Monday, February 28, 2011

Active Shooter: How to Respond

I had a ton of paperwork to do today so I was going to just work at home.  It’s an option that I take about once a week.  I can usually get more work done at home than at the office.  While I was checking my email this morning I got a reminder that I was supposed to be at the office at 1300 to take a mandatory training class. 

They showed a hokey film and then we had a discussion.  The topic was good and worth writing about.  
The topic was called Active Shooter: How to Respond.  It was brought to the forefront of training because of several recent shootings.  Between the Arizona Congresswoman last month, and more recently where coworkers have had to deal with some shooting incidents: a school principal, and a woman and her attorney.  Actually you are more likely to be struck by lightening than be in a situation with an active shooter, but it seems that it’s in the news a lot so it should be something you practice, just like you’d practice a fire drill.

The active shooter uses firearms and while he (could be a she but I’m using he for today) may have an intended target often he will also take any victims.  The situation is unpredictable and evolves quickly.  The next part was not correctly taught and one that we all need to be aware of.  The presentation then said that the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims.  Unfortunately, often this is incorrect.  Active shooter situations are often over within 10-15 minutes, which may be before law enforcement arrives.  Quite often, with intentional, deliberate shootings, the shooter takes their own life so it's over before law enforcement arrives.   

How do you respond if the shooter is in your vicinity?  There are several things you can do.  Evacuate the building if possible.  If the shooter is roaming the halls you shouldn’t enter the hall but if the shooter is in a room and you can go out a different way, then go quickly.  You should always have at least two escape routes in mind no matter where you are.  Are you at the movies?  A restaurant?  Work?  Think every person for themselves – although this doesn’t count if you are with your family.  Don’t debate with your friends or coworkers if you should escape or stay.  Do what you think is best for you.  Don’t try to pack up your stuff, just get out. 

You can hide out.  If evacuation isn’t possible you can find a place that the shooter is less likely to find you.  If you are in your office you should close the door, lock it if there is one, block the entry, (don’t throw books and things at the door while there are other people in the room trying to block the door, you could hurt them by accident – stupid scene in the video) turn off the lights, turn off all sounds (phone ringer, clock ticking, etc.), and hide behind something large and somewhere where if the shooter opens the door you will not be immediately visible.  Yes I know that bullets go through wooden desks, the purpose is for the shooter to not readily see you.  And remain quiet.  No sobbing, screaming, praying out loud, etc.  Screaming girl in video would be shot. 

If the shooter isn’t near enough to hear you, then call 911.  Give the operator the location of the shooter, the number of shooters, their description, the number and types of weapons, and the number of potential victims.  Stay on the line if you can, even if you can’t talk.  That way the operator can hear any noises in the background.  If the shooter is close by and you shouldn't be making noise, then if someone else is around they will probably be calling 911.

We got to talk about the indicators of potential violence by an employee.  Have they increased their use of alcohol or illegal drugs?  Increase in absenteeism, decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene, depression?  How about overreaction to any changes at work?  Repeated violations of company policy, emotional responses and explosive outbursts of anger?  Complaining about finances? Suicidal or comments about putting things in order?  Empathy with individuals committing violent acts, increased comments about firearms, or other weapons or violent crimes?

Of course, this was when all the jokes started happening about how much we’ve all increased complaints about finances and absenteeism…oops, I mean pay cuts and furloughs!

The final thing was a discussion about taking action.  As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger (remember the CCW training – “I thought he was going to kill me” – and remember, if there’s a shooter just because he isn’t pointing the gun directly at you doesn’t mean you aren’t next or number 15 on his list of victims for that matter) attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter.  Act as aggressively as possible.  Throw items and improvise weapons (the video showed someone breaking a wooden chair to make a club).  Yell.  Commit to your actions (don’t hit like a sissy, let the person have it with your wooden chair-leg club).  Or in my case, take aim and fire.    

But what about my office where weapons aren’t allowed according to policy?  It’s a CCW, it’s not an open carry.  People aren’t supposed to know you have it on you, remember?  If a shooter comes into my office and I end up taking aim and firing, at least I'll be alive for them to write me up. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Babies and preparing to leave for a while

We have four lambs so far with one ewe still pregnant.  I've caught three of the babies and two are boys.  Great!  Food!!!  Barbados lambs are usually pretty dark but one of ours has a white patch about two inches long at the end of its tail.  When I first saw the baby I thought it must have gotten one of the ducks feathers stuck to its tail.  No, just a funny looking tail.  His name is White Tail, the other male is Lamb Chop.  It's been several years since we've been able to butcher the sheep.  I'm still building my herd up since it was decimated by the mountain lion (it (they) killed 20 of my 22 sheep).  We now have four males, six females, and a something that I haven't determined yet. 

I completely forgot storing up some animal feed.  I had several hundred pounds stored and I just kept using it and just forgot to replace it.  As I was feeding the animals this morning I realized that I had less than 50 pounds of feed left.  I usually don't feed the sheep but I've got them locked up in the pens during lambing and until the lambs are about a month old.  The pens have grass growing in them but I wanted to supplement the ewes diet with some cob.  Well, I didn't realize just how much I've been feeding them...or perhaps some of the kids or grandkids have been also feeding them.

I also ended up keeping the chickens in the coop.  My plan was to let them out into the garden.  That didn't work out too well because daughters two yip-yip dogs keep chasing them.  They attacked one of the ducks ight in front of me and two of the ducks ended up missing - either being killed or flew off.  I never found evidence of them being killed and with those two yip-yips I'd fly away if I were them.  Instead of getting mad I just kept the chickens in the coop.  Next fall I'll let them out because those two dogs will have moved out.  I miss the kids and grandkid already but not those two yip-yips.  Long story short, I've been going through a lot of food feeding the chickens.  It's such a waste to have to feed them all winter since they didn't lay too many eggs. 

Today I bought 300 pounds of chicken food and 100 pounds of sweet cob.  I store the feed in 33 gallon trash cans (both metal and heavy duty plastic) in the barn.  The cans have tight enough fitting lids that I rarely have a mouse issue.  Each 33 gallon can holds 150 pounds.  That should last quite a while especially since the weeds are growing like crazy now.  We go out everyday and pick a couple handfuls of weeds and give that to the chickens.  They eat every bite and with every bit that we supplement it's less of the store bought stuff that they eat. 

I have to get everything buttoned up around here.  On Wednesday morning I leave for a ten day trip.  I'm not sure if I'll have internet access and I don't write these in advance, so I don't know how much I'll be posting from March 2-12.  I'll have the computer, a solar panel to charge it, and my internet card.  We'll see how it goes.  During that time I will be unarmed, which will be an uncomfortable feeling, plus in a place that I've never been, plus it will be somewhere that I won't have my own transportation.  It will be interesting and I hope to learn a lot. 

This place can run itself when I'm not here, especially during the winter when the garden and fruit trees don't need to be watered.  But, Army daughter and son-in-law, who don't know how anything around here works and going to be here watching the grandkids, animals, and property.  Other daughter may come over to collect eggs and just check up on things.  She and her husband can fix anything that may go wrong.  Son can't come over.  Last time he was over when I wasn't home he almost burned the place down.  I'm tired of having the fire department show up when I'm not home.  But at least nobody can get into the guns and shoot them.  They are all locked up in the safe!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Patient Assessment

The weatherman said it was supposed to snow last night and rain today.  Wrong.  We hardly got any rain last night and this morning woke up to a bright sunny day.  It started off cold but not freezing.  It ended up in the 50s or so. 

