Blogging to you from the Northeastern Badlands of Lake County, Illinois USA, WELCOME TO THE NEXT CHAPTER! WARNING! ALL FORMS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ARE ADDICTIVE; EXCESSIVE USE MAY LEAD TO MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS, REDUCED JOB PRODUCTIVITY, LACK OF SLEEP, SOCIAL ALIENATION, BIRTH DEFECTS, BLINDNESS, SEXUAL IMPOTENCY, AND / OR DEVIANT FUNAMBULISM. NOTICE: NO GUNS OR AMMUNITION ARE FOR SALE VIA THIS BLOG. (No, I will not trade my Colt Python for some lubricious adventures with your trophy wife and a future first-round draft pick.) CAVEAT: This blog is not suitable for viewing while at work, while inside a public library, while inside any public or private school, or while inside any public or private restroom. Do not view this blog while driving a motor vehicle or while piloting an aircraft. Viewing this blog may be illegal inside the EU, Chicago, and other parts of the Third World. THIS BLOG CONTAINS (albeit often very childish) ADULT-CONTENT. DISCLAIMER: This blog is a hobby, it is not a livelihood. Even though much of what I blog about relates to firearms collecting and recreational shooting, I am not an expert (by any measure) on any facet of guns, shooting, hunting, or personal defense. Entries at this blog are akin to good old-fashioned campfire chats or post hunt bourbon-fueled barroom-bluster; I offer no opinion on what you should or should not purchase, or what you should be using or doing. What does or does not work for me could be rugged-country-miles away from your tastes and your needs. All products, places, and miscellany that I review for this blog are purchased / rented / leased at retail price by me. I do not accept payment, gifts, discounts, freebies, products on loan, distilled spirits, recreational pharmaceuticals, plea-bargains, probation, parole, Papal Blessings, Presidential Pardons, or sexual favors for doing any review or blog post. TRACKING COOKIES: Google et al stick tracking cookies on everybody. If you are online, you are being spied on via one method or another, for one reason or another; 'nuff said. You may be able to minimize your online DNA residue by using Tor and Duck Duck Go. Vive la liberté! Vive all y'all! Ante omnia armari. To each of you, thanks for stopping by! I appreciate it!
Please consider RECURRING UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS of ALL FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL POLITICIANS (including but not limited to school records, acquaintances, employment history, Social Media, financial, drug, and psychiatric screenings). Please consider TERM LIMITS; political power corrupts.

'We the Politicians of the United States, in Order to avoid a more perfect Union, manipulate Justice, destroy domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common offense, promote general Warfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Progeny, do blaspheme and eviscerate this Constitution of the United States of America." ("Zack," circa 1966 -1970)

Make them earn it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Planning out the New Year 2012

Just finished our 2012 family budget; I’ve been doing my budgets for home and work on spreadsheets since the days of VisiCalc.  It is getting tighter for us to make ends meet, but if we can quit adopting sick cats and helping out destitute friends and relatives, each who say that they “keep track of my finances in my head,” we should be okay at least for another year.  The taxes and health insurance costs are murderous, but I assume those problems are nationally pervasive.  It is funny that the government programs to help the needy are not available to help the needy that I know.  Quite frankly I am growing weary of people practicing foolhardy financial hygiene for their entire lives then loudly adorning themselves in the robes of victimhood when their world falls apart.  Please BUDGET, people.  Quit spending money you don’t have on things you really do not need.  In my blue, gray, and white-collar lifetime I was amazed to meet so many people who felt qualified to manage multi-million dollar corporate budgets when they lived one paycheck away from bankruptcy.  Money in your personal bank account is power and freedom.  Debt indentures you to a life of sycophancy and servitude, which is exactly where the banks and politicians (and occasionally, your spouse or significant other) want you to be. 

As far as our other contingencies, today I exercised the engines on the portable generator, both snow blowers, and (optimistically) the riding lawn mower.   I have cut down on the emergency supply of food and household paper products so I can reorganize the basement, but I expect to be done with that project and fully restocked before the end of the Mayan calendar when the gods shower cataclysmic horror down on our poor defenseless little noggins.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Restaurant Seatology

Have you been downsized, outsourced, or just plain shit-canned from your job?  Consider returning to school to get a degree in the growing field of restaurant seatology.  Restaurant seatologiststs are those well-coiffed mysterious looking folks wearing wireless-radio headsets and toting clipboards who stare you down when you enter most food establishments.  They all sport a rehearsed ceramic smile that would make a Doberman submissively incontinent.  

“Welcome to Olive Lobster restaurant.  How many in your party?”  (You answer, “Two please, and we would prefer a booth by the window.”  The greeting-seatologist’s razor sharp smile turns to a full snarl.)

