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Friday, May 30, 2008

Recommendations 

I'm a firm believer in word-of-mouth recommendations. If someone I respect says that XYZ Company is crap, I'll listen to their story, see if it seems to have legs, and will generally not go there in the future.

I rag on a lot of companies. I won't ever eat at Pizza Hut again because of what they did with the employee that used his concealed weapon to save his life.

I haven't been to a Macy's in over 25 years because of the way a pencil-necked-Mo-Fo treated me when I was buying one of my first suits.

Miller Beer will never see the inside of my house. Aside from not being worthy of cleaning auto parts, they have supported illegal immigration groups.

I don't get the chance to sing the praises of many companies or products. Mostly it's because there is so much crap out there, and companies have seemed to forget the true meaning of Customer Service.

But there are exceptions.

It seems like I've had a recent run of good luck hitting a bunch of good ones, and I want to share them with you. As a disclaimer, for all of these companies and products, I'm a consumer ONLY. No financial interest in any way, shape or form.
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MREDepot.com - There are a million sites that sell bulk food and prepping equipment. I've shopped at a lot of them. These guys, IMO, are head and shoulders above the rest. Decent enough prices, but their customer service is just awesome.

If you're on their mailing list, you get heads-up on scarce items and you can get decent discounts. I got an email about a canned bacon they just got a shipment of. I ordered a case, plus another product, on Tuesday, and I signed for its delivery today. Consistent. Quality. Service. I like that.
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Red Feather Butter. MRE Depot was the first place I heard about this stuff. It's 12 oz of real butter in a can. Something like a 5 year shelf life. I ordered one can to see what it was like. Wow. It's not "as good as butter", it IS butter. Simply delicious. My family was blown away.

I tried to order more, and the government had purchased all incoming stocks (hmmm). They recently got some in, and I bought a case of 24 cans. At a significant discount from the published price because I have bought stuff from MRE Depot before. This stuff is absolutely great.
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MagicJack.com. If you haven't heard of these guys, they offer a product that is generically called VOIP - Voice Over Internet Protocol. It's your phone service over the Internet. This has historically been very low quality. Commercially, Vonage and most cable TV companies offers this for a fee, and Skype has it for free, with some restrictions. But, the quality just wasn't up to snuff.

What MagicJack has done is added some circuitry to a USB device that "conditions" the line - makes it less choppy. You get a 30-day free trial. It costs $47 ($39.95 + tax and tip) to get the device and a local phone number, and it includes one year's worth of free US and Canadian phone calls - incoming and outgoing. After that, it's $20. A year. For all incoming and outgoing calls. Voice mail, call forwarding. The works.

Load it on a laptop, and your phone number travels with you, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. You can either use a regular phone that plugs into the USB device via an RJ11 connection (standard phone plug) - which is what I do - or you can use a Bluetooth device that talks to your PC (which I'll be using on my upcoming fishing trip to call home with tall tales). Too cool.

You need to have a high-speed Internet connection. I've been using it for the last 3 weeks, and it's been flawless. No choppy conversations. Not dropped calls. Just clear connections.

This will be my new business phone number. For twenty bucks a year, it's very tough to beat.
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LegalZoom.com. I recently met with a CPA/Attorney to discuss various legal and tax structures for my upcoming businesses. I sent the guy a 3-page list of fairly detailed questions and scenarios I was concerned with.

I was quite disappointed. I asked which legal structure - LLC, S-corporation or C-corporation would provide me with the best combination of personal asset protection and tax treatment for the kinds of businesses I was considering. I got a bunch of hemming and hawing and BS. He wouldn't give me a straight answer, even when I pushed him.

I had used LegalZoom a couple of years ago to set up a will and living trust, and it had worked out great. I went to their site and they had a ton of direct, specific, actionable information. It laid out the advantages and disadvantages of each legal structure - tax and asset protection-wise. For the questions that were not fully answered, they offered a toll-free number to get clarification.

The attorney was going to charge me $1500 to just do the paperwork to establish a legal entity. LegalZoom charges $350 for their deluxe package which includes forms, certificates, software and the actual filing of the documents. Plus, you can go to their site at any time - for free - if you need reminders about what needs to be done on an ongoing basis. The attorney would send a bill after each "consultation".

Any guess which way I'll be going?

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Your Brain Is A Terrible Thing To Waste 

There are still people in my party who believe in consensus politics. I regard them as Quislings, as traitors... I mean it.
--Margaret Thatcher
I'm an occasional reader of SurvivalBlog. I like some of Rawles stuff, but there is something that just rubs me wrong. Perhaps it's his style - I don't know. I haven't spent a lot of time trying to decide why I don't like his site! I just don't go there often.

I happened to go there yesterday. He had some good stuff (including a great PDF download for a press to make briquettes which can double as an oil press). In general, he does more good than harm, but he had a link to an article that I think is harmful.

It was about a distant British relative, Dr. Kate Rawles, who had completed a bike ride across America to explore, "North American attitudes to and beliefs about climate change along the way".

Let that sink in: A professor, who lectures on science and natural resources, gets a grant from a British university to ride her bike to see if Americans believe in global warming. Man-made global warming, of course.

Uhm, where's the science? It sounds like an opinion poll or popularity contest.
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This is nothing more than adding to the growing body of Man Made Global Warming Groupthink.
Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight.
It is all about consensus. The IPCC releases a report fraught with speculation and errors, but because most supposed scientists agree, it become dogma. Irrefutable and unchallengeable.

A hack has-been politician releases a "documentary" equally full of speculation and fear-mongering. He get anointed our savior and is given a Nobel Peace Prize... for a scientific subject?!

Others jump on board the Carbon Train with scam companies, such as TreeHugger and TerraPass that are still unable to demonstrate that what they do with Carbon Offsets actually helps reduce the dreaded CO2, even if it were bad.

The media gets all gooshy and comes up with the Planet Green network, Green.MSN.com, Green.Yahoo.com, and all the others.

Presidential candidates from both parties talking about taxing us based upon our "carbon footprint". Hell, California has already started.

Our lives are in the process of a major change because of a consensus of thought. How scary is that? Use your head. Where is the critical thinking?
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Look what Dr. Rawles has to say in the Greenbang [snicker] article:

Do you believe in climate change? If so - why?

Yes, most definitely. I believe in it because there is a truly astonishing - not to mention alarming - level of consensus across the international scientific community that climate change is happening, that it has a human cause and that it is very bad news, both for people and for millions of other species.

Hey, doc, there used to be a consensus that the world was flat and that the earth was the center of the universe. Science proved otherwise. Back then, they were VERY serious about conformity. The Groupthink of the time cost people their lives if they dared to have a dissenting view. You must be licking your chops...

Here's a little science for you, doc. Take a look at this chart from Junk Science (click to enlarge):

It's a chart showing global CO2 levels and global temperatures. Over the past 600 MILLION years. Even a simpleton such as myself can see that there is absolutely no relationship between CO2 levels and the earth's temperature. None.

What I also find very interesting is that during the Jurassic period (you saw the movie, right?!) - one of the periods of greatest growth of species in the earth's history, both the temperature and CO2 levels were MUCH higher than they are now.

Explain this to me: During the Ordovician period CO2 levels were about 4,000 parts per million HIGHER than they are now. It started as a period of great growth in species. It turned into an Ice Age that wiped out most species. During the Carboniferous period, CO2 levels were about where they are now, temperatures were about where they are now and great things happened (like the evolution of the egg).

Look at the pretty graph. Click the links I provided. Read facts, not consensus reports. CO2 levels high in one period, low in another, yet the earth temperature was virtually the same. In fact the period with higher CO2 preceded an ice age, not a global melt-down. Humans weren't around during either period.

Why do you think CO2 is related to global warming? And even if it were, why do you think man has anything to do with it?
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Do I think our climate is changing? Yep. I can see with my own eyes that severe weather events seem to be more frequent and powerful. From hurricanes to drought. This change may last a decade or a lifetime. I don't know. If the sun decides to blast us with increase radiation or shut down all together, there's not much we can do.