Grandson had a friend come over to play today.  Boy's friend is an only child and gets rather bored at home.  His parents have given him every video game player and game imaginable, including many that aren't appropriate for a 9 year old.  Most of the conversation coming out of friends mouth has to do with video game characters, whom he speaks of like they are human friends and enemies.  When he comes over here he usually brings some of his games to play on our Wii or on the computer.  I gave them an hour total of electronics, then it was time to go outside. 

They had a set of walki-talkis and they played hide and seek using the walki-talkis.  They had a great time.  Then Grandson came in dripping blood from his foot.  Friend was screaming about how hurt Boy was.  Boy dripped all the way into the living room and started to plop himself down on the sofa.  Like a good grandparent I said get off the sofa and go sit on the kitchen chair. 

Army daughter (Boy's aunt) came in and said that she'd take care of him.  After all, she didn't want me to pass out from the sight of all the blood.  Cut it out and get an orange rag from the hall closet.  Get it wet and bring it to me.  As she was doing that I played 20 questions with boy. 

If this was a real patient assessment I'd be asking the following:
Patient Information:
Name, Weight, Date of Birth/Age, Sex, Chief Complaint
Oriented to:
Person, Purpose, Time, Place
Response to pain:
Purposeful, No response, Non-purposeful, Unconscious
Normal, Unequal, Rales, Stridor, Wheezes, Apnea, Other
Skin Vitals:
Color: Normal, Pale/Ashen, Cyanotic, Flushed
Moisture: Normal, Dry, Moist, Profuse
Temperature: Normal, Hot, Cool, Cold
Equal and reactive to light (acronym: pearl), Fixed, Unequal, Dilated
Patient History:
Cardiac, Seizure, Diabetes, Hypertension, Other, Unknown History

As you go through this assessment the patient usually calms down.  After all, they are being treated so all will be better soon.  The calmer you can make your assessment the better things will be.

But this was Boy.  I could skip the Patient Information.  I know his name, weight, age, sex, and chief complaint.  Toe is cut and bleeding.  He was oriented to his surroundings.  He went straight for the comfortable furniture.  Response to pain: Purposeful. Friend was screaming, Boy was crying that it hurt but friend was more panicked.  Breathing: Normal.  Skin Vitals: All normal.  Pupils: Normal. Patient History: It's Boy.  Bleeds at least once a week. 

Additional assessment questions:  What were you doing? What cut you? Does it feel like anything is still in your toe?  Were you wearing shoes?

Let's get it washed off.  I'll put some antibiotic ointment on it and tape it up.  You are as good as new.  Put a sock on and go play.

Friday, February 25, 2011

More interesting notes from yesterdays meeting

I was so tired last night that I forgot about the other things I was going to write about.  Both of the other topics also were related to trees. 

The first may not seem like such a big deal but I just think it's worth noting.  I remember about 15 or 20 years ago when the housing market was good and the timber market in the state wasn't great due to several yearly additions of new, much more stringent sets of forest practice rules.  We were importing logs from foreign countries.  What I didn't like about it was that the environmental groups were trying to slow or stop the logging in the state, although we have the most stringent logging regulations in the country, so in order to meet demand companies were purchasing logs from foreign markets who had no real environmental regulation at all.  We were destroying their ecosystems in order to protect ours.  From my point of view there needed to be a better way.   

Now, because the need for lumber in our country is at such a low demand and in China the need is so great  (remember they have four times our population), logs are being exported from California and being shipped to China.  I just thought this was an interesting switch, nothing else...

Another topic of discussion, which I've discussed in the past, is the mapping of trees and gardens.  Some are public and some are private.  It's a total invasion of privacy for someone to drive by your property, see your trees or garden, and load that information into Google Earth.  This new project is called urban forest mapping.  Cities and the general public are being encouraged to add their trees or other peoples trees into this project.  At some point there is going to be a public push to do this, possibly with federal grant money.

Part of this urban forest project includes a website from CalPoly.  I did find the Selectree part interesting.  I clicked on Tree selection by attribute. I clicked on prolific fruiting habit and edible fruit.  It came up with a list of trees, including some I hadn't thought of.  I think I'm going to plant some carob trees.  Carob is a substitute for cocoa.  I'm still waiting for the local nurseries to get in their bareroots.  They seem to be running late this year.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Watch yourself in the woods

It's been a long day.  I started at six this morning and it's now 10:00 at night.  I'm just settling into the hotel room.  The four hour drive to get to the meeting was uneventful.  The drive home was more difficult due to it being dark and pouring rain.  I kept hitting potholes in the road and bouncing the truck all over so I decided to stop for the night even though I'm only about two hours from home.  I'll drive the rest of the way in the light of day.  Of course the truck is full of gas and I've got spare gas in the back. 

For the most part the meeting was a normal boring meeting.  It was good to see people from throughout the state who I only get to see a couple times per year.  There was a good deal of talk about the state budget, new regulations, lawsuits, and what's happening in their neck of the woods.  When I listened to everyone's reports I took my normal notes so I could repeat it all to those who work with me.  There was one item that was discussed that really caught my ear.  It didn't really surprise me, after all, I've already had to deal with some of the issues, but it certainly is worth writing about tonight. 

Survivalists and preppers pride themselves on being ready for anything.  Some of us will test ourselves in different situations just to get some practice in dealing with out of the ordinary experiences.  For me, I may purposefully get lost in the woods or drive somewhere without a map.  I may decide to go fishing without any fishing gear.  The worst experience I can put myself through is to go to a shopping mall.  Trying to stay alert to your surrounding there is one of my most challenging practice situations. 

I've written about being shot at in the woods this past year.  The person wasn't really aiming at us, but above our heads.  The shooter was just warning us to stay away.  Several years ago I was working up in the northern end of the state and someone started shooting at me.  I was able to get out onto the road and flagged down a cop (this was before I carried a handi-talki).  I told him someone was shooting towards me and his response was I need to learn to get along with the people in the neighborhood.  Whatever...

So why am I bringing this up tonight?  One of the discussion items was about one of our folks getting extra training with a county group in dealing with the Mexican drug cartel.  It seems that the cartel has taken over the local hippy type of pot growers in the woods.  The old time pot growers patrolled their crops and carried guns, but they really didn't want to hurt anyone unless you were a pot stealing hippy type.  They just wanted to make sure you weren't going to mess with their crop. 

It's different now.  The pot can be worth a million dollars per acre and more.  This is really high stakes business.  The cartels send people up here to tend the crops.  We've been told that those who are caught are armed with a minimum of two weapons and a lot of ammunition.  They are ordered to shoot anyone who may discover the crop.  The cartel tells the worker that if they don't protect the crop then the workers family who is still in Mexico will be killed.  So the worker has a lot to lose.  They will do whatever needs to be done, including shoot at you or shoot you in order to save their own family. 

Why is this important to survivalists?  We often spend a lot of time in the woods.  We may hunt, hike, camp, work, or just purposefully get lost in the woods.  Often we do this alone.  There are more dangers out there nowadays than just running into a bear or twisting an ankle.  You could disappear.  If you do go out into the woods, especially during growing season and especially during harvest season, be careful and let someone know where you are going to go.

What’s in your wallet?