“Ahem, WELL, we will SEE what we can do.” (At this point, the greeting-seatologist mumbles something into her microphone to the seating-seatologist about some lowlife troublemaker wanting a booth.  They exchange words for a few moments, glance down at their clipboards, and then several waitresses are called into the conference.  After many tense moments, a decision is finally reached.)

“Sir, there will be a twenty-minute wait for a booth. “(At this point, you ask why there will be a wait, pointing out that the restaurant is nearly empty and that there are clean booths right by the window.)

“SIR, that section is closed.”  (For the entertainment of the other customers, you ask in your loudest, most incredulous tone of voice, “Why is it closed?  Is there a problem with the Health Department?”)

“NO!  SIR, the waitress for that area has gone home and we have nobody assigned to it!” (You in turn point out that a waitress is serving a party seated across the aisle from the row of empty booths, a mere five steps away.)

“SIR, we have a system whereby all of the work is divided equally between all the staff for better customer service.  You can either take a table now (with the unpadded chairs, paralyzing backache guaranteed) or we will have a booth available for you in about twenty minutes.” (You now ask to speak to the manager, or you sulk back outside and go to another restaurant, or you tuck your tail between your legs and go sit where you are told.)

By gosh and by golly, those restaurant seatologists enviably have authority second only to U.S. Government Federal Agents.  You will sit wherever they damn well tell you to sit or you can go hungry.

While it is not for me to tell nationally famous restaurants like Olive Lobster or Red Garden how to treat their paying customers, it is my ever-humble opinion that folks tend to frequent establishments that treat customers to some good service.   While I am glad that these big chains offer a respectable vocation for willing American workers, fewer autocratic greeters and seaters on the payrolls sure would make me a happier patron.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seasons Greetings from the Feline Opium Den

Despite being neutered, Freak continues to urine-spray mark “his territory.”  On December 16 we began testing Feliway on our cats.  Overall, the product does seem to mellow out all the cats, but today Freak is back to spraying.  We clean up and deodorize his “marks” as fast as we can to discourage his compulsion … he unquestionably has been a challenge.

Anyway, I am sure that Coyote (aka Her Royal Highness), Stick (aka Snake), and Freak (aka Mr. Pee-Pee) want to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Are you taking the kids to visit Santa?

“Last, please understand sometimes visiting Santa takes a little longer. There was the little boy who wanted his father to come home from prison. There was the little girl who wanted her late grandmother back. Both of these were young enough to think I could actually help. You don’t shove a candy cane in their hand and kick them off the stage after that. Santa also needed a moment; folks shouldn’t see him cry either.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blogging to you live from high atop a new 13-inch MacBook Pro

My strategic budget plan needed alteration shortly after my previous blog post.


The new MacBook is paid for, but now it will be a bit before I save enough for new furniture that I promised.  My cash and carry lifestyle is a bit inconvenient at times, but it keeps the wolves from my door.

This is my first Apple purchase.  In fact, the last Apple computer I did any work with was an Apple IIe.  When I mentioned that to the store sales geek his response was "whazzat?" 

It has been a long strange trip down the silicon road for me.  The first computer I bought was a Sinclair ZX81, which was just before the Timex Sinclair.  Then Commodore, then on to a string of MS-DOS boxes (anyone remember the 8086 processor?).  The many MS-Windows I had for personal and professional use were good enough and got the job done but the time is right for a change.  I’ve decided to move on to the world of the Apple… just don’t expect to find me lounging around Starbucks.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just as cell phones and personal computers did, I believe electric cars can evolve into a marketable product line.

First off, the range between recharges needs to extend well over 300-miles.  Next, the recharge time needs to drop from hours to minutes.  Third, recharge sites need to be as ubiquitous as gasoline filling stations.  Fourth, the unsubsidized purchase price needs to be competitive with conventional cars.  Fifth, battery life and electrical components should be fully guaranteed for five-years.  Finally, they should be as stylish, as roomy, as comfortable, and as fast as conventional cars.

I believe in the USA free market and I believe in the American People, and I believe that technological evolution results in lifestyle revolutions.  No government agency mandated iPods, iPhones, or iPads.  As this electric car business evolves, I can imagine some big-name big-box retailer offering low-cost recharge sites for shoppers followed by a big-name hotel/motel chain offering low-cost recharge sites for travelers.  If the automakers can capture the imagination of the American people as they did in the 1950s and 1960s, seeing the USA in your E-Chevrolet can become an adventure.  Every Mom and Pop business along the Old Route 66 can offer curbside recharge sites where the old curbside gasoline pumps used to be.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Smart Cars are coming

because drivers continue to do stupid things and the noble ideal of mass transportation has been nothing but an expensive government pork filled failure.

