October 27, 2019

Well, Let's See How This Goes

Two dear friends of mine have three dogs in their pack, and one of those is a female Jack Russell Terrier. 

Those who are familiar need no explanation, but for those who do not know... Female Jacks can get rather aggressive towards other female dogs. 

Which happened. 

There were visits to the emergency room for stitches, vet bills a plenty, and finally my friends reached their breaking point and accepted that this Jack needed a new home or at some point one of the two dogs would end up dead.

"Bring her to me.  I'll give her a good home," I told them.

Y'all say hello to Praline.

She's got a lot of energy, as Jacks often do, and is rather agile, as Jacks often are.  She's hyper-attentive to her ball, which will come in handy when we start training.  I'm told she goes ape-shit for squirrels and rabbits, which will take some work to temper down.  But for all that, she's affectionate and I can tell she's smart as a whip. 

The only thing left to add is that she spent her entire life in Texas.  I picked her up yesterday, and this morning in Fort Collins the thermometer reads a balmy 24 degrees and it is snowing.  Fairly sure she's thinking "What. The. Actual. Hell. Is. THIS?"

We're going to have some fun together when this winter storm passes and I can get her outside for more than a few minutes.  For the time being, we're just getting to know each other. 

October 16, 2019


This past Friday through Monday was spent at Blogorado, the annual gathering of my chosen family in Super Secret Location, Colorado.

The long and short of it is that it is a few days where a handful of gun bloggers, authors, shooters, and the like get together for fellowship, firearms, food, and frivolity.

Some folks got there Thursday, right as a cold front was sweeping down the plains, and there were reports of cold fingers and toes and noses.  Thankfully, our host FarmDad has built a couple "hobo stoves", which consist of a couple old car wheels welded together with a hole cut into the side.  Load up some small to medium pieces of dead tree branches and light a fire, and the end result is a chiminea that radiates heat rather well.  Add a blanket, and sitting in the barn becomes rather tolerable.

I arrived Friday around noon.  We loaded up a flatbed trailer with the target stands, motorized clay pigeon thrower, and some other range gear and headed out to set up the range.  Once that was completed, we returned back to the farm, where we feasted on a hearty meal of German Bratwurst, Bockwurst, hot potato salad, and sauerkraut, courtesy of Bayou Renaissance Man and his wife.

Saturday day was spent turning hard earned money into smoke and noise.  I'd taken my Remington 1100 to the gunsmith this summer to investigate why it wasn't cycling rounds properly -- It will shoot just fine, but won't extract the spent shell, and seems to only go through 90%-ish of the cycle.  Thus, I have to manually eject the spent shell and chamber the next one.  The gunsmith gave it a thorough cleaning, far more so than I can do in my apartment, and this was a chance to test drive it, so to speak.  I found that only a specific load would work correctly: 1250 fps, 1 3/8 ounce cycles fine.  Anything else... 1200 fps 1 ounce fails, 1290 fps 1 ounce fails, etc.  Still and all, the gun swings and shoots like a dream.

After the gun fun was done, it was BACK to the farm, where two of our group honored the rest of us by saying their wedding vows in front of us.  It was a beautiful ceremony, officiated by yet another of our tribe, and I couldn't be happier for them.

We feasted on 1.5 inch thick T-bone steaks cut from a cow we all chipped in to purchase.  This feeds us for the weekend, and provides our hosts with plenty of meat to get them through the next year. Add FarmMom's garlic mashed potatoes to the meal, and it was right tasty.

Sunday was MORE gun range time, after we watched the dismantling of the old barn.  The farm has a barn that is no longer functional, and has been, over the years, slowly falling down.  Despite this, it is rather photogenic, as you can see.

FarmDad propped it up for the wedding, but now that the barn has completed its final task, it was time to pull it down.  Wrap some posts with chain, pull with the truck, and after a couple attempts the barn was on the ground.  Several of us snagged a plank or two, then it was off to the range. 

Sunday evening, I made a pot of chili, which was consumed quite rapidly by all.  Even the Texas folks enjoyed it, beans and all, as a proper chili should have. 