I sound like a commercial but I’m not pushing one type of credit card over another.  What is in your wallet?  The other day I decided to clean mine out.  Organization is really important in the survivalist world.  It's easy to get overwhelmed with too much stuff and not knowing what you have.  Looking through my wallet I was amazed, rather stupefied, at how much stuff was in it.  I had no idea other than it was so full that it wouldn’t stay velcroed shut – I was using a rubberband. 

My wallet in a bi-fold wallet.  I bought it 12 years ago when son went into the army.  The outside of the wallet says US Army with the army eagle symbol.  The other part that faces out has a space for the driver’s license.  It’s got a plastic cover so you can show your ID without taking the license out of the wallet.  When you open the wallet up there are lots of spaces for credit cards and that sort.  The stack of cards was almost two inches thick!  I had the grandkids and my medical cards and the dental card.  I had three credit cards – American Express (for shopping at Costco), Discover (for shopping at Sam’s Club), and Visa.  I also had my ATM card.  The grandkids just got new bank accounts.  I had their ATM cards too.  I had the AAA card, several gift cards, library cards, and a couple of store discount cards. 

I had cards that work provides and I have to carry.  I have my ID, credit card, vehicle rental card, gas card, phone card, ICS qual card, med qual cards.  

Not cards, but still taking up space, were a spare key, a small Rite-in-the-Rain book, a folding scissor/screw driver/misc. tool.  My Rite-in-the-Rain book has the words MEDICAL INFORMATION in red on the cover.  It includes a short medical history, prescriptions list for each of us, eyeglass prescriptions, blood type, and the doctor’s name and phone number (the Kaiser cards are still in the wallet). And finally, some money.

What if I lost my wallet?  How easy would it be to list all this stuff and come up with the numbers to speed up the replacement?  I ended up taking all the cards out of my wallet and putting them on the scanner.  I scanned them –front and back, saved the file to the computer, and printed up a page with all the cards on it.  Most of the cards didn’t make it back into the wallet. The kids ATM cards, gift cards, store discount cards, and most of the credit cards can also stay home. Some cards, like the library cards, I leave in the console of my pickup, since a trip to the library may be a spur of the moment thing.  The wallet is much lighter now.       

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Y2K is a hoax, I mean 2012. Only 666 more days until Dec 21, 2012 - what a bad omen.

A couple of websites were writing about 2012.  I watched the movie.  It was good for a goofy science fiction movie.  I didn't see it at the theater, instead the kids brought over a rental.  Hurry, it costs a dollar and they want me to watch it before they get charged a second dollar!  They wanted my scientific perspective.  I'm not a survivalist who's expecting a catastrophic event like that.  I plan for a lot of scenarios but not one where the whole world will disappear other than those who get on the rescue arks. 

That movie wasn't even allowed in North Korea.  You see, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of their nation's founder so the country has designated the year 2012 to be the year to become a rising superpower, Obviously no Mayan 2012 end of world predictions or biblical predictions allowed. 

No, I think this panic about 2012 is the new made up crisis of the decade.  There are so many problems in the world that are much more apt to actually happen.  What about Y2K?  You have to remember that Y2K was a manmade “crisis of the decade” computer problem…the computers were all supposed to fail and turn the world upside down.  The computer programmers were able to reprogram computers and save the world!  2012 is also a manmade problem. The Mayan calendar stops then. Sorry, but that was wishful thinking on the Mayans part. Their civilization as they knew it ended long before then. Our media just needs another “crisis of the decade” so 2012 is it.

Only God knows when the world will end. He may throw some kinks in along the way to keep people on their toes but survivalists are expecting to survive what is really a man made problem. If you really analyze what is going on in the world both locally and globally, society and civil unrest is more of an issue than something God and the universe throws at us. Of course, those in Australia who just went through the flood may think differently or those in New Zealand.

God will take us when he is ready. Still, God expects us to want to survive, which is why we are preppers or survivalists. Anything less is not respecting the wonderful life and unique opportunities that God has given us. I’m not worried about prophesies about 2012. On the other hand, there's only 666 more days until Dec. 21, 2012.  Better get prepared!

There's a song the kids were singing today, "Furious they assailed us but your arm availed us, and your word broke their sword when our own strength failed us."  That's what it's all about.  We practice and do our best and God will provide. 

The truck's food stash - eat and replace is my motto.

Every day you need to try to do something to reach your goal.  You won't ever reach your goal.  You will never stand back and say, I've got everything I need, the job is done.  Why?  Because even if you think you've done everything and you have enough of everything you should be using what you have.  By doing this you will need to continuously restock your supplies.  Now I'm not saying to decimate your food stash that's in your truck and hope to remember to replace what you've eaten.  But if you eat something from it then you need to replace it.  Never go more than a week without replacing something that you've used if it's in a short term bag. 
For example, at minimum, I keep a weeks worth of food in the truck.  When I travel I will sometimes pack more food but usually will also eat what's in the truck.  In this manner I'm making sure the food is rotated.  I also make sure that I have at least enough food left to get me home on.  For example, if I'm 100 miles from home I figure that I can make it home by walking in three or four days max.  Then I'd make sure that I don't go below having least three or four days worth of food saved after I've been helping myself to it while I travel.  Even though I ate from the food stash last weekend, it's replaced before I head out again. Tomorrow I have to be at a meeting four hours away from home.  It should be a very long one day trip, but I may spend the night out.  Not a problem.   I'll have enough food for a week in case I had to walk home but I also have enough gas to get me home even if all the gas stations close. 
Not only will I have the food in my truck but I'll bring some things with me.  My favorites are picking fruit off the trees (at this time of year it's citrus - grapefruit, orange, kumquat) and also bringing tortillas and shredded cheese.  If the sun is shining I can put the tortilla and cheese in the window (on a piece of aluminum foil) and the cheese will melt.  Delicious quesadilla. 
One of the problems with buying bulk food to store in cans is that you don't rotate it.  Sure it's good for 10 or 20 years.  Then for it's last year you eat nothing but your stored foods.  Due to the expense I don't have freeze dried food in my storage plan, although I do love eating freeze dried strawberries straight out of the container!  In the truck I do have some MREs that I don't get in to too often.  Some of the food I do carry in the truck that I eat and rotate is oatmeal and energy bars, jerky, dried fruit, tuna, and my favorite, a jar of peanut butter.  I have a case of water and some flavorings such as Crystal Light and tea bags. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crises around the world and some home cooking

Listening to the news today didn't bring much in the way of good news.  Two of the stories reinforced the necessity of having food storage programs. 

First is Libya.  We've been listening and watching people in the Mideast try to overthrow their governments.  I'm not going to get political here.  There was one woman who was interviewed today over a phone or computer (not sure).  She and her family live in Tripoli and she said that their family hasn't left their apartment for four days.  If they did, she was afraid they'd be killed because of all the shootings and violence that is happening right outside their building.  People can't even look out the windows or they take a chance of being shot.

The second story is the earthquake in New Zealand.  This was the second large earthquake they've experienced in the past six months.  The last one was more powerful but further off the coast and didn't cause the damage that this one did.  The destruction is massive in Christchurch.  There are 75 confirmed deaths and 300 or so people still missing.  Most of the damage was to the taller buildings in the downtown area but for most of the city power, water, and phone service is out.  The infrastructure is badly damaged.  The government has told people to stay home.   

