WolfesBlogArchives: December 2004

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I ASKED FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE RED CROSS for tsunami/earthquake relief -- and you guys responded. You always come through ...

I'm posting below all the messages we've received so far (with initials, not names, of senders, since I'm posting their words without taking time to ask permission).

Please donate something to one of these groups, if you can. If you planned a year-end gift to the blog, send it on to somebody whose life might depend on it, please.

Here are the messages and links:


As a fellow libertarian I find it difficult to find a non-political aid organization, but this one comes close -- Direct Relief International. It gets much of its medical suppliers donated from drug companies.



Taken from the BBC website: Medecins Sans Frontieres.



I was poking around last night looking for somewhere to make a contribution, and settled on Doctors Without Borders.

They're not only helping the direct victims of the tsunamis, but are preparing to try to avert some of the aftermath (malaria, dysentery, etc.) that an awful event like this can bring on.

Dunno what their politics are, but in a case like this, I think it doesn't much matter. And they claim that a hair over 85% of contributions are used for actual aid.


Medecins Sans Frontieres and Doctors Without Borders are the same organization. And I concur. We could probably argue politics with them all day, but they're a fine group of very courageous, dedicated people.


For much useful information, and because we've got to laugh, even in the worst times ...

The Command Post has a big list. I don't know diddly about any of them.

I do like one they list, only because of their name. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), which, if you selectively expand their acronym, you get CCODPeace. :) Oh, wait, is that the equivalent of GreenPeace, except focused on cod? Okay, it's late, and maybe I'm on a chocolate binge crash.


P.S. See also http://tsunamihelp.blogspot.com/.

Tsunamihelp is put up by locals in the affected area. Bless the Internet and the wonderful souls who use it to do great work.

Posted by Claire @ 01:41 PM CST [Link]

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

IT'S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT, BUT the first mail day after Christmas is Linuxmas. On that day, the Linux Fairy showers gifts upon good little girls -- gifts like shiny fat folders full of Knoppix, Damn Small Linux, SimplyMEPIS, and three (count 'em, 3) different versions of Mandrake.

If the little girls have been really, really good -- or if they've covered the tracks of their bad deeds exceptionally well -- the shower might even include a SanDisk Cruzer mini USB flash drive. Wow.

I know the secret identity of the Linux Fairy, but I think he had some hard-working elves on this project, also, and I'm going to poke around a little more to uncover their identities (and wait for a happier day in the world) before I give full thanks and details about these wonderful goodies. But I've already spent hours exploring the above and I am bowled over.

What I can't figure out yet how the Linux Fairy and elfly crew knew I wanted a flash drive. And the Cruzer has its own encryption program, which is more than I'd ever have thought to ask for. Did I already say wow?

Posted by Claire @ 11:53 AM CST [Link]

TSUNAMI DEATH TOLL IS NOW AT 55,000, the Turkish press reports. Almost beyond imagining. I used to live by the ocean, and the thought of a 30 or 40-foot high wall of water sweeping in upon people and towns is one I can imagine all too well. Does anybody know any groups or individuals (other than the Red Cross) who might be able to give effective aid to the survivors? Email Deb and me and we'll publicize anybody who might do justice to contributions.

Posted by Claire @ 11:32 AM CST [Link]

NO POLITICS. NO OUTRAGE. Just building a trail. I was as surprised as anybody to learn that Backwoods Home had put this article from their latest print magazine online.

Oh, I'm also now doing DVD reviews for the print version of BHM. In the current issue two great films about boys growing up: Secondhand Lions and Stand By Me. Upcoming -- why, Firefly, of course! The reviews will continue only if readers say they like the new feature.

Posted by Claire @ 11:10 AM CST [Link]

Friday, December 24, 2004

From the Desert Hermitage

It was 8 below zero at the Desert Hermitage last night and it's a startling certainty that we're going to have a White Christmas out here in the allegedly hot dry regions. Ack! Will somebody please tell this to the global warming people?

The windows are swirly with frost fairies even though the sun's been shining on them for two hours. The sun hasn't got the oomph to melt the four inches of snow on the ground or unfreeze the pipes in all our trailers. But the solar panels are charging away, so all is well.