Other than to adapt.

But we sure as hell can't change it. If severe weather continues, people will migrate to better areas. They'll adapt and perhaps even evolve to thrive in differing climates.
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There is one thing I do like about all of this "green" hype. If we can do with less, waste fewer resources and pollute the planet a little less, I think that's a good thing. Living within our means is a good way to live.

Let people innovate to come up with solutions. This "carbon footprint" scam is nothing more than socialism draped in ecology. We all must move to the beat of the same drummer.

Marx would be proud.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Without Recourse 

Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.
--Samuel Johnson
"Without Recourse" is a term used very often in banking. Generally, when you sell an asset to another bank or investor - generally loans - they are sold Without Recourse. That means that, if the loan goes bad, you the buyer, are responsible for any losses. It is expected that the buyer will perform a Due Diligence Review of the financials of the borrower before making the purchase decision.

There are a couple of "outs" that allow a buyer to come back to the seller to recover their money. The primary reason is fraud. If the seller knowingly misrepresented the facts of the loan, the buyer now has Recourse - the ability to get their money back. Gross Negligence - not doing your job as a reasonable person would expect, can also get your tit in a ringer.

A lot of loans sold Without Recourse are going to be forced back on the sellers.
Unhappy buyers of subprime mortgages, home-equity loans and other real-estate loans are trying to force banks and mortgage companies to repurchase a growing pile of troubled loans. The pressure is the result of provisions in many loan sales that require lenders to take back loans that default unusually fast or contained mistakes or fraud.
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Fraud and Gross Negligence can come in many flavors. A bank can "suggest" to a borrower that they fudge their income on the application to make the debt-to-income ratios more favorable. Hell, the borrower may decide to fudge all on their own, but if the bank does not do the "normal and customary" verification - getting tax returns and pay stubs - they can get hammered by having to buy back the loan, unless they stated it was a "Low- or No-Doc" loan.

Back in December, I wrote about the troubles of Washington Mutual (WAMU):
There is one thing the Feds can do. They can hammer the hell out of banks and mortgage brokers that pressured real estate appraisers to inflate property values. WAMU is at the head of the line with this scandal. Honestly, I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more press.

If the values were not inflated, a lot of these loans never would have been made - they could not have been sold on the secondary market because the financials would have been "outside of the box".
[Sarcasm alert] Shockingly, many other banks and mortgage lenders apparently did the same damned thing. They were under pressure from their shareholders to increase profits, or at least Keep Up With The Jones'.
Many recent loan disputes involve allegations of bogus appraisals, inflated borrower incomes and other misrepresentations made at the time the loans were originated. Some of the disputes are spilling into the courtroom, and the potential liability is likely to hang over lenders for years.
It's gonna get worse before it gets better:
The potential liability from the growing number of disputed loans could reach billions of dollars, says Paul J. Miller Jr., an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Some major lenders are setting aside large reserves to cover potential repurchases.

Countrywide Financial Corp., the largest mortgage lender in the U.S., said in a securities filing this month that its estimated liability for such claims climbed to $935 million as of March 31 from $365 million a year earlier. Countrywide also took a first-quarter charge of $133 million for claims that already have been paid.

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These guys are crooks. Their greed clouded their judgment, both on lowering credit underwriting standards, and then lying about it to investors.

The biggest problem I have with all of the bailout proposals floating around Congress and the financial press, is that it will let the bankers and the borrowers - who are just as culpable, in my opinion - off the hook. Eventually, the losses will be absorbed by the taxpayers.

If the losses go away, no one will be held accountable. The borrowers will have gotten something for nothing - even if they lied to get it -and the lenders will have gotten away with fraud. If no one is held accountable, this will simply happen again, in some sort of re-formulated iteration of easy home loans.

Expect it to happen again. It seems that the only entity that is truly Without Recourse is the American taxpayer.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Innovation Versus Nanny 

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
--Steve Jobs

DAL357 posted an article that really caught my eye. The whole Washington Post article can be read here. It's about our nation's unwillingness to come to grips with the changing global energy market. It has a number of points that I think have merit, and a major one that is just idiotic.

Some snippets and some thoughts:
The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply.
I don't know that most of the general public has ever heard of Peak Oil. I think he hits the nail on the head in stating people have no idea how fully ingrained oil is in every facet of our lives.
As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending. These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis. What's more, the stress induced by the failure of these systems will only increase the wishful thinking across our nation.
He touches on one of my biggest fears with this whole thing: With the mess of the current financial markets, if one or more innovative solutions come about, there may not be the capital available to take them to market.

I worry that private equity sources may be gun-shy. A lot of these solutions take many years, if not decades to come to market. Most private equity - venture capitalists, etc. - want to make a quick buck. After they incubate a small company, they "flip" it for a big profit. I just don't know if they will believe they can flip them.

To flip the business, the short-term venture money must be replaced with long-term investment money. If the business is unable to tap the traditional long term capital sources - banks, investment firms and insurance companies - they'll never get the venture seed money. Most will only lend to proven, sure bets. I just don't know if they'll play along.
The companion belief to "wishing upon a star" is the idea that one can get something for nothing. This derives from America's new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches. (The holy shrine to this tragic belief is Las Vegas.) When you combine these two beliefs, the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star, you'll get something for nothing. This is what underlies our current fantasy, as well as our inability to respond intelligently to the energy crisis.
I think he's right when he says that American's have gotten used to getting something for nothing. It's our government's prime strategy - promise people stuff for no cost. Well, no cost now.

I start distancing myself from his assertions with this paragraph:
These beliefs also explain why the presidential campaign is devoid of meaningful discussion about our energy predicament and its implications. [I Agree] The idea that we can become "energy independent" and maintain our current lifestyle is absurd.
I strongly disagree with that last sentence. We can indeed become energy independent AND maintain our current lifestyle. Instead of depending upon imported foreign oil, we need to depend upon domestically produced electricity. From nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal - whatever.

The eco-freaks and Nanny keep blocking the way.

Additionally, we need to restart our coal-to-oil conversion programs. When the cost of a barrel of oil is north of $40 (as it has been for well over a year), it is economically feasible to do this. So what are we waiting for? And of course, we need to start punching holes in Alaska, California and Florida. On and off-shore.

We have road blocks at every turn.
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The author never comes out and says it, but I get the impression he just doesn't like burning oil. He says we must stop driving cars, start growing our food closer to where we live, and restart our rail systems. I can live with all of that if someone wants to make that personal choice, but I don't think any of them are the fix to the problem.

We don't HAVE to take a giant step backwards. Most people need to drive their cars less than 100 miles a day. With current technology, you can get many multiples of that on a single charge. If the government will get out of the way, that will be multiplied in short order.

Check out Tesla Motors. They've just released an electric sports car that goes from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds and it goes 220 miles on a single charge. They have plans for a grocery-getter station wagon in a few years. Let the market come up with the solution, not Nanny.

Perhaps the food and goods deliveries to stores won't be made by massive semi-trailers, but by short-haul electric trucks. Mack Electric Truck? You may in fact take a train instead of an airplane ride. Pick a problem, and the market will figure out a solution.

If the people want to give up their cars, electricity and commercially grown food, more power to them. That should be their choice.

But most people don't want that. Nanny and the eco-freaks shouldn't be able to force a life-change upon people if a solution is available were there not the interference.
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People will adapt without drastic lifestyle changes if the government just gets out of the way.

Stop with the subsidies for corn. Stop with the deference to Big Oil. Stop with the bullshit endangered species crap. Stop with the Man Made global warming idiocy. Stop with the policies that are killing America.

The author wants to capitulate to the eco-freaks. That's just wrong.