In Libya, if they don't have a stored supply of food, water, and other necessities, life can be very dangerous or deadly trying to procure these basic needs.  In New Zealand, the entire country isn't in ruins, but their second largest city quite distrupted. It does bring up one thought though about food and supply storage.  It really can't all be kept in the same place.  If you have it all in your house and your house burns down, what do you have left?  Same if you are in an apartment and the apartment gets destroyed.  Then what?

Fortunately for me I don't live in an area with much in the way of natural disasters.  We don't get earthquakes, floods, or fires.  But what about a fire in the house?  If it's not associated with a large scale disaster then I could replace what I've purchased.  Then it's only a money issue and not really a survival issue.  But what if it is civil unrest like Libya?  I've got the bugout place but not too many of my provisions are up there.  My eggs are all in one basket.  Sort of.  I at least have the travel trailer and it's got clothes and shoes for each of us, bedding, and food.  I don't have any weapons stored in it but they are in the safe so if there's a fire I'll still be able to get them.  After last weekend, I'm making sure that my propane tanks on the trailer are full! 

My chickens have started laying again.  I'm thinking it's because someone told them I placed an order for new pullets and they are arriving in mid-March.  Either that or the days are getting longer so they are naturally going to start laying again.  We had a great dinner tonight, pretty much from our storage and fresh food.  It was a quiche made with a homemade crust (flour, salt, shortening, water) and things from our stored food (turkey spam, shredded cheese plus cheese powder, powdered milk, fresh eggs, dried green onions, dried onions, dried garlic, bacon flavored TVP, and nutmeg, salt and pepper).  It took about 10 minutes to prepare and about an hour to cook. 

Meeting of the survivalists

My title sounds much more impressive than it really was.  I, the survivalist, met with another survivalist for the three day weekend.  I left the grandkids at home and hung out with the only person that I know personally who has similar interests and opinions as I do.  But boy do we differ! 

I had some work to do near east San Diego County so we met up at the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area.  This is an OHV park of nearly 80,000 acres.  It’s huge.  First I want to say that I’ve never been to an OHV park and the environmental damage that is caused at these places in unimaginable.  Some of my coworkers have conducted work at some of these places and they say that if they don’t allow some areas to be destroyed then the OHVers will impact more places.  It’s better to concentrate them into one area.  And concentrated they were.  At one place, called Pumpkin Patch, there were about 200 people just hanging out there.  So much for seclusion and just getting away. 

My friend just bought a dune buggy kind of thing.  I’m not quite sure what to call it. – other than expensive.  With the accessories added, the thing cost about $25,000.  It was fun to drive it around on Saturday night and Sunday day and night, but that was enough.  It’s not something that is just running through my veins.  If I never got on another dune buggy to go riding in an OHV park again, it would make no difference to me.  Just not my thing, I guess.

I drove my truck, the personal one, not the work truck since I didn’t think it would look good for the marked work truck to be hanging out at the park all weekend.  Of course, I did have real reason to go down and I did work on Saturday but still, government workers have a bad enough reputation…  I had my normal stuff loaded into my truck.  I’m used to sleeping in it if needed but my friend’s trailer slept 8, so there was room for me in the trailer.  His trailer was nothing like my trailer.  My trailer is 15 years old, in good shape, and didn’t cost a lot used.  It has a couch that folds down into a bed, the kitchen table folds into a bed, and above the couch is a little fold down bunk.  His screams I have money and I’m not afraid to flaunt it. 

My friend makes somewhere between two and three times as much money as I make and has been single all his life.  That’s so different than my lifestyle which is one of supporting anywhere between 4 and 10 people, depending on the year and everyone’s circumstances.   So, he has money to spare.  Us, we just plant a bigger garden so we can eat well.  He should be really prepared in his survival gear.  I’m looking forward to the conversations about how he’s fortified his house, what he stores, etc.

I’ve said that he brought a trailer and dune buggy.  I failed to mention the dirt bike and the brand new truck.  Beautiful truck.  Dually, one-ton, diesel, four wheel drive, with every feature imaginable.  My truck, half ton, gas, eleven years old, four wheel drive, before tv or gps or I-pod hookup was imagined to be included in a vehicle – but I have a tape deck and a cd player.  That was very high tech back then!    My friend told me I needed to get a new vehicle because mine was old.  For what?  I was able to jump into my truck and drive for nine hours without worrying if it would make it.  I don’t need a new vehicle.  In the past six months my friend has spent over two years worth of my salary on “toys” and new vehicles. 

What about his survival plans?  Ok, so he’s got all this stuff, and sorry if it sounds a little jealous, I’m not.  Especially after this weekend. 

The trailer had a great kitchen.  It was equipped with a microwave, stove, refrigerator and freezer, and coffee maker.  What about the food?  He had to stop on the way to pick up food because there’s nothing stored in it to eat.  Everything was gourmet.  Nothing was ordinary food.  He also picked up lots of alcohol.  Now I know that many survival sites say that you need to give up all food, alcohol, and smoking vices prior to TEOTWAWKI, but I disagree.  I enjoy gourmet foods (not that I can afford to buy stuff), I enjoy alcohol (in moderation).  I’ve never smoked.  I’ve never used drugs.   If the situation came to pass and I never had the ability to drink alcohol again I’d survive without it just fine.  I do believe that we need to be in control of ourselves and too much alcohol will not allow that.  For three days, he brought three twelve packs of beer, two bottles of wine, and some whiskey.  In my three days I drank four bottles of beer and had a glass of wine for dinner Sunday night.  My friend drank just about everything else.  I asked about this and he said that he doesn’t normally do this.  I find that hard to believe.

Anyway, back to the food.  There wasn’t anything stored in his trailer.  No canned goods, no ramen noodles, Knorr side dishes, canned milk, beans, potatoes, nothing!   No salt or pepper!  I have several weeks worth of food in my trailer.  Actually, it’s probably enough to feed us for a couple of months although there isn’t a great variety after the couple of weeks worth of canned goods was used up.  Friend is convinced that he could hunt for his food.  Perhaps, but if he’s driving to get out of the city and heading to wherever he’d want to settle, he’s not going to have time to hunt for his food.  Also, I’m not sure that he realizes that if everyone started hunting for their food the deer and rabbit populations would collapse.  He didn’t have any fishing equipment in the trailer.  After all, there wasn’t any place to fish.  Under the seat of my pickup I have a small fishing pole and bait.  I have about over a weeks worth of food in my truck, and I wasn’t supposed to need it as my friend was supplying everything. 

I carry a sleeping bag and sleeping roll (the liner, which is all I need most of the time) in my truck at all times.  He didn’t have anything in his truck other than lots of movies.  His trailer didn’t have any sleeping bags.  He had the four full sized beds and blankets for each of them.  He’s just so convinced that he will have time to get his trailer and supply it with everything he will need that he doesn’t have anything prepared.

He ran out of propane although his tanks held 40 gallons.  The trailer contained both a gas generator and gas pump (to refuel the toys).  Those two tanks held a total of 45 gallons of gas.  He had about 15.  I carried an extra 15 gallons of gas in the back of my pickup, just in case I needed some extra to get me home.  His pickup was filled with fuel but he didn’t have any spare diesel to get home if something happened and he couldn’t fuel up at a gas station. 