A couple folks hit the road home on Sunday, but most of us stuck around one last night.  After breakfast on Monday -- we go to a diner in the nearby town and feast on eggs and bacon and such, then leave a huge tip... one of our group will pick up the tab for the entire group, leaving the rest of us to cover the tip, and we do so generously( I noted more than one $20 bill left on the tables) -- we all parted ways.

I was about 5 miles into the drive home when a tire on my pop-up camper pretty well exploded into shreds.  As I was borrowing this camper from a friend, I hadn't really spent time doing any sort of work on it, and it was only when the tire blew that I learned there isn't sufficient space to get a traditional L-shaped tire iron in to get the lug nuts off.  Being as close as I was to the farm, a quick call to FarmMom had help in the form of FarmDad and his work truck (with air compressor and impact wrench) enroute to help.  This, however, took a bit longer than anticipated as FarmDad had a flat tire while coming to help ME with MY flat tire.  What are the odds?

While waiting, three total strangers stopped to offer assistance, ask if I needed anything, etc.  It really hit home how kind and welcoming folks are in this rural area. 

Finally the tire on the camper was replaced, both tires checked for proper inflation, and I was on the road.  Five hours later, I was home, dirty, tired, and ready for a shower and a beer.  

My soul is at peace, my batteries are recharged, and my heart is full from time spent with my tribe.  

September 23, 2019

Much Needed Vacation

Spent the last week in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area, fishing with a couple friends.

Monday flight down: Got to DEN and had a couple hours to kill off before the flight, so I had a Bloody Mary at the bar. 

Then something went awry with the water main to the A Concourse, and the tap water started flowing brown.  That shut down all food and beverage service, other than those drinks in a can or bottle.  There were some rumors that this was isolated to the A Concourse only, and drinks were available at B or C, but I decided it wasn't worth the hassle, so I settled for just the one drink.  Flight down was uneventful, and I met my crew for some dinner.  Stopped to pick up my fishing license, and we headed to the house we were renting.

Tuesday morning, 0700: Met our guide at the dock at Goose Island State Park, and we got busy catching fish. 

Mostly black drum and redfish, but there were a few croakers and two nice speckled trout in there as well.  After a few hours, we brought it in and headed back to our rental.  Pulled some redfish filets out of the supply, and set them aside in a marinade of herbs and orange juice.  The rest of the fish went into the freezer.  Those filets went on the grill, along with some corn on the cob.  It was a fine meal indeed.

Wednesday morning, 0700: Met the guide again, and this time we went to a different spot.  The black drum were hitting hard that morning, and we all caught our limit in just 2 hours.  We also got a couple more redfish, and I landed a beauty of a speckled trout, checking in over 15 inches long. 

That night we feasted on fish tacos: Grilled drum filet, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and a tomatillo-jalapeno-ranch dressing, all atop corn tortillas.

Kelly and Gary had travel plans on Thursday, so after seeing them off, Eric and I went to tour the USS Lexington Museum, which is anchored in Corpus Christi Bay. 

This was really neat, and it really hit home just how BIG an aircraft carrier is.  And the Lex is small compared to newer carriers!  After the tour, we snagged a bite to eat, had a pint at Lorelei Brewery, and checked into the hotel for an early night.

Flight home Friday was a bit of a Charlie Foxtrot, but I finally got back home that night, and promptly put the fish into the freezer and went to bed.

All in all, a fine week of vacation, and much needed. 

September 11, 2019

18 Years

On this, the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, by way of Old NFO, I found this to be a remarkable read.

September 4, 2019

If This Isn't Heaven

I don't know what is.

The vet's office called on Thursday, they had Jake's cremated remains for me to pick up.

That evening, I decided I was going to take his ashes and Casey's ashes and let them free in one of my favorite camping sites.  So I loaded up the Taco with my tent, camping box (I have a plastic tub in which I store the basics for a weekend of car camping: Stove, fuel, a plate, two nesting pots for cooking, a rain jacket, water bottle, and other stuff assorted and sundry), sleeping bag and pad, and a cooler with some food and beer.  Saturday morning I topped off the tank and drove up Poudre Canyon to Long Draw Road, hung a left, and another left onto Peterson Lake Road, where I secured a spot to pitch the tent and take in a gorgeous view:

 Once camp was set up, I grabbed my camp chair, my book, a beer, and commenced to doing absolutely nothing else the rest of that day.  Casey and Jake had a nice place to relax by the fire:

I had a little lunch, read some more, took a nap in the camp chair, and made some dinner.  Once the sun went down and it got proper dark (and a bit chilly), it was time to crawl into the sleeping bag.  I finished my book by headlamp, and fell asleep. 