Let American innovation shine.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hold Your Head High 

As our enemies have found, we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.
--Thomas Jefferson
With Memorial Day upon us, there are a lot of shows on TV taking about America. Because of the holiday, most of them are positive. It got me thinking about all of the anti-American sentiment around the world, and increasingly, inside our own borders.

I am a very vocal critic of our government. My criticism isn't about how big and evil we are, it's about how our elected officials are taking this great country into the sewer.

Our refusal to protect our borders. Our refusal to follow the Constitution. Our preoccupation with running the lives of individuals. Our refusal to become self-sufficient in regards to our energy needs.

These officials have this guilt about our success, and are working their damnedest to bring us DOWN to the level of the rest of the world.
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Our energy consumption is always the big target. The US makes up only 4% of the world's population, yet we consume 25% of the world's oil. One of my son's in college had a social studies class where they had to fill out some form, and it told you your "resource" usage. Not surprisingly, it said he used 7 times his "allotment". He must be evil. Start the guilt trip early.

How come none of these America haters mentions that the reason we use 25% of the oil, is because we produce 25% of the earth's Gross Domestic Product? Yep. The world's GDP is around $54.3 trillion, and we produce $13.8 trillion of it. Do the math.

An inconvenient truth for the America haters.
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Apparently, we're just a bunch of bullies, taking advantage of the poor of the world.

Fine, let's take our shit back. Electricity, the airplane, computers, financial markets, the assembly line, nuclear energy - damned near everything that's useful. When the next tsunami or earthquake or other natural disaster strikes, don't expect to see the Stars and Stripe pulling up to the curb. We don't have the gas to get there. Bummer for you.

Just give back all of our contributions to the world. Don't come begging to borrow a tool. It's ours. Figure the shit out on your own. Crawl back into your mud hut, pick the bugs off of your dog and enjoy your dinner.
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And what is the deal with this, 'keeping it real' mentality here in America? What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you support the idea that success and aspirations are bad? Why do the Dems, and more often nowadays, the Repubs keep buying into this idea that success is somehow detrimental to your "culture"? Does begging for hand-outs some how enhance it?

This country is still the greatest on earth. I think my anger with our nation is that we're running from our greatness and people are buying into the propaganda. It's like we're embarrassed by our success.

I will not be ashamed for being successful. I will not embrace people who choose to under-achieve. I will not give up what I've worked and fought for because someone else is less ambitious.

I will NOT participate in the downfall of this country. If you want to be a loser, Nanny-teat sucker, go ahead. Knock yourself out. I've got what I've worked for, and I'll fight you to keep it.
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I almost forgot: Hey, UN. Get out. Now. We quit. You pack of beggars and thieves are on your own. Talk all the shit you want about America. You'll be doing it on your own dime, and we have head-phones, so we won't hear you anyway.

Buh Bye.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Smithy 

I mentioned a few months back that I was getting into knife making. I got a bunch of books and a couple new tools, but nothing extravagant.

I found some 1/8 inch black-painted plate steel at a junk yard. I made a Ka-bar style knife template and scratched it on the steel. I hooked up my pneumatic cut-off wheel and started cutting.

For about 30 seconds.

The tool needs 5 gallons per minute of air at 90 PSI. My compressor only puts out 3 gallons at 90 PSI. So I could cut for 30 seconds then wait 30 seconds for the tank to re-pressurize. It took me forever to barely scratch the surface of the steel. The cut-off wheel sucked.

So it's just been sitting there in my garage.

A couple of days ago, I was working on some Honey Do's and needed to use my Roto-Zip. Lo and Behold, it had a metal cut-off wheel that I'd never used. I hooked it up, and it cut through the steel like butter!

This afternoon, I cut out a piece about 12 inches long by 2 inches wide. I took it to the grinder and have the rough shape set. Here's a pic:


Yeah, I know, not much to look at, but I've got the basic blade structure, and the beginning of the finger notch. The butt end of the handle is fairly fancy. We'll see if it stays that way. I've got some beautiful Ash wood that I'll be using for the handle slabs.

I went to a local welding shop and picked up some brass rod for rivets through the handle, as well as for brazing should I decide to put on a guard. For this knife, that's unlikely - the next one, perhaps.

Here's another pic:



I'll post more pix as I progress.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Where Is Our Voice!? 

The weapon of the advocate is the sword of the soldier, not the dagger of the assassin.
--Alexander Cockburn

I got a message from The Brady Bunch about an upcoming vote on yet another attempt by the gun-grabbers in The People's Republic of California to further restrict our rights:
As we alerted you to previously, one of our top priority bills, AB 2062, will be voted on next week in the State Assembly. This legislation will help safeguard California’s communities from gun violence by ensuring that criminals, gang members and kids no longer have such easy access to handgun ammunition.

Currently, bullets are ending up in guns in the wrong hands across California and there are virtually no regulations on handgun ammunition. You can help change this!
I sent a letter to my Assemblyman, Guy Houston to voice my disgust.
AB 2062 Ammunition Purchases

Mr. Houston,

I strongly urge you to vote AGAINST this bill. Aside from being an ill-conceived attempt to restrict law abiding citizens from purchasing ammunition for their personal defense weapons, it is yet another step towards fulfilling the dream of the gun-grabbers in our state government to ban handguns.

This bill, would place yet another burden upon the sellers of ammo by requiring them to "jump through hoops" - additional licensing - yet again. The intent of the bill is supposedly to stop "bad guys" from getting ammo. Are the sponsors really that naive? Criminals will simply go out of state, steal it from retailers or from homeowners, or force "flunkies" to buy it for them. Do the bill's sponsors really think that making it illegal to provide a criminal with ammo will stop the criminals from forcing people to do so? Get real.

Additionally, it will now impose an unfair burden upon law abiding citizens by prohibiting ammo purchases online. This is the Nanny State gone wild!

Finally, it will move us one step closer to having all firearms owners registered by requiring a thumb print for the purchase of ammo.

Remember: Nothing in this law would prevent a criminal from obtaining ammo. It would unfairly burden the sellers of ammo. It would unfairly burden the purchase of ammo by law abiding citizens. It would take us one step closer to mandatory registration.

This IS America, right? Stop this bill in its tracks!
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Where is the NRA? Where is the California Rifle and Pistol Association? Where is the Gun Owners of America?

This bill is coming up for a vote next week, AND THE SILENCE IS DEAFENING from the guns-rights folks! I'm on their email lists that are specifically in place to provide "legislative alerts". [crickets chirping]

The only way I find out about this crap is from the Brady's.

I've said it before, and sadly, I'll probably say it again: These "guns-rights" organizations are as useless as tits on a bull.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Where Are The Buses Now? 

A Texas state court of appeals ruled Thursday afternoon that the state of Texas had no right to seize more than 400 children from a polygamist ranch in Eldorado, in the western part of the state, because there was not sufficient proof that they were in immediate danger.
Really? And what took so long to figure this out? Somehow, Nanny was able to get an armada of buses set up to abduct the children in the first place. What's the delay? Why aren't these kids back with their parents at this very moment? Why are these Nazi's able to continue with this kidnapping?

Oh, and New York Times, why do you call it "a polygamist ranch"? Do you have any proof? If you do, I'm sure the zealots in the backwater towns of Texas would like to see it. Until then, why don't you pretend like you're an impartial group of journalists that only report the facts. Give it a shot, huh?
State agency officials, who have been criticized for their handling of the raid, said taking all the children in the church’s compound were necessary because the culture of the sect led to illegal under-age marriage for girls and acceptance of that practice by boys, a pattern that the state said endangers both sexes.
Ahhhhhh. It's For The Children. The rallying cry of the tyrant. If you fascists have any PROOF of this, grab the offenders and take them to court. Let the trials begin!

Reading between the lines, it seems more likely that you don't like the way these people think. They think women should be subservient. They think that men should be the unchallenged rulers of their homes. They think that family is important and government rule over their lives is horrible.