I was surprised at how unarmed he was.  Considering he has so many weapons at home, he came with a .380 pistol.  He had one clip for it.  I had my shotgun and my .38 special, which he called a girly gun…whatever… He said that he was surprised that I didn’t carry more handguns since I have a CCW permit.  I suppose I could have carried more, but I had plenty of ammunition.  Being in the park the shotgun was probably not legal to have in the truck.  Oh well. 

We talked about a TEOTWAWKI situation.  He figured that he’d have plenty of time to get home from wherever he was and pack up.  I asked why he didn’t stay packed up.  No need he said.  If things got bad then depending on how or why would depend on what his bug-out plan would be.  As I said before he’s told me that he’s going to Montana or South Dakota.  No, his plans have changed.  Depending on the weather, he may head to some South American country.  What?  You think you can just drive through Mexico to someplace not yet determined driving your $75,000 pickup and $70,000 trailer carrying your toys and you will make it there, wherever there is, safely?  Get back into reality mister.  You won’t make it 100 miles south of the border.  Ok, maybe 250 miles, until you need to refuel.

He doesn’t plan on bugging in at his house.  It’s in a very high population area of Southern California.  I agree that it wouldn’t be the ideal place to be.  There was one time that I went from Major Surplus and Supply in Gardenia to Riverside and it took over three hours to travel the sixty miles.  This took me right by his house, which is less than a mile off the freeway.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation, he’d be stuck in traffic, especially if he had to pack everything up first!  Not at all wise planning.

He did have some really cool clothes.  Because he has a lot of money he has invested a lot of money into his wardrobe.  Yes, there are lots of designer things, but he’s got some very high quality articles of clothing.  I am lacking in specialized clothing.  When we went driving the dune buggy at night it was in the 40s (cold for me), the wind was blowing, plus being in the open vehicle brought the chill factor down.  I wasn’t cold.  I had SIX layers of clothes on, including some I borrowed from him.  Two shirts, vest, jacket, sweatshirt, windbreaker.  He had one shirt and one jacket/windbreaker.  This meant his mobility was much better than mine.  Wow, so he taught me something. 

Overall, I was disappointed in the weekend.  I was hoping to get some good tips about how I need to tweek my survival program.  Instead I learned that I could care less about riding in a dune buggy, my survivalist friend is just a dreamer with a lot of toys, and I need to buy a good windbreaker. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meeting with another survivalist

So much for having the blog schedule a posting rather than just posting it as soon as I wrote the thing.  I wrote this very early Saturday morning but scheduled to have it posted around eight in the morning, just in case I wanted to add anything to it before I left.  I didn't add anything but obviously it didn't post.  It's now Monday night, I've just returned but I'm just posting what I wrote on Saturday morning - and the date of the post will show Saturday even though I didn't post it until Monday night!  I'll write about the weekend in my blog for tomorrow.  It was interesting and I have a lot to say about the comparisons, both perceived and real. 

As I wrote Saturday morning:  Today I'm heading down to Southern California once again.  The weather is not good but that's ok, I'm prepared for just about anything.  This trip is part work part fun.  The fun is meeting with the only other person who I know (actually met, not just people I correspond with through the internet) who is a survivalist.  His mindset is different than mine.  He is going to try to persuade me to think more along his line of thinking and I, of course, will tout mine. 

There are many differences in our way of thinking.  Mine is a hunker down and prepare this place where I'm at to be fully supportive and also defensible, but if it isn't so, to head out to the bug-out place, which is planned to be fully supportive and defensible.  My heavy equipment includes a 4X4 truck, a small tractor with implements, a travel trailer, and a utility trailer.  His includes two 4X4 trucks, a large travel trailer, a bass boat, an ATV, a dune buggy, and a toy hauler (a trailer that you can sleep in and also carry the ATV).  He may have more equipment, this is all I've either seen or been told about. 

We both have fishing equipment.  He has archery equipment.  We both have weapons.  He has over 50.  I have 5.  He hunts for most of his meat.  I raise mine.  I have a garden.  He shops at the store.  He has a swimming pool (just a little bit of envy here!).  I have a food and supply storage, I don't know what he has or if he just thinks he can hunt and fish for all his needs.

In TEOTWAWKI situation I plan on staying put if possible.  He plans on hightailing out of Southern California and heading to Montana or South Dakota to hang out on some friends property. I expect to have some good conversations and perhaps will be able to pick up some tips from him.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Planted bulbs for flowers

For Valentine's Day some friends of mine gave me a mylar balloon and some bulbs for flowers.  Since my motto is if I can't eat it there's not much reason to grow it, I was taken back a bit by this gift.  I could understand if they gave me a balloon and some vegetable seeds, or a strawberry plant, but flowers just for the sake of flowers??  Even my mom gave me a potted kale plant.  This afternoon we had a break in the rain so I decided to go out into the front and plant the bulbs.  They will be really pretty when they grow in the spring, or next year if it's too late for this year.  Why not?  I figure on this five acres there had to be a little space for something that we can't eat or the animals can't eat, they aren't medicinal, or of some use other than just to look at.  Plant a flower.  Boy, does that sound stupid! But why not? If I did, you can too!

It's not what THEY are saying, it's what YOU are doing

Usually I don't write about what others are doing.  I try to stick to what I do on my own property and how I am leading my life.  I said usually.  I don't like jumping on the bandwagon of forwarding stories without fully knowing the facts and the truth.  In this case, it's interesting to read the factual accounts such as what PRNewswire is running on Yahoo's news.  The article was promoted by a family who stated they have informed 16 organizations, publishers and businesses about proper usage of their registered words.  That's enough proof for me.  I especially liked one sentence, "The family requests that level heads prevail and that people take time to step back, be informed about trademark policy, and search out the truth."

I did so.  YOU did not "define the current, specific application" of urban homesteading.  I wrote a comment on Rudy's site which I thought I'd repeat here: 

I have a saying that I taught my children and grandchildren that deals with integrity, honor, and how it relates to behavior.  "It's not what THEY are saying, it's what YOU are doing".  If someone else isn't behaving properly (in this case that family) you do not have to participate in their bad behavior. 

It's interesting to read the "news" accounts such as PRNewswire running on Yahoo's news.  They have deemed bloggers as non-reporters.  "Whereas professional reporters substantiate their news before publishing stories and are careful not to make slanderous statements, bloggers have no editors and often demonstrate little or no interest in supporting their claims with fact. As a result, irresponsible or malicious blogging can cause harm to people and businesses."  So if I were a professional then I'd refer to this family as our creator each and every time I said or wrote Urban Homesteader.   Urban Homesteader. Urban Homesteader. Urban Homesteader. Urban Homesteader!

The article of defense provides the exact reason that we true Urban Homesteaders (note no ®) are so disappointed with the behavior of THAT family.  They did not register these words to avoid confusion on the part of the general public.  They did this to promote themselves and try to make people think that they are responsible for MY way of living.  Let me tell you, THEY had nothing to do with it! 

I went to their website about a year ago and did not care for it.  I've never gone back, nor do I intend to.  I shunned them then.  I will continue to do so.  It's not what they are saying, it's what I'm doing.  I'm doing the right thing.  I'm staying as far away from them as possible. 

Urban Homesteader. Urban Homesteader. Urban Homesteader. Urban Homesteader!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Smoke is in the air

Smoke.  What does it mean?  Can you tell the kind of fire that’s burning just by the smoke?  Yes you can.

