drain field and causes big problems. I had to open it once, on a summer day, and I still remember that experience, although I am sure that therapy would help.

Anyway, here, from 15 Minute Lunch, is a post about bad plumbing, a long drain pipe with no drop, and what happens when you do your own plumbing. Here's a teaser:

Chuck was holding onto the other end, trying to make sure the gunk that came out was evenly dispersed across the lawn, so his grandfather wouldn't notice it.  I couldn't help but laugh when the pipe started disgorging its disgusting contents. At first it came out like a four-foot-long sausage made of cottage-cheese, and then it sputtered and started vomiting chunks of what looked like hammered up bars of ivory soap onto the lawn.  Yeah, that won't be noticeable, I thought.  You could see it from space.  Chuck was making that "urk, urk" sound again, because even though we were outside, the stench was fearsome.  Pretty soon we were both laughing our asses off even as our eyes watered, wondering how the hell it had come to this.

If you haven't been reading his work, I hope you have some spare time this weekend to poke through his archives.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Real "Last Post"

I was chasing links from The Grouchy Old Cripple last night when I washed up on a blog I had never visited before. It was The Whited Sepulchre and it is already shut down. The last post was in April of this year. It's a little rambling and disjointed, but the author was dealing with brain tumors and his imminent death, so I'm going to look past that. As a bonus, if you scroll back through his site, he was one of us.

I was going to pick a quote and put up a link, but the link above will take you to the same place. I am posting the whole thing. He was writing a message to the universe, I think. One last cry into the void of what he had learned and wanted to share. Here it is.

The Last Blog Post - "Don't Be Safe"

This is a tough one to write, for emotional, physical, and coordination reasons....
A few months ago, I started having problems driving, walking, and accomplishing basic tasks.  After a quick trip to the ER,I was diagnosed with some nasty brain tumors.
So this is it, folks.....
Starting this website has been one of the best decisions I've ever made.  I't's gotten me politically involved, and has earned me friends and readers all over the world.
Im' gonna try really hard not go get too maudlin or sentimental here....

For the last 20 years or so, I've been responsible for running my company's morning Production Meeting.  I never figured out why I was the one to do it.   Perhaps it's because I'm the guy who hates meetings the most, and I was always able to keep the thing moving along at a decent pace.

Several years ago, some of our owners went to a trade show that featured some presenters from Disney.
The Disney people said that their #1 priority was to "Be Safe".
Well, that's bullshit.
Their #1 priority is to bring happiness to families everywhere" (you can look it up -- it's in their mission statement).
You don't dress a teenager up like Tinkerbell and zipline her from Cindederella's Castle to the top of The Matterhorn every night if your #1 priority is to be safe.
That's what you do if you want to be awesome.
Anyway,because of the report on the Disney speakers,  I got into a rut of saying "Be Safe" at the end of every meeting  It was our Amen,our dismissal, and our Benediction.  .  If I could take a "Do Over" on anything I've done at work in the last few years, it would be to come up with another closing line to use at the end of that meeting.

People once told my father that if he ever started growing and irrigating rice on his farm, it would poison the land.  Because of his decision to go ahead with a new rice  crop instead of cotton and sobybeans, I got to see The Colisseum in Rome.  I got to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Because Darrell Cooper Sr decided to have some "Entrepreneurial Seizures", I've had the glorious privilege of seeing the sun come up twice on the same day while flying over the Great Wall Of China.
So what should I have said for the last 20 years?
How about "Be Wise?"  "Be Cautious"?
I dunno.
But I'm now working with a very short clock, so to speak.  If I fit into the statistical norms, I've got anywhere from 15 to 18 months to be around.   I know that the first time I sat down with my daughter at a Blackjack table and saw her split 10's against a dealer Ace, that she would do just fine.  She was going to be ok.  She was going to terrify me, but she wasn't going to be held back by anything or anybody.
She will never (in TS Eliot
's phrase)  measure out her life with coffee spoons.  She's going to live it up to 11 every chance she gets.
So please don't ever, ever waste another minute of your wonderful life with "being safe"Take risks.
 Destroy your perrectly laid-out shop and put in a Specialty Department. (Hello Ray!!) Get involved in politics and put Mary Kelleher to work disrupting the most corrupt institution in Fort Worth  .Raise Hell.  Find some activists to associate with, and bang some pots and pans together in the street.  WIN the Fort Worth Gay Pride parade  and then wake up the nest morning to staff your booth at a gun rights show.  I promise you that if you ever get brain tumors everyone of of those beautiful people you meet will come see you in the hospital.
And yes, I'm very much aware that I'm one of the few people I know who has had to use a helicopter pilot as a designated driver.
That's part of the package.  (Yeah, there probably is some middle ground between getting drunk enough to see dead people and "Being safe".)
I'm writing this post with a head full of creepy-crawlies, and sorry for the lack of spelling, grammar, and coherence.
But folk, please don't ever, ever, ever waste your time in being too safe.
You know that idea you have of a better way to fix broken windshields?  Do it.  Start that business.  That book you've always wanted to write?  Those earrings you want to start designing to sell online?
Do it now.  Yeah, people might laugh.  Who cares?  There will always be people willing to wait in line to laugh at your ambitions.  Let them be the ones to be safe.
Whether you know it or not, you too, are working with a short clock.
If you can to one thing right now for me or for yourself, don't be safe.
It's been real.
Don't be safe.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Music for the bonfire

As the Republic lurches towards the Abyss in this Cold Civil War, what is a playlist for the End Of Days as the flames lick at the foundations of the Common Weal?  Here's one suggestion; I hope that the Bonfire will be as lighthearted.  Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Remember, the Agents of the Surveillance State are predictable.  Hey Federale, where you going to run to?

A parable on taxation

You only get the green stuff that you can actually reach.

It's amazing how many Smart™ people in politics simply don't get this concept.

In re: the Confederate Flag, and other matters

Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, [France] entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards.

- Charles Dickens, A Tale Of Two Cities

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

- Voltaire
So we see that the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is now DoublePlusUngood Crimethink™, as is an off-hand joke by a Nobel Prize winning cancer scientist, as is the opinion of the CEO of the Mozilla Foundation and some poor rocket scientist who wore his lucky shirt to the comet landing of his space rover.

As are the travails of many others who find themselves on the wrong side of RightThink™ in this current Cold Civil War.  They can all console themselves that they will merely lose their jobs, their houses, and their families.  The Chevalier de la Barre did far worse than them, Back In The Day.

But the crime was the same.

Jean-Francois de la Barre was a punk.  He and his aristocratic buddies were cut-ups and petty hoodlums in late eighteenth century France.  But he went too far, showing disrespect to a religious procession.  It was said that he failed to doff his hat to the Cross as it went by.

For this, he was convicted in a court of law.  The Parlement of Paris upheld the sentence of death, and added (no doubt as an after thought) that he should be tortured first.  And so it was written, so it was done on this very day in the year of our Lord 1766.  He was an example to All Men about what not to do to cast disrespect on the Ancien Regime.  To make sure that nobody didn't get the point, his corpse was beheaded and burned with a copy of Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary nailed to it.

Today's Old Regime is more merciful: you will not be killed, but will merely lose your job, your living, your flag, your history.  All is for the best, Citizen, in the Best of All Possible Worlds.

And how do we know that the Left is truly ignorant of history (likely willfully so)?  They know nothing of Voltaire.   But it's OK.  They're ever so much smarter (and nicer - remember the "no more beheading" thing?) than you or I.  And rejoice, Citizen!  The chocolate ration has been increased from 3 ounces to 2½ ounces!  The People's Revolution is glorious, is it not?