Hell, I look forward to letting my driver’s license expire and then drinking myself silly while watching TV or surfing the webz as my Apple iCar drives me around the country.  I hope they hurry all of this technology up; I am getting somewhat old.

Corzine uses the “I’m just The Village Idiot” defense

If his defense sounds vaguely like the songs sung by Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, remember that Jon Corzine was once Governor of New Jersey.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dog shoots hunter…

… in the ass with birdshot from a 12 gauge shotgun.  IIRC, there seems to be at least one story like this every year.  Via Reuters, we learn that this hunter will be fine.  Others have not fared as well…

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lockable pistol case for PSA or Browning Baby

Gift idea From Lenn Kristal, President
P.O. Box 931
Aspen, Colorado USA 81612
Telephone: (970) 390 5520
Fax: (970) 797 1630

Machined from aerospace aluminum, our two-tier, lockable pistol case has a fixed lower plate with cutouts for 12 bullets, 2 magazines and a barrel cleaning brush. The upper tier securely cradles your PSA-25, Baby Browning, Fraser, Bauer, or PSP pistol. Limited quantities. Made expressly for us by Mauro and his team at Technoframes in Bergamo, Italy.

Our Holiday Price: $135.00
  S & H: FREE!

Saturday, November 19, 2011 now has a Facebook page

Dear Fellow Snub Shooters:

I hope this note finds you well.

Should interest permit I will be posting twice a month snub training tips on our Facebook page.

If you would like to receive them, you are invited to go to our Facebook site and "Like" the page.

The page link is located at:

Alternatively, you can request that our tips be send via e-mail if you are not currently on Facebook.

I hope you will enjoy the items and will feel free to comment on them as well.


Michael de Bethencourt

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It is time for this old Luddite to jump headlong into old technology

Yep, tomorrow I be getting me one of them highfaluting garage door opener thingies.  Out of the 86 houses built in this subdivision, only one buyer (that be me) was too cheap to include it into the construction price of the home.  Here it is 13-years later, and I am going high tech…  Lordy, may wonders never cease.  After all the years of inflation, a new unit installed is costing me only around 1/3 of what the developer wanted. 

Price was not the only reason I delayed getting a garage door opener.  For many years, burglars easily cloned the remote openers; now it is not so easy.  Some of the safety features were unreliable and easily bypassed, sometimes resulting in property damage or injury.  Sometimes the homeowners would drive away without watching their door fully close, only to have a safety switch reverse it to the full open position where it remained until they returned home.  Many folks in this neighborhood quit carrying keys to their house, leaving the connecting door to the garage unlocked, relying solely on the security of the garage door.  Other than the fact that these homes were easy picking for the local scoundrels, the homeowners were locked out of their houses during power failures.  Yeah, over the years a few moseyed over to ask “that survivor guy” if he could help them break into their own homes.  Almost universally, these folks left their second story windows unlocked, so my extension ladder provided the means.  They will wish they had not gotten into the habit of leaving the upper story windows unlocked once the area burglars wise up.

Soon, I will be in this brave new high tech world of push-button garage doors.  The kid who grew- up next-door watching me manually opening my garage door all those years said the neighborhood would just not be the same. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dad was right. All in Congress are corrupt.

On the anniversary of the death of a loved one, it is hard not to think of them.  I just listened to a Sixty Minutes installment that reaffirms Dad’s contention that the halls of congress should be converted to a high security federal prison.

Dad, it has been five years since you died and during that time our government never once failed to live down to your expectations.  Rest in peace; you were right.

Friday, November 11, 2011

C.E. “Ed” Harris series of articles begins at The Revolver Liberation Alliance

CLICK HERE NOW for the first of this series!  My goodness, you will not want to miss this stuff.  I have long been in awe of Ed Harris.  He is the real-deal when it comes to guns and ammo knowledge.  If there ever is to be a Hall of Fame for gun writers (if there is one, I cannot find it), it will have to include Ed Harris somewhere near the top.  Aside from his NRA magazine articles, Ed was a pioneer in writing expert online guns and ammo prose dating back to the computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) days.