What if you are out in the woods and you see a thin gray smoke column?  It’s not rising quickly into the air, just kind of floating?  It’s probably from a fireplace or a campfire.

What if the smoke column is dark and black and rising more quickly, but still thin like the campfire smoke?  It’s probably from a diesel engine.  It could be a pickup truck or a tractor, bulldozer, or other piece of heavy equipment. 

What if it’s a wider column, but still pretty small?  What if it’s white in color?  This is a really low intensity burn.  It could be that someone is burning some grasses or leaves under trees or it could be a pile of leaves or grass.  If someone is feeding the pile then the column can puff when it gets fed.

What if the smoke is wider at the base before it heads up into the air?  What if it’s white smoke but the downwind side is turning into a darker smoke?  The fire may be spreading from grasses into heavier brush.  You can tell the type of fuel by the smoke color.  Brown indicates dead brush while black indicates brush higher in oils.

What if the smoke isn’t wider at the base?  It’s just thick and dark, with a lot of black?  It’s probably a structure fire or a vehicle fire.  The plastics and rubber in houses and vehicles, including tires, burn a dark black color.

What if the dark black vehicle fire now is turning white?  The fire has probably spread from the vehicle to the surrounding vegetation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deliberately getting misplaced while driving

I had a meeting out in the woods today in a location about an hour and a half from home.  It was raining when I left home and since the news had been forecasting a foot of snow at 4000 feet and snow going down to 2000 feet, I was prepared for snow.  The area I had to go to doesn't have a large population.  Some areas may see only two or three vehicles may pass by there all day.  In order to get to where I was going I have to cross a large river.  There are only three crossings within a 20 mile stretch.  When I drove out there I went the quickest way which was the middle crossing.  I wasn't going to have time to travel indirectly on the way home either because I had to be home early.  At least that was the intention when I left in the morning. 

I was supposed to meet three or four people who were fairly local (as I considered myself, being only 1 1/2 hours away) and three people were coming from about 3 or 4 hours away.  Those three carpooled.  They didn't listen to the weather reports.  It was raining when they left their homes in the morning but I guess none of them figured that going into the mountains may bring something other than sunshine.  They drove up the mountain in a little car without chains, winter emergency supplies, or even proper clothing for the weather.  They got to the meeting place and instantly cancelled the meeting because they were afraid they would get snowed in.  I was about five minutes from the meeting place when I received the call. 

Whatever,  I'm just there to provide expertise, I wasn't in charge.  I turned the truck around and decided to deliberately get misplaced on the way home.  I had time now since my two hour meeting was cancelled.  I had a full tank of gas, emergency supplies, clothes, food, tools, the normal that I carry.  It was adventure time!

I turned on the GPS but put it into the backseat.  I wanted to track where I went but didn't want to know exactly where I was.  I also put the map book away.  My challenge to myself was to take roads that I hadn't been on, or at least wasn't real familiar with.  This area is really hilly and curvy so it's easy to get misplaced since I'm not all that familiar with the roads.  The roads are all numbered, and they don't go in order.  400 may be right before 430 but right after 450.  It doesn't make sense.  The better to misplace myself! My challenge was to get to the first bridge, which is the least traveled. 

I tried to make a mental note of the landmarks.  I didn't take notes, which I normally would do.  I decided that at each four way junction I was going to turn.  No going straight for the river.  It was really great fun and a couple of times I was really confused.  My goal was to not go around in circles but to somehow zigzag my way to the river.  It was really a test of not panicking myself.  Of course it was daytime, and at any time I could have gotten the GPS out of the back and instantly known where I was.  

Once I got out of the mountains and down in the ranch lands, it was harder to figure out which direction to turn, since I still tried to turn at each junction.  Sometimes I couldn't because it was really obvious the road was going to nowhere.  Doing this you get a good sense of which roads are the more traveled roads, when it's dry you can see the dirt on the roadway.  Decisions are made by which road is narrower or which has paint markings.  You can also look at the road signs along the sides of the road.  Around here if there's a drainage under the road there is a road sign listing the road number, the distance from the beginning of the road (the south or west end of the road).  Even if you don't know where you are, if you find a road it's pretty easy to get relocated.

When I returned to the office I downloaded the GPS route I took onto a quad map.  I printed up the topo and wrote notes about some of the places I'd seen.  I did this from memory, although if I was doing a real recon I would have been writing notes and tracking myself (map and GPS) the entire way.

You should be familiar with the roads near where you live and where you travel.  If you normally work or visit or shop and hour or two from home you should be able to take every possible route to get yourself back home.  It should all  be familiar.  If it isn't then perhaps you should deliberately misplace yourself too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Repeater Site

Today I was on top of a mountain at a repeater site.  You can talk to anyone in the world from up there, I was told.  I was asking questions not about the repeaters but about the other equipment that was up there, unattended and not well secured.  Why are there three 1000 gallon propane tanks that are all between 75-90% filled?  They are to run the generator inside the building.  That amount of fuel would run the generator for an extended period of time, I was told.  It certainly would!  We opened the locked gate on the chain link fence and went into the building and saw the generator.  Our department had the generator locked in the building.  It's being kept under lock and key but it's a very common key...everyone that works for us or has ever worked for us has this key. 
Next to the generator building was the building with all the computer and phone line equipment for the repeaters.  I saw a stack of batteries in the corner.  They were all linked together and looked like a set of batteries that could be used for a very large solar operation.  I know there's no solar operation here.  I asked if the generator charged the batteries and then the equipment ran off the batteries in case the electricity went out.  The people with me didn't know.  I didn't have time to look around any further and I wasn't sure if they were appreciating my line of questions.
Another generator, this one for ATT, was outside and attached to a separate 500 gallon tank.  Other than the four bolts keeping  the generator in place on the cement pad, it had no security measures to keep it from being stolen.  I saw another building down the hill a bit that was surrounded by brush.  It had solar panels on top.  It's not our building and I didn't check it out any further. 
I asked about security - cameras, alarms.  There isn't any.  I asked why not?  I was told that it's because people don't know that generators and propane can be found near repeater sites (both for cellular services and emergency services).  I told him he was wrong.  Many people do know.  Just at this point in time people are being honest and not stealing it.  But, at the time when it's most needed it will be most vulnerable. 

And no, I do not see myself stealing the propane or generators.  Nor do I see myself leaving valuable items unsecured for the masses to see and steal.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I tried to bring up the rise in food and gas prices and my thoughts on the unrest of people in our country to some of my friends.  Their response was we aren't like Egypt or any other country whose government is in peril.    What do I mean the unrest in our country?  They thought I was nuts. People are all on edge, can't they see it?  Aren't they noticing the changes in their everyday lives? 

Look at some of the tv shows: Survivor, Dual Survival, Man vs. Wild, Survivorman, I Shouldn't Be Alive, The Colony.  There's a new one that was advertised this weekend, I can't remember the name of it but it was advertised that other shows tell you how to get out of the situation you are in and this new show teaches you how to go into the wilderness to forage for all your food and live off the land on purpose. 

In my opinion, these types of shows, while interesting and entertaining (I can't say that I've seen each of the shows I've listed, I may have seen half of them one or two times at most) are an indicator of what's to come in the future.  These desperate situations shown on tv are easing us into that reality. 

