Saturday, October 31, 2009

Do You Really Believe That?

Recently, I was discussing various government run entitlement institutions with someone I know. He was on the side of people receiving entitlement benefits without accountability or scrutiny. His argument was that there are people in this world who cannot survive without a boost from the government or help to pay for "necessary expenses". When I asked him about phone service, or birth control, or pregnancy tests being necessary expenses, he agreed that the government has the responsibility to provide for people to receive these things because they might not survive without them. I then asked him if he thought it was unfair that I have to pay for all these so-called "necessary expenses" out of my own pocket while people receive them for free. His reply was that it is not unfair because I have the ability to pay for that due to my "good fortune" in life.

Now, let me start by saying that I am not completely against certain government "welfare" programs in general. Indeed, my family utilized the benefit of welfare when they went back to college later in life, after having 3 beautiful children. Circumstances beyond their control required them to take necessary action to keep us fed, clothed, and housed while they got back on their feet. I, as a child, have been the recipient of such "entitlement benefits" and won't refute the blessing that it was to have when times demanded my parents to use it.

Let me also state clearly, so there isn't any confusion, my parents used it as a means to and end - not as a lifestyle. When my father and mother graduated from college, life looked up. Suddenly, they had good jobs, could afford to rent a decent house, and were able to lift themselves up (I said lift themselves up) and begin to, again, contribute to the economy through hard work and perseverance. Since then, my father has been a 6-figure income earner many years over and has more than paid into the system which he utilized nearly 20 years ago. His income taxes alone are more than most school teachers in Washington make annually. Additionally, prior to returning to college to start a new career, my father spent a decade putting his life on the line daily as a police officer. If anyone was deserving of a little boost during economic hardship, it was he.

I remember those days. Going into the DSHS office was a monthly ordeal, if I recall correctly. I remember seeing a lot of young mothers with a lot of kids in tow. I remember dating a young woman with a young child. I remember taking her to the DSHS (against my wish) and seeing a lot of mothers with a bunch of children in tow. Now, I listen to people talk about entitlement benefits as if the government actually owes them something.

For what?

Is it because you have not had the "good fortune" I had, as mentioned above? What is it about your life that makes you entitled to benefits and not myself? Why must I contribute to the sustaining of your lifestyle at the expense of my own? Why must my wealth be stolen from me to give you pregnancy tests, or free child birth? Why did I have to pay over $2,000 to have a son when people below a certain income level, based on a sliding rule, are able to have them for free?

All too often, I have seen people who use entitlement benefits, such as welfare, WIC, and others as a lifestyle instead of a means to an end. When mothers and fathers, who are completely capable of working, but choose not to, take welfare benefits, that is a lifestyle decision. Instead of using the benefit of welfare or WIC to assist in going to college, reach for a better life and pull themselves up, they just buy milk and groceries and do the same thing when the next food stamps arrive.

Long ago, I made the decision to never go onto any welfare programs or put myself into situations, either through carelessness or poor judgement, that would render me a slave to that system. I can say that, in my adult life, I have never used any government entitlement program or benefit at the expense of others for my own gain. All the money I have ever spent, I earned. All the food I have ever eaten, I bought with my own money. All the places I've ever lived were not subsidized by anyone - I paid the rent out of my own pocket with the money I earned. All the gas I burn is paid for with my own money. The cellphone I have is paid for with money I earn. The college education I obtained was bought and paid for with money I earned and loans that I took out, which I am paying back with more money that I earn. Do you see the trend here? If not, let me spell it out for you.

I have earned everything I have ever consumed. Be it a phone, food, a car, fuel, housing, child birth (wife's delivery of course) and child care, to movies, to vacations, clothing, electricity, running water, and everything else in this world that money is used to pay for, I HAVE PAID FOR WITHOUT GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE!!!

The argument usually degenerates from there. Since most people don't have a leg to stand on when I throw that little gem out, they resort to spouting crap like, "You're just lucky" or "Well, I'm glad you had everything given to you" or "We can't all be as fortunate as you" or "you're selfish" or "you just had a lot of opportunities in life" and the worst of all... "You are just blessed."

The only thing I have been blessed with is the ability to see that lifestyle use of government entitlement programs makes you nothing more than a common thief, and worth the respect of one. I once told my wife, "If I lived like that, I'd take down every mirror in my house because I wouldn't be able to look at myself anymore." That's a true statement. I use my work ethic to help define the kind of man I am. I am not the guy who sluffs off in life, aimlessly wandering from job to job, quitting when it gets tough, or being fired for incompetence on a regular basis. I am a man who as the drive and ambition to take what I want from life and work hard to have gainful employment, and shoot for a career in whatever field I choose.

There is one thing that echoes through my life up to this point: hard work. Lifestyle entitlement recipients must cringe at this. I hear them bitching about long lines at the DSHS or complaining that their WIC check was late, or that they had to actually buy their own cellphone. For all those things you complain about getting for free, I have had to work hard to obtain. I literally bleed for my life because I, oftentimes, bloody my knuckles because I'm focused on doing good work and not worrying about the dirt, sweat, and blood on my hands. I don't let things like a headache, or a cold get in my way. I won't settle for what little scraps the government would have for me. I want to eat steak, so I'll earn it. By the time I am ready to retire, my body will have been thoroughly used up, and I'll know it was because I worked as hard as I could to provide a lifestyle for my family, and a legacy that I can be proud of.

I've had as many opportunities as everyone else in this life. There are opportunities everywhere for everyone. The problem is that people are too lazy to go find them. Opportunity doesn't knock - that's a myth. You have to go kick over rocks and knock on doors to find it. Sometimes the pursuit of opportunities leads to other opportunities. This is often confused as good fortune. However, my argument states that if you weren't busy kicking over all the opportunistic rocks you could, then that good fortune would have never come to you.

