Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sarin Wrap

I hit this topic briefly last week right here at KN@PPSTER. Expanded version now up at the Center for a Stateless Society. Teaser:

The definition of "chemical weapon" and "weapon of mass destruction" gets inflated or deflated as necessary to serve the purposes of a regime’s ruling class, both at home and abroad.

Chemical warfare
When a US drone fires a Hellfire II missile with an 8-pound fragmentation/anti-personnel warhead into a wedding party in Pakistan, that's just cricket. When Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly sets off two pressure cookers filled with black powder and ball bearings at the Boston Marathon, that's "using a weapon of mass destruction."

When the US government uses tanks to pump CS into an American church, sets the building on fire and machine-guns the fleeing residents, that's "law enforcement." When Bashar al-Assad allegedly uses sarin on armed opponents trying to overthrow him, that's "murdering his own people."

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Idiot Pol of the Month

English: US Congressman Michael McCaul
English: US Congressman Michael McCaul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A couple of weeks ago, US House Homeland Security Committee chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) opined that ball bearings are "the signature" of an improvised explosive device. They're not, of course -- lots of IEDs don't have ball bearings, and at least some mass-produced explosive devices do.

Now he's back with a conflicting opinion -- far from being IEDs, the pressure cooker bombs used in the Boston Marathon attack were so sophisticated that the Tsarnaevs must have received training to build them, rather than just copying the widely available (including in al Qaeda's magazine) plans for doing so.

Oh, and he also accuses the Obama administration of "rushing to judgment" (which he, of course, would never do and then have to reverse himself only two weeks later, right?), and complains -- citing his experience as a federal prosecutor -- that having government law enforcement agents like, obey the law and stuff, is just a really, really bad idea.

Not that any of this should be surprising: McCaul is exactly the kind of "cradle to Harvard to government 'service' without ever having to live in the real world" bureau-rat that Republicans bellyache incessantly about, right before appointing them to congressional committee chairmanships. If he hadn't got on the government gravy train and then married money, he'd probably be operating a booming street-corner squeegee operation  and falling asleep every night wrapped around a pint of MD 20/20.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

OK, Now It Is Real Transportation

The bicycle rack arrived today. It was advertised as "universal," which I assumed meant "no matter what bike you try to put this one, it will be a huge pain in the ass." But actually it wasn't too bad.

Once the rack was installed, I used bungee cords to attach a "milk-crate style" basket. But I wasn't happy with the bungee setup, so I rode into Archer and grabbed some zip ties, and then rode back -- about 11 miles, all told, and all of it on reasonably hard-pan bike trail that's not quite finished but is very, very nice.

So now it is not just a leisure and exercise machine. I can go grocery shopping, etc. As some point I'll probably add pannier bags for longer trips. And of course a custom-printed plate: NRTNXIII or something along those lines.

Supply + Demand = Movie

Copperhead -- Ron Maxwell's third film on the American Civil War, this one focusing on northern "peace Democrats" instead of on the battlefield as did Gettysburg and Gods and Generals -- hits theater screens on June 28th. But will it hit YOUR local screen?

The supply side is taken care of. There's a finished film, scripted by Bill Kauffman and starring (among others) Billy Campbell, Angus McFadyen and Peter Fonda.

Demand? Well, that's the catch. It looks like a great movie and I wouldn't be surprised to see it on some awards lists, but historical dramas can be a tough sell to local cinemas. They're usually longer than your run-of-the-mill "troubled but sexy and dedicated cop/soldier/spy/bureaucrat catches half the bad guys and kills the other half" clones, which means fewer screenings per day, which means less money, especially if they're not blockbuster hits from the git-go.

Copperhead is a movie you're going to want to see on the big screen ... and you need to let your local theater know you want to see it on the big screen.

Fortunately you can to that very easily -- here, or by clicking on the movie poster in the sidebar.

If you're not sure you want to see it, why not check out the trailer? Here ya go:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Also, the Word "Gullible" is Written on the Ceiling Just Above You

The latest "news" (I use the term loosely, for reasons I'll explain below) from the Tsarnaev investigation:

Sixteen hours after investigators began interrogating him, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings went silent: He'd just been read his constitutional rights.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev immediately stopped talking after a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney's office entered his hospital room and gave him his Miranda warning, according to a U.S. law enforcement source and four officials of both political parties briefed on the interrogation.