This is the time of year when we're supposed to send those letters bragging about how we wrote five New York Times bestsellers in the last 12 months, our daughters won the Miss America pageant, our sons hit the Forbes 400 list (or vice versa), and our dogs were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I don't have anything quite so impressive to report. But better than all that, I can look back on a year when I received gifts of maple syrup and dried apricots (two five-pound boxes -- whoohoo!), when Debra and I received many kind -- and sometimes surprising -- contributions for the blog and The Claire Files discussion forums, when Linux guru Mike walked me through setting up a wireless network, when I met a dozen TCFers and found them to be as decent in person as they are online, and when the other desert hermits and I enjoyed visits from two online friends and found them even better than we'd imagined. Oh yeah, and don't let me forget -- a chance to shoot my first real machine gun. :-)

In the outside world, this was a pretty crappy year. Savage, needless war, the encroachment of tyranny, and the growth of spy technologies (and their implementations) all made the world a less safe place for freedom. We got rid of the inconceivable Mr. Ashcroft, but got in his place the inconceivably excrable Mr. Gonzales. We got the Dudley Hiibel "Papers, please!" judgement [more]

Posted by Claire @ 02:54 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I'VE BEEN READING SOME VERY LEFT-WING UTOPIAN BOOKS lately -- part of a research project for a book I've been asked to write (and on which I haven't decided whether I have anything useful to say). The "nurturing, sustainable" societies described in these books are uniformly horrifying. There is no room for people like you and me. Not anywhere. And the authors blithely overlook the most obvious questions and the most blatant outrages against individuality. (Once you've banned all private vehicles, how does a farmer transport crops? Or a family transport large quantities of groceries?)

I've never understood the appeal of these cruel Utopias, because they leave no room for individual differences or inventiveness. They define every single facet of life for everyone. Conform and be happy. Dissent and ... die a miserable death, you polluting, capitalistic, greedy, unmutual individualist.

Of course, you're also free (if not required) to smoke cannabis and have sex when you're 15. But somehow, those seem grim comforts when the entire rest of your life is lived in a fishbowl where all the other fish control what you do and every aspect of life runs counter to your nature and principles.

Yikes! That's anybody's idea of Ideal?

On the other hand, I understand the attraction of Libertopias, even as I scoff at their creators and decry the uselessness of spending time discussing whether private covenants in a pure anarchist society could theoretically violate rights, whether a free person could ever sell himself voluntarily into slavery, or whether the roads should be paved with gold ... oh, whatever!

What I don't understand -- or didn't, back in my idealistic days -- was why liberals and left-anarchists don't like Libertopia. After all, in the most outlandish libertarian fantasy ever evolved, there's still room [more]

Posted by Claire @ 12:46 PM CST [Link]

MY LINUX COMPUTER IS IN THE SHOP for what may be a motherboard problem. In the meantime, I'm doing all my work on a borrowed Windows 98 laptop -- a Dell Latitude, which is really a very nice machine, despite having only a Pentium II chip and ... well, I already said it, W-----s.

I'm grateful to have this machine, not only as a backup, but as my only access to the Internet. The local network here at the Desert Hermitage is W-----s based and therefore (O, Bill Gates!) refuses to acknowledge the existence of computers using any other operating system.

So, it's been no big deal that my Linux machine is in the shop. W-----s 98 was one of the best of the W-----ses, IMHO, and has a minimum of built-in spyware. I'm using the Mozilla Firefox browser and Mozilla Thunderbird mail program (great browser; mediocre mail handler without even the most primitive encryption interface; probably a good application in some future incarnation) instead of Bill's standard virusware.

Happy, happy, happy. Except. Well, I'm suffering from FreeCell withdrawl because [more]

Posted by Claire @ 12:38 PM CST [Link]

SOME LUCKY DUCKS HAVE PRE-SCREENED Serenity the movie. And they rave and rave and rave.

Thanks, Scott, for the news. Now, would you tell the rest of us Firefly fans, brown-coats, and freedom fireflies how we manage to contain ourselves until September 30, 2005!!! to see, up close and personal? Sigh ...