I woke and there seemed a bit of a crisp chill to the air, which was confirmed by the temperature readout in the Taco: 

Boiled up some water for coffee (incidentally, the Folger's Instant Single Serve coffee packets are ideal for camping.  Quick and easy to make, decent enough coffee, and they are so small and light as to barely take up space) and broke camp, loaded everything up into the Taco, and walked down to the shore, where I set Casey and Jake free.  They're somewhere around here, probably chasing rabbits and squirrels.  

A more perfect weekend I cannot imagine.

August 27, 2019

Together Again

When I first got Jake, he came with quite the back story.  He'd been rescued by an animal rescue organization that stepped in after Hurricane Katrina to take in what critters they could and then find them a new home.  The neighbors of an old friend of mine took him in, and that's how he found his way to Colorado from Louisiana.

That couple was originally from New Zealand, but had moved to the USA several years before.  The wife of the couple still had family back in Aukland, and her mother was elderly and took ill.  Needing to move back to take care of her, the two started looking for a new home for Jake.  New Zealand has some pretty tight laws and rules about bringing in animals from other countries, and rather than subject the big guy to a 20 hour plane ride followed by months of quarantine, they opted instead to find him a new master.

Enter me. 

I'd just bought my house, and had enough of a yard for him to run around and play with Casey.  He was physically bigger than she was, but he quickly learned that she was the Q.B.I.C. and not to be trifled with.  His intelligence kicked in and he became her shadow.  Bookends.  Twins. 

Where she went -- and she always followed me -- he would go. 

What she would do, he would do.

When she ate, he ate. 

When she slept, he slept. 

If she was laying on her right side, front left leg bent slightly, rear legs sticking straight out...

Well, see for yourself.

So it wasn't very surprising that, after her death, he'd start to slow down.  Over the past couple months, he became sluggish on our walks, giving the occasional squirrel a passing glance but not much else.  No more lunges to try to catch the squirrel, just that old man's "Get off my lawn" look.  I'd have to help him up the stairs because he didn't have the strength to climb them any more. 

Saturday night, he slept in the bathroom as he often does in the summer, because the cool linoleum feels better than carpet.  I woke to find he'd lost control of his bladder and was lying in his own urine. 

So, with a heavy heart I had Jake put to sleep yesterday. 

From a hurricane in Louisiana to the mountains of Colorado, that dog had a good run.  He's with Casey again, they're probably chasing rabbits or splashing in the water of some celestial lake, her leading the way, and him following his best pal.

Requiescat in Pace, Jake.  Thanks for being a good boy.  I'll see you both in due course. 

August 7, 2019

Assorted and Sundry

Well, the medical bills have started coming in.  All said and done, I need to come up with around $3500 or so, which is roughly 1/3 of the total bill.  I have a $3000 deductible, then insurance kicks in and I then pay 20% of expenses until I reach my annual Out of Pocket Max of $5500.  So, the first three grand, then 20% of $2500, or $500.  That's going to put a dent in my ammo purchasing budget for some time, but I've slowly been buying a box or two every paycheck over the past few years, so I've got a quantity sufficient to keep me on the practice range for a while. 

Speaking of ammo, I sense another panic buying spree forth coming, along with a run on guns in general, due to the acts of the shit-bag in El Paso and the other shit-bag in Dayton (and the other other shit-bag in Gilroy, California.)  In addition, we've now got GOP congress critters as well as a "Republican" President voicing some support for nation wide "Red Flag Laws", "Universal Background Checks" (that can't be enforced), and other gun control measures.  So much for dancing with the one that brung ya, eh, Mr. President? 