Just as I believe that the tv shows, movies, and video games that the people watch or play desensitizes them to vulgar language and behaviors, these new survival shows are an indicator that things to come are not looking good.  People may think today’s blog is one of an alarmist.  It is sort of.  Usually I write about simple things like chickens or recipes or buying a weapon.  But there's more to it.  The basic underlying issue is that there are problems out there.  Whether they are small or large, temporary or long term, we better be ready. 

I'm not really, and I don't spend every minute of the day worrying about the situation in the world or the country or the state.  But it is my responsibility to take care of my family and the more people who I can covert to this way of thinking, of preparing and surviving, the better off everyone will be.  There are so many people out there, including many who are related to me who are totally and completely oblivious to any unrest or disruptions that may soon occur in their daily lives. 

What if IT is today?  How comfortable will you and your family be?  How safe will you be?  Today is just one of those days that I’m alarming myself.  Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Baby Chickens

I put in an order for baby chickens today from Murry McMurray hatchery.  I've used them before and the chicks always arrive alive and grow up healthy.  This year I decided to order a variety of chickens.  I really spent time looking through the catalogue and chose many that they said were good setters.  I'd sure like to have them hatch out their own eggs. 

I've always had a rooster or two, right now I have a little banty who rules the roost and I have an Araucana cock also.  Murry McMurray always throws in an extra chick or two and it's always a cockerel so I'll have a couple more. 

I wanted a mix of pullets because it's fun to have the variety.  I ordered araucanas, red stars, black stars, delawares, black minorcas, blue andalusians, anconas, silver polish, buff minorcas, buff orpingtons, and rhode island reds.   I could have ordered one of their package deals which will include at least five different breeds.  I've done that before and been pleased as well.  But since I wanted to make sure I got several different breeds that were setters I wanted to chose them myself.  Ok, some of these aren't great setters but look interesting and will lay.  McMurry makes you order 25 minimum to insure their safe arrival.  I don't want that many but renters at the bug-out place want a few more so I'm splitting my order and will give them four or five.

They will be arriving on either Sunday March 13th or Monday March 14th.  I'll let the post office know in advance.  Hopefully they'll call me on Sunday and I can go pick them up at that time.  Otherwise, bright and early Monday morning I'll be there to get them.

I have an old converted rabbit hutch that I've used in the past.  We've kept it outside under the patio cover and right outside the kitchen window.  The kids eat their breakfast and watch the chicks.  I keep the heat lamp on and in really cold weather keep it covered up with a wool blanket. 

This year I'm thinking about doing it differently.  We have a stock tank that leaks so instead of fixing it, I'm thinking about using it for the chicks.  It's almost four feet long and almost a foot and a half tall.  I can bring it into the laundry room and raise them in there.  The only problem I'd have with that would be the cats.  I'd have to put a cover on it to keep the cats off or I'll have bought them one very expensive dinner.  The feed store down the road puts their chicks into a stock tank and it seems to work well.  There are no corners so there's no place for the chicks to crush each other.  There will also be plenty of room to roam once they do get a little bigger. 

I have a sack of chipped pine bedding that I can use in the tank.  I'll throw it into the compost when the chicks go into the coop.  I have a month to figure out which way I'm going to go with them.  I also need to figure out what I'm doing with the 16 hens we now have.  The youngest is three years old, the oldest, five or six.  None of them are in their prime for laying anymore.  Do I want to sell them, let them roam the yard (no feed bill then), or butcher them for stewing hens?  I won't get rid of them until the new ones start laying, then the old ones are out of the coop!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gardening work and lambs

Today I got on the tractor and disced my garden.  I love doing this in the spring.  Ok, it's still winter but discing it now was good because I was able to get weeds turned under.  I'll disc it again before I'm ready to plant.  I was hoping to put in some raised beds but I'm running out of time for this season.  I may be able to get some of them in.  But for now, I'll probably end up just planting in my long rows. 

The main vegetable garden is about 50 X 50 this year.  I think I'm going to do something different with the corn this year.  The barn was set up by the previous owner for horses.  There are four inside stalls and each stall has a 15X50 foot outdoor run.  I am thinking about blocking one of the runs off and planting the corn in it.  It won't be as large of an area as I usually plant the corn but it will be in good soil and when the ears are picked I can just let the animals back into the pen to eat the stalks down. 

I gave the renters asparagus crowns today and those will get planted soon.  Renter said they aren't supposed to get planted until after the frost ends but I said it's ok to plant them now.  It's been getting down into the 20s at the bug-out place at night but the ground isn't freezing and the daytime weather is warm enough.  I told him that they should be planted near the bank of the creek.  They'll do wonderfully there.  Renter remembers picking wild asparagus near the creeks when he was a boy.  He's looking forward to it again. 

In a few more weeks we'll get the fruit trees for bug-out place.  I'm in a bit of a pickle because the chunk of money that I've been talking about isn't going to arrive until the beginning of April at the earliest.  That's too late for bare root season.  I don't want to miss out on planting the fruit trees because last year I didn't plant anything at all at the bug-out place.  I'm going to have to figure out how to buy everything in February and March and not run out of money to pay my bills.  But, it will get done. 

We had our first lamb yesterday.  It was a girl.  The grandkids are happy because they get to name it.  We have four females who were breed last fall so hopefully I'll get some males to put into the freezer! We have three more ewes to go, including my oldest ewe who always produces twins. 

I've got friends who live about three hours away and they swap males with me so I end up with new breeding stock every other year.  They are in a swapping group of about six or seven others who have Barbados sheep as well so I don't have to worry about any inbreeding issues.  

Barbados are interesting sheep.  They love yellow star thistle and will eat it all.  I no longer have a star thistle problem.  They eat the plants prior to them seeding, although they will eat the actual star thistle flowers, so their droppings won't be spreading seed throughout the property.  The down side to Barbados sheep is that they are very skittish.  Even if you bottle feed the lambs they will still most likely run from you if you go out into the pasture.  If you want them to come you'll have to have them chased.  One of my friends can get them to go into the stall with the bribe of grain and alfalfa.  But even then they put the grain and alfalfa in the stall and wait nonchalantly near by.  They have the gate rigged with a rope so once the sheep are in the stall they can pull the rope and the gate will close. 

If one of the sheep ever gets loose and off your property you will have a hard time corralling it to get it back.  May be better off just shooting it and putting it up.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Elective Surgery - yes please cut me open!

We all know that we are supposed to prepare for whatever may come.  One of the items is health care.  There is lots of talk about which types of medications we should have on hand.  Make sure your medical supplies are in order.  We all know we are supposed to exercise and eat right.  Make sure you get in shape and stay in shape.  You are less likely to injure yourself if you have good muscle tone.  What about minor things that could be fixed with surgery?  Should you have elective surgery to fix something now? 

There may not be reliable health care in future times so we really need to seriously consider things that don’t quite work on our bodies and see if we can get them fixed.  If Lasik surgery will correct your need to wear glasses, should you have the surgery?  What about dental work?  Putting off getting something done because you hate the dentist?  For me, I have a couple of fingers that don’t quite work or feel right.  My elbow feels like my funny bone has been hit.  The problem is called ulnar neuritis, which is a nerve inflammation. This causes the destruction of the nerve covering or possibly even the nerve itself. 

About a year ago I went to the doctor to complain about my fingers.  I was put through a series of tests and told to take ibuprofen.  I was told that the symptoms should go away in a couple of months.  They didn’t.  Other treatments were tried.  It’s now a year later.  I went to the doctor yesterday for a regular checkup.  My infected finger is doing much better.  The doctor asked if there was anything else that’s not working properly.  Yes, my fingers on my left hand.  So he sent me to the specialist once again. 