Posted by Claire @ 12:32 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, December 16, 2004

ON DECEMBER 2, GOV. MITT ROMNEY decreed December 15 to be Bill of Rights Day in Massachusetts. On that very Bill of Rights Day, the New York Times reported Romney (in his capacity as leader of a national workgroup on homeland security) as saying:

"The eyes and ears which gather intelligence need to be as developed in our country as they were in foreign countries during the cold war."

Don't be too alarmed, though. He might have meant ... oh, Chad. Or Samoa. Not the Soviet Union or East Germany, the two countries best known for their "eyes and ears." Of course, neither Chad nor Samoa had "Meter readers, E.M.S. drivers, law enforcement, private sector personnel ... on the lookout for information ..." hinting that customers, accident victims, and sick people might be terrorists.

Posted by Claire @ 10:58 AM CST [Link]

GWB IS MAKING CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR the temporary emergency shutdown of the GPS system to prevent terrorists -- and everybody else -- from using it. Interesting havoc this might create in navigation, among other things.

Posted by Claire @ 10:45 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

IT'S Y2K + 4.* DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR PREPAREDNESS SUPPLIES ARE? In case you haven't revisited those cans of fruit galaxy and imitation cheese food powder lately Carty and the Hardyville Y2K (+4) Emergency Committee have some reminders for you. And for me, sigh.

*Er ... Maybe it's actually Y2K + 5. Or maybe even +6, depending on how you look it it. Math never was my strong point. :-(

Posted by Claire @ 11:56 AM CST [Link]

THERE'S NOTHING LIKE A BIT OF LIFE-THREATENING PANIC to teach you about your strengths and weaknesses of your planning.

We had a medical emergency at the Desert Hermitage last night. One of the hermits, a diabetic, suffered a severe insulin reaction and went into convulsions. As he twitched and flailed helplessly, his family members tried to press as much sugar as possible into his mouth (in the form of juices, maple syrup, and brown sugar stuffed under his tongue to melt) and one of them dialed 911. None of us had ever witnessed anyone in convulsions before. Damn scary -- especially when it's someone you love.

We're out in the middle of nowhere here. Our first lesson -- learned almost too late -- is that ambulance crews and sheriff's deputies know the most obscure roads and homesteads more intimately than we gave them credit for. That's a plus when someone looks like he's dying in front of you. But it's a bit unnerving for anyone who might have aspirations to rural gulchitude.

The other thing we learned was how we handle crises. A woman who's usually rock-solid and rational hit an emotional wall. She still did all the things she needed to do to save the man's life, but panic kept her from conveying our location clearly to the 911 dispatcher. A teenage boy, who's a nice kid but not the sort you'd imagine trusting your life to, rose to the occasion with great presence of mind and competence. He fearlessly handled the convulsing man, who was three times his age and twice his weight. I stayed calm, but was enormously grateful to be able to take the job of speeding several miles to guide the ambulance in so I didn't have to deal very long with either the convulsions or the emotional chaos.

All is well now. By the time the ambulance and sheriff's car rolled up, the little bits of sugar that had actually managed to get into the man's system were having their effect. He was conscious again, though still shaky. His job for the next hour was to eat more sugary foods than any normal adult would eat in a month, as a team of volunteers and pros from the county monitored his blood sugar and consulted with a doctor.

Self-sufficiency is a great goal, and yes, we probably could have handled the situation without 911 -- especially now that the EMTs told us about a new method for dealing with such catastrophic insulin reactions (a pre-prepared injectable, called Glucagon, similar in use to the emergency meds used to counter bee-sting allergies). But once again, there are plenty of times to be grateful for the benefits of civilization, and even for the discovery that a sheriff's deputy knows exactly where you live and what vehicle you drive.

We learned a lot about each other and we grew. The woman who surprised even herself with her panic jumped at an offer to sign up for EMT training. The teenager, who'd been in deep doodoo for several days thanks to some particularly imature teenage foolishness, is high up in everyone's esteem this morning. Our diabetic friend is out walking the dogs (though 20 minutes of convulsions leave your muscles miserably sore). And I'm at least comforted to think I wouldn't be completely useless in another crisis.