A transparent attempt to justify the regime's "public safety exemption" BS line for not Mirandizing him in the first place, of course. The narrative fastball from the Batshit Insane wing of the Perpetual War Party will be "see? If he'd been read his rights immediately after his arrest, he'd never have told the interrogators anything."

And if you believe one word of that narrative, please come into my realty office. We need to discuss some bridges and oceanfront property I'm positioned to offload quickly and cheaply.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is 19 years old. He has lived in the US since he was eight. He is an American high school graduate and an American university marine biology major. He's seen as much cop TV as anyone else on his block, and he knew damn well that he had "the right to remain silent, etc." from the moment the cuffs went on.

Be crystal clear on this: We're being told exactly what the regime wants us to hear, and we're being told what we're being told because what we're being told serves their purposes.

Not our purposes, and certainly not any high-falutin' purposes of "justice" or "truth." This is all about, and only about, the political class (with the help of lots of useful idiots) justifying what they've done and whatever it is they might want to do next.

We don't know whether or not Tsarnaev has said anything at all, or if so what it might be.

The only thing we can be close to absolutely certain of is that if a person works in or for Washington, DC, and if that person's lips are moving, that person is lying.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WMD For Me, But Not For Thee

Israel claims that Syria's Assad regime is using chemical weapons against its two-year-old rebellion. That follows similar claims from France and the UK.

I'm not sure why they're bellyaching. All three regimes routinely use chemical weapons themselves. The Israelis use them in the West Bank. France used them last month on anti-family protesters. The UK uses them on tax protesters -- and exports them for use by tyrranical regimes.

The Feds Rape the English Language Some More

So now a pressure cooker with some gunpowder and nails is a "weapon of mass destruction?" You've got to be kidding me. Idiots ...

The kid should be charged -- in state, not federal, court -- with four counts of murder and x counts of assault with intent to kill (one for every wounded person).

Anything beyond that is cowardly appeasement of, and capitulation to, Islamist terrorism.

In other news, I'm not sure who all is worth listening to on this stuff, but Conor Friedersdorf has a pretty good piece on who isn't.

Monday, April 22, 2013


... sort of.

Any time I try to set up "blackout code" at KN@PPSTER, disaster ensues. The site is on Blogspot, not on a server I can control. Sticking javascript in the template header tends to produce either no results or perverse ones, and I'm not particularly interested in nuking my template and replacing it entirely, even for a day.

So, the compromise: I'm changing my settings to show only this post on the front page, embedding Anonymous's blackout video and linking to the CISPA Blackout page. And that will have to do.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Something to Keep Very Much in Mind

Peter King, Lindsay Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, among others, are far more dangerous and inclined to resort to terrorism on any given day than the Tsarnaevs, if guilty, ever dreamed of becoming. Exhibit A:

In a statement, several GOP lawmakers -- Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. -- called the decision not to immediately Mirandize Tsarnaev "sound and in our national security interests." However, they expressed concern that "exclusively relying on the public safety exception to Miranda could very well be a national security mistake. It could severely limit our ability to gather critical information about future attacks from this suspect."

Putting these four in the US Congress is like putting Adolph Eichmann, Klaus Barbie, Heinrich Himmer and Hans Heydrich on the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League.

No, It's Not From The Onion ...

It's from the Boston Globe (although I got it via a chain of hat tips terminating here):

On block after block of the Boston’s Financial District and Downtown Crossing, Starbucks shops went dark as the city locked down, spurred by a manhunt for the second marathon bombing suspect. Dunkin’ Donuts stayed open.

Law enforcement asked the chain to keep some restaurants open in locked-down communities to provide hot coffee and food to police and other emergency workers, including in Watertown, the focus of the search for the bombing suspect.

Stereotype made manifest. When the revolution comes, that might turn out to be handy knowledge.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Public Safety Exception?" Um, No.

The "public safety exception" is bullshit in the first place, but even were it permissible it is intended to apply only to circumstances of immediate danger.