That appointment was for today.  The doctor said the ulnar neuritis is still there; I could have told him that!  He said that as long as it isn’t continuously tingling and numb it isn’t a problem.  Then it is a problem because it is continuously tingling and numb.  I’ve even gotten a pillow to rest my arm and elbow on when I type and drive.  It hasn’t helped.  The doctor then did a couple more tests and said I have the choice: surgery or no surgery.  If I don’t have the surgery my hand may get a “claw-like” deformity (right now my two fingers will bend inward more than the two fingers on my right hand when I am at rest).  I can have difficulty moving the fingers.  The muscles in my hand may waste away (there’s evidence of minor muscle wasting).  And finally, there can be a weakness in my wrist and when I’m bending my hand.  So I chose surgery.  It’s scheduled next month. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kids and Valentine's Day

Tomorrow the grandkids are celebrating Valentine’s Day at school.  Monday, February 14th is a day off celebrating President Lincoln’s birthday, which is Saturday, February 12th.  So much for celebrating holidays on the actual date.  Valentine's Day is a great excuse to eat candy!  On Lincoln's Birthday we will make top hats and read the Gettysburg Address, and on Washington's birthday we will eat Cherry pies and maybe watch the movie The Patriot.  While we are eating the good food we discuss why we are celebrating the holiday.  For Valentine's Day it's hard to explain since the holiday isn't really due to romance associated with any of the three Saint Valentines.  Oh well, it makes a good legend. 

At home we made cupcakes for Boy’s class.  (Cupcake trick: If you don’t have enough cupcake baking tins use small mouth canning lids instead.  Place the lids on a cookie sheet.  Put the paper cupcake wrapper in the lid, I use two wrappers when I make them this way.)  Our cupcakes are decorated with red gummy hearts, pink and white Good n Plenty’s, Necco hearts with cute sayings on them, and pink sprinkles.  I took out the boxes of old valentines.  I bought about 20 boxes many years ago for about a quarter each.  I’ll have enough to get them all the way through elementary school.  I asked if they wanted to make them by hand but they said no, it takes too much time.  Girl did make a couple by hand for some special friends in her class, but Boy, no such luck.

I remember as a kid my parents bought each of us children a little sampler box of Whitman’s chocolate.  Nothing else mattered that day but having our own little box of candy.  Why am I writing about what the kids are going to do for school?  It’s all about tradition.  As long as we aren’t in a TEOTWAWKI situation, or even something much more benign, like a local major disaster, we should still have time for tradition. 

Around here Girl gets a pink top.  I have plenty of pink t-shirt material to last until she grows up and then some.  I also have pink heart fleece that I made into pajama bottoms.  Boy doesn’t want pink.  I made him a new shirt and bottoms too, but in a nice manly blue.  I did put a pocket into the bottoms and embroidered a heart inside the pocket.  Giving them clothes at this time of year works out well.  They are more than half way through the school year and it’s a treat to get something new for school.  Next week, after Valentine’s day perhaps you should go to the local fabric store and pick up some holiday fabric that’s on clearance.   

I member a mistake I made as a parent about 30 years ago.  We were supposed to be taking care of our neighbor’s dog while they were on vacation.  The dog got out of their yard and got hit by a car.  The person who hit the dog knew we were watching it so they came knocking at our door.  We had to stop everything and take care of the dog.  It wouldn’t have been a problem except oldest child was 30 seconds away from opening up birthday presents.  Of course, that was on hold because of the dog emergency.  When we finished getting the dog to the vet it was late.  Instead of continuing with the present opening I said it’s late, it’s bedtime.  We can continue tomorrow.  What a mistake.  Sure the child opened his presents the next day but the excitement of the actual birthday day was over.  It’s not that he didn’t care about the dog; he did.  But we could have easily ended the day fifteen minutes later.  He could have opened his presents.    

It’s important that the kids have little holiday traditions to look forward to.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.  Just do something that they will have fond memories of.  And yes, I have red and pink cake sprinkles, food coloring, cinnamon red hots, hundreds of cupcake paper wrappers, and cake and frosting supplies in our storage program. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Airphone and spying on people at the office

About ten years ago the office I work at decided to be a little less open to the public and a little more distrustful of the employees.  Of course, the part about distrusting the employees isn't stressed; it's all about keeping everyone safe at work.  They've provided a very false sense of security for the employees all the while spying on everyone; the trusted employee and the evil general public. 

All doors to the outside used to be unlocked during the day.  Now, except the front door all the others are kept locked at all times.  We all wear nametags that have magnetic strips that we swipe to open the outside doors.  They installed a gate to close off the back buildings and the back parking areas.  Prior to that it was all open and accessible at all hours of the day and night to anyone who showed up.  Once in the building you could walk into any office.  Individual offices inside the buildings weren't even locked.  If you needed to get something out of someone else’s office you did.  It was never an issue until we were told that we needed to lock things up.  Now about half the people lock their offices and the other half keep the doors open at the end of the day.  There are spare keys to all the offices in the compound located in a closet in one of the offices that isn't kept locked.  The secure offices aren't really secure once someone is in the building if they find the not well hidden key rack. 

At the gate to drive into the back is a keypad to punch in the secret code.  That code hasn't changed in the ten years since they installed the gate.  There are probably hundreds of unauthorized users of the gate because anyone who has ever worked here or any delivery person knows the code.  There is also a spot that you can swipe the magnetic card for the gate to open.  If new delivery person or a visitor shows up and they need to go to the back there is a button to press on the Airphone. 

An Airphone is an intercom system that allows you to talk to the person at the front desk.  There's also a camera up on the gate so it's taking a picture of you as you are talking to the front desk.  This intercom system is also installed at all the outside doors.  Just in case you can't get in you can be buzzed in.  The one thing that people aren't aware of with this Airphone is that the intercom is always on.  You don't have to press the button to activate it. The conversation that is going on near any of these outside speakers automatically is transmitted to the front desk and the upstairs main desk.   This means that people who are outside the back door, where many people take breaks and just sit and gossip, or make personal phone calls, can be listened to without their knowledge. 

If not being able to have private outdoor conversations wasn’t good enough for the spies, I mean department heads, indoor spying was next on their agenda. 

The phone system here just got changed out.  The new phones can be used to spy on employees as well.  If someone from one office presses the conference button and then dials your number, your phone will automatically go to speaker phone and any conversations going on in your office can be overheard by others.  There is no beep or buzz letting you know that your office phone has just turned itself on to speaker phone.  The person doing the spying can set their phone to mute so you’d never know someone was listening.  They sent out an email of how to fix it but most people couldn't figure it out and unless they tested it on one another to make sure it was disabled, it most likely automatically goes to speaker.  Me, I got out the manual for the phone system and disabled just about every high-tech feature it had on it. 

How do I deal with spying?  I have no conversations with anyone by any of the doors.  I will never sit down at the table on the patio to eat lunch or visit with anyone.  I'm friendly enough with the people at the office but they really know very little about me.   It’s not just at my office complex that this is going on.  It’s everywhere you look.  When you go out look around and see how many cameras are pointed toward you.  How many times a day has your photo been taken? How many people are overhearing your conversations?