Posted by Claire @ 11:51 AM CST [Link]

GOT MY COPY OF THE PROBABILITY BROACH: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL today. What a beauty! L. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser's 185-page, full-color re-telling of Neil's first (and best) novel was just meant to be.

In case you've missed it, The Probability Broach tells the story of Denver homicide detective Edward William "Win" Bear who finds himself blown (literally) from a world of crime, shortages, and too much government into an alternative world where wheelless cars cruise over grass roads and dolphins, humans, and other primates all work together. And where everybody -- absolutely everybody, down to the last chimp and child -- bears arms. There is no Denver. There are no police. But there is a twin Edward William Bear. And plenty of freedom. The government, such as it is, is a distant and very different thing than our all-consuming state. Still, there's also a sudden spate of violent crime, which the two Detective Bears and their cohorts must combine to solve.

This story (which combines philosophy and alternative history with a lot of booming action) just cries out for exactly the treatment the very talented Scott Bieser has given it. Gorgeous illustrations, most in traditional comic-book style, plus a few really cool hallucinatory effects in a scene where Win wakes up after an attack. Neil and Scott have done a great job adapting the tale.

Get your copy directly from BigHead Press. (I get no referral fees from purchases of the book. But if you look really, really, really, really, almost microscopically close, you might notice that I did get a mention, along with a handful of other Friends of Neil and Friends of Liberty.)

Posted by Claire @ 11:34 AM CST [Link]

Friday, December 10, 2004

IT'S ENCOURAGING ON THOSE RARE OCCASIONS when leftists are solidly with us on preserving freedoms. Check out this excellent Alternet piece on the the increasing militarization of U.S. law enforcement and the death of privacy at the clawing hands of the Pentagon. Couldn't disagree with a word of it.

Ah, well. But then, the "leftist" in question is our own Jim Bovard.

Posted by Claire @ 12:27 PM CST [Link]

THE OTHER DAY I MADE A BITTER REMARK about failing to shoot goons who take our freedoms. A thoughtful regular correspondent who wants to be known only as Pagan, offered a reply that's well worth pondering.

On 12/6 you said, “Which might say something about my (and most everyone else's) basic good sense and humanity. But says something terrible about any pretentions we have to real courage or determination to be free.”

Don’t worry about ‘pretentions’... ‘real courage’ is not contradictory to ‘good sense and humanity’. Real courage is putting your good sense into gear, knowing what you can get away with or not, and biding your time till you can act.

I recently re-watched two movies (each with its own theme -- and each correct in its own way, I think) which left me wondering who was the true Idealist. Because I saw them one day after the other, they both challenged my mind at the same time.

One was “Rob Roy” who remained true to his honor by ultimately killing his antagonist on his own terms. Taking his chances with life, he girded himself with sufficient expertise, as well as attitude, to be sure of his success.

The other was “Man of La Mancha” who won by default, so to speak, dying with his principles still intact. We must believe in ourselves first before we can claim the right to fight for anything. ("Cyrano de Bergerac" was another.)

Don Quixote and Cyrano are NECESSARY to prepare for battle. But Rob Roy will be more sure of winning the war (as is Mal Reynolds [of Firefly]) -- and will stay alive to fight again!

‘Basic good sense and humanity’ are the actions one takes to set up the enemy on one’s own terms. It is a part of us, as Idealism is; and are just as relevant to Realism as courage and determination must be in order to get the job done.

There is no ‘pretension’ about it, in either case. There is a right time for both.

Posted by Claire @ 12:21 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, December 9, 2004

UNBELIEVABLE. I CAN ONLY SPUTTER. We were just talking about how free speech is the last freedom the feds take (since it's the one the liberals and the press vigorously defend), when John DeWitt posted this horror story to The Claire Files forums.

If you're a dissident writer in some totalitarian regime, you can forget publishing your books in America -- unless your American publisher applies for a special goverment license.

Read. It's grotesquely disgusting.

Posted by Claire @ 07:24 PM CST [Link]

Monday, December 6, 2004

I HAD TO EXPLAIN TO SOMEBODY YESTERDAY WHY I DON'T FLY. "Because I refuse to run the TSA Gestapo gauntlet," I said.