Support Veteran Owned Businesses

Click HERE to visit the Veteran Owned Businesses Directory Blog.  Launched on Veterans Day 2008, is the leading free, comprehensive, user-friendly directory of businesses owned by military veterans, active duty military, reservists and service disabled veterans of the United States Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, and National Guard.  Americans in the United States and abroad have an easy way to proudly search for products and services that are unique in the fact that they are all made by, sold by or serviced by United States military veterans!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Today we had our first snow of the 2011 - 2012 season

It is all gone now, but for a short while today we bore witness to the strange sight of snow hanging from my still flowering petunias and marigolds.  There were several periods of wind driven snow and sleet throughout the day.  In a way, it was fun.  I spent some time outside and did some pre-season readiness-work on the snowblowers.  

We have yet to have a hard freeze in these parts; the very few frost mornings that we had so far were mild enough for many of my annuals to survive.  Tonight the air temperature will drop to 26F and finish the job of killing off all that remains of what was once a beautiful springtime.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Great Recession has been most depressing

It has been a difficult year for me to find the motivation to blog.  Family, friends, and neighbors are just barely scraping by.  My wife and I have helped until it hurts, but we cannot sacrificially put ourselves into poverty in order to help everyone else; what we have must last us until the end of our days.  It is hard to say “NO!” to those in need but we will be lucky if changes in the laws, price inflation, and higher taxes do not prematurely eat away our financial means.  The political ideal of “redistribution of wealth” has become the reality of “redistribution of poverty.”  The promises our politicians made to us were broken.  Our federal, state, and local governments failed us.  Lesson learned, “NEVER trust the government to fix anything, especially with YOUR money.”

The neighbor behind me lost his house to foreclosure a year or so back.  My eastside next-door neighbor lost his house to foreclosure this July past.  Just last night my westside next-door neighbor sauntered over to tell me that he was filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to keep his house.  He is still current on his mortgage payments, but only due to his sacrificing payments to other bills.  He is an honorable guy who is at the end of his financial rope.  The property taxes have doubled since he bought the house around six years ago, which is now worth only forty percent of what he paid for it.  Even though he has family health insurance, his daughter’s winning battle with leukemia had substantial out of pocket fees and co pays.  He earns good money but the needs of his family of five added up to more than his means and I am here to tell you that they are for the most part a frugal bunch.  His truck is sixteen years old and his family van is nine years old.  In any case, his lawyer is working to either consolidate his credit card and medical debts into a low interest repayment plan or outright make them go away.  I hope it all works out for him. 

On top of the aforementioned folks, we have several vacant homes going to seed in our small neighborhood and yet another neighboring house is in the foreclosure process.  Ironically, another neighbor is hoping to sell his house so he can get the hell out of the USA and move his family back to his native country.  So goes the American Dream. 

I took a case of canned food from my survival rack over to a recent well-publicized food drive held by my granddaughter’s soccer league.  WOW!  It was surprising how little food other folks were willing to part with.  From probably over a hundred parents and grandparents attending the matches, my wife saw one box of corn flakes and two bags of potato chips in the donation pavilion.  Are we all becoming too cynical?  Are we all getting to a point of “every man for himself?”  Are we all so financially tapped-out that we just cannot spare a brother a dime?  It is so very troubling.  Then again, there has been an overabundance of food drives in this area so maybe everyone has donated elsewhere. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

My ever-faithful LW Seecamp .380

This little firearm is with me the most.  I suppose it is high time that I take it to the range, blow out the carry ammo, and then clean it up and reload for another period of sweat and toil around the house and yard.  It is the perfect piece for me to carry when hot, heavy, chores make carrying a more formidable firearm an impediment. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

This old Halloween Cowboy is all hat and no cattle…

…but he did scrape together enough candy to negotiate a peace treaty with the invading hordes of monsters, zombies, vampires, ghosts, and goblins threatening to occupy his front lawn.

Happy Halloween, pardners!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

American Made Work Boots

Competition with the big box stores continues to take its toll.  Our local shoe stores no longer carry my favorite Carolina brand goods.  Few if anything in stock is American made.  My preferred everyday footwear since 1970 has been steel toe engineer boots and I’ll be darned if I am going to wear something foreign made.  CLICK HERE if you want to walk another mile in our shoes.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Road trip preparedness; FOOD

So far, the longest I have ever been stranded in traffic was seven hours.  Other travelers have run into situations much worse and spent a couple of days or more waiting for relief.  Traffic accidents, floods, blizzards, tornadoes, and earthquakes can flat out stop your world miles from home or help.

During emergencies, food provides comfort as well as sustenance.  Aside from the disaster-gear that never leaves our vehicle, for long road trips we carry enough food to last two people at least three days.  None of our provisions, other than the water, qualifies as health food but it is nutritious enough to keep us going.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dear Occupy Wall Street, here is a clue

We have been through tough times before and we will go though them again.  I am among the 99% you claim to represent, but you do not speak for me.  Many of your demands are naively unrealistic.  I am not in support of “living wage” legislation.  If you want to make a living wage, go qualify yourself for a job that pays a living wage and then earn it.  If you cannot earn a living wage with your current job, do what I had to do for a period of my life and work two or three jobs at a time.  The only time in my life that I had a job with only a forty-hour workweek was when I worked another job as well. 