No such circumstances exist. They've caught the guy. He's in custody and his alleged accomplice is dead, and they had Boston and environs on (completely illegal) "lockdown" prior to his capture.

They're just continuing to roll the dice on a week-long project to see how much totalitarian lawlessness they can get away with.

The response to the Boston Marathon attack has so far been a near-complete victory for Islamist terrorists, and treating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as anything other than a run-of-the-mill criminal suspect is just continuing to give them (and their allies, the "neoconservatives" and other authoritarian interventionists) exactly what they want.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Now Hear This

Here is a "left libertarian" site.

Here is a "liberaltarian" site.

The two terms don't mean the same thing.

There's some ideological overlap, but it's fuzzy. There are some people with one foot in each of the two camps (I used to be one of them; now I'm not), which can be confusing.

If there lines of separation that are even slightly bright, I'd say they are these:

  • Most, if not all, left libertarians are anarchists. Most, if not all, liberaltarians consider the state at least inevitable and possibly necessary; and following from that,
  • Most, if not all, left libertarians eschew electoral politics and "public policy," while most, if not all, liberaltarians consider those two things part of their program of action.
All of the above is, of course, just my opinion.

That is all.

They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

Quoth an unnamed White House official:

Any event with multiple explosive devices -- as this appears to be -- is clearly an act of terror ...

Said official was later cited/quoted by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, indicating that this is the presidential "line" on the subject.

I understand why President Barack Obama would want to be "clear" that the Boston Marathon attack was "clearly" a terrorist incident. After all, he got pilloried taking his time before calling the Benghazi attack, which was under no plausible definition a terrorist incident, a terrorist incident.

Since then, he's buckled down assiduously to the post 9/11 American political convention of screaming "IT'S TEH TERRORISTS! RUN FOR YER LIVES!" whenever anyone hears an explosion or sees an Arab in the vicinity.

BUT: It is far from "clear" that the Boston Marathon attack was terrorism.

And no, the criterion of terrorism is not "any event with multiple explosive devices." Although that would be interesting insofar as such a definition would make virtually every US military artillery gunner since the Korean War a terrorist.

So anyway, "terrorism" has two components -- target and objective.

The targets of a terrorist attack are civilian non-combatants. If the targets of an attack are combatants -- military personnel or employees of the government fielding those military personnel -- it's not terrorism.

The objective of a terrorist attack is to create terror, usually but not always for the purpose of affecting government policy. If that's not the objective of the attack, it's not terrorism.

What do we know about the Boston Marathon attack? Not much.

We don't know whether a war-type scenario even applies, so we don't know whether a combatant/non-combatant distinction exists.

This may have been a workaday crime of some sort -- for example, the blasts may have been intended to distract from a robbery to occur elsewhere, or they may have been intended to kill or injure some specific person or persons with whom the bomber(s) had a beef, with the rest of the casualties being "collateral damage." If that's the case, it was not terrorism. That doesn't mean it wasn't an evil crime. It's just that words, you know, mean things.

It is certainly possible that this was a war-like scenario and that all those civilian non-combatants were the targets, and that by killing and injuring those targets the bomber(s) hoped to create terror. In fact, it's not just possible and not just plausible, but seems likely.

But unless Obama et. al know some things they aren't telling us (which is very likely, but that doesn't lend itself very well to the proposition of clarity, does it?), it is far from "clear" that this is the case.

We won't know any of the things we don't know until we know them. The unnamed government official's alleged clarity on the subject is either based on undisclosed information (in which case we can't share his clarity) or else is just a BS propaganda line.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chromebox, Nearly Six Months Later

So, the Chromebox arrived at the beginning of November, and I began the process of moving my work (and other computer-based activities) almost entirely into the cloud. Probably time for a think about how that's gone.

In my opinion, it's gone great. Really. The only issue I've run into is the one that loomed large in the first place. But I'm going to make you read a bunch of other crap before I get to that issue. After the jump.

I've Heard of Some Low-Down Dirty Things ...

... but this one takes the cake, at least for this morning.

A friend of mine attended his daughter's wedding this weekend. A beautiful affair, he says.

