Friday, October 21, 2011

Picture-Screeds on Facebook

Okay, so I've got a few friends who keep posting a veritable crapflood of angry turgid extremist political bilge on Facebook. It was getting to the point where these few individuals-- say, three out of a total of several dozen Facebook friends-- were responsible for something like 95% of the posts I saw every time I dropped by Facebook. All angry lunatic politicized garbage.

It got so bad, I was finally driven to install a third-party Firefox add-on which enables me to block posts on Facebook based on content. Any post that contains terms such as Obama, Bush, conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, dailykos, foxnews, Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street... I never even see those posts any more. They're blocked. Problem solved.

Or at least, the problem was solved until a few weeks ago, when these friends all took to what I take to be a new Facebook fad. Posting pictures. Pictures that don't really contain anything pictorial. Pictures which simply present a slogan or screed or rant. Angry rigid political picture-screeds, like the JPEG equivalent of a political poster. I can't block 'em, because they bypass any text-based filter. It drives me crazy. What is this, the latest escalation in the "political bilge" arms race?!

No, it must just be a new fad. Because my friends have no idea I'm even blocking anything on my end. And I never noticed any damn picture-screeds until quite recently. Whatever's going on, it's quite annoying. I haven't found a real good fix yet, though I have found a way to block most pictures on Facebook, period. It blocks cute baby pictures and harmless Harry Potter pictures as well as the politicized picture-rant bilge, but at least it's stemming the tide for the moment.

Meanwhile, what drives some people?! Really. Why do they think anyone wants to read dozens of angry extremist political posts from them every single day? I just don't get it.

Update: Bingo! I found the solution. It involves regular expressions. And it works with nigh-surgical precision.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Flannel Sheets

It's getting to be that time of the year again. Yesterday I changed the sheets on my bed, and I put on the flannel sheets.

Had the energy to turn the mattress, too, while I was at it.

It's flannel sheet weather again. Fall is here, and Indian summer is past.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bugout Bag: Contents

In my previous post, I laid out the philosophy behind my bugout bag. To recap: this is really more a bug-in bag, a convenient central repository of emergency items for if I had to get along here at home for a few days, with the power out and/or some major weather-related emergency. With a secondary aim of being useful when and if I have to get out and leave on short notice.

Further background: I am nobody's idea of Rambo, a survivalist, a camper, or a Boy Scout. I'm just an old bachelor in his fifties, who lives on a gravel road far out into a remote rural area of flyover country USA, better than half an hour in good driving weather from the nearest small town. I know my own limitations, and am trying to plan realistically, with and not in defiance of those limitations.

That said, the basic bedrock idea for my bugout bag is that Less Is More. I decided to restrict myself to what I could fit into a leather dopp kit, which measures about 10"x6"x5". The end result weighs little more than 10 pounds, and can be carried under my arm.

Here's what the bag contains:
  • Bandanna
  • AM/FM/SW radio powered by two AA batteries, and stored in a cardboard-lined metal box to help protect the radio against EMP
  • Ear buds for the radio
  • Wire antenna which can be reeled out and clipped to the radio's whip antenna
  • Collapsible steel drinking cup
  • Folding knife with two blades, clip and spey
  • Flashlight, aluminum, Maratac Extreme, powered by one AA battery
  • Spare AA batteries, four, in waterproof Delrin battery lockers
  • Leatherman Super Tool 300 multi-tool in a leather pouch
  • Embassy pen, aluminum, with Fisher space pen cartridge, will write under almost any conditions
  • Rhodia notepad no. 12, graph ruled, 4.7"x3.3"
  • Deck of playing cards
  • Pocket New Testament
  • Pocket slide rule, Pickett aluminum, 5" log log duplex (this is my one original idea, I've seen it nowhere else: more reliable and more EMP-proof than a calculator, and hey, I'm old enough that I learned in school how to use a slide rule)
  • First aid kit: I kept it real simple, several bandaids of assorted sizes, a piece of moleskin, and four extra-strength Tylenols, in a small resealable plastic bag
  • Prescription medications, three-day supply, in a small resealable plastic bag (you really can't have enough of these small resealable plastic bags, like tiny ziploc bags, 2"x3", 1-1/2"x4", whatever; items come in them, and I save the bags)
  • Waterproof metal match box holding strike-anywhere wooden matches
  • Steel & magnesium fire starter: this is the one boyscoutish item I got, and I oughta learn to use it
  • Small stainless steel lighter
  • Tinder, alias lint from my dryer, in a small resealable plastic bag
  • Small metal toothpick holder with toothpicks
  • Fork, knife, spoon, aluminum, compact foldable camping utensils
  • Whistle
  • Compass, brass, liquid-filled
  • Can opener, compact foldable P-51
  • Micro widgy pry bar
  • Keyring screwdrivers, regular and Phillips
  • Tiny, tiny clip light, can be clipped to clothing, leaving hands free
  • Cash, several hundred dollars in tens and twenties, stashed in the internal side pocket of the bag
  • Emergency Medical ID Card, foldable accordionlike in slipcover, with personal info, emergency contact info, medical info, list of my prescriptions, name and phone of my doctor, stashed in internal side pocket
  • House key, spare, stashed in internal side pocket
  • Carabiner, aluminum, clipped onto outside leather carrying loop
I repeat, all this is packed comfortably in a single leather dopp kit, about 10"x6"x5". I don't have scales around the house, but I'd judge it weighs little more than 10 pounds.