Life has been fairly busy lately.  Work continues at a hair on fire pace, and we finally hired in a new tech.  He's young, fresh out of a 2 year program for IT, but has a positive attitude, wants to do a good job, and takes instruction well.  Hopefully he can get up to speed quickly and help some of the rest of us. 

Despite being that busy, I'm really looking forward to my vacation in mid September.  Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi, Texas, fishing, friends.... What's not to like about that? 

Jake the dog is really getting slow and old.  We're at the point where he needs a little assistance getting up the flight of stairs to the apartment.  Some of that might be because he needs to shed a few extra pounds (so do I, if I'm being honest), but I wager a good part of that is because he's at least 14 years old and that's almost to the century mark for a dog. 

July 2, 2019

That Was... Unpleasant

This past weekend I took the dog, the tent, my book, and a cooler of food and beverage and went to the lake.  Spent a few days just decompressing, getting my head right, and enjoying the cool water as a respite from the near triple digit heat.

Got home fairly early on Sunday, unpacked, cleaned some gear, and went to the pub for a quick pint and a bite to eat.

Sunday afternoon was spent doing laundry and getting caught up on chores that I'd ignored the past couple days.  I grilled some bratwurst and heated a can of baked beans for dinner.  Added diced bell peppers and diced onions, as well as some liquid smoke and a splash or two (okay, okay, three splashes) of hot sauce, then sliced the brats and mixed it all together.  If I use the "Family Size" can of beans and grill three or four brats, it makes enough for three meals or so.

At any rate, once it was ready, I sat down with a bowl and the television remote and took a bite.  Normal sized bite, not a monster spoonful, and chewed it as one normally does. 

Then as soon as I swallowed, it lodged itself in my esophagus and refused to budge.  Not going down, not coming up. 


I tried to cough it up, as it felt somewhat like choking, but to no avail.  In a moment of remarkably calm reflection, part of my brain told me "You're still breathing, so it's not in the trachea.  So, while this is uncomfortable, you have time..."

I tried without success to burp and vomit, thinking that would dislodge it, but no dice. 

After struggling with this for a half hour or so, it began to get REALLY uncomfortable.  To the point of painful.  Those who know me are aware that I've got a fairly high tolerance for pain -- no delicate flower here, no sire -- and I reluctantly gave in to the reality: I needed some help.

For the first time in my life, I called 9-1-1 for myself.  The fire engine got there shortly before the ambulance did, and I give all of them full marks for being kind, considerate, polite, and professional.  I suppose me mentioning that I was a retired flight medic with 15 years of EMS experience helped in some regard. 

They gave me a bag in which to spit -- the body, recognizing there is food in the upper GI tract, naturally produces a lot of saliva to facilitate swallowing.  However, not being able to swallow, I had streams of saliva to spit out.  I'm talking a LOT of spit. 

During the ride to the ER, the paramedic treating me mentioned he had an EMT student, and would it be alright if the student did an assessment on me.  He went to listen to lung sounds by putting his stethoscope on my back, but he didn't lift my t-shirt.  "Son," I told him, "you cannot fully assess a patient that you cannot see.  And you cannot see a patient when they still have their clothes on.  You're going to have to get used to the idea of removing a patient's clothing as the circumstances dictate."

Got to the ER, and was directed straight into a room, where the doctor (and nurse and a tech) walked in at the same time as we did.  I had told the EMT student that the first thing the doctor would try would be Glucagon, as it purportedly has some smooth muscle relaxing properties, although I've never seen it work for esophageal spasm, and the ER doctor said as much as well: "We have to try Glucagon, as the GI team won't bother coming down until we have tried it, even though it never works."

Sure enough: Didn't work.

The GI team finally showed up and wheeled me off to the GI Lab, where I was soon put under general anesthesia and had an emergent Upper GI Endoscopy.  This involves an endotracheal tube in my trachea to protect my airway and keep me properly ventilated and oxygenated, and then a second tube down my esophagus to locate and remove the offending food. 

Once completed, the anesthesia was terminated and I slowly came back to consciousness.  I'd called my cousin Eric before I went under and asked him to pick me up and give me a ride home, which he did.  Around 10:00 pm or so I got home, let Jake out to use the potty, and promptly fell into bed. 