When the bride and groom returned to their home after the reception (from the context of the story, I assume they cohabited before the wedding -- NTTAWWT), someone had taken all their electronics.

Planning a burglary for the victims' WEDDING?

I'm normally a restitution kind of guy, but I don't think I could bring myself to condemn them for finding the perpetrator and cutting his nuts off. That would yield Darwinian social benefits, too, I guess.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Hallmark of an Improvised Explosive Device ...

... is that it's improvised ("manage[d] in a makeshift way; do[ne] with whatever is at hand"), as opposed to mass-produced from standardized parts.

The hallmark of an IED is not that it has ball bearings in it.

"One piece of evidence I'm particularly interested in is whether these devices contained ball bearings, because that's the signature of an IED," [House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas] said. IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, are frequently used by al-Qaeda-linked groups and would suggest a foreign link, he said.

And pretty much any and every bomb used by criminals or terrorists, working individually or in groups, is by definition an IED. They don't go buy an Acme Model I bomb, they find whatever materials they can find and build themselves something out of those materials.

Might an IED have ball bearings in it? Sure. But so do some manufactured bombs like the M18 Claymore.

Might al Qaeda use ball bearings in an IED? Sure. But so might any of the remaining dissident Irish Republican Army groupings, the Ku Klux Klan, or the White Bulger Fan Club.

While it's possible that there might be "signature elements" to the Boston Marathon devices, use of ball bearings wouldn't per se be an element that would narrow anything down much.

To put a finer point on it, McCaul is a dumbass.

The New Tent Arrived

So the first thing I noticed when I went to put it up was that one item ("tent stakes, 30, in bag") appeared to be missing. This was a problem, but not anything I was going to let stop me.

I was able to round up five stakes from the old tent, etc. Then I got into my toolbox and started using screwdrivers and chisels as stakes, just to hold the thing down until I could get to the store.

Got it staked down, as it were, went in and placed the pole, so the tent was now "up."

When everything appeared to be as close to right as it was going to get, checked things out. Pretty nice, but there was a lump under the floor.

It was a bag.

With 30 tent stakes in it.


Today's Episode of Political Jeopardy

I'll take "Joe Miller" for $200, Alex ...

"Why am I considering a 2014 Senate run?"


They Claim They Are Trying to Help ...

But I don't find the claim very believable:

Bail increased for North Pond Hermit 
Authorities say it's for his own protection, citing a long-distance marriage proposal and a stranger who tried to post his bail.

Someone offered to pay his bail, so the state filed more charges against him (jumping his bail from $5,000 to $250,000).

And they did this after the guy refused the offer to bail him out at $5k.

"For his own protection." Yeah, right.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

PSA: Not An Apology

Apropos of Various and Sundry Things:

If you discuss contentious issues on the Internet, you're going to get metaphorically kicked in the 'nads every now and again.

Sometimes it will be my steel-toed Doc Martens knockoffs doing the kicking.

Cherry Red and Black 14-hole Dr. Martens bootsNothing personal.

Wear a cup.

Keep an ice pack handy.

I do.
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Saturday, April 13, 2013

My North Korea Theory

I think US President Barack Obama wants a war with North Korea.

Why? Five reasons:

1) I think he wants a "legacy war" that secures him a place in history. "The guy who brought a 63-year conflict to an end, turned a 60-year stalemate into a glorious victory, finally closed out the Cold War era" sounds pretty good.

2) I think he believes that a war with North Korea can be won "Desert Storm" style -- that the vaunted North Korean military will collapse within days, if not hours, and that unlike Desert Storm, the military collapse will be followed quickly by political collapse, with the US military probably suffering relatively few casualties (unless the North breaks out an atomic or nuclear weapon, in which case he can claim justification for getting the job done before they were able to lob one at Salt Lake City).

3) I think he believes that the US can avoid "quagmire problems" by letting the South Koreans handle "re-unification" and the Chinese handle "humanitarian assistance."

4) Speaking of the Chinese, I think he thinks that this war will put the Chinese on notice that the US remains a power in their region, while simultaneously giving them a chance to make friendly as a post-war "partner" on the Korean peninsula.