"But why?" the person asked.

My first flash of impulse was to answer sarcastically. "Because I might kill the goons."

Then I realized the much sadder truth -- that I don't fly because I wouldn't kill the goons. Which might say something about my (and most everyone else's) basic good sense and humanity. But says something terrible about any pretentions we have to real courage or determination to be free.

Posted by Claire @ 06:59 PM CST [Link]

ALTHOUGH THE ENTIRE "ADMINISTRATIVE CULTURE" OF TONY BLAIR'S mis-government is against it, there's finally a move in Britain to "allow" people to defend themselves in their homes. Charles Curley sends this article, which reads, in chilling part:

Remember Robert Symonds? It is the name of the 45-year-old Putney teacher who six weeks ago was stabbed to death in the hall of his home by a burglar. His body was found by his wife while their two children slept upstairs.

It was as a result of that incident that this newspaper launched our "right to fight back" campaign, which calls for the public to be given an unqualified right to self defence against intruders in their own homes. The point that struck me so forcibly at the time was not just the horror of Mr Symonds's death, but the fact that had Mr Symonds picked up a kitchen knife before encountering the burglar, and managed to get blows in first, then he would now, as the law stands, be facing a murder trial. ...

This is all by way of a preamble to the fact that at 7.30 last Monday evening, my wife's cousin, John Monckton, was stabbed to death by burglars who had used a preconceived and simple act of deception to enter his well-protected Chelsea home. They also attempted to murder his wife, Homeyra, who, while still in a very serious condition, would certainly now be dead, had it not been for their nine-year-old daughter's discovery of the scene and extraordinary calmness in calling the police. ...

In America, where householders have an unqualified right of self-defence, only 12 per cent of burglaries take place while the owners are at home. In this country, the figure is well over 50 per cent, and as the horrible case of John Monckton shows, intruders are now deliberately choosing times when they know they will encounter someone who can be induced to allow entry into a home that is sufficiently secure to prevent an easy break-in.

The article is rightly called, "The apocalypse is here, in our homes."

Posted by Claire @ 06:50 PM CST [Link]

Saturday, December 4, 2004

SOMTHING I'M LEARNING ABOUT LIVING IN A LITTLE TRAILER whose every minute part leaks or creaks: All RVs and travel trailers are exactly the same. Not only that, but they've all been exactly the same from the primitive dawn of trailerism.

It doesn't matter whether you've got some $100,000 highway palace or some tin can you hauled out of a friend's backyard for $25. They are all exactly alike.

You go in to the RV store to replace a valve or a faucet or a pilot light assembly and there is one -- count 'em -- one choice. And it's in a package simply labeled "water heater pilot light assembly" -- with no long list of models and brands it fits. Just "water heater pilot light assembly" for every heater ya got.

This is a slight exaggeration. Sometimes there are two or three models. And where cosmetic values are involved, as in bathroom water faucets, there may be four or five. But those are the exceptions. You gotta replace your waste water valve, you'll have only one kind of valve to choose from. Now, the fittings may come in different colors, or they may have add-on functions (like one that has a built-in hose attachment for really cleaning out the tank and therefore for some insane reason is made of clear plastic, ick). But every waste water valve in the known universe will fit every trailer, fifth-wheel, mini-motorhome, or motorhome in the known universe. And some company nobody ever heard of named Valterra is raking in more bux than Enron in its heyday. And is actually doing something real to earn the money.

Okay, these universal RV parts may not fit one of those million dollar black-box-bus RVs owned by the truly awesome and incautious individuals who probably purchase their custom-cast, gold-plated, titanium alloy waste valves from Rolls Royce. But the universal RV part fits on everything else, I swear.

(An aside: If you're wondering at this point why anyone with any sense would buy the $100,000 rolling palace rather than the 30-year-old tin-can trailer if they're both the same in their inner workings, I have some choice words for you: [more]

Posted by Claire @ 12:03 PM CST [Link]

I'M SITTING AT A TABLE TONIGHT, DOING SOMETHING I NEVER ANTICIPATED DOING AGAIN. Filling little gel capsules with powder. I haven't done this since I was 18. And my purposes then were slightly less "licit" than tonight's.