And that runs smack into the rule of Nanny. Group-Think is what's important. Individuality must be crushed. Nanny is a jealous benefactor.
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This mass abduction has never been about the children. Much of what these people believe is way past my comfort level. But that's irrelevant. They have the right to raise their families with any belief system they want, as long as no laws are broken.

If they want to teach their kids that a different race is evil just because it's different, so be it. If they want to teach their kids that the world is flat, so be it. If they want to teach their kids that you never question authority, deal with it.

This is America. You can believe anything you want. And you should be able to raise your kids based upon YOUR belief system, not one imposed by Nanny.

Now, if they're impregnating under-aged girls, people need to go to jail. Although I don't think polygamy is the business of Nanny, it is a law. If they have proof of it, make arrests and prosecute.
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Obviously, this just disgusts me. It reminds me of New Orleans when the cops came and took everyone's guns. Do what we say, or we'll kill you. How do you fight that? When you do, you end up with a Waco.

Government officials need to be imprisoned over this. People need to be fired and stripped of their pensions for this brazen act of fascism.

But it will never happen. And some other government official somewhere else in America will see that you can get away with this, and it will happen again. And again. And again.
Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.
--Patrick Henry

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Zigging When The World Is Zagging 

Remember, I am neither a bear nor a bull, I am an agnostic opportunist. I want to make money short- and long-term. I want to find good situations and exploit them.
--Jim Cramer

In the previous post, Hermit and I were discussing getting the heck out of Dodge - Dodge in this instance being The People's Republic of California. My wife and I have been lining up our ducks in hopes of doing this in 2010 or 2011.

We have been saving our nickels. We did a scouting trip a bit ago to Idaho. We're considering other sites as well.

Although Oregon is low on our list of states (because politically, it is so much like CA), I'm going to do some scouting on my upcoming fly fishing trip. Nevada is also a very real option, but it is unlikely we'll do the "desert retreat" gig. Our boys are of the age where they can decide for themselves if they want to join us, or stick it out here in the Land of Fruits and Nuts.

Our reasons for leaving are numerous. Repressive gun laws. Anti-business attitude. Obscene tax rates. Massively increasing crime rates - even in "the good parts". Illegal alien laws and attitudes. Nanny State personal control laws that would make Marx and Engels proud. A political structure that virtually ensures a collapse within a decade.

For instance, the local pin-heads are breaking new ground in bundling a trifecta of Nanny oppression into one package: Global warming, business bashing and taxes.
Air pollution regulators in the San Francisco Bay area voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve new rules that impose fees on businesses for emitting greenhouse gasses.
Yep, these idiots will be the first in the nation to impose a carbon tax.
Experts say the fees, which cover nine counties in the Bay Area, are the first of their kind in the country. The new rules are set to take effect July 1.
They go on to justify their idiocy by saying it is only a teeny-weeny tax, and won't be much of an impact, blah, blah, blah. It will only redistribute $1 million from businesses in the first year, and it's such a good cause, no one will complain.

They might be right. People will just leave. Or should I say, continue to leave.
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But the focus of this post wasn't to detail the depths of the stupidity in Bay Area and California socialists. You already knew that.

In the discussion Hermit and I were having, I mentioned an article on his site about how difficult it is for people my age to find another job. We're high-paid, high insurance-cost, short-term (generally 10 years or less) employees. Not a good combination. A business offering you a job wants a return on their investment.

Or..... they want a short-term, one-off expense with no strings attached. Get in, do your stuff, now leave. I just don't know if THEY know that's what they want.

That is both the obstacle and the opportunity. Devising a plan based upon leveraging my years of experience and a business' need to control costs - especially long-term costs.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
How to take advantage of this opportunity and make a pretty penny is the challenge.
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Here's what I know: The economy is on the rocks. The WSJ has articles virtually every day about another company that will not meet earnings projections now or in the near future. Today, it was Ford and Barnes and Noble books. Any company that relies upon discretionary disposable income is at risk.

The Fed indicated they won't be lowering rates any more because the economy is tanking due to the credit markets and housing problems. The drop in home equity has had a significant impact on the cash-flow of the country. Something like 60-70% of home equity was actually drawn upon by homeowners. That's all gone now.

Obviously, this reduced cash flow impacts bank deposit rates. They have to go to other higher-priced sources to maintain their liquidity ratios. Expenses rise.

The problems with the credit markets affects incoming loan payments. Income decreases.

The one constant in all of this is bank regulators. They don't give a damn (for the most part) what your problems are. They're generally very tunnel-visionish. If your ratios are out of whack, they crawl up your ass and take up residence. You then get slapped with Civil Money Penalties, Memorandums of Understanding, or in the extreme, Cease and Desist orders.

None of these are good things!

Bankers are motivated by two things: The chance to make money, and the fear of regulators. Making "easy money" is what got most banks into this mess.

I think my opportunity will be to exploit the fear of regulators by showing small, under-staffed banks how to be proactive and address potential problems before they become real ones. If they're already in the soup, I can show them how to present it in its best light to the regulators, along with a remediation plan.

All for a fee, of course!
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As I've mentioned, I want to establish multiple streams of income to act as a buffer to a decline in any one market or segment. Here's what I've got so far:

Guns rights, Survival/preparation/self-sufficiency, Bank compliance consulting/training, Grant writing.

The first two items, guns and self-sufficiency will be the smallest income streams. I have ideas for both of them that should be able to push modest, but steady cash my way. If they could spin off enough cash to help fund pro-Second Amendment organizations, as well as self-sufficiency groups, I'd be very happy.

The bank consulting/training will be the main bread winner, at least initially. It's what I've done for the past 30 years, so it makes sense to rely on it to pay the bills. Eventually, I want it to take up no more than 25% of my time.

The grant writing is the biggest unknown, but I think it has the greatest potential. The intent is to write grants for others for a fee, as well as for non-profit's I set up and run myself. Nanny fairly busts her ass looking for ways to spend our money. I aim to help her out.

I'm meeting with a CPA and an attorney next week to see what needs to happen to set up legal structures to minimize tax, maximize retirement income potential, and eliminate risk to my personal assets.

Exciting times!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For Sale: The (formerly) Golden State 

As Schwarzenegger found out, the trouble with getting voted in as a joke, sooner or later, the joke gets old.
--"Daily Show" commentator Lewis Black

I've said it before: Non-Californians, pay attention. What's happening here may be coming to a state near you in the future. Especially the socialist-leaning, California wannabe states.

Our illustrious "leader", Ahhhhnold Schwartz-n-Kennedy, wants to sell our state lottery to help make ends meet.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday said he is convinced California voters will support his plan to borrow $15 billion against future lottery proceeds once they understand the details.
Ya see, we'll be some $15 billion dollars short when the state budget comes up for review. In July. I sure am glad they got this all figured out so far in advance.

Here's the neat thing. He only wants to use part of it now, and we'll save the rest for the future, if things get rough.
Schwarzenegger's proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins in July relies on using $5 billion in lottery-backed bonds to balance the budget. The other $10 billion would go into a fund that could help balance the budget in the future when revenue plunges.
Hmmm. The math doesn't quite work there, Arnie.

Hey Arnold! Would that be the same 'rainy day' fund that you told us about in 2004 with the last $15 billion bond deal you sold us when you were first elected? Yeah, I thought so.

And what school did he attend? The Austrian Institute of Humorous Economics?
"They don't know yet that we don't take risks," he told reporters after a speech to the California Chamber of Commerce. "It is not borrowing, and it will help us with our budget because we are short of revenues because we don't have a rainy day fund set aside."
Not borrowing? Then what is it? The temporary ownership of other people's money that requires repayment to be made on a scheduled basis? Oh. Regular people call that borrowing. Regular, non-politician people.
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Arnie, you know what? Call me a prude, but how about this idea? I know it's a little "outside of the box", but why don't we, well, cut our expenses? I know, I know, it's a radical idea, but why don't we give it a try?