My current career, as a generator technician, was viewed by some peers as "good fortune". Indeed, the job did sort of fall into my lap. I was doing well in college, my professor really liked my attitude and work ethic (not to mention my often quarterly 4.0 grade point average), and so when my current employer came a knocking, he sent me to see them. The good fortune didn't end there. After making it through the first, in a battery of job interviews, I had the good fortune of doing well on the initial examination that my company administered to me before deciding to hire me. Then, after all that hard work, I was given the "good fortune" of being gainfully employed. Fast forward nearly 3 years, and I still have the "good fortune" of being employed because I do hard work and I do good work, and I never complain.

Are you seeing a pattern here? My so-called good fortune isn't from some stroke of luck. It stems from the hard work and perseverance that define me. As a result of all that hard work, I have been blessed, as it were, to live the lifestyle I do. However, that "blessing" would have never come to me if I didn't do all the hard work. All the blessings I've had in my life wouldn't have ever come to pass if I didn't do all the things I did to set everything in motion. If I never applied for student loans, I never would have been able to go to college. If I didn't work my ass off (almost literally) in college, I would have never had the opportunity to work for my current employer. If that never happened, it is possible that I would have never been able to afford to buy my house, or have nice toys, or even be able to afford the food that makes me fat.

Nothing is free. Nothing was ever given to me. My family was poor for almost my entire young life. Only after I left my parent's home did my father see a large upswing in his annual earnings. Early in my adult life, I would eat popcorn or Top Ramen for dinner because it was all I could afford. If I was feeling rich one day, I'd even drop an egg into my noodles for a little extra flair. I would juggle paying for gas and food, and would go without either/or depending on what paycheck I was anticipating. Paying for car insurance was always a huge production for me. Even buying something as cheap as soap was something I had to budget and sacrifice for.

Before you call me selfish, let me reiterate that there is no free lunch. What recipients of entitlements get is the collective earnings of a large segment in our society that have done exactly what I have done - work hard and succeed. Using entitlement benefits as a lifestyle is fraudulent and it is theft. The redistribution of wealth from those who work hard to those who don't work at all is appalling. I would never let you steal cable from me. I would never let you steal my car. I would never let you steal gas from my car. I would never let you break into my house and steal what you want. Why should I let you steal from my paycheck? I am not selfish. I simply want accountability from the segments of society that aren't doing what I'm doing.

My rise to success in my life wasn't from "luck" or "having everything given to me" or "good fortune" or "just having opportunities" , being "selfish", or even being "blessed." Indeed, many of these points play into it, but behind all the luck, the good fortune, the opportunities, and all my blessings in life is one thing: hard work. It is the thing that the average person doesn't see. If you are my neighbor, you see me leave early in the morning, while it is still dark and cold, and oftentimes you see me come home late in the evening when it is again dark and cold. You see me mowing my lawn on a Saturday, driving my car to the grocery store, standing in line at the bank, talking on my cellphone on my front porch. You come to my house and see a modest, yet nice big house. Then you think, "ah, must be nice" without thinking about what it must be like to walk in my shoes for a day. I am a husband to a beautiful wife, a father to a beautiful son, and a soon-to-be proud dad of a beautiful daughter. As a husband, father, protector, and provider, it is my job to ensure that my wife and children have all the opportunities they need to be safe, happy, and successful in their lives.

Charity, in the sense of wealth redistribution, does not top my list. I give to charity often. However, the charities I choose to give to are of my choosing and in my time. I have priorities of my own, people I love, and life worth living and fighting for. If I do not like the idea of having my paycheck garnished by the government to give to charity-case lifestyle welfare recipients, that is my prerogative. I also have a vote, and my vote counts. Every time I see another pro-entitlement initiative on the ballot, I always check the NO box. Sometimes I am successful. Other times I am not. That's the name of the game, but the fight is on. Lifestyle entitlement recipients may win small victories for their cause here and there, but in the end they only stunt their own individual growth and squander the legacy of their parents. In the end, it is only your pride on the line. If you don't have to fight for anything, you'll be a slave to everything. These people may think they are getting a huge boost and may think it is a blessing, but entitlement programs, like anything else government, are wolves in sheep's clothing. They take from those who work hard to be a motivating force in our economy and give it to those who do nothing but squander their right to pick themselves up and make a life for themselves.

Okay, so if not welfare, then what? What is my solution to this growing crisis? It is simple: make welfare entitlement a fixed low interest loan with limitations. Similar to student loans, this welfare loan is a need based loan, on the good ole sliding scale, that gives the recipient the funds and the time to get back on their feet. When my parents took advantage of welfare back in the early 90's, they simply used it to get through college and then they got out. That is exactly how welfare should be used. Like I previously said, I'm not against welfare. I'm only against it in its current form; a form which is too big and corrupt.

What about people who abuse the system? There is always a loser that tries to shirk their duties when it comes to responsibility. There is a penalty for that. Be it community service (I like the term forced labor), jail time, fines, removing children from the home, and on up, there is a penalty for everything. I'm not saying it is perfect, but if you make the penalties for screwing with the system harsh enough, most people will fall in line.

I don't think babies should ever be free. Yes, I'm one of those cruel meanies who knows that health care is a privilege - not a right. If you can't pay all up front, then do what my wife and I did: make payments. There is no reason one person should be able to give birth for free while others have to pay to give birth. It's all or nothing, people. Since it costs money to take up space in the delivery room, I vote that everyone pays. If you think that is harsh, then chew on this: for every free delivery you have, you are taking someone else's livelihood and money away from them. They aren't giving it to you. You are taking someone else's money without their consent.

