Sunday, November 22, 2015

10 Random Comments on the News

Well the news has been much the same lately.  If it bleeds it leads and the more afraid and divisive we can make the populace the better apparently.  Here's some random comments...

  1. Mizzou Students.  You are annoying. Get a life.  You have access to all of the things that students of every other color have so make use of it instead of acting like whiny Millennials.
  2. BLM.  Ditto.  Whatever support you hoped to inspire has evaporated due to your annoying, insulting, and racist tactics.
  3. Dartmouth and Mizzou administration.  Grow a pair.  You are in the business of educating students to the best of your ability not kowtowing to the most disruptive students.  Also, hiring professors by color as students are demanding is asinine.
  4. Syrian refugees.  Most are good people and well vetted before being allowed into the country.  Yes some bad ones will slip in but that happens whether they immigrate here or are born here. 
  5. The presidential contenders.  Our choices are abysmal this election season.  Very sad.
  6. Thanksgiving.  Spend time eating and enjoying time with friends and/or family.  Barring that, volunteer to serve those less fortunate.  Skip the maniacal Black Friday shopping because really, how much crap do you need?  There are good sales year round.
  7. $15 minimum wage. No. Just no.  If you have actual job skills that can earn you $15 per hour that's great.  If you can do the same job that a trained monkey can do, you don't deserve $15 per hour.
  8. On a happy note, the Seahawks are playing today.  Go Hawks!
  9. On another happy note, it's been sunny and 70 degrees for the past week.  Great winter running weather here!
  10. Christmas.  Don't over spend.  Buy useful gifts.  Enjoy the season.  Say 'Merry Christmas' instead of Happy Holidays if the mood strikes you (PC crap annoys me).
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our blog readers!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Paris Terrorist Attack

Yesterday started out pretty nice...bright sunny skies (this is Las Vegas after all), meeting up with friends who are in town for the Las Vegas Marathon, doing a short run of 6 miles was a pretty quiet Friday.  Then in the evening my cell phone went nuts.  Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, emails from friends...did you see what's happening in Paris now?  My first thought was that something happened at the Paris Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Then I went to Reddit which is literally my first source of news these days aside from Twitter.  Trending at the top was this post.  Oh jeez not again.  Sadly, among the things you can pretty much count on to happen on a regular basis these days (aside from Trump or Carson saying something amazingly perceptive or completely idiotic) is either a terrorism incident or a mass shooting.  Last night it was both.

It is a sad commentary on society when "business as usual" means people being ambushed and mowed down by fanatics (either the mentally ill sort or the religious sort) on a regular basis.  I'm about ready to move myself and the spouse (who would be protesting all the way) to a rural retreat in a Western state where I wouldn't need to deal much with people.  Although that isn't really an option at the moment (protesting would be putting it lightly if I were to suddenly decide that an armed mountain fortress would be a better option than the current round of social events and restaurants the spouse--and reluctantly I--engage in on a regular basis).  Which leaves me to determine how to best reside in a society where people are literally crazy and quite randomly dangerous.

Here's what I do:

  • Make the house as secure as possible.  Stopping short of an armed fortress, we do have a variety of security systems in place--from a video surveillance system to reinforced doors and windows to always having a firearm within reach.
  • Avoiding crowded public places.  I had already decided not to run the marathon tomorrow and lately I have been doing much more trail running than big, multi-thousand people running events.  I'd rather take my chances with wildlife than people.  While we do occasionally go to movies, shows, and the Las Vegas Strip, we opt more often for visiting with friends and family, eating in small, out of the way restaurants, and avoiding crowds as much as possible.
  • Concealed carry.  The only way to stop a shooter is to shoot back at them.  Much as I would not want to be in a live fire situation, I would opt for having a gun and not needing it then not having a gun and really needing one.
  • Being hyper aware of our surroundings.  It is habit at this point but watching people and watching the crowd in general is just second nature.  And there is a lot to see, especially in Vegas.  Also noting all exits and entrances, memorizing not only building floor plans but where useful items may be found (fire alarms, janitor's closets, emergency stairwells, etc), and noticing things that are unusual or inconsistent are all part of being aware.
  • Staying in good physical shape.  No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you could find yourself in an active shooter situation.  That's when your options of run, fight, or hide kick in.  My first option will always be to run away from the scene if possible.  To that end, being in good shape is rather necessary.  Hiding effectively also requires a certain amount of physical fitness.  And of course fighting, definitely a last resort, may require a good deal of physical fitness if you must fight physically (as opposed to with a firearm).
There is no sure way to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ending up in a terrorist/mass shooting situation.  What you can do, however, is to prepare as much as possible for such a situation (while hopefully you will never need these skills) and be ready just in case.