Maybe just for a year. We could see if it's actually possible to keep our spending at or below our income. I know, call me a loopy wing-nut!

What you say? You don't like it? Well what are you going to do about it, Big Boy?
If his plan survives the Legislature, it would go to voters for approval on the November ballot. Rejection by voters would trigger a temporary 1 cent sales tax increase, under Schwarzenegger's plan.
You little tax-and-spend whore. Temporary?! Do you really think we're THAT stupid? Eh, you're probably right.
The governor noted that voters initially were skeptical of proposals to borrow $37 billion for highway, school, flood protection and affordable housing projects in 2006, yet all passed.
Let's see: A temporary [snicker] increase of 1% would mean that I get to pay an extra 9.25% for every purchase I make. You see, the Bay Area already has the highest tax rate in the state because of the BART subway system. Socialism at its best.

Hey, at least we won't have to borrow.
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Next up on the auction block: Arnold's spine and testicles. Clearly, neither are being used. Oh, so sorry, the steroid-shriveled rasinettes aren't worth a damn.

Much like our governor.

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Our Pet Peves 

My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.
--A. A. Milne

No. This post is not about YOU. Don't get paranoid on me here.

I read a lot of information on the Internet each day. From blogs to financial reports. From Information Technology strategy papers to primers on planting non-hybrid veggies. I'm all over the place.

The one consistent thing I see, even on the "professional" sites, is an absolutely horrible understanding of the English language. Well, a horrible understanding of the meaning of some very common words.

You'll see it everywhere, but mostly on blogs or "how to" pages.

Now, everyone will screw up once in a while. You'll forget an apostrophe. You'll butcher one of those long-forgotten rules Mrs. MacMillian taught you in the 5th grade. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the consistent improper use of certain words.

It's being mentally lazy. I have great problems with my swearing. When I get bent, I'll go off like nobody else. But that's lazy. I've been trying very hard to express my disgust or anger or glee in a PG manner. I'll never reach perfection, but I'm trying to move in the right direction.

So, for those of you with spelling/usage problems, I'm here to help you fix that!

Tape this to your PC. Copy and paste it into your Ipod or Palm Pilot. Tattoo it on your ass, uhm, butt.

I don't care. Just use it.
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Mike's Two Minute English Usage Cheat Sheet

The major offenders:

Then, Than

Then implies a pause or something else happening in the future. He looked both ways, then crossed the street.

Than denotes relationships or comparisons. Greater than, more than, less than. She loved him more than he would ever know.


You're, Your

You're is a contraction of You Are. You're going to the store?

Your denotes possession. Your house. Your gun. Your money. Let's go over to your mom's house and eat. If I'm unsure of the right word, I'll use the un-contracted version in the sentence to see if it makes sense. Let's go over to You Are mom's house and eat. Doesn't make much sense.


They're, There, Their

They're is a contraction of They Are. They're your dishes, so clean them up.

There generally denotes a location or a declaration. Over there. There is only one way to do the job.

Their denotes possession. Their house. Their car. Their kid. Let's go to their party, because the beer is free.

Like You're/Your, plug in the un-contracted They Are into the sentence and see if it makes sense. If not, ask yourself if the sentence is about something someone owns or possesses (Their). If the answer is still 'No', the spelling to use is There.


Lesser offenders:


It's, Its

It's is a contraction of It Is. I don't believe there are any other uses, such as the possessive tense that usually uses an apostrophe. It's going to be a long day.

Its is used for the possessive tense. He wanted its juice.


Sight, Site, Cite

Sight has to do with seeing or viewing. It was a sight to behold.

Site has to do with location. A construction site. The bomb site. The site was evacuated after the gas leak.

Cite has to do with referencing something. A citation. He was asked to cite the sources for his newspaper article.
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You may think I'm just being a pain, or am acting like an out-of-touch old fart. Perhaps.

But consider this: It's the old farts my age that do a lot of the hiring, especially for the prime, higher-paying positions. When I read a resume or cover letter littered with improper word usage and mis-spellings, it usually gets shredded or deleted. I don't even waste my time. I figure that if someone cares so little about quality when making their first impression to a potential employer, I don't want them working for me.

That may suck, but it's how it is. Especially in difficult economic times, if two people have equal technical skills for a given position, the one that is better able to express him- or her-self has a greater likelihood of landing the job.

So there!
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Life and Poker... Poker and Life 

Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.
--Steven Wright

I play a good deal of poker. Small stakes stuff. Mostly online.

I'm pretty decent. I typically play either low-buy in no-limit tournaments with 2 tables ($5 or $10 buy-ins), or regular ring games of fixed-limit. Never more than $2/$4 games.

In these games, the competition is usually pretty weak. In a no limit tournament, I'll generally sit on my hands for the first couple of turns around the table - 15-20 hands. Most players have telegraphed by then the type of player they are. Loose/aggressive, tight/controlled or somewhere in between.

Generally speaking, if you know the type of player you're going against, you can anticipate their moves and bets, and take advantage of it. You bet big against tight players. If they call, they generally have a hand. Mostly, they fold.

With aggressive players, you want them to think you're a punk. They will rarely fold to a raise. You fold a bunch of hands, even if you believe you have them beat. Slow play them then hit them hard in a single hand. And end up with their money.

You will always have your bad beats and suck outs, but that just goes with the territory. Over the long haul, you win more than you lose. Let's just say that poker has added handsomely to my personal protection preparation!
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Personally, poker is a great barometer of my "head". When I'm anxious or jittery, I get very aggressive. That works for a while, but usually it catches up with you. Someone else sets a trap for you, you go on tilt and have a melt-down. Bye-bye chips.

Successful poker takes patience and concentration. I have had neither over the past week.

It really surprises me. I don't feel anxious, but poker is telling me that I am. I've been getting my ass handed to me in both no-limit and fixed-limit games.

Not surprisingly, I have a lot on my mind right now. I need to pay attention to any signs like this. Is this just a streak of cold cards, or something more?

I've been making myself split my days between mental pursuits and physical work. No more than 6 hours a day of using my head. My upcoming fly fishing trip will be nice, because it will combine both things. Using my head to learn a new skill, and that skill requiring physical coordination. The best of both worlds!

I'm really looking forward to this.
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This week and next will be dedicated to getting my homebrew stocks back up. I am seriously short in my reserves. I'll be making at least 3, but probably 4, 10 gallon batches. Two lagers and two ales.

I'm thinking a Marzen/Oktoberfest and a Bohemian Pilsner for the lagers, and an India Pale Ale (IPA) and Porter for the ales. All are great drinking beers, and all but the IPA will be consumed by my BudMillerCoors buddies. Too bitter for their delicate palates!

I've also purchased the honey and appropriate yeast for a mead. I'm down to a couple of gallons, and it takes at least a year before it's palatable.

Mead is a strange brew. At 6 months, it is like jet fuel - very harsh and "hot". In a year, it has mellowed markedly into a great beverage. After two years, it is liquid gold!

I have two meads that go back to 2002 and one that goes back to 2005. They're strictly for sipping now until I get my stocks back up.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Busy Boy 

I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers and salaries merely to make partisans...
--Thomas Jefferson
I was going to do a post today about our future socialist leader's Oregon comments:

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said.

But, instead of beating my head bloody against the wall, I thought I'd give an update of my post-lay off life.

I'm getting used to not dragging my ass out of bed each morning. I'm getting a ton of stuff done that I have on my personal "honey do" list, hoping to get done over the next 3 weeks before I start considering my employment options in earnest.

I HAVE been busy!

Today, I knocked out 11 1/4 pounds of my World Famous Italian Sausage. This stuff is awesome. The nice thing about it is you purposely use the cheapest, most fatty cuts of pork. In this case, I used some kind of pork butt or something which set me back a whole $1.08 a pound.