Establishing limitations on funds for welfare entitlement (welfare checks, WIC, birthing, etc) will stop many people from abusing the system. Many will find that it is actually easier to live their lives when they work for their money. I've never been against work first programs or college entitlement systems. That is reserved for people who are trying to get back on their feet. Pell grants, student loans, and the like help people use the programs to make their way to getting a better life. In the end, many will succeed and the demand for other entitlement programs will drop significantly. This leads to more money in the system to help others who genuinely need it.

Will I ever take advantage of entitlement programs. I don't plan on it. However, I cannot tell you the future. I'm a diesel technician - not a fortune teller. I cannot plan for, or expect something to happen that will cause me to need any form of assistance. I've made solid decisions in my life that have helped me get to where I am without it. Lindsay and I waited until we were capable of providing a good life before having children. Sorry, but in my personal opinion, having kids before you can even think about providing for yourself is ludicrous. If you can't afford to feed yourself, or pay for gas, or even worry about car insurance, what in the hell makes you think you can afford kids? This doesn't jive with people in my religion. It seems as soon as they get married they start popping them out one by one. I won't judge their situation though. Maybe young couples in my religion go for an education before they even get married. I'm not opposed to that. In our case, my wife also works. She does it because she also has pride in herself and does not want to be a part of the slavery that is welfare entitlements. Because of her sacrifice, we can proudly say that we aren't fraudulent nor are we a drain on the system. There are many programs we could easily take advantage of if only she didn't work, or if we made just a little bit less. However, we both know that in order to look at ourselves in the morning, we need to be doing as much as we can, given our capacity, to do the best we can.

I think you've read enough. Let me end by simply saying that it isn't enough just to survive. You need to live. And in order to live, you need to work hard.

-James

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

Procrastinators unite! Tomorrow!

We finally got around to digging out our pumpkins for our jack-o-lantern pumpking carving contest at the party tomorrow night. Lindsay also harvested the seeds so she can make some satisfyingly delicious homeade snacks for later on. I took a crack at one pumpkin tonight. I haven't carved a pumpkin in years, so it's like I'm a beginner again.






-James

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Has Anyone Read the Copenhagen Agreement?

From the Wallstreet Journal:

By JANET ALBRECHTSEN
We can only hope that world leaders will do nothing more than enjoy a pleasant bicycle ride around the charming streets of Copenhagen come December. For if they actually manage to wring out an agreement based on the current draft text of the Copenhagen climate-change treaty, the world is in for some nasty surprises. Draft text, you say? If you haven't heard about it, that's because none of our otherwise talkative political leaders have bothered to tell us what the drafters have already cobbled together for leaders to consider. And neither have the media.

Enter Lord Christopher Monckton. The former adviser to Margaret Thatcher gave an address at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, earlier this month that made quite a splash. For the first time, the public heard about the 181 pages, dated Sept. 15, that comprise the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—a rough draft of what could be signed come December.

So far there have been more than a million hits on the YouTube post of his address. It deserves millions more because Lord Monckton warns that the aim of the Copenhagen draft treaty is to set up a transnational "government" on a scale the world has never before seen.

The "scheme for the new institutional arrangement under the Convention" that starts on page 18 contains the provision for a "government." The aim is to give a new as yet unnamed U.N. body the power to directly intervene in the financial, economic, tax and environmental affairs of all the nations that sign the Copenhagen treaty.

The reason for the power grab is clear enough: Clause after complicated clause of the draft treaty requires developed countries to pay an "adaptation debt" to developing countries to supposedly support climate change mitigation. Clause 33 on page 39 says that "by 2020 the scale of financial flows to support adaptation in developing countries must be [at least $67 billion] or [in the range of $70 billion to $140 billion per year]."

And how will developed countries be slugged to provide for this financial flow to the developing world? The draft text sets out various alternatives, including option seven on page 135, which provides for "a [global] levy of 2 per cent on international financial market [monetary] transactions to Annex I Parties." Annex 1 countries are industrialized countries, which include among others the U.S., Australia, Britain and Canada.

To be sure, countries that sign international treaties always cede powers to a U.N. body responsible for implementing treaty obligations. But the difference is that this treaty appears to have been subject to unusual attempts to conceal its convoluted contents. And apart from the difficulty of trying to decipher the U.N. verbiage, there are plenty of draft clauses described as "alternatives" and "options" that should raise the ire of free and democratic countries concerned about preserving their sovereignty.

Lord Monckton himself only became aware of the extraordinary powers to be vested in this new world government when a friend found an obscure U.N. Web site and searched through several layers of hyperlinks before discovering a document that isn't even called the draft "treaty." Instead, it's labelled a "Note by the Secretariat."

Interviewed by broadcaster Alan Jones on Sydney radio Monday, Lord Monckton said "this is the first time I've ever seen any transnational treaty referring to a new body to be set up under that treaty as a 'government.' But it's the powers that are going to be given to this entirely unelected government that are so frightening." He added: "The sheer ambition of this new world government is enormous right from the start—that's even before it starts accreting powers to itself in the way that these entities inevitably always do."