And I forgot, there are a few other things slipped in there. Instructions for the radio and the Leatherman multi-tool. Spare O-rings for the flashlight and the lighter (packed in an ever-handy small resealable plastic bag). You get the idea.

You'll notice, I'm not averse to redundancy on certain critical items such as knife blades, can opener, or ways of starting a fire. And if I could grab one other item on my way out the door, I'd take along a water bottle I've got, with built-in filter. Second item, I'd grab a fixed-blade knife.

Where did I find these items? Around the house, and various places online, chief among them A.G. Russell, Amazon, Duluth Trading Co., and especially Miles Stair's Survival Shop. YMMV, but those are good places to start.

All this is still very much a learning process for me, I'm a beginner on these matters and nothing more. A simple bugout bag in a leather dopp kit, really intended more as a bug-in bag. I think my next step would be twofold:

(1) On the bug-in front, start exploring the ins and outs of a small portable kerosene stove. I've got plenty of food stored away, but coffee and rice and Quaker oats do require heating, even in the dead of winter with no electricity.

(2) On the bug-out front, start thinking about what kind of items could be included in a weekend bag to go, such as a few day's supply of clothing, food, water; and blanket, and other items I deliberately excluded by sticking to my dopp kit.

Keep at it, and I ought be prepared for ice storms, power outages, flooding, blizzards, the collapse of the euro, President Obama calling a banking holiday and declaring martial law... maybe even the zombie apocalypse!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bugout Bag: Prologue

Well, I figured as long as I'm going insane and stocking some extra canned food in an unused cupboard for just-in-case, I may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. Yes, I'm pulling together a bugout bag. Have I gone certifiably crazy, or what?!

Actually it's more of a bug-in bag. A convenient centralized storage place for items that might come in handy in an emergency, better to have them already assembled than to be scrounging around and searching once the proverbial shit has hit the fan. I can't really think of an emergency, this side of a house fire, where I'd be better off fleeing my house rather than staying and digging in.

Still, I can think of a number of actual incidents, in the years I've lived here, when it might've been handy to have a bag like this assembled in advance. Ice storms are frequent here in the winter, and I can remember several which kept many people in these remote rural parts pretty much confined to home base for four or five days, and the roads not really so navigable, even with 4WD and a Jeep like mine, for upwards of a week. There are ice storms, there are blizzards, there are power outages, there is flooding, there are tornadoes. A tornado has never come my way yet, though there have been a few close misses, with major damage where the thing touched down. And I could tell you about the time a few years ago when I had to deal with two feet of water in my basement, and many local roads out due to flooding.

I'm basically pulling together a bag which will have what I need in one place in case I need to get along here at home, without electricity and/or without ready access to the outside world for a few days. As a very secondary aim, I'm also planning with an eye to the (much less likely) contingency of ending up staying with neighbors, or in a public shelter, or having to leave the area entirely on short notice.

You can google on bugout bags, and see what people commonly put in them. What strikes me is just how overly-heavy and overloaded many of these bags are. I mean, come on, am I really going to head off into the sunset wearing a backpack that weighs 80 or 100 pounds? I don't think so. The usual advice-- pack two extra changes of clothing, pack a sleeping bag, pack a tent, pack a portable toilet-- I'm sorry, but I'm assuming that unless there's a house fire in the middle of the night, I'm going to be suitably dressed, and carrying in my pockets those items I carry in my pockets whenever I'm dressed. And I'm not planning to leave on a permanent survivalist's camping trip on a moment's notice. We're talking have it on hand, or carry it with me, in some kind of practical real-world framework.