Find more information here, here, and here on this topic.

Friday, October 30, 2015

And Then There Was Ted Koppel

The Charlie Rose show was on in the background a few nights ago and I heard a voice that hadn't been on TV in a while.  Ted Koppel was a newscaster for years but has since retired almost a decade ago.  As my attention was split between the book I was reading and the show, I began to wonder why he was the interviewee instead of the interviewer.  Then words like "hackers", "preppers", and "completely unprepared" caught my complete attention and I learned quite a few things (having come in mid-interview I'm sure there was stuff I missed)...

Monday, October 19, 2015

10 Good Shooting Habits

Here are a handful of habits to get into whether you are a new (or old) shooter:

  1. Before you pull the trigger, ask yourself each time "what is behind my target"?  Do this every single time, even if you are at an indoor range and your answer fifty times in a row is 'a steel backstop with a water catch basin'.
  2. Count your shots.  If you put 15 rounds into your magazine, you want 15 rounds to come out.
  3. Count your brass.  It goes without saying that you should always pick up your brass but when you do pick it up, count it.  If you shot 50 rounds, you should pick up 50 brass shell casings.
  4. Clean your firearm each and every time you use it.  Even if you are tired.  Even if you are busy.  Even if you think you can just do it tomorrow.
  5. Fix bad habits ASAP.  Flinching, heeling, improper don't want bad habits to become ingrained so take care of the problem immediately.
  6. Ask for help.  Obviously this is taboo in many people's minds but it can improve your shooting immeasurably and maybe even save a life on occasion.  If you are new to a range, ask about the rules, if you are new to shooting, take an actual class instead of watching a "how-to" video on YouTube, if your groupings look like a Rorschach test, ask a knowledgeable instructor for some pointers.
  7. Practice discipline from the beginning of your shooting session to the end.  This means going to the range in the right frame of mind, properly handling your weapon at all times, focusing on your reason for being at the range (skill building, accuracy, etc), proper interpersonal skills with others at the range, etc.
  8. Have the right equipment or don't shoot.  If you forgot your eye or ear protection, you should forget about going to the range.  If you picked up some reloads from some guy on the street because they were really cheap you should consider whether you would risk your life or safety to save a few bucks.  If you have a pistol that is continually misfiring or getting jammed, either fix the problem (the firearm or yourself) or buy a new one.
  9. Go the range on a weekly basis if at all possible.  The only way to keep your skills sharp is to practice often.  Consider joining a weekly shooting league or participate regularly in competitions if you need the impetus to get up and go shoot.
  10. Focus on your overall physical health.  Shooting skill is just one part of your overall ability to shoot in a tactical situation.  Can you immediately drop to the prone position without throwing out your back?  Can you do a regular three-gun competition without needing someone to haul out the oxygen tank?  When your breathing and heart rate are racing, can you still shoot accurately?  Being in good physical shape can have a dramatic impact on your shooting skills.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


I'm assuming you have a BOB (Bug Out Bag) and I'm pretty sure you have an EDC (Every Day Carry bag) but do you have an INCH?  Apparently this term has been around for a while but it is new to me.  An INCH bag, otherwise known as an I'm Never Coming Home bag, has as its guessed it...items that you would need if you were never coming home again.

A bit of Googling shows that some people think of this bag as a minimalist set up while others think it should contain everything including the kitchen sink.  I think it should be something in between.

Your EDC bag should include everything you would need during a typical day out: daypack, wallet, keys, cell phone, keys, bottle of water, couple of granola bars, sunglasses, firearm if you choose to carry, spare magazine, etc.

Your BOB should included everything in your EDC plus the things you would need to "bug out" or leave your residence for days, up to weeks at a time, due to a local natural disaster, a family member in a far away trauma center, a mandatory evacuation due to police action or a chemical spill, etc.  The items in this bag should be a simplified version of an overnight bag (change of clothes, toiletries, laptop, etc) along with enough gear to see you to survival for several days on your own (food, water, shelter materials, cooking materials, water purification tabs, etc).

Now the INCH bag, which would include everything you would need if you could NEVER come home again, really doesn't need to contain that much stuff.  When we sold our house and nearly everything in it some years back in order to travel for a couple years, I realized that you really don't need that much stuff to survive, no matter where you are.