Now, two days hence, I've still got a bit of a sore throat, but not as sore as it was yesterday, and my neck is a bit stiff.  Heck, my whole body is a bit achy, but I'm finally able to eat something that resembles solid food. 

Anyway, getting food stuck in your esophagus is rather unpleasant, and not something I wish to repeat. 

0/10, would not recommend.

June 19, 2019

Debt and Credit

Peter, over at Bayou Renaissance Man, has written at length about economics, the perils of debt, how to get out of it, and so forth. 

There is one thing I don't recall him covering, and I wanted to touch on it here: How having really good credit can help keep you out of debt.

When I went to purchase my Tacoma back in 2017, I didn't have a credit score.  It wasn't that I had _bad_ credit, it was that I had NONE. 

This was likely due to not taking out debt or borrowing money in well near 6 or 7 years.  I just didn't borrow money.  If I didn't have the cash, I'd do without.  It wasn't as hard as one might think, just takes the willingness to sacrifice and suffer a bit.

Since the Grand Cherokee shuffled off this mortal coil shortly after I moved back to Colorado (and spent the not insignificant expenses associated with such a cross-country move), the bulk of my savings had been used and I didn't have the cash to buy a car outright.  Thus began my fight to build a credit score again, but I was determined to do so wisely.

Here, then, are a few suggestions:

Find yourself $510 in cash.  I don't care if you need to go three months without beer, just find that amount in cash.  Take $10 and open a savings account at a Credit Union (not a big bank like Chase or Wells Fargo, but a local Credit Union).  Then take the remaining $500 and get a secured credit card with a $500 limit.  The basic difference between a regular credit card and a secured card is that you pony up the money first for the secured card.  If you don't pay off the balance, they take it out of the $500 cash. 

Be sure the Credit Union is reporting your payment history to the major Credit Agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian).  Now, with a credit card account that is getting reported, you use that credit card and set up automatic payments of your utilities.  Electric, sewage, gas, etc.  Every month, on the day the electric bill is due, it should be automatically paid by that credit card.  Most bank and credit union websites have a means to set up auto-payment, if the utility does not. 

Then, instead of using your checking account to pay the utility bill, use your checking account to pay the balance IN FULL of the credit card, again on the exact day it is due. 

Now you've got a fully automated method of establishing a history of paying bills on time, which is the biggest driver of credit score. 

Why do this, one might ask?  Well, the initial loan on my Tacoma was at 11.3% or so, because (again) I had NO HISTORY of paying on time.  It does bug me that I also had no history of paying late, but how to prove that, right? 

Anyway, after doing the above (as well as setting up automatic payments of the auto loan), I went to my bank and inquired if they'd be willing to refinance the truck loan, and now I'm paying 3.9%.... mostly because my credit score went from to 704 in 12 months.  That's a difference of 7.4%, or around 7 dollars per 100 borrowed.  With $17,000 left on the loan, I'm saving around $1300 or so.  In reality, I'll save a little bit more than that, since the refi lowered the monthly minimum, but I'm still paying the previous (higher) monthly amount, so I'll have the truck paid off even sooner.  

Dave Ramsey is fond of saying "Debt is Dumb" and I generally agree with that.  However, if you take a small bit of debt every month, then pay it off completely, you'll be in much better shape when you need to assume some real debt.  My parents recently bought a brand new automobile.  Because of the combination of $10,000 in down payment, another $5000 in trade-in value, and their 800+ credit score, they got a $20,000 loan at 0.0% interest. 

That's a huge savings over even a 2% interest loan.

May 29, 2019

Damned If You Do

Damned if you don't. 

Video here.  Warning, there's some language involved.

See, the dad/male figure here is in a pickle.  He could whoop junior's ass in a half a minute, but then he'd go to jail for child abuse or something similar.

The other option is to do nothing, in which case junior never learns the harsh lesson he so desperately needs to learn: Talking to other people like that will get you an ass beating. 

This kid's mouth is exactly what I had to endure from my ex's oldest daughter.  And there's nothing you can do but ignore it. 

What a world we live in.