Critics have admonished Lord Monckton for his colorful language. He has certainly been vigorous. In his exposé of the draft Copenhagen treaty in St. Paul, he warned Americans that "in the next few weeks, unless you stop it, your president will sign your freedom, your democracy and your prosperity away forever." Yet his critics fail to deal with the substance of what he says.
Ask yourself this question: Given that our political leaders spend hundreds of hours talking about climate change and the need for a global consensus in Copenhagen, why have none of them talked openly about the details of this draft climate-change treaty? After all, the final treaty will bind signatories for years to come. What exactly are they hiding? Thanks to Lord Monckton we now know something of their plans.
Janos Pasztor, director of the Secretary-General's Climate Change Support Team, told reporters in New York Monday that with the U.S. Congress yet to pass a climate-change bill, a global climate-change treaty is now an unlikely outcome in Copenhagen. Let's hope he is right. And thank you, America.

Ms. Albrechtsen is a columnist for the Australian.
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This is serious stuff, folks. Keep the information going. We need to make sure everyone sees what our political leaders, and President are getting us into.

-James

Your Gun Is NOT A Fire Extinguisher

Your gun is NOT a fire extinguisher. Don't treat it like one.

I have a fire extinguisher in my truck at home. Do you know how many times I've used it? Zero times. And why do you suppose that is? I've never needed to. Of course, I look at the little dial every so often to make sure it still has a charge in it, but that's about it. It sits under the seat. It's dusty, it gets scuffed every so often, and overall, it is there "just in case." Will I ever use it? I don't know. I own a Dodge, so I might have to someday. But until that day comes, I don't see a need to use my fire extinguisher at all.


Guns, on the other hand, are not fire extinguishers. They are complex tools that require training to operate proficiently. The instructions aren't generally labeled on guns. On my fire extinguisher, the label says: remove pin, squeeze handle, and sweep at the base of the fire. Not a whole lot there. Guns aren't something you just sweep around pulling the trigger, hoping that something will come out of them. They require practice, discipline, and responsibility.


There are three key things that any gun owner worth his or her salt should address regularly:



  1. Training

  2. Maintenance

  3. Knowledge

Training


This goes back to the opening statement of this blog. All too often, people buy guns and never use them. They will carry a concealed weapon they've never fired, they will store a gun and not touch it for years, they will go shooting but once a year or every blue moon, and they will not invest in some formalized or structured training. To make yourself an asset to the community, you must take your gun out and practice often. Unless you can hit your target without use of sights, under stress, or in darkness, then you are a liability to the community. If you cannot unload and reload quickly and efficiently, then you aren't much help to anyone. My father taught me that with every gun I own, I must be able to unload and reload it in the dark or with my eyes closed. Additionally, if you've never been taught to shoot by an expert or someone with solid knowledge, then you should take the time and invest in real training. As with all things, training does you no good unless you practice practice practice! You WILL lose your ability if you do not keep up on it.


Maintenance


Again, this comes back to the first line in this post. Don't just lock your gun up and never shoot it. Guns are made to shoot. They will actually deteriorate in storage. They need to be periodically fired, inspected, maintained, cleaned and sometimes you have to repair it. To be safe, and not be a liability, this is just another responsibility in a long list of responsibilities of the gun owner.


Knowledge


Before you even think about buying or carrying a gun, you need to bone up on your legalese regarding state law, local codes, right to carry, and qualifications. The rules aren't hard to understand, but there are a lot of them. To be in compliance with the law, you need to be sure to follow them to the letter. All too often, people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens have had the book thrown at them because they made honest mistakes regarding firearms and the laws that surround them. Don't become a legal statistic. Learn the laws and follow them!


A good resource for Washington State Laws is the book, Washington State Gun Rights and Responsibilities, by Dave Workman. Workman has gone through the steps to get all the laws, responsibilities, legal interpretations, and all the pertinent RCW's for Washington in one book that is easy for the lay person to understand and implement. Buy it! It is a $10 investment that pays dividends every time you are within the confines of the law.


-James

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tri Fuel Generator Conversion - FTW

Lately, there has been a big buzz about emergency preparedness in my area. In the never-ending brilliance of the US Government, they decided a long time ago that they would build the Howard Hansen Dam out of dirt instead of the more expensive concrete mix. Now, it's about ready to fail, and everyone is scrambling to get out of the path of the inevitable. Now, you would think that I'd be completely safe from it. After all, I chose to buy a house on top of a big hill so no flood waters could reach me. However, this time it's not the flood that could get to me - it's the aftermath.

What I'm talking about is the possibility that my electrical service could be interrupted. I've been told, by some folks that work at the HH Dam, that Tacoma receives some of its electrical service (and water) from the HH Dam. So, there is a possibility that I could go without power for an unknown amount of time.

In response to this possibility, I spent some time this summer putting a new head gasket on my little Coleman PowerMate generator. It's not a big generator at all; it comes in at 2.5 KW, 120 VAC. That's not a lot of power, but it is enough to give me heat from my furnace and keep the refrigerator cold. As attractive as some of the larger generators are, mine was a free gift with low hours; you can't beat free.

There is a problem, however, with my generator. It runs on gasoline. Since we are looking at the possibility of a power outage, that means I have to buy and store fuel at my house just in case. The last thing I'd want is to suddenly go without power and realize that the most sought after commodity during any disaster or power outage (gasoline) is in short supply. So, I've purchased and stored up a small supply of fuel, but it won't last long. I could keep buying and storing more gasoline, but then I would run into problems where I'd have to rotate fuel to keep it fresh. Gasoline doesn't last but a year in storage. It will gum up, tarnish, and foul up the carburetor in the generator's little Briggs and Stratton engine. This is not good news for me.

I've been looking into the concept of a propane or natural gas conversion for awhile. Propane or natural gas are far better solutions for long term storage and use of an engine for long duration, but they are not without their problems:

Propane (LPG), like gasoline can only be stored in as many containers as you have on hand. Unlike gasoline, propane will not tarnish or gum up in storage, and is safer to use in modern tanks. I've also noticed steadier prices with propane, so it makes sense to be able to run propane. Additionally, I can pilfer the gas from my BBQ if my supply starts to run low.