For sausage, you want to have a fatty piece of meat. My recipe has approximately 1/3 fat, 2/3 meat. Four years ago when I first started making my own sausage, my first batch was with a premium cut of damned near fat-free meat. It sucked. You have to include at least 20% fat, but I prefer one third.

I bought 14 pounds of roast, and ended up with 11 1/4 pounds of sausage. The "waste" was a little bit of skin, but mostly the bones. These do NOT go to waste in my household. They'll be roasted up and made into pork stock for soups. It's the former cook in me - I was trained a million years ago not to throw anything out. Vegetables, bones, scraps - whatever is left over - get thrown into a stock pot. I must have 15-20 gallons of various flavors of stock in my freezer right now. The last batch of beef and veggies was pressured canned for easier use.

Anyway, with the sausage, I only use natural casings. Hog intestines. I've tried the collagen ones, but they just don't work well for my fresh sausages. They're more for smoked or aged sausages that get hung.

You take a length of casing - about 10 feet or so - which comes packed in salt, and run water through the insides a couple of times, then let them soak in water for a couple of hours. They become very soft and pliable, but are incredibly strong.

After grinding the meat and spices (with a Kitchenaid grinder attachment), I load 5 pounds at a time into my sausage stuffer. The picture below is of the meat container with the stuffer attachment and casing all loaded up.

Here's a side picture of the stuffer. I used to use a stuffer attachment on the Kitchenaid, but it was too damned slow. It would take an hour to do 5 pounds of sausage. With this, it takes 5 minutes to do 5 pounds. I love this thing!

You just turn the crank, and feed the sausage out. After 10 or 15 minutes, here's what 11 1/4 pounds of fresh sausage looks like:


I then spin them into links. Each of the tile squares on my counter are 6 x 6 inches. I just hold the sausage over each square, pinch the ends and spin. Forward for the first sausage, backwards for the next, then repeat. This way, the whole length of sausage holds together:


I then throw them on a cookie sheet and into the freezer for 2 hours. That firms them up before I vacuum package them (picture at end).
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As I said above, I've been busy. Last Friday, I bought a whole fresh salmon. They were on sale for under $4 a pound. I filleted the whole thing. One half was cut into individual portions and vacuum sealed and frozen.

I took the other half and made my World Famous Lox (hmmm.... I seem to have a lot of World Famous recipes....). For those of you that are unfamiliar with lox, it is cured salmon. No heat whatsoever. Just salt and flavorings.

My recipe is so simple it's ridiculous.

You take your whole half salmon fillet - skin on, scales off - and take 1 cup salt, 1 cup brown sugar, and one cup maple syrup (use the fake stuff) and mix together in a bowl. This will be enough cure for a 5 pound fillet. You'll need a shallow roasting pan that is long enough to hold the whole fillet. Place a piece of aluminum foil in the pan. Lay the fillet skin-side up on the foil.

Slather 1/3 of of the goo on the skin side. Trust me. I've tried it without doing it on the skin side and it sucks. Carefully flip the fillet over, and slather the rest of the goo on the meat side. Cover everything, ends and sides included.

Wrap the fillet tightly in the foil. I usually have to add another piece to cover the center of the fillet. Now, take some kind of board that is at least as long as the fillet. I use a small plastic cutting board. Place it on top of the foil-wrapped salmon. Place a brick or something else that is heavy, on top of the board. Place this whole contraption in the fridge for 3 days.

It will look something like this.


The salt and weight cause a good deal of the moisture in the fillet to exit the fish. The sugar, salt and maple all permeate the fillet. After 3 days, it looks like this:


Take the cured fillet and run it under water. You have to remove the excess salt and sugars off of the fillet before you eat or package it up. Rinse it well, then pat dry with a paper towel.

I cut it up into 3 or 4 chunks, vacuum seal and put in the fridge. I have no idea how long it will last because the longest I've ever had this is about 5 weeks. It's gone by then!

I trim up the fillet so my packaged pieces are fairly consistent in size. I cut up and consume the "scraps" into paper-thin pieces. Cook's treat!


Absolutely incredible on bagels or on crackers. Mixed with scrambled eggs makes for a very special breakfast (guess what I'm having tomorrow?!).

Here's my day's bounty all vacuum sealed up:


With all due respect to Alton Brown, we're gonna have some Good Eats for the near future!
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shoot-A-Palooza 

One of my favorite clothing patterns is camouflage. Because when you're in the woods it makes you blend in. But when you're not it does just the opposite. It's like "hey, there's an asshole."
--Demetri Martin
I shoot Sporting Clays a few times a year. Not enough to get very good at it, but it is something I really enjoy.

For those of you that don't know about Sporting Clays, in my mind, it's kind of like golf with shotguns, except you want a high score. How could that not be fun?!

Unlike trap or skeet where you are stationary or semi-stationary, in Sporting Clays, you walk around a course where each station has different configurations of clays that mimic different animal species. You may be at one station where the clays are set up to mimic pheasants and doves. The next might be ducks and quail. They even have them rolling across the ground to act like rabbits!

One time the "birds" are coming in for a landing, the next they're being flushed from the weeds, and the next they're crossing in front of you. To mix up the difficulty level, you'll have some stations where the the clays are released simultaneously. Both clays are in the air at the same time, and you need to rapidly decide which to shoot first while leaving yourself enough time to shoot the second before it hits the ground.

Other stations are called "report pairs". When you call, "pull" the first clay is released. Once you shoot and the clay machine operator hears the bang, or report of your shotgun, he releases the second clay.

On a typical course, you'll have 100 shots over 12 to 18 stations. They mix it up where some stations have 8 shots, some have 6 and some have 4.
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Yesterday, I participated in a charity event at a great Sporting Clay facility called Bird's Landing. This place is huge, at over 1,200 acres. They've got trap and skeet, as well as live birds, but they're best known for their Sporting Clays.

The event yesterday had 270 guys (with a handful of women) battling clays, each other and the 100+ degree heat. Because of the number of shooters, they had to set up 20 stations, each with up to 3 teams waiting to shoot.

Team A, with up to 6 shooters each taking up to 4-6 shots, would do their thing. Then Team B would do the same, followed by Team C. You'd get to the next station, and have a 20 minute wait while the teams ahead of you shot. This took a normal day of 2 1/2-3 hours to take your 100 shots, and pushed out to 5 hours. Did I mention it was over 100F? Thank God they had lots of bottled water spread throughout the course.

To make matters worse, the tournament-supplied ammo was absolute crap. Fiocchi. If you had a gas-operated semi-auto gun, you had problems all day. The stuff just wouldn't cycle. I was using my Mossberg Silver Reserve Over/Under, so I didn't have any problems, but 3 of our 6 team members were clearing their barrels all day. Very frustrating.

I shot average, in the truest sense of the word. Let's just say I was at the top of the bell curve. Well, a little on the good side of the curve, but not by much. The guy that won the tournament shot a 96. That means he missed a total of 4 clays for the whole day. I missed 4 on some single stations!
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I mentioned earlier that Bird's Landing has live birds in addition to the clays. It is a captive bird set-up. The place "farm raises" the birds. You go to the front desk and tell them, "I want to shoot 6 birds today" and they release 6 birds into your reserved couple of acres. It just doesn't seem very "sporting" to me.

It was funnier than hell yesterday. Here you have 270 guys blasting away for 5 hours. My team was waiting for our turn to shoot, and out walks a pheasant rooster, just walking down one of the paths! Apparently, one of the Great American Hunters was unable to blast all of his alloted victims. Not more than 10 minutes later, out pops a pheasant hen. These birds have no natural fear of humans. Hell, they equate food with humans. I've seen this type of thing virtually every time I go there to shoot.

It doesn't seem right to me. I guess it's the same as slaughtering a steer, hog or chicken. I eat all of those things. Maybe it's the "airs" that these guys put on. "I went a-huntin' today." Naw, you went a-gatherin' today.