5) I think he sees a short, nasty, brutish war as a great way to justify compromising with the Republicans on military spending (they've been calling for 18% growth of DoD over the next five years, he's been stuck on 10% -- neither side, of course, has advocated any real cuts at all; that 10% increase is the GOP's "draconian cuts" complaint), which might produce an agreement to continue increasing all spending (and accompanying debt).

I strongly suspect that, if he thinks what I think he thinks, he is right on points #2 and #3.

Yes, North Korea has a big army, but it's a big conscript army that's equipped with 50-year-old planes, tanks, APCs, etc. and that has to put much of its manpower into farming and manufacturing to feed and clothe itself.

In point of fact, I think that if the 1991 war had been North Korea versus Iraq instead of the US versus Iraq, Iraq would have whipped North Korea's ass.

If the balloon goes up, I predict that the North will collapse militarily within 5-7 days and politically within 5-10 days. The North's artillery and rocket forces will make hay along the DMZ, inflicting heavy civilian casualties in Seoul and other border areas -- for a couple of hours, if they fire first, before they can be suppressed and perhaps a day or two before they're eliminated as a coherent threat.

Now, please don't take this to mean that I support a US war against North Korea. I don't. If I can't push a button to eliminate all the states involved in the situation, my advice to the US is to give South Korea a date certain after which it will be entirely responsible for its own defense, and start getting US forces out of there on a timetable that reaches "zero US forces in South Korea" by that date. But I don't see that happening.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Translation from NewSpeak

Per the Guardian --

NewSpeak version:

"Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean peninsula. ..." Obama said.

English translation:

"I'm working overtime to get a war going on the Korean peninsula, but I have to make it look like it was forced on me," Obama said.

NewSpeak version:

DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.

English translation:

The DIA has been ordered to produce "intelligence" sufficiently scary to serve as justification for an attack on North Korea, but not so scary that millions of Californians panic, stuff all their belongings in the trunks of their cars, and drive like hell for Nevada.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Latest Bitcoin Crash ...

... took longer than I expected to arrive.

Here's a news story, and here's some commentary from Mike Gogulski.

I liquidated most of what little I had on March 28th -- earlier than I probably should have, but as it happens only five days before my preferred service for doing so, BTC Buy, shut down. I can't complain. In Federal Reserve Note terms, I think I took out about four times what I put in, and that doesn't include some donations I had made in the interim.

It wasn't a huge amount, and I didn't liquidate because I was worried about Bitcoin's FRN value. I did it because I wanted to buy some things and because my Bitcoin balance was attractive for the purpose at that moment. But as BTC passed $100 shortly after and just kept climbing, I did think that the price reflected some irrational exuberance by speculators on one hand and maybe some Cyprus-related fiat currency panic on the other. I didn't expect it to hit $200.

If you're disillusioned by the crash and want to dump your Bitcoin balance, there's a button in the sidebar. But frankly I recommend against it. And I also recommend looking at Bitcoin as a medium of exchange, not an "investment." The point isn't to "buy it low and sell it high," it's to use it to facilitate your own personal buying and selling of other things. A Bitcoin isn't a share of stock, it's (at least putatively) money.

Ya Just Gotta Learn the Lingo, See?

If this guy had just coquettishly alluded to "all options" as "remaining on the table" and perhaps thrown in his regret that "negotiations got off to a shaky start," he'd be a budding diplomat instead of an accused felon, right?

Idiot Pol Gives Anti-Family Bigots a Sword

[h/t Dondero]

I am pro-family and pro-marriage, which means that I oppose marriage apartheid. In fact, I don't think that the state should be in the business of defining or licensing marriage at all (I also don't think that the state should be allowed to exist, of course, which encompasses the forgoing, but anyhoo ...)

The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit in Benton County Superior Court against a Richland florist who refused to provide flowers for the wedding of longtime gay customers, citing her religious opposition to same-sex marriage. ... "Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation," Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. "If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service."

Naturally, anti-family/anti-marriage advocates are jumping on this, and I can't really blame them. It makes great propaganda for their anti-family/anti-marriage cause.