Natural Gas, like propane will not tarnish or gum up, as does gasoline. The additional benefit of natural gas is that it is cheaper and there is seemingly and endless supply. Since my house is already piped for natural gas, it wouldn't be hard to get a connection outside with which to run my generator. There is a glaringly obvious problem with natural gas: earthquakes. Now, in the last couple decades, we have had some good shakers, some good quakers, and even some good rollers, but PSE claims that during all those seismic events they have never had to shut off the flow of natural gas over large areas for very long. In fact, one PSE tech told me that unless you smell gas, don't shut it off after an earthquake. Okay, with all that in mind, I still don't trust that natural gas will be available to run my generator right after an earthquake - that is to say, if my house even survives the event in the first place.

So, while cruising the Internet, I found an easy conversion to run my generator on all three fuels: gasoline, propane, and natural gas. This kit is as simple as installing a zero governing demand regulator type of venturi on top of the carburetor. This allows gas to flow at the rate that they air is being drawn into the carburetor. It doesn't require drilling of the carburetor, which means that the kit can be taken off if need be. Since the kit isn't permanent, the generator still enjoys the ability to run on gasoline when there is ample supply, or switch to LPG or natural gas as needed. Other kits require you to drill the carburetor to run the propane/natural gas, rendering it gasoline inoperable.

This is the crux of the problem: long term sustainability. In all but a major earthquake, it could be possible to run my generator indefinitely using natural gas. For shorter intervals, a bank of propane cylinders could provide relief from power outages without worry of the fuel tarnishing in storage. Gasoline would be the last resort fuel in this case, but would still be viable if there was a sufficient supply on hand. Having the advantages of all three fuel types is the kind of redundancy that makes me drool when the conversation goes to emergency preparedness. It's the kind of one-off preparation that sets me apart from other emergency-conscience people. Most importantly, it gives me options and opens me to considerations that don't seem possible to many. Why not run my generator on natural gas? My house is plumbed for it. Why not run my generator on propane? My BBQ uses it. Why not run my generator on gasoline? My cars rely on it. The answer is, in fact, "Why not?"

For those that would ask, however, "Why worry about long term sustainability after an earthquake?" You are right. After a big earthquake, there is a possibility that my house could be condemned. But that doesn't mean the generator, which is portable, can't go with me. It could easily be piped into someone else's house with minimal effort or supplies. Since it could still retain the ability to run on gasoline, one could just fill the tank and I am in business. Or I could just pipe it into a propane tank on someones travel trailer. Bang! Running! When natural gas does eventually come back on, provided it was shut off, then we are talking about an unlimited supply (relatively speaking) of fuel to power whatever needs to be powered.

The point is that you cannot always account for everything, but you can prepare as best you can for as much as you can. For less than $250, I can have a generator that will run on three widely available fuels and allow me to take advantage of each fuel's strengths while alleviating myself from as many of the fuel's weaknesses as possible. It's better to be able to run on three types of fuels rather than just one or two. That, my friend, is being prepared.

-James

Be Green. But Don't Kill Yourself Doing It

Yesterday, as I was hiking down the Suntop Trail, I was having a conversation with one of our camping party members about green technology and being green in general. After a good discussion, he commented to me, "I never would have though you were so concerned for the environment."

Yes, it's true that I do care for the planet that God gave me to use while I fulfill the reason for my existence here. I have a feeling that mankind is going to be sorely punished for his poor stewardship of the land. However, I would like to inject some common sense into this green debate.

I do what I can with the limited resources I have. In our house, we (my family) recycle, we try to reuse things instead of tossing them. We try to fix things instead of buying new things. We try to save on energy consumption where we can. My wife uses cloth diapers on my son rather than disposable. Imagine that. Instead of Michael's old diapers sitting in a landfill, we chose to use to use reusable, and renewable methods of addressing the necessary evil of diaper usage. In my conversation with my hiking partner, I related to him that my Ramcharger sees as many miles in an entire year as the average Toyota Prius sees in a month. In 2008, I drove my Ramcharger all of 3,000 miles. I've only put about 2500 on it so far for 2009. I haven't even driven my diesel pickup truck in over 14 months! By owning older vehicles, more vehicles need not be made, which also saves resources.

Now, I could go on and on about all the ways we save green (monetary and planetary), but that's stupid. I've read all over how people save the planet with their little methods of saving a bit here and a bit there. I've also read about people who go to the ends of the earth to save the planet. There are people who throw away their money just to save mother earth from their own destruction.

Okay, really? Must we kill ourselves to save the planet? It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do what you can. If everyone does just a little, a lot can be accomplished. For instance, I was at Target last night and some dude was idling his large SUV in the parking lot - a total waste of resources when you first look at it. He could save money by turning the vehicle off and then running it only when it gets cold inside. But I wasn't about to accost him for that. It's not my place to tell him what he can and cannot do with his money and his gasoline. I didn't have all the facts. I idle my vehicle to get warm too. I just don't idle it for the entire length of my stay. Get warm and shut off. Get cold and turn on. Besides, how am I to know he wasn't just idling to warm himself up real fast and shut it down. Don't judge and don't act on judgements when you don't have all the information (more on that in another blog).