Further, just who in hell is supposed to pay for your “free college?”  Dreams and delusions are free, everything else costs money.  Choose colleges that you (or your parents) can afford and educate yourself in a field that pays.  Don’t expect government to tax your way to “free college” unless you want more jobs to go overseas.  A large part of the fiscal problems the state of Illinois has is the ungodly sums of money GRANTED for education. 

Here are a few more life tips for you to consider.

1)  VOTE
2)   If you do vote, try reading up on whom you are voting for and quit blindly voting for familiar names and celebrities. 
3)   Vote with your wallet.  Quit feeding the banks by running up ATM and credit card fees and penalties (I don’t have an ATM card and my credit cards never carry a balance and they PAY ME at the end of each year).  Try living a debt free life within your means.  Try living without cable TV; I have for the past 20-years.  Try buying American made goods instead of foreign made.  I have been driving for well over forty-years and never once did I purchase a foreign made car.  If you cannot buy something American made, try buying only stuff you need instead of every cool gadget that you want; that pricey neat-o-baby iPad is not assembled here on our soil.  Perhaps you would support an iTax?
4)  Quit feeling sorry for yourselves.  Life is not fair and anyone promising to make life fair for you is, at best, psychotic (or a politician).

Now, before you all go medieval on me in the comments section, please note that I can document working over twenty jobs spanning over four decades, covering everything from castrating sheep to managing a multi-million-dollar facility, and never receiving a dime of unemployment. Even when there were seemingly no jobs available, I always managed to find something that nobody else wanted to do.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Back from sunny Florida

It was a beautiful two-day drive down, a short five-days there and two days on the return trip.  I love Florida, but not enough to move there… at least not yet. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weight loss journal 10/4/2011

My sustained weight for the past couple of months has been 190 lbs., which is a 10 lbs. loss since May but only 5 lbs. less than last year.  Although progress has been painfully slow, it is a total of 20 lbs. less than when I started so I guess I should be happy.  My blood pressure is near normal without medication and my energy level is back up to where it has not been for many years.

I doubt that I will reach this year’s goal of 185 lbs. since I tend to eat more in fall and winter and I don’t have yard work to keep me active for hours each day.  Replacing yard work with exercise and daily walks is boring me to tears, but I’ll do my best to stick to it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Our first autumn 2011 frost predicted for tonight

It is time to let go of summer here in northeastern Illinois.  I won’t be covering the garden annuals or moving flowerpots into shelter.  Flowers in October just don’t bring me comfort; they look and feel artificial.  It is time to let them go nature’s way and for me to settle into dreams of another spring.  Once the frost burns away all life, I will clear the remains and prep the beds for next year.  It is time to let go.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The 2011 National Preparedness Month winds to an end


This year had plenty of newsworthy calamities to remind us how important it is to be prepared.  It was no surprise when these calamities overwhelmed government resources. 

Your level of preparedness is entirely up to you.  There are many f-words in preparedness and some folks feel uncomfortable when it comes to firearms.  Nobody is forcing anyone to stow weapons so acute blammophobia should not keep you from being prepared in other respects.  If you start with focus, foresight, and flexibility, chances are good that your food, fuel, and finances will take care of your family and friends when fate tries to f--- you up. 


Monday, September 19, 2011

Three years of abstinence


Traditionally I blog on September 5 to note another year has passed since I walked away from my old friend, demon tobacco.  This year that date came and went without a thought.  During my walk this evening, I decided to jog for a while and noticed that I did not become winded; running felt natural.  It was enjoyable.  That event reminded me how long it has been since I had a smoke.

Should fate bless me with another 21 years on this earth, my association with cigars will resume and I plan to continue that friendship until the end of my days.  Until then I need to make the most out of what is left of this ambulatory old carcass of mine. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Condoleezza wherefore art thou?

The Republican Debates are quite entertaining, but I thought the idea was to field candidates who are both electable and possess enough talent to run the country if elected.  So far, I am not seeing or hearing anything that gives my wallet any hope. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 2011 National Preparedness Month



National Preparedness Month (NPM) is held each September to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities.

Groups can register to become an NPM Coalition Member by visiting and clicking on the NPM banner.