As for myself, for the record: If you don't support same-sex marriage, I believe you should be free to oppose it in any way you like except forcing other people to refrain from it or engaging in violence against those who support or engage in it.

If you run a church and don't want it to be used for same-sex weddings, that's your right.

If you run a business and don't want to sell goods or services to same-sex couples, that's your right.

And it's the right of those who don't like your religious beliefs or business practices to refrain from attending your church or patronizing your business, and to publicly mock you. But not to force you to refrain from superstition and bigotry.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

If You Doubt That American Politics is Mere Theater ...

... consider this revealing headline:

With Senate agreement imminent, public phase of immigration debate set to begin

"Debate" seems like rather a strange term for "we'll make the decisions in private, then put on a public melodrama to make everyone else feel involved."

Just sayin' ...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Cruisin' ...

Bicycle Race by Queen on Grooveshark

Another "had to wait awhile, but got'er (partially) done" item off the check list. It's been more than a year since I last rode. When we made the move to Florida, we were short enough on moving tote space and our bikes were old and decrepit enough that it made sense to leave them at the curb where they could be claimed by new owners and hopefully refurbished an re-used.

Today we found good deals on two bikes -- one for Liam (he still prefers a 20-inch single speed; doesn't like tall bikes with derailleurs and such), one for me. Tamara and Daniel are still looking.

I broke in my inexpensive single-speed "cruiser" (exactly what I was looking for -- OK, not exactly, but I don't see inexpensive 3-speed "touring bikes" around any more) with a 6.x mile ride back to the house. No basket or rear rack, but I'll take care of that pretty soon. Pleasant ride, although I figure I'll be sore tomorrow. I'm not sure this budget bike would handle a Gainesville-to-San-Francisco trip or anything, but it seems solid enough for local errands and so forth.

This isn't just an exercise machine, although that's part of it. It's about three miles from home to the nearest grocery store (three miles west to a Sav-A-Lot, three miles east to a Publix). With a basket (probably a "milk crate" type box on a rear rack, actually), I can take up some household shopping slack. Or ride into town to do things, maybe hitch a ride back home with Tamara when she gets off work (note to self: Look for vehicle bike racks on Craigslist).

Gainesville and Alachua County are extremely bike-friendly. There's actual designated bike lane over much of the highway between town and my house, and where there's no bike lane, there's a parallel paved trail. Unlike some cities where I've seen a lot of "publicly funded" bicycle lanes and trails that don't seem to get used much, a significant portion of traffic here seems to be bicycles. Why? I can think of several reasons:

  • It's a college town. Lots of students on bicycles, and it looks like most of the rest of them on motorized scooters. Oh, and lots and lots of pedestrian traffic. I get the feeling that a big portion of the population here live most of their daily lives within an easily walkable or bikeable radius.
  • The vibe here is ... "green." That creeps some people out, but I'm down with it for the most part. Lots of solar homes. A local company goes from restaurant to restaurant collecting scraps for compost. Not with trucks; they have little trailers they pull behind their bicycles. So for some people, riding a bike is probably at least semi-ideological. Saw a family the other day -- mother father, three children of various ages -- tooling down the street on their bicycles together and it did not look like an "occasion." It looked like "this is how we roll, all or most of the time." They looked affluent. I bet they have a car. I bet it's a hybrid.
  • The area itself is just fantastic for bikes -- good weather most of the year (I see a lot of motorcycles, too, btw) and the terrain is mostly flat, with gentle grades when there are altitude changes at all. My past bicycling experience is in the Ozarks hills and the St. Louis area. Long, at least moderately steep, grades and the weather ... well, let's not talk about the weather, OK?
So anyway, life is good. Got wheels.

Tent Living Update

I gave up near-full-time outdoor tent sleeping last summer, by which time the Ozark Trail dome tent had been continuously deployed for about nine months. 

When we arrived in Florida, I decided to put it back up, and have occasionally slept in it since (including the one night that it got down to 19 degrees fahrenheit, because I figured "who the hell gets to sleep outdoors in 19-degree weather in Florida?" It's located back in the pines toward the rear of our acre lot, far enough from the house that it actually feels like ... well, like camping out.