There is a threshold where you are doing the optimum amount of work. A lot of people cross that line though. They either do too much or too little and they really aren't saving a thing. There is a give and take. For instance, Lindsay isn't filling up landfills with diapers because she does cloth diapering. However, for the planet savings from not putting a diaper in a landfill, she has to wash the diaper in water, using soap, and then more energy to dry it. Do it a few times a week, and it adds up. However, in Washington, the cheapest and most renewable resources are water and electricity. Hydroelectric power from dams and a lot of water from the mountains are two main advantages we have in our region. None of our electricity is from coal fired plants (if you actually care). Now, the real saving is that since diapers have about a million year half-life in a landfill, we haven't put any into one. Instead of using and tossing something that gets a single use, requiring more resources, electricity, and materials to be used making new ones, we use a bit of water, some electricity, and the initial cost and materials to get the reusable diaper that won't take up space in a landfill. 6 diapers a day x 365 days a year = 2190 diapers that we have not sent to the landfill. That is just a simple thing. And I think that is what it boils down to - the simple things.

You don't need to go out of your way to make saving the planet some huge project that costs you more time and more money than you have. The way I see it, you need only look at the simple things that save you money in the end, and you will save the earth at the same time. Don't get caught up in technology that isn't there yet. Don't spend a lot that will only give you negative dividends in the future. Rely on proven technology now. Focus on the little things today, and you will see that you've made a big difference tomorrow.

-James

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Need A Man Cave

I was watching this show on the DIY channel called "Man Caves" yesterday. Tony Siragusa hosts the show and they do some really off the wall stuff for a bunch of famous guys. Now, I don't think Tony is going to be stopping at my house anytime soon, but it did make me realize that my garage is in desperate need of TLC.

First off, my garage is supposed to be the coolest place at my house. It is 20x20 feet of real estate that I can call my own. Nothing Lindsay owns is in there right now. It should be a place I want to spend my free time doing projects and just hanging out. But that isn't happening. Somewhere between my garage and all my random junk, it became a depository for a bunch of crap that I can't seem to get rid of.

I have wheels, junked axles, yard equipment, a worn out table, lawn chairs, random tools, boxes of stuff I didn't want to trash (but never use), gasoline, and a 7,000 lb roadblock called a pickup truck in my garage. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Duh, that's where all that stuff goes!" I know, but it just feels as though my garage isn't as useful as it could be.

Now, I'm not going to put stupid crap like weird wallpaper, or reclaimed pieces of galvanized roofing on the walls, or even weird lighting. All I really want is a clean space with a splash of color. I want something that can be heated in the wintertime so I'm not freezing my digits off when working on stuff. I want something that can be cooled in the summertime because if it's 90 degrees outside, it's 190 degrees inside. I want something that can exhaust fumes and smoke from sparks to keep my safe when working inside. Lastly, I want something that can handle more than 60 amps total on a 120 volt panel.

I've all but given up on the idea of tearing my garage down and building a new one. Times are tough and money is tight. So, in order to get the most bang for my buck, I need to work with what I have and make what I have work. So, what do I have to work with?

If I took every last thing out of my garage, I'd have 3 walls, a ceiling, a floor, and a garage door. Okay, not much I can do about the garage door. I think it is going to stay. Besides, it's 16 feet across by over 7 feet high, which is enough to accommodate all vehicles but one: my 8 1/2 foot tall Ramcharger (which will get taller). I've pretty much written off ever trying to park that thing in there. I'll have to figure something else out for that. On the north wall, there is a door at the back corner of the garage. For some reason, the person who built the work bench put it on the east (back) wall in such a way that if it was a perfect rectangle, you wouldn't be able to open the door. Why didn't they just put the work bench on the other side? I'll never know, but I think that is a good place to start.

Work bench: I need a strong one. I'd like a metal one, but unless a 240 volt welder is on Santa's sleigh for me, I don't think I'll be getting one. I can easily make a sturdy wooden bench out of 2x4's and a durable top, probably a big slab of oak or something. I intend to anchor it to the floor, however, instead of the wall. Anchoring a table to a wall is bad news because every time you beat on something on the table, the force is exerted on the wall as well as the table. The table needs to be strong enough to support a heavy vice (which I have). I want it to be about 3 feet wide by about 8 feet long. That's plenty of table to work with, and it gives me 24 square feet of workspace off the floor. I might even consider and L-shaped bench on the corner. Behind that wall, I want some sort of pegboard that I can use to store commonly accessed and odd shaped tools that don't fit well into my toolbox. Things like my drill, grease gun, large wrenches, and other odds and ends can reside there. Underneath the bench, I want an open space that has a shelf, so I can store things like jack stands or bottle jacks. I also want 12 volt outlets on the wall directly behind the bench and outlets in front of the bench. The outlets in front are for safety because I won't have cords crossing my work surface. This is especially good if you are running grinding or sawing implements.

Storage is always a concern in a space as small as this. I still want to be able to park a vehicle in the garage to keep my yard from looking like a used car lot. Besides, I like parking my work vehicle inside to keep it safe and secure from prying eyes. Out of sight, out of mind. So, I need to keep the middle area clear of obstruction, so a vehicle can park smack dab in the center. I can always pull it out if I need to space. I don't like parking on one side or the other because it makes it difficult to access the wall closest to the vehicle. So, the middle stays clear. That means that I have a U-shaped area to work with as far as placing of the bench, storage units, cabinets, shelves, and large tools.

Access: I want access to the man door easy. I don't really want anything there that interferes with fully opening the door or getting out of a vehicle without hitting the door on something. If I go to get into the vehicle parked inside, I want to open the man door, and be able to walk to the vehicle and get in without tripping over a bunch of junk. I also want the north wall clear enough to walk from the back to front of garage when loaded.