Now don't get me wrong. I have no problem whatsoever with hunting and fishing. I've fished my entire life, and I have a friend who will be taking me duck hunting next season. Wild, human-hating birds. I hope to go deer hunting in the next year as well.

As long as you eat what you kill, we'll have no issues. Killing an animal solely for its hide, or rack or glands is, in my opinion, immoral. If you kill it, I think you have the responsibility to utilize as much of the animal as is possible. Out of respect, if nothing else.
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In about 2 weeks, I'll be fishing for the first time in my life where I don't kill and eat what I catch. A friend and I are heading up to Oregon to fly fish the Deschutes river. It is 100% catch-and-release.

This will be very tough if I land a big-assed trout, and not taking it back home with me!

Yesterday, a bunch of guys at the post-shoot meal were giving me all kinds of tips and tricks for fly fishing. It sounds like a hell of a lot of work for no reward in my belly!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Rise Of The Machines 

Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.
--Horace
It's a tough thing to take shots at disabled folks, but this is so wrong on so many levels, so here goes:
Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter who was barred from able-bodied competition in January, will be allowed to pursue his dream of qualifying for the Olympic Games after an unexpected decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
This South African guy was born without lower leg bones, had his lower legs and feet removed early in life, and got a pair of those spring feet. He wanted to become an Olympic sprinter, but was turned down because they provided him an unfair advantage.

He fought it and won.

Great. Where does it end? What about a guy with artificial arms that wants to be a pole vaulter and can fling himself higher than any "normal" human? How about more souped up legs for a long jumper or basketball player that can jump 12 feet in the air? A bionic arm for javelin, discus or shot put? How about a guy with the "special" feet and a bionic eye? Might do pretty well in the biathlon.

Life dealt this guy a crappy hand. You deal with it. You don't use technology not available to others to gain an unfair advantage.

Well, of course you do. The guy has a dream. Group hug. We are the world, we are the people.

I wonder how the debate will go once these guys start shredding the Olympic records. Will they be asterisked?
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Everyone's probably heard about the ADA - The American's With Disabilities Act. It was enacted to grant disabled people with equal access to everything. This "feel good" law has been taken over by activists to bash "normal" people over the head. It grants them rights and remedies not afforded "normal" Americans.

As an example, Target was (still is?) embroiled in a lawsuit because a blind guy couldn't use their website to his liking. Yeah, a blind guy couldn't use a primarily visual medium to his satisfaction.

Target pointed out that everything they offer on their website can be ordered from their toll-free number. That wasn't good enough. They expected Target to spend money to accommodate their needs. Thank God Target is fighting this.

When I worked in San Francisco, there was an attorney in a wheel chair that used to go around to businesses that likely had a couple of bucks - like a bank - and would threaten to sue if he couldn't get in the door, or see over the counter, or use the ATM.

He hit us (even though he wasn't a customer). At the cost of over $75,000, we had to put in ADA-compliant doors and tear up the sidewalk to lessen the slope. Oh, and give him another $50,000 so he wouldn't sue us.

It's how this bastard made his living.
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You don't have a Constitutional right to use a bank, to shop in the store of your choice or to take a crap a wide-body stall. You DO have the right to picket against businesses that won't accommodate you. You DO have the right to build an organization to embarrass a business into meeting your needs. You do have a right to NOT shop at Target because you don't think they do enough for the disabled.

But this is about government - once again - telling a business how to operate.

Any public facilities absolutely, positively should be disabled-accessible. Public bathrooms, courthouses, buses, stadiums, etc., because as tax payers, the disabled DO have a right to access those tax dollar-funded facilities.

But a business has the right to discriminate. Or at least they should be able to. Business is about choices. What product? What market niche? What street corner? What price-point? What distribution channel?

You used to see the, "No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service." signs at restaurants. What is wrong with that? If a business chooses to limit its market, it should be able to do so. They may choose NOT to cater to blind people with canes because the chance of breaking the crystal trinkets displayed in their store is too great.

No more.

On the flip side, another business may choose to cater to the disabled. It could be what makes them unique in the market. Their niche. But now, because of Nanny's intervention, they're just the same as every other business. We are the world, we are the people.
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This is just a logical extension of socialism. We're all the same. And if we're not, Nanny will make it so.

You make too much money? Nanny will fix that by taking more away. Don't make enough money? Nanny will fix that by giving you someone else's. Can't get in a store? Nanny will make to owner accommodate your needs.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. The former beauty of this country was that you could exploit your strengths or minimize your weaknesses, and make a living. Someone without a birth-right pedigree could still make as much money as he or she wanted, as long as they were willing to find their own niche. Equality of opportunity, not outcome.

That opportunity is being legislated away. We're fast becoming this gray, lifeless mass of humanity that doesn't give a damn. Extraordinary effort is penalized. Uniqueness is shunned. You're just a cog now. The individual is sacrificed for the machine.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Ray Of Hope? 

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.
--Oscar Wilde
I was watching Glenn Beck last night, and he did two segments with the Libertarian Party candidate for president, Bob Barr. I may be able to vote for someone that's actually on the ballot!

As I've stated here and on a number of blogs, there is no way in hell I'll be voting for either presidential candidate with an R or a D after their name. They are all whoring politicians that will give us nothing but more of the same crap. I won't vote for "the lesser of two evils" any more. If America does not send the Rs and Ds a message that they're behavior is unacceptable, nothing will ever change.

At least what I've read and heard so far, Barr is a candidate I can support, not just vote for.
Bob Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, serving as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and as a member of the Committee on Financial Services. He now runs a consulting firm, Liberty Strategies LLC, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and with offices in the Washington, D.C. area.
He left the Republican party because of what they've become. Check.

From his site on Border Security.
Until all governments are willing to take a unified front to confront this problem, it is the duty of the federal government to secure our borders from criminals, terrorists and those seeking to take advantage of the American taxpayer.
In the second segment, Beck asked for simple Yes or No answers. When Beck asked him if he would deport illegal aliens, he unequivocally said, "Yes". When asked if he would fine and prosecute employers hiring illegals, he unequivocally said, "Yes". When asked if he would build a border fence, he unequivocally said, "No". Huh?

Beck pushed him on that, and he prattled a bit, saying something about it being ugly. Hmm. My guess (based on some of his other answers and from info on his site) is his feeling is that since you've hit the employers, no illegals will be coming over for work, and the Border Patrol could then focus on the bad guys coming over. Beck said he would have Barr on again to expand on his answer.

Personal freedoms and the size of government.
Finally, an increasingly intrusive Nanny State is watching over our nation, meddling in the lives of its citizens. New measures, often rushed through legislatures and regulatory agencies with little consideration or thought, seek to control ever more aspects of people's lives. Government limits individual actions and choices, from the way in which we educate our children to the food that we eat, from the type of light bulbs that illuminate our living rooms to the benefits that we receive for working. It is time to again trust individuals to make their own decisions. At the core of libertarianism is a trust in and respect for the personal choices of every individual. All Americans should be free to decide what is best for themselves and their families. At the same time, they must bear personal responsibility for the consequences of the decisions that they make, whether those decisions prove to be good or bad.
They touched on guns, cutting government and the lot. I like all of his answers.

He literally scoffed at McCain for his recent stance on Man-made Global Warming. Beck said he wanted to French Kiss him, at which Barr promptly answered, "No!"

They had a big split on national security. Beck asked him the Jack Bowers/24 question: "You have a terrorist in custody who knows the location of a nuke. Would you torture him?" He said, "No".

I agree with him completely. First of all, torture is proven to be less than effective. There are scattered instances of it getting results, but for the most part, it just doesn't work. [Read this] Many people will say, "Well, the terrorists are doing it to our soldiers, so should we." Bull shit. What, are you 12 years old? We're better than them. We're not fucking animals.