If you could never come back to your home, what would you REALLY need?  Aside from the basics (your EDC stuff and BOB stuff), the only other necessities that you would need would include: cash, credit cards, jewelry and small valuables, your important documents (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, Will, etc), and a back up of your computer files.  You really don't NEED 90% of the stuff in your house.  Most everything you own is easily replaceable.  You need to determine what isn't replaceable and then figure out what you would do if you need to leave immediately and forever.  Pictures, letters, and other documents are easy.  Scan them into your computer and keep a back up of this file.  On the other hand, great Aunt Edna's 500 pound china hutch will probably be left behind no matter how sentimental it is.

Contrary to some "INCH" lists, you really don't need to carry every tool known to man.  I'd rather carry the basics and scavenge anything else I need before I would carry a couple hundred pounds of gear.  I prefer to travel fast, light, and efficiently, with as little material stuff as possible.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Financial Planning for Your Later Years

An important part of preparedness is being prepared for all of the financial problems that can arise as you go along.  You are never too young to start planning, and while much of this post is about financial prep for us oldsters, everyone should keep these topics in the back of their minds (or the forefront, depending).  Note that I am not a financial planner and this is NOT financial advice, this is just the stuff that I am doing.  For information related to your specific needs, please see a qualified, local financial planner...blah blah blah.

  • Emergency fund.  Everyone, no matter their age, should have one of these.  You should have enough liquid assets (cash, money in the bank, etc) to see you through six or more months of living expenses in case you lose your job, become ill or injured and require a long recovery period, etc.  We have this, it hangs out in a savings account not doing much but waiting for an emergency to happen.  Note that when you have no debt and have cut your living expenses drastically this fund doesn't have to be that big.
  • Cash on hand.  Everyone, no matter their age, should have a couple hundred dollars on hand.  This is useful if the ATM is out, the restaurant won't take your credit card, etc. and you need immediate money.  I don't go anywhere without cash.  I don't use it much but it is nice to know it is always there if needed.
  • Car insurance.  If you own or drive a car you need to be insured.  Full coverage is best if you have a newer, more valuable car and don't have the money to replace it should it get wrecked.  Liability only is OK if the car is older, worth less, and you can easily cover the value out of your emergency fund.  We have one old vehicle so we only keep liability insurance on it.  If it gets wrecked we can easily buy a new car but so far this baby is 16 years old and still going strong.  Note that when you don't equate your ego to your vehicle you can drive a good running car pretty much forever.
  • Health insurance.  Everyone needs this as well.  If you get seriously ill or injured you can be bankrupted by one visit to the ER these days.  Getting the right health insurance takes some research and thought, especially when things get complicated (ie: transitioning from an employer's policy to Medicare, trying to figure out Medicare which is a nightmare in itself, etc).  Although I am well covered by insurance, I'm eagerly waiting for single payer healthcare insurance because our current health-insurance-dominated healthcare industry is a freakin mess.
  • House insurance.  This is another necessity.  If you are a renter, get renter's insurance.  This is another area where you need to do your research as you need to figure out how to cover your costs (liability, home replacement costs, content replacement costs) without going overboard.  Note that you should annually review your house insurance policy as many seem to have automatic increases so shopping around if yours seems to be getting too expensive may save you money on this.
  • Life insurance.  You may or may not need this.  Everyone should have enough money to cover the cost of burying themselves and paying off their debts.  If you have no debt, no one dependent on your income, and have plenty of money in your emergency fund, you may not need life insurance.  If you have debts, no savings, and a wife and six kids depending on your income you NEED life insurance.  Term life insurance (IMHO) is your best bet.
  • Long term care insurance.  As people live longer and sicker than they ever have before AND as fewer and fewer families see it as their duty to take care of their elderly loved ones, this type of insurance is more and more important.  How will you pay for your care (nursing home, assisted care facility, etc) when you are old and sick?
  • Debt.  You should have none.  I am very anti-debt even though so many others rave about "low easy payments", "super low interest rates", and all that garbage.  Basically if you never carry debt, pay cash for your vehicles, and pay off your house ASAP you will be miles ahead of most people.  You will also need a smaller emergency fund, can easily get by an a low monthly income, and will be pretty stress free when it comes to your money.
  • Savings.  You should have lots.  It is not that hard to save money if you do it consistently and over a long period of time (and resist unnecessary shopping, spending on things you can't afford, etc).  You should have a variety of savings accounts (emergency fund, vacation fund, gift fund, retirement savings like a Roth IRA, etc).
  • Income.  Whether you are young and just getting started or old and retired, you need to have income, of course.  I am a fan of multiple sources of income.  The more money I have coming in each month from a variety of sources, the happier I am.  If I was only relying on Social Security...well that would be a bad thing.  When you are young, your job is to have as many pots in the fire as you can handle with the goal of building a solid skill set and long-term income.  When you are old, you need to be set up financially to the point that you will still have multiple sources of income including Social Security, a pension, income from retirement savings and retirement investments, maybe some rental property income, royalties are nice, and the occasional part-time job or hobby income is good as well.  Note that as you get older it is a good idea to know all of the financial rules that govern such things as when to take Social Security, how earned income will affect your Social Security, when you must take retirement savings disbursements, etc.
  • Passive income.  The very best kind of income source is to have money come not from your daily work but from an investment you have made of your time or money which is now paying dividends.  The income on your savings is a form of passive income (a dismal source but still it shows how your money can be making money for you).  Royalties from previous projects (music, books, acting, etc) means you are getting paid for something you have done a while ago but it is still generating income.  Investing is a huge whole topic unto itself but suffice it to say, if you put your money into something that will (hopefully) make it grow like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. you will have a continuous source of money.  Note that investing is hardly passive at first as it takes some bit of work to know what you are doing in the field AND, depending on the investment it can be kind of secure or not secure at all--either way you could lose everything.
  • Retirement income.  There is a special sort of passive income for retirees that will keep the money coming in long after you have stopped working.  These include Social Security (it's nice but not nearly enough to live on if that is the only income you have), a pension (these are also nice but there is no guarantee that it won't implode like Enron so don't plan to live on only your pension for the rest of your life), retirement savings as noted above, your 401k, etc.  Whatever you do, don't look into these things when you are 65.  You need to focus on building these from your very earliest years of working so there will be enough to see you into a comfortable retirement.
  • Buying stuff to sell now or later.  Another source of income has to do with buying things you hope will appreciate in value so you can sell them off in the future and collect a tidy sum.  This can range from buying antiques or guns, flipping houses, building up a business, buying jewelry or foreign currency...all of these things require your money/time/effort now but will hopefully bring a profit when it comes time to sell. 
  • Wills, trusts, power of attorney, etc.  These official documents direct how you want things to go after you die.  You NEED these things.  I've seen it happen way too often when someone says "we know grandpa wanted..." but grandpa is dead and the evil aunt sweeps in and takes everything she can get her greedy hands on because it wasn't written down.  Similarly, inheritance laws vary a great deal by jurisdiction--you don't want to leave your kid a nest egg only to have half of it sucked up by inheritance taxes.  The creation and planning of these documents take legal and financial expertise that is well worth paying for.
  • The intangibles.  I say these are intangible but they are just as important as all of the above.  Keeping yourself as healthy as possible, making financial planning your new vocation on a (very) regular basis, keeping up great relationships with your family and friends, keeping up to date in your field even if you are retired...all of these things will add extra security to your old age.
As you can see by this (very) long post, being financially prepared--especially being prepared for the point that you will no longer be able to work and create an income, is of paramount importance.  Start now to plan for any and all scenarios you can conceive of: what if you die long before your spouse, when if the spouse dies long before you do, what if you are ill for a long time before death, how will you transfer money to your kids, do you want to transfer money to your kids, how long will you keep the family farm before the amount of work and upkeep it takes isn't worth it...there are a lot of things to consider here.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