So now it's been deployed outdoors (as opposed to folded in a storage bag) for a total of about a year, and it's been a very reliable piece of gear. It's developed a couple of small tears that could (and should) be easily repaired, but otherwise it's in fine shape. I mean, it's a $25 tent and the zippers are all still in good shape despite, conservatively estimated, 250 openings and closings. I've had tents that didn't make it a week without a pranged zipper or busted fiberglass pole.

If you're looking for a cheap tent that's a great deal at the price, I heartily recommend Ozark Trail products.  This one has been through heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, sleet -- pretty much everything except fire -- and it's still in usable condition.

That said, I've been thinking about getting a new tent for a long time. I've been thinking about getting a bigger tent for a long time, too. Not just for "back yard tent living," but because I'm hoping to finally get the family into camping way out beyond the back yard. I finally found the deal I couldn't refuse, and it's on the way from The Sportsman's Guide:

If my math skills aren't completely out of whack ("pie are square ... no, pie are round; cornbread are square"), a 10-foot diameter means a 5-foot radius, which in turn means close to 80 square feet of floor space. I've seen smaller apartments. Not to mention I'll be able to stand up in it.

Sorry, Kent, it's not a real tipi -- it's just got one pole, running up the center, which would be a problem for someone who wanted to put e.g. a queen-size air mattress down. But I don't need a queen-size mattress (when I sleep in a tent it's on a thin foam backpacking mat), and real tipis of reasonable quality are a bit out of my price range at the moment.

At 14 pounds or so, it's prospectively portable as part of a backpack scenario (at least my kind of backpack scenario; I used to carry a rifle, ammo and anywhere from 25-75 pounds of mortar stuff in addition to a pack full of "the daily life stuff," remember?).

Obviously a real review will have to wait until I've put it through its paces, but the specs look very promising -- allegedly factory-sealed seams, polyurethane waterproof coating, etc. I look forward to its arrival.

Friday, April 05, 2013

PSA: Bitcoin is NOT Anonymous

The bitcoin logo
Up-front clarification: I am not "against Bitcoin." I have mined Bitcoin, I have bought Bitcoin, I have earned Bitcoin, I have received Bitcoin, I have spent Bitcoin, and I have exchanged Bitcoin for other currencies and for goods and services. I like Bitcoin (with certain reservations and "wait and see" provisos).

But nearly every day, I see one or more persons extolling Bitcoin for being "anonymous." And it. Is. No. Such. Thing.

It is possible to be anonymous while conducting transactions in Bitcoin, but that anonymity has to be achieved independently of the Bitcoin transaction process -- because that process is not only not anonymous, it is completely the opposite of anonymous: Every Bitcoin transaction is logged, and the log of those transactions (the "block chain") is publicly viewable. See, for example, here.

So, if a Bitcoin address can be associated to you, anyone who's willing to go to even a little trouble can examine each and every transaction you've ever made using that address (want to try it for yourself? Grab my semi-permanent Bitcoin address from the sidebar "donate Bitcoin" button and plug it into the service linked above -- voila, you'll see every bit of activity associated with that address). And if the accounts on the other ends of those transactions can likewise be associated with particular people, anyone can know whom you're dealing with and to what extent in Bitcoin.

Some of the bigger wallet providers / market makers / payment processors are also already cooperating with governments, requiring users (at least users who transact in large amounts) to "verify their identities."

Now, that is not to say that all hope of anonymity is lost. There are steps you can take to protect your anonymity.

For example, you can use one of the wallets that isn't bending over for Uncle Sugar on the ID thing.

You can come to that wallet electronically disguised via proxies or using public Wi-Fi instead of your home Internet connection or whatever.

You can frequently change the Bitcoin addresses associated with that wallet (indeed, some automatically create new addresses with each transaction, although previously used addresses remain functionally linked to the wallet for re-use). That's not bullet-proof protection -- if the bad guys get access to the wallet, with a warrant for example, they can know which addresses are associated with which accounts -- but it's at least a layer of obfuscation.

Using Bitcoin anonymously is something you have to proactively work at. The system itself is not, was never intended to be, and was never advertised as, anonymous.
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