The Ready Campaign promotes individual emergency preparedness. Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign, to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

The Campaign’s Web sites ( and and toll-free numbers (1-800-BE-READY, TTY 1-800-462-7585, and 1-888-SE-LISTO) provide Americans with free emergency preparedness information.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yard and garden journal entry 8/17/2011

This is our last daylily of 2011.  It has been a good gardening season and a lot of fun, but the fact remains that summer is ending.  On our property, our growing season officially ends when the clusters of Rudbeckia wilt away in September.  By then, the petunias and impatiens are looking tired and out of season and it is time to clean up the flowerbeds in preparation for next spring.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Hard Times Investing Update 8/8/2011


Back in February of this year, I went 100% OUT of the stock market (other than a couple of small-change speculative items).  Paraphrasing what I said at the time in an email to a trusted friend, “I’ve been too lucky for too long.”  My market-exit-point was near but not at the market high for the year; for me (and most others), hitting exact market tops and bottoms is impossible.  The best we can hope for is to come close to the mark.  My wife quit her job in February so our household income went down and our expenses went up (for example, our health insurance is now $14,412 annually) so my tolerance for risk suffered a hit.  The markets historically have been subject to manipulation, mostly illegal unless done by the government.  IMHO, the Fed’s Quantitative Easing and the program trading by the Quants at the major trading outfits make the market a “less level” trading field than ever before.  While no market event surprises me, things akin to the Flash Crash are most unnerving.  On July 25, 2011, unbelievably huge trading volume for the DOW and the S&P-500 should have been headline news but was not.  Marketed as prime rib the equities markets smell like rotting flesh. 

Via merit, manipulation, or Federal Reserve Masturbation, there is always a chance that the markets will rally from here and sustain unheard of record levels, which would cause me some remorse for staying out of the game.  However it all plays out, I have to do what I believe is best for my family and me.  I trust my market-models, and the S&P-500 around the 1285 level for this year is my comfort zone.  The current selloff is not worrying me, my model said that the S&P-500 was overpriced and a range between 1158 and 1415 would be “normal” for this year.  Should the S&P-500 drop to around the 1029 level I would consider putting some money back into equities but I doubt that I will ever again risk (for me) great sums; I am just getting too old and time favors the young.

When do I believe the S&P-500 will return to the pre-crash levels of the upper 1500s?  My non-scientific, computerized, wild ass guess, investment projection model says somewhere around the 1587 level will be my S&P-500 comfort zone for the year 2014.  However, the ever-ominous dark cloud of fate warns that the markets don’t give a damn about what my model says.  OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog entry is financial advice, or advice on investing.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dear Commonwealth Edison, your power-outage reporting system sucks.


Storms with heavy rain and damaging winds rolled though again early yesterday evening, knocking out my power, but sparing most of my neighbors. Our little neighborhood has several electrical feeds and I’ll be darned if I will ever understand the engineering logic they used during design and construction. When outages are isolated, there is always a chance that the repair crews may not get the word from someone else, so I decided to make a phone call. Actually, I had to make SEVERAL phone calls because our utility company’s touch-tone reporting system FAILED. With a current bill in my hand, so I had ready access to my account number AND which of my telephone numbers they have on file for use in indentifying my address, their system kept reporting that my location could not identified. I tried again…, again…, and again. Finally, I got through to a real person and reported it the old-fashioned way… with my booming voice. Five hours later, they restored power.

The sump pumps kept our basement dry thanks again to my noisy little generator, which performed in the face of waves of driving rain. A prudent high priority project would be for me to replace both aging sump pumps BEFORE they fail, along with installing a sizable battery backup system. If Edison had not restored power when they did, I would have had no choice but to run the generator all night long, keeping many of my neighbors awake. The fridge and freezer will keep food cold and safe for hours without power, but after a soaking rain, it is essential that the sump pumps keep running. Running a generator, especially at night, requires that you guard it against theft. I was contemplating spending all night in my GMC van parked next to the generator when Edison finally restored power. Having enough AGM batteries and inverters to power essentials for six hours would be a good contingency, but at the moment I don’t have the money needed to put it all together.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Meet the Freak

AKA, Freakenstein, Freak is a rescued critter. We did not want another cat; my budget sure did not need another cat. Aside from our expenditures for cat food and litter going up by a third, the veterinarian costs for the tests, shots, and neutering will have cost me a bit over $500 for this rescue.