So, I started out by limiting myself to what I could pack inside a shaving bag. A leather dopp kit. This immediately ruled out extra clothes, or food and water, or portable toilets, or any of the other usual extravagances you'll find on so many BOB packing lists. And I was surprised at how much I could fit in that small leather bag, at a total weight of only 10 or 15 pounds.

Coming next: The contents of my bugout bag

Thursday, October 6, 2011

That Inward Horror Known as the Self

Looking inside of myself, I am sometimes horrified at what I see. I am well acquainted with some of the ways in which I am a flawed, faulty, broken human being. No doubt sometimes I succeed in deceiving myself on this front, but I know myself all too well to be fooled all of the time regarding myself.

Most of the time I conduct myself fairly decently toward people around me, and they conduct themselves fairly decently toward me. Though sometimes I do slip up, and that horror which is within me slips its leash and lacerates innocent people around me. When this happens, I am usually sickened and nauseated by my own behavior toward them.

I don't always know if they can tell. Does it show through? Does it show through to them that I am sickened by my own behavior? Sometimes I do apologize. But even when I don't (life isn't always so straightforward), does something in me show through to them, that I am cringing at what I just said or did, that my conscience isn't allowing me to get off scot free?

I wonder about this, because on those rare occasions when someone behaves poorly toward me, I can sometimes sense their inward cringe, their horror at their own behavior toward me; though more often not. Especially online, I could easily get the impression that many people rarely feel compunction regarding their careless or even malicious online mistreatment of others.

The standard patter regarding this is that on the Internet people lack the visual and emotional cues which are in motion face to face. If online behavior weren't on average notoriously so much worse than face-to-face behavior-- come on, it's become a commonplace, don't deny it-- then I might buy this standard patter as an explanation, or at least a partial step toward an explanation. As it is, it hardly rises above the level of a facile excuse. Qui s'excuse, s'accuse.

Online, as in everyday life, I've generally been quite fortunate in my dealings with people. That is, most people I encounter are quite decent and likable folks. My current blog is (thankfully) pretty much readerless and commenterless; but my old blog, which I ran for several years under my real name, had several dozen regular readers and a dozen or so regular commenters, and they were all without exception unfailingly polite, civil, courteous to one another. It was a delight blogging and dealing with them.

But one doesn't have to search very hard to find blogs, forums, boards, threads where it is quite otherwise. And these venues make me wonder. When I look inside myself, I'm horrified at the attitudes I sometimes find. I'm sickened when these attitudes within me slip the leash, and get loose. But how about some of these people out there who routinely treat their host or fellow commenters like garbage, and seem to display nary a twinge of conscience over it? Are they ever horrified by their own poor behavior? Do they have any internal level of self-awareness, any self-insight into just what a piece of work they truly are? Or do they sail along blithely with never a self-doubt and never a self-regret?

Do they succeed in fooling themselves all the time regarding themselves?

On second thought, I'm not altogether sure I really want to know the answer to that question. I'm horrified enough at what I sometimes find within myself. Let the self's faults be sufficient for the self.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tax Forms

Well, back in April I filed for an extension on my 2010 tax forms, and seeing as October 15 is rapidly looming up, I was glad I could tear myself away from my work today and find time to do my 2010 federal and state tax forms. This is one of the beauties of having a fairly flexible work schedule; I don't know quite how I would've managed it back in the days when I was punching a time clock.

It helps that I live a fairly simple life with fairly simple finances too, so that I can still manage to do my own taxes, and what's more clear them out of the way in a single manic day at my desk.

And it's a beautiful day out, shades of Indian summer, and I think I'm going to celebrate the completion of my damn tax forms by drifting up to a little crossroads community about 20 miles north of here, where there's a small restaurant that serves excellent burgers and fries.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Secularism as Mummery

secularist n One who is gripped by the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be praying.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

None So Blind As

For many who call themselves "open-minded," open-mindedness is merely the continuation of narrow-mindedness by other means.

For many who call themselves "tolerant," tolerance is merely the continuation of intolerance by other means.

For many who call themselves "liberal," liberalism is merely the continuation of illiberalism by other means.

For many who call themselves "inclusive," inclusiveness is merely the continuation of exclusion by other means.

For many who call themselves "rational," rationalism is merely the continuation of blind unreasoning rage by other means.

For many who call themselves "nonconformists," nonconformity is merely the continuation of conformity and social control by other means.

For many who call themselves "loving," love is merely the continuation of hate by other means.