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. 

May 28, 2019

Memorial Day

This weekend I stopped by a local cemetery and placed some flowers on the grave of a soldier.  I don't know him, never met him, but he died wearing the uniform of our military, and that's good enough for me.

I also took my .270 Winchester to the range for some scope checking.  Needed to ensure it's got the correct zero -- 1 inch high at 100 yards, which should be dead on at 200 and 2 low at 300 -- as I plan on using it for antelope this fall.

And finally I swung into a local brewery for a few pints to celebrate another trip around the sun. 

All in all, a nice and relaxing weekend. 

May 6, 2019

Quick Turn

Saturday morning, 0300 bright and early (well, early anyway... the sun had yet to show itself, as one might imagine), I woke up and after a quick shower and filling my travel mug, hit the road to Denver International Airport for a 0615 flight to Dallas-Fort Worth.  My friend David picked me up, and we drove up to Wichita Falls to celebrate Peter's newly conferred citizenship status.

OldNFO has a synopsis of the weekend, and I've nothing more to add.

Spent the night in Wichita Falls, and after a light breakfast on Sunday, David took me back to DFW, where I spent a couple hours at the airport bar blowing the froth off a few Shiner Bock beers before catching a flight back to DEN.

Having packed light -- a fresh t-shirt and polo shirt, a pair of socks and a pair of boxers, and my toothbrush -- I didn't have to check a bag, and was off the plane back in my truck, and on the road home in short order.

Every chance I have to spend time with this group of people, this family this Tribe, is welcomed indeed.  It's a soul and spirit refreshing, comforting, and peaceful experience, and I thank my lucky stars they welcomed me into the fold.

April 29, 2019

Welcome, Citizen

Y'all join me in sending congratulations to Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man, as he takes his oath and becomes a 100% legal citizen of the United States of America.

Welcome, my friend.  We are glad to have you as a citizen.

April 23, 2019

A Most Pleasant Weekend

Last Thursday, my mother flew out for a few days of visiting, and we made a fine weekend of it indeed.

Her brother, my Uncle, Kenny, lives in Albuquerque, and he has a daughter Melanie, who lives here in FoCo.  Mom made mention she was coming out, and Uncle Kenny and his wife Sara made the trip up.  Being on opposite sides of the country (New Mexico and Indiana... You can't get there from there, really), they don't get to see each other very often. 

Picked up Mom at DEN on Thursday around 1pm, and drove to FoCo.  Stopped for a  sandwich and a beer at D.C. Oakes (get the Chili Verde burger) before getting to my apartment.  We went to cousin Mel's place around 7pm and the family antics were already in full swing.  After a bit of chatting and a couple drinks, we turned in for the night.

Friday, we met Mel, Kenny, and Aunt Sara for breakfast at Rise! A Breakfast Place, where I had the Coloradoan Benedict: A bed of hash brown potatoes formed more or less like a hockey puck, topped with roasted poblanos, tomato, onion, and two poached eggs, a Chipotle puree drizzle and cilantro. 

It did not suck.  At all.

On my way out of the breakfast place, I noticed that one of the headlights in my Tacoma was out, so once Mom and I got back home, we walked over to the auto parts store where I bought two new headlamp bulbs, and then we drove over to Mel's place where Uncle Kenny and I replaced the bulbs already in place (if I have one bulb out, I always replace them both).  The layout of the engine compartment in a 2010 Tacoma strikes you as poorly designed when you have to replace a headlamp bulb: The right side headlamp requires you disconnect the washer fluid reservoir and move it just slightly aside.  While holding it in place, you need to bend your wrists backward to get into the spot where the bulb is connected.  It's a bit contorted, and you can't really see anything because your hands are blocking your view of how the bulb is connected, but we finally got it done.  The left side bulb is slightly easier, but requires moving the battery aside. 

At any rate, after that was done, we commenced to playing some cards.  Cousin Melanie, freakishly, had managed to reach the age of 50 without ever having learned to play Euchre.  This struck me as very odd... It'd be like growing up and never having a skinned knee.  I began to wonder if she's a Communist Spy, trying to infiltrate 'Murica.  At any rate, we remedied that issue with a quickness.  She's pretty smart and caught on quickly.  However, her and Aunt Sara were no match for me and mom... We spanked them 4 games straight, the closest of those being 10-5. 

A couple delivery pizzas, a few cold beers, and the night was complete.

On Saturday, Mom and Kenny took a drive to Laramie, then to Cheyenne, and back to Fort Collins, while I took a nap.  I didn't sleep well Friday night, waking at 0230 and never getting back to sleep, so I was thankful for the few extra hours on the sofa.  After she got back, Mom and I went to Zwei Brewing for a pint and a chance to chat with a couple friends.  My usual routine on Saturdays is to do my house chores like laundry and dragging the vacuum around, then around 1300 or so I go to Zwei for a beer.  There's a retired couple, Mick and Lannie, that I've become friends with, and they're really nice folks.  Mom met them the last time she came out, and Mick and Lannie were insistent that I bring mom by again this time for some visiting.  So I did. 

After a pint or two, we went back to my apartment where I made some dinner, and we turned in early. 

Sunday, we headed to Mel's for a late breakfast/early brunch, and she made shirred eggs served with baked grapefruit.  I gotta be honest, I wasn't a big fan.  The bread under the eggs was way too soggy from the tomatoes she put on top of it, the eggs were over cooked and kinda rubbery, and it just didn't do it for me.  I appreciated the effort, of course, and ate my helping, but yeah no. 

While the Sunday afternoon weather was calling for rain, the morning and midday were near perfect, and Mel's daughters and I enjoyed a nice walk with the dogs, we had coffee and juice and mimosas under the sunny sky, and did a short bit of prep work for Easter dinner. 

Easter dinner was a baked ham with pineapple curry chutney, Rosemary and lemon asparagus, a spinach salad with cashews, carrots, and sliced tomatoes, and beer grain bread (a simple bread recipe that substitutes 1 cup of spent home brew grains for 1 cup of flour).  I snagged the ham bone and some chunks of ham, and will use it for ham and bean soup, or perhaps split pea and ham soup. 

Monday morning, Kenny, Sara, Mom, and I had breakfast at First Watch, formerly The Egg & I, and said our good byes.  Kenny and Sara pointed their car south toward home, and I took mom to the airport for her flight back to Indiana. 

It was a very nice weekend spending time with family.

March 28, 2019

The Boys of Summer Are Back

It is opening day of the MLB season, and today Americans of all types, men and women, young and old, white and blue collar alike, take to the stands to hear two words that have remained unchanged for decades.

Play Ball.

Let's go Yankees!

March 14, 2019

Well, That Was Sporting

So we had a bit of weather blow through yesterday.

As is common in Colorado in late winter/early spring, we had bluebird perfect weather on Tuesday.  A high temp in the mid 50's, bright sun, few clouds... Just amazing. 

Then Tuesday night the rain started.  And come Wednesday morning, that rain changed to snow. 

A lot of snow.

And wind.  LOTS of wind.  Peterson AFB recorded 96 mph at one point. 

I made it through just fine.  Was in the office for the morning, then cut out around 2:00 pm when most of our customers decided to close their offices for the day. 

Jake dog was rather expedient in doing his business: Go out, piss on the closest shrub, then do a 180 and get back in.  I heated some venison and vegetable stew and watched some television. 

Major roads are actually in decent shape this morning.  Mad respect to those who drive the plow and salt truck in the overnight hours. 

Oh, and there was a little crash just north of me, near Wellington.  Good lord, folks: When every weather reporter is telling you to stay home and don't travel, you should listen.