I'm scooping little measures of powdered ginger - the plain old table spice - into capsules on the recommendation of a chiropractor, who said ginger is one of nature's best anti-inflammatories. I don't usually have the success with supplements my friends often report. So we'll see.

But it felt so funny, going back to the days (the one or two days, really) that I cut LSD with white sugar (because I had no idea what "milk sugar" was, and that's what everybody always said they were cutting drugs with) before re-selling it to a friend.

It occurred to me to consider the conversation that might take place a month after I'd been gunned down by DEA agents for tonight's work:

"The mysterious tan powdered substance? It was ginger."



"Burn the lab report and we'll tell the investigating commission it was ... uh, pure Peruvian mocha flake, a new and particularly addictive variety of cocaine."

As a matter of fact, I'd guess that at least a handful of crimes actually were committed (mala prohibita type crimes, not mala in se) on the way to getting this ginger on my table.

It's probably against several laws for a chiropractor to "recommend" a dietary supplement. And when I went into the herb store to get the bulk ginger, it was probably against the law for the proprietor to say, "Ginger for inflammation? I'm surprised he didn't recommend turmeric. It's a far superior anti-inflammatory. And in cultures like India where they use large amounts of turmeric, they have a lower indidence of Alzheimers." (Very dicey thing selling any non-government-approved product by claiming it can treat or prevent a medical condition.)

So perhaps when those DEA agents bust in, they'll be in the right after all. "Ginger? You can cook it in Chinese food, woman. But use it as a drug and ..." BLAM!!!!!

Posted by Claire @ 12:00 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, December 2, 2004

WITHIN MINUTES AFTER I POSTED YESTERDAY'S sigh of wonderment about how the pioneers managed to survive conditions like the present cold misery of our Desert Hermitage, friendly reader MJR sent me to Backwoodsman Magazine.

I marvel. I truly do. Me, just gimme a nice, warm latte and functioning electrical outlet I can plug my computer into. The simple life in a little cottage on a hill -- love it. The primitive life? It just reminds me that there were good reasons our great-great-great grandwhatevers invented that sometimes pesky and annoying institution, civilization.

Posted by Claire @ 10:48 AM CST [Link]

WORSE THAN ASHCROFT. Yes, it's possible, says Nat Hentoff.

Posted by Claire @ 10:43 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

IF YOU'RE STILL WONDERING WHAT TO BUY your favorite backcountry homesteader for Christmas, a pretty darned good list can be found in Hardyville.

Posted by Claire @ 06:07 PM CST [Link]

HARD TIMES HERE AT THE DESERT HERMITAGE. I darned near headed for home the other day. A worst-of-the-decade cold snap snapped water pipes, sucked the power out of our batteries, and had us huddling in our poorly insulated little trailers, praying the propane heat would hold out. (So far, so good.)

This is a homestead-in-the-making and although we thought we were properly winterized for this climate, the climate decided to go improper on us. I was totally fried when the water froze up on the first really cold night because ... well, you remember the long, long, long laborious ditch I mentioned the other day? The one that was seriously not fun to dig? That was to bury the water line so it ... wouldn't freeze. Gnrrrrrr.

Still, it's beautiful and serene (when it's not chaotic) and I'm learning some things about myself, like just how much I really, really, really appreciate electricity that's there when you flip a switch, hot running water (or any running water), double-pane windows, and big, thick fluffy batts of fiberglas insulation.

Fortunately today was glorious. Worked outside all day with no jacket or gloves and found myself peeling off layers of clothes. (Nothing prurient, mind you. Even if I peeled down to the undies, in this climate, the undies are nothing anyone would get excited about.)

Some nights, I lay awake wondering how the pioneers did it. Tough sonsabitches, they musta been.

However, the good news is that the Great Mystery Project is going well. And I'm about to ask my writing partner whether it's okay to Tell The World. Will keep you posted. Soon, I hope.

Posted by Claire @ 05:57 PM CST [Link]

AH, YES. GOOD OLD "non-lethal" weapons ...

Posted by Claire @ 05:38 PM CST [Link]

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