And Yet Another School Shooting

Again on the news today I heard of yet another school shooting.  I mildly wondered 'where?' as I caught the last bit of the news.  You know it is a sad day when a mass shooting barely raises an eyebrow.  Here's some random thoughts:

  • As soon as I heard where the shooting took place I was pretty surprised.  I've been to Roseburg a few times. It's a very small town and a very small college.  Mass shootings can happen ANYWHERE.
  • Cue the anti-gunners and gun control folks.  This happens every time there is a shooting yet people still fail to see that these shootings usually have a handful of commonalities that are never addressed, namely the shooting takes place at a designated "gun free" zone, the shooter usually has a history of mental illness (no info yet in this case), and "no one expected it to happen here."
  • You know how social media is a great way to share useful information?  Apparently the guy's plans were posted on 4Chan and he was given all kinds of info on how to get a higher kill rate.  Lovely.
  • And notice how even though he posted such a thing online, no one informed the authorities.
  • And then notice how politicians hop on the bandwagon (never mind that there were 50 people shot in one weekend in Chicago and no one said a single thing about that).
So I toss up my hands.  Yes, I am keeping my guns.  No, I don't think more stringent gun control laws will make a difference (I mean the ones we have aren't really enforced now anyway).  Yes, everyone who is legally able to should carry concealed (shooting back is the only way to stop a mass shooter).