Electricity: The garage has it; barely. Instead of the antiquated knob and tube entrance, I'm going to go the direct burial route with 240 volts to a 100 amp panel. 100 amps ought to be plenty for that small space. Branching out from that, I want plenty of outlets so I'm not hunting around or running long extension cords every which way.

Insulation: What's that? Yeah, the insulation in my garage is non-existent. You can see where previous owners have tried to put up some sort of inner wall, but with nothing behind it but air, it isn't doing much. If this garage is going to stand a chance of staying warm or cool, it needs insulation and nice drywall inside. A ceiling also needs to get installed. It'll keep the area I'm trying to cool or warm smaller and more contained. An attic fan blowing out should keep excessive heat and moisture at bay. That and a couple of roof vents.

Floor: Well, I just don't know what to do about that. It was smoothed over really sloppily and I fear putting concrete over it because it will crack. I might just stain it and say the swirl is for effect. I doubt anyone will notice.

Paint: I'm thinking a blue tone color on the walls with a white ceiling will look great. The blue I'm thinking of is kind of neutral and shouldn't clash with my tools and tool boxes. We'll see. Heck, I'd be happy with just a wall.

I'll also need to get a shed for somewhere else in the yard. I don't like storing gasoline and lawn equipment in my garage. The lawn equipment is just plain dirty (even after cleaning) and gasoline is explosively flammable. I think a small investment in shed mean a better payoff in the end because my garage will be safer, cleaner, and less cluttered.

Okay, so it's a simple list. Update the wiring, throw on some sheet rock and add a heater for the winter months. Oh, and give me a place to park my vehicle after I come home from a long day at the office. Then again, I was never one to want too much.

-James

Can I ask You Something?

This must be the new sales pitch for those hyper-caffeinated people standing around the kiosks you see at the mall. We were nearly stopped four times by people coming up and asking, "Can I ask you something?" At first, I didn't know what to say, so I ignored them. But as we continued walking, I realized that it was a common pitch among many kiosks. So, every time after that, I simply said "No" and kept walking.

Ugh, these people really get on my nerves. The stupid part is that I'll walk one direction through the mall, and they'll try to get my to try some weird perfume or show me some isotoner slippers or something like that. Then, on my way back, they try to show me the same crap again! They are really aggressive about it too. They have even taken to getting personal about it. Or maybe that is part of it. Get really annoyed that I turned you down, and then guilt me into purchasing your garbage.

However, I think I'll stop and talk to guys standing outside of Home Depot and Lowes because they might just give me a new yard or a kitchen renovation for free!

-James

Monday, October 19, 2009

Haters

The picture says it all.

-James

5 Principles of Conservatism

I resurrected this blog entry from my Myspace blog, November 14, 2008. It is still relevant today:

The next time you find yourself cornered by a liberal who attacks you by saying crap like "You don't care about the poor" or "You're just another right-wing wacko" or some crap, lay this on them:

5 Principles of Conservatism.
1. Individual Rights
2. Personal Responsibility
3. Low Taxation
4. Limited Government
5. Strong Defense

Don't ever give in to them and be apologetic for your conservative views again. I got these talking points listening to the Wilkow Majority on satellite yesterday, and I think he has a good point. When a liberal corners you at say a dinner party, and starts harassing you for your conservative views, it's kind of like a schoolyard fight. Everyone else kind of crowds around to see who wins. Let's say that they start calling you out, stating that you don't care about the poor or those on welfare. Don't stand there and defend it. That's playing into their hand. They clearly have a counter-argument, backed with some ridiculous "fact" that they will use to make you look like a bumbling idiot. What good will that do for you?

No, just diffuse it.

Tell the liberal he or she:Conservatives care about 5 major principles:

1. Individual Rights
2. Personal Responsibility
3. Low Taxation
4. Limited Government
5. Strong Defense

Then ask them down the line:"Do you support individual rights?""Do you support personal responsibility?""Do you believe in lower taxes?""Do you believe in limited government?""Do you believe in a strong defense for America?"Any one person will likely say "YES" to all these points above. Who wouldn't? Well, Carl Marx being the exception here. That's the point. Nobody should say no to any of these principles. If you found yourself saying yes to all these principles, and you think you are a liberal, then you need to go back and rethink what a liberal is and what a conservative is.

-James

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Buffalo Bore

While in Olympia today, I decided to stop in at Cabelas and load up on another box of Buffalo Bore 158 grain .357 magnum. This stuff is phenomenal. Not only does the bullet itself look cool, but it shoots like a hopped up .38 special +P, and I can't complain about that. At self-defense distances (7 yards +-), it is reasonably accurate, and it is controllable enough for a quick followup shot.
I am also impressed by the price tag. $25 for a box of 20 cartridges is actually competitive for a company known for loading up some really kick-ass stuff. I was looking at Cor Bons and the like and for $38 a box, I'd better be shooting solid gold projectiles at the bad guy. I don't see how one can justify nearly $40 for a box of ammo, but more power to them. It leaves more of these suckers for me. Since it is a .357 magnum round, if it hits, it kills.
-James

Michael's First Pumpkin Patch Experience

Lindsay and I decided to take Michael to a pumpkin patch today. We knew he would have a good time. What we didn't expect was that he was going to go absolutely crazy over the pumpkins. He thinks they are balls, so he was in heaven. Lindsay and I decided to let him on the ground and play in the dirt with all the pumpkins. Michael was really happy. It's fun to watch him get dirty and play around. He especially loved the wheelbarrow ride that I have him back to the weigh-in area. The pumpkins were really cheap; only $10 for about 55 lbs of pumpkins. I can't wait to get Michael elbow deep into a pumpkin when we take the seeds out of it.
-James

Drinking In Style

Finally, I was able to get Michael to wear sunglasses for more than a half second! I don't know why, but for some reason, sunglasses make everything cooler - even drinking whole milk from a sippy.