Freak is recovering nicely; this photo is one taken after only a week and a half in our “cat recovery room” where we keep him isolated from our two other cats. During the eviction, Freak was found inside of a cage in the endless clutter of our eastside next-door neighbor’s house. The poor guy is an 8-year-old unneutered male who was suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and social isolation. With his skin-and-bones frame covered with filth and the edges of his ears as brittle as burnt potato chips, he appeared to be (and acted like) some sort of psychotic Zombie Cat, hence his new name. He was in such poor condition that my wife figured that most of the overcrowded local shelters would euthanize him at a glance. My guess is that Freak was given food and water whenever the owners thought to do so, which was probably not very often. His nose was raw from poking it into the cage door and from scrounging for that last hint of food and water; it is now healing nicely. Freak screams like a demon when we bring him food and he eats insatiably. Freak will eat himself to death if we let him; we feed him twice as much as we do a normal cat and he screams for more. A couple of times we overfed him and he puked it all back up. For now, he is on a fixed eating-schedule when he gets a good portion of food but never as much as he desires. After we cleaned him up and fed him for just over a couple of weeks, we took him to the veterinarian for an evaluation, likely the first in his lifetime. The vet says that the trauma of chronic starvation created an eating disorder from which Freak may never recover. Freak’s liver enzymes were a little unbalanced due to malnutrition but should be back to normal soon; his other organs checked out okay. The tests for contagious (and fatal) feline viruses all were negative and Freak had no fleas, which was strange considering his previous owner’s house was infested with mice. If his previous owner had just let Freak roam inside the house, the cat may have been nutritionally self-sufficient by keeping the rodents under control.

Since he has had proper nutrition for a while now, Freak has rediscovered that he is a male cat and wants to get laid so badly that he is getting a cranky. Last week we got his shots completed; on Thursday of this next week, Freak will go in for a surgical attitude adjustment that will put an end to his lust for sex. It will be a long road for physical and social recovery for this cat. His only interaction with other cats was when he was a kitten and his lifetime of dealings with humans have not been fulfilling. We will give Freak every chance that we can to adjust to life here. If he cannot adjust to us and the other cats, we will have no choice but to put him in local shelter. Wish us all luck.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Apocalyptic Adventures Part 1


We had one hell of a storm a couple of weeks back. We were among the lucky folks who had only 26-hours without power; some folks did not get electricity restored for several days. My daughter, who lives in a nearby town, was without power for over 48-hours. She used blue-ice packs from our freezer to keep her food safe on the first day. At the end of the second day, she brought all of her perishables over to our fridge and freezer. As fate would have it, as soon as she packed everything into our house, she received a phone call from my ex that power was back on at their house.

My little generator got quite a workout. Our contingency plans worked very well; we had plenty of fuel, food, water (the public water supply went offline for a while), glow sticks, portable lights, and batteries. The generator powered our refrigerator, a few essential lights, a TV, the sump pump, the coffee pot, and our microwave oven AND had enough power to spare for use by my Westside next-door neighbor. I was prepared for other neighbors to tap into the generator but only the one asked; my policy is to grant all reasonable requests for assistance but neighbors do need to have enough extension cord to reach from their house to mine.

The storm damage was not isolated; the entire county was down and very few electrical grids survived the fury of the storm; officials declared a state of emergency which meant we were on our own. Downed trees and power lines closed many roads; traffic lights were out and slow moving cars jammed every open road. Very few stores or banks were open; the few gasoline stations with electricity had lines of cars waiting in the roadway. This was not a good day to be without supplies or contingency plans.

I told my brother-in-law that if he did not have back luck he would have no luck in his life at all. This good old boy needed some help to keep from losing his house, so the morning of the storm we were to take care of business. He had a simple agenda laid out; we would get together and I would get a certified check from my credit union and he would get a certified check from his bank and we then go to the post office and overnight-mail the funds to his debt collector, beating the drop-deadline. HEH! By midday, my brother-in-law was in a near panic. Ultimately, it took us six-hours and three quarters of a tank of gasoline before I found a branch of my credit union open and we found a branch of his bank open. To complicate matters further, all of the post offices were closed because of the power outage. We finally found a FedEx store on a grid and, thanks to $30 in my wallet, got the money shipped out just in time. I mentioned to my brother-in-law that waiting to the final possible moment to save his house was ill advised; obviously, what could go wrong did go wrong and we just barely pulled his ass out of the fire.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Final Notice of Eviction


Friday morning I noticed the Lake County Sheriff squad parked in my eastside next-door neighbor’s driveway. Posted on the door was the notice of eviction; my neighbor has to be out by this Wednesday. To say that my neighbor is at the end of his rope is charitable; the man is devastated. The co-pay portion of the medical bills from his sick wife has left him hopelessly in debt and, now, homeless. He is looking for some place to go but with his credit in shambles, he is swimming against the tide. How does a 67-year-old man start his life over? His combined pension and social security income was no match for the surprises that dusted his retirement years. His wife is still sick, his daughter and granddaughter still need help, and his own health is deteriorating from the burdens he carries.