You can't have the president of the United States saying torture is part of our official policy. It makes us no better than those fucks in the Middle East. Were a situation to exist where an individual had to make a call that may cross over to the illegal side of the ledger, it would then be up to our justice system - including the use of a presidential pardon - to sort through that one incident.
The proper use of force is clear. If attacked, the aggressor will experience firsthand the skillful wrath of the American fighting man. However, invading or initiating force against another nation based upon perceived threats and speculative intelligence is simply un-American. We are better than the policy of pre-emptive warfare.
Amen, brudda.

We'll see how this plays out. As I said, I like what I see so far. I sent him a bit of money to help him get more exposure.

A candidate I can actually support? What a concept!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Prep Goal: Mission Accomplished 

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.
--Jimmy Dean
I've met my immediate home preparation goal of storing 3 months worth of food for four adults - 2,000 calories a day. I can now move on, and obsess on another aspect of preps!

From what I see on most sites that deal with preps, I do things a little bit differently, so I thought I'd share my twist on things. Instead of storing in bulk, I store in small quantities.

Here is a picture of some of my food:


In this picture, you'll see individually vacuum sealed packs of spaghetti, all-purpose flour, beans, dry milk and rice. I break the food down into small, manageable weights or volumes (more on that in a minute). I also include a 500 cc oxygen absorber in each pack. I know, I know, the vacuum evacuates the air, but there is still some residual O2, and I don't want any bugs making it out alive!

For each pack, I note the weight, contents and date of sealing. I use the MMYY format. 0508 means May of 2008.


If it is something we use, but perhaps not in its present form - like milk or dehydrated eggs - I add instructions on how to use the item.


So why do I store in small packs instead of bulk? The reasons are many:
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Like most, I've got all of my stored foods listed in a spread sheet. The problem is, I don't know which container (I store everything in 60 quart Rubbermaid storage containers) each item is in!

So, my project for the next couple of days will be to catalog each food and equipment item (with vacuum sealed date and/or good-til date), assign each container a number and print out the list. Then I'll know where to go when I want to rotate some stores, without having to open every damned container!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bubba Will Be Gentle, I'm Sure... 

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
--Winston Churchill

This was just too sweet to let go by without comment. You may have heard about the bunching of panties in Massachusetts over the proposal to tax all universities that have endowments in excess of $1 billion.
Legislators have asked state finance officials to study a plan that would impose a 2.5 percent annual assessment on colleges with endowments over $1 billion, an amount now exceeded by nine Massachusetts institutions. The proposal, which higher education specialists believe is the first of its kind across the country, drew surprising support at a debate on the State House budget last week and is attracting attention in higher education circles nationally.
Personally, I have a problem with all non-profit organizations. As I ranted about yesterday, it is another example the government getting into the charity business. They are forcing me to pay more taxes to make up for those not paid for by churches, colleges, what ever. They have made a moral judgment -paid for with my money - that these organizations are worthy of a break, and you and I are not. If these organizations are getting any benefit from society - police, fire, courts, military - then they need to pay their fair share as well.

Anyways, the "money shot" of this whole fracas was a quote by some mid-level flunky at Harvard University (who has a $34 BILLION untaxed endowment that earns money TAX FREE). Now remember, Harvard is THE liberal bastion of the nation. Save the poor, bigger government and tax the rich.
"You'd be taxing success here," said Kevin Casey, Harvard's associate vice president for government, community, and public affairs. "Over time, this would put us at a real competitive disadvantage, which would drastically hurt the Commonwealth."
No shit, Sherlock. When you tax a successful entity simply because it is more successful than other entities, you hurt society as a whole. Do you think that part of the reason businesses leave socialist states like Massachusetts and California and New York is because of the repressive tax structure?

Hey Kevin, where do you stand on the current, "progressive" tax system? You know, the one that penalizes you by taking a greater portion of your income as you become more successful and your income increases? What would happen if you decreased the tax rate as your income rose? Do you think that might become an incentive to people to succeed on their own? The more you make, the more you keep. What a concept.
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I hope the socialists in Massachusetts put it to Harvard and the other universities like Bubba puts it to all the new inmates at San Quintin. Welcome to the School of Hard Knocks, boys.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Turn Your Head And Cough 

Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.
--Thomas Sowell
Last week, Hermit had a post about how a group of doctors had some kind of discussion about rationing healthcare in the event of a pandemic. I read a little too much between the lines, and responded to the post from a, "someone ELSE telling me how to run my life," perspective - ala Universal Health Care -when it was actually about emergency triage. Oops.

Anyways, if you've read my site for any length of time, you know I'm psycho about personal rights and responsibility. The creep of Nanny into every facet of our lives worries me greatly.

Shortly after Hermit's post, I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal that got my blood pumping WAY too quickly once again. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, a huge chunk of America feels that Universal Health Care will be the cure to all of our ills (pun intended).

They don't see that virtually every instance where the government provides charity to its citizens, it gets screwed up. It always costs more, is much less efficient and provides a lower quality of service than when the private sector provides a "competing" charity.

I think the biggest reason for this is that a private charity can discriminate. It can pick and choose who it wishes to help. One charity might be for families where the bread winner has lost his/her job and they still want to work. Or the mom who had an abusive husband and she needs to start over. Or a drug addict that wants to turn their life around. Or as defined as helping only Jewish restaurant owners who are transitioning to becoming game wardens. What ever they want. You can help the people you feel are most likely to benefit from your limited charity dollars.

Nanny can't or won't do that. They take our tax dollars at the point of a gun (ask Wesley Snipes if you doubt that last statement) and give them away at their whim. For most programs, you don't need to show that you are trying to fix your situation, you simply must show a need. You want to live in a certain town, you don't make enough money to live there, so Nanny will give you Section 8 dollars to subsidize your income and help pay your rent.

You don't need to show you're trying to pay your own way. You don't need to show anything other than you want to live where you can't afford to live. In fact, if you work harder and make more money, you get less from Nanny. So why would you work when you can get free money for NOT working? As an individual, you'd be stupid to do so.
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Government involvement in the private sector brings inefficiency. Always has. Always will. People are now clamoring for Universal Health Care. "The system is broken, and only government can fix it." No. The system is broken BECAUSE OF government.

If you're a hospital, you are required by law to assist every person who walks through your doors and asks for care. You have no choice in the matter. If you don't give them that care, you are fined. So you see everyone.

Nanny, in another example of forced charity, takes our tax dollars and partially compensates the hospital for the care given. If the hospital's costs exceed the Nanny reimbursement, the hospital takes the loss.

Actually, what they do is increase the charges to the people that are able to pay. So the same people that are working and paying taxes (and subsidizing the health care of the charity cases) now get penalized for Nanny's largess by having their costs increased when they need hospital care.

You are penalized for working.
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If you want to see how efficient government is when they have total control of your health care - like with Universal Health Care - visit your local County Hospital. They are war zones. I have a sister-in-law who is a nurse at San Francisco General. They have a police station in the hospital. These SF cops work no where other than the hospital.

How about a public-private partnership? Try this on for size:

After four years of providing care to military personnel, their families and retirees, I've had it.

The hassles of working with the Tricare program that covers health care for these people got the better of me. I've taken care of about 80 Tricare patients. But I won't be seeing them anymore. I pulled out of the Tricare network of civilian doctors in January.

The government craps on these men and women that have placed their lives at risk for our country. We've heard the horror stories of the care provided at the Walter Reed VA hospital (also 100% government-provided health care).

If something goes awry with military personnel, it is fairly easy to have some public outcry, and the situation gets fixed. How likely do you think it would be that a similar outcry would happen if you or me, or some other schmoe gets screwed by government health care? You'd get the same level of compassion that you get when someone at the DMV screws you over.
The nearest services I could arrange for her were an hour away from her home, and she didn't keep many appointments. She would show up in the ER with her blood sugar out of control or in insulin shock. Her baby died before birth.
You take what they give you. If you don't like it, people or kids die. Sounds like a great plan.

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