-James

My Ruger SP-101

For your viewing pleasure, this is my Ruger SP-101, which I got on a good trade a month or so ago. It is a compact .357 magnum revolver that holds 5 cartridges in the cylinder. This particular design is a traditional double-action revolver, but can be fired as a single-action when the hammer is cocked back. The barrel is a whopping 2 1/4" inches long.

In the picture, you can also see two Bianchi Speed Strips, one of which is loaded with 5 rounds of Buffalo Bore 158 grain .357 magnum. The speed strips aid in fast reload, and unlike traditional speed loaders, they conceal very easily in my front pocket, strong side. Though they are slower than cylindrical speed loaders, they are much more convenient. Carrying spare ammunition is important because with only 5 shots from the gun, having backup ammo could save a life; and 10 rounds beats 5 any day.

I've had the opportunity to take this to the range twice, and have been impressed each time. The grips on this gun are really small, which helps in concealed carry. Normally, small grips are hard to handle when firing full magnum loads. Typically, larger grips are preferred. This is not the case for me with this gun. I am satisfied with the factory Ruger grips on this firearm. They are rubber with small plastic inserts. They absorb the recoil well and reduce the magnum "sting" that you get from inferior grips.

Accuracy wise, I'd say it is exceptional for this type of weapon. Bear in mind that a gun with a 2 1/4" barrel is not going to win any contests for accuracy, but anything in your corner is better than nothing. Sighting is accomplished by a simple groove machined into the top-strap of the weapon and a simple ramp at the front of the flattop barrel. Just stick the top of the ramp into the groove and you can't miss. Well, at least at 7 yards you can't miss. However, I put a 2"-3" group at 20 yards with this gun. I don't care who you are - that is impressive. Getting back down to earth, I can put a sub-1" group on the paper with this gun at 7 yards (that's 21 feet).

Carrying this gun is convenient. Its small size and light weight make it comfortable to wear all day long. Even with my cheap Uncle Mike's holster, the gun rides on my waist without "printing" against my shirt. Printing is where the firearm sticks out and one can tell it is a gun by looking at your clothes. It is illegal to "print" against your clothing while carrying a concealed firearm. As far as everything else goes, the gun just disappears. It doesn't get in the way of seat belts, fall out when I bend over, or anything like that. While the gun is too large and heavy for pocket carry, I intend to experiment with ankle carry for the times when waistband carry is impractical.

Overall, I feel that Ruger has an exceptionally well designed and built compact revolver in the SP-101. I anticipate this gun to outlast me and to be by my side always. Should Ruger ever decide to reintroduce the .22 LR version of this pocket rocket, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be standing in line to get one.

-James

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why I Carry

The title is not original. There are mass emails and internet talking points all over the place with the title "Why I Carry" as the hook. However, the point is still the same. This is why I carry:

I carry because I love life. I carry because I know that there are real threats in the world today. I know that in order to deal with the lowest parts of society, you need a weapon - not a Utopian idea. I don't carry because I am afraid. If I was afraid, I'd probably never leave the house. I carry because being armed is like having fire insurance. You take every precaution to be safe, but hope you will never need to use it. However, in the off chance that you need that insurance, your preparation pays off - in this case, with your life and possibly the lives of others saved.

I carry because it is my duty to do so. The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right of the people to bear arms, but it also includes the responsibility arm yourself. The 2nd Amendment was never about hunting or target practice. The 2nd Amendment is about protecting the citizens of these United States from tyranny. Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant. Those are the facts.

I carry because, while most people in our civil society are civilized, some are not. I don't carry because everybody is my enemy. Everybody is not my enemy. Everybody I meet is a potential friend or acquaintance, business partner, brother or sister, and someone with whom I might place my trust. However, that doesn't mean that in my 29 years of meeting new people, I haven't run across some that I'd rather not be around. I've run into my fair share of them. Of those people, I've met a few that have tried to do me physical harm. I carry because the right to defend myself is inalienable and cannot be taken away.

I carry because I love my family. I carry because my son has the right to grow up in a world where he doesn't have to live in fear of his neighbor or some random person walking down the street. I carry because an armed society is a polite society. When criminals learn that anybody could be armed, they are less likely to commit crime or do harm to my family.

I carry because I am a law-abiding citizen of the State of Washington & these United States, and my right has been recognized by the State Constitution as well as the United States Constitution. I carry because I paid the fee and received my license to carry a concealed weapon. I carry because I have committed myself to constant training with, and maintenance of my weapon. I carry because I know for a fact that my weapon will function when called upon - whether a shot is fired or not.

I carry, not because I think carrying is cool, but because carrying is common sense. I don't carry to intimidate or draw attention to myself. I carry because it reminds me that I have a duty to do what is right by the people and to ensure that nobody gets hurt because of recklessness on my part. I carry because in some parts of my city, only a fool would be caught without a weapon.

I carry because 5 rounds of .357 magnum from my revolver travel a lot faster than a police car.

-James

Zombieland

Today, I finally went to see Zombieland at the Kent Station AMC. This movie was exactly how I figured it would be - funny as hell! I especially enjoyed Woody Harrelson's interpretation of what a zombie hunter would be like. I'm not going to spoil the surprise for you. You need to see it for yourself.

-James

My Mind Won't Stop

Fed up with unruly online forum discussions and stupid facebook updates, I've decided to put some of the things I want to say in this place. I hope you find it interesting.

-James