This will be a busy week for me. I need to help this neighbor move before Wednesday morning, but come morning light today I have to be at the bank in order to try to keep my brother in-law from also losing his house. (NOTE: the monetary loan is minimal and secured by me taking some of his guns and other items as collateral; I do not co-sign for anyone).

In any case, the cold cruel word still sucks. Of the three houses that border my property, two will be vacant from foreclosures (the house behind me has been vacant for a year now). Of the three financial tragedies that have been inside my personal space this past twelve months, one victim was white, one was black, and the other was Asian. Banks are NOT your friends; they are indiscriminate, unforgiving businesses that thrive on the penalties you pay for making mistakes and suffering misfortune. Anyone believing that a government programs exists to provide salvation is a delusional fool. Folks, when it comes to survival, whether it is physical or financial, you are on your own. Prepare for the worst because it can happen to you… and few souls, if any, will so much as care.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yard and garden journal update 7/7/2011


I’m still here. About 12-hours of my day are now spent outside. Some days are 4-hours of work and 8-hours of leisure and others reverse to 8-hours of toil and 4-hours of laziness. All of my usual plantings are done for this year; the impatiens bed on the west side of the house was finished last week, which is about a month behind my usual schedule. July and August will be mostly mowing, watering, and weeding while September and October will include painting the trim and more brickwork. My goal is someday to have oversize brick-walkways alongside the flowerbeds that surround the house, all leading to the backyard patio. The 6’ x 22’ brick pad across the front of the house serves several purposes. Foremost, it corrects some uneven terrain across the front of the house that made ladder work very challenging. Esthetically it provides a place to store the garden hose and provides a decent base for arranging flowerpots. Since the raised brick-bed is on a base of grade-8 gravel, the original drainage profile is intact. It will take me another 2 – 3 years to finish the brickwork around the house. The front pad is good enough for now and my efforts will move to fabricating a step to a slightly lower level walkway for the east side of house along a garden that is mostly Shasta daisies and Rudbeckia.

The two photos below were taken a month apart, one on June 5 and the other on July 5, and show how the irises go from colorful blooms to weedy looking beds of stems and standards. If it were not for the annuals being in full bloom, the iris beds would probably earn me a complaint from the homeowners association.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It sure would be nice if we quit calling each other stupid.


Politics is an amazing poison, it causes madness; even people who have never voted will call someone else a fool for their party affiliation. Republicans are fools; Democrats are fools; Libertarians and fools, etc. Since I have an IQ somewhere on the left side of the bell curve, it hurts me dearly when smart people act dumb. Whether they come from rough or refined backgrounds, folks should not try to win friends and influence people with ad hominem attacks and embellished facts. Try showing respect.

Now, to the guys who occasionally parade around the intersection of Routes 137 and 21 in Libertyville, Illinois, over the past 2.5 years, waving the pictures of Obama sporting a Hitler moustache or wearing a turban, I have but one question; is that the best you can do? Yeah, I am the geezer driving the green GMC van who offered you a $10 donation if you could show me a voter’s registration card. It was a safe bet for me to make; I didn’t have $10 in my wallet any more than you had a voter’s card in yours.


Friday, June 17, 2011

No more Java for me, thank you, I have had enough.


(CLICK HERE for Borepatch's thoughts on Java)

I have disabled Java on my browser and I will disable it on my wife’s system when I get the chance. Each of us experienced a Trojan attack, FakeSysdef, on separate days, which MS Security Essentials failed to prevent. I am sure mine came in via Java during a website visit. While we both were hit with the same Trojan, the variation I had was very aggressive and it took me all day on Wednesday for me to fix my system.

MS Security Essentials did catch a Trojan downloader, Java/OpenConnection.NC, for me the other day, and was able to remove FakeSysdef from each of our drives although it did not prevent the attacks. Overall, Security Essentials has been a good workhorse.

In case you were wondering, both of our computers are automatically updated once a week.

EDIT:  The reason I suspect Java is because the Java icon appeared on my browser during my visit to a website just before all heck broke lose.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Yard and garden journal entry 6/6/2011

I believe the irises have peaked and this is as good as they will look for this year. In a week or so, the blooms will be sparse. For some reason, we are the only folks that grow irises in this area. They are not popular in these parts and I don’t know why; they are hearty and reliable perennials. The two clusters in the photos grew from single plantings set a dozen years ago.


This Blog's most viewed posts during the past week

This Blog's most viewed posts during the past month

This Blog's most viewed posts during the past year

This Blog's Most Popular Posts of All Time