Dec 18, 2013

Food storage

It's easy to say, "Have X days worth of food set back." Actually doing it? A bit harder, but nowhere near as complicated as some would like to make it.

First off: has dropped prices on Augason Farms food. It all comes in #10 cans (unless it says otherwise, the "daily use" versions are smaller), with a lid to close it back up. I think the shortest shelf-life stuff is ten years in proper conditions (cool and dry), and some is up to thirty. A quick sampler of prices - dry milk, $8; potato flakes, $5; corn muffin mix, $8 - and so on. Orders over $35 ship free.

I took advantage of it. I ordered a few cans of dry milk, some potato flakes, shortening, and the almond-poppyseed muffin mix*.

If you've absolutely NO food set aside, consider something like their 30-day pail. $90, ships free, and provides a livable daily intake (1800kcal) for a month.

If you do have some set aside already, think about slowly increasing. Next time you're getting groceries and see that canned whatever is on sale, grab a few extra cans. A couple bucks in the weekly grocery budget can go a long way. A 20-pound bag of white rice is $15-20, and makes an easy "filler" under chili or shredded chicken.

I try not to doom-and-gloom this blog, but I have SERIOUS concerns about where we are going to be as a society within the next few years. Peter has a long history of noting such things, and I don't think he's wrong. I hope he is, but...

Carteach has been playing with SNAP-budget cooking, and has come up with some good stuff.

So you've got the food stored, but are you using it? Seriously. Use it. Replace what you use, but get in the habit of using it in your everyday life. Mix a quart or half-gallon of milk from powder (let it sit in the fridge overnight for best results), make potato pancakes from dry taters, mix up a batch of muffins.

MrsZ and I (OK, mostly her) canned a tremendous amount of venison and beef and vegetables and fruits and preserves of all types over the last couple years. I don't buy salsa at the store anymore - there's flats of homemade in the basement. Maple syrup from our own trees. Peaches and variations thereof galore. Tomatoes in all forms.

I have no idea how much food is actually down there - but I don't think we'd be hungry for a LONG time.

(* - the muffin mix has an oxygen absorber packet within. Locate and remove before mixing. Also, it STICKS to muffin papers. Just grease the tin well and skip the paper. Otherwise, they're delicious!)

Dec 5, 2013

2015 Mustang... say it ain't so

Ford has officially unveiled the 2015 Mustang. AutoGuide has a series of pictures here.

I am less than impressed visually - the thing looks like a Dodge Viper had an illegitimate love child with a Hyundai Tiburon - and then that poor bastard fell out of the ugly tree, bouncing off every branch on the way down.

Seriously. Do an image search for the above and tell me you don't see the Tiburon's swoopy lines and the Viper's fat ass in that new 'stang.

But even more offensive than the looks is this:
the 2015 Mustang will come standard with a 3.7-liter V6 with 300 hp while a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine will be available
Emphasis mine.

Are you friggin' kidding me? A FOUR-CYLINDER MUSTANG? Does it include a subscription to "Import Tuner Monthly" or perhaps a "Fart Cans 2014" calendar?

Look, I know full well how nice a boosted I4 can be to drive - VW-Audi and Mercedes have gotten excellent results with them over the last fifteen or twenty years. (The original TT was a 1.8L boosted I4 turning 180hp, the 2000-ish Passat, Jetta, and A4 all carried a slightly-less boosted version putting down 150hp.) With a low-to-moderate boost pressure, the lower-powered version was putting down peak torque (170lb-ft) from 1800 all the way to 4500rpm. As soon as you were barely off idle, it started pulling and Just. Didn't. Stop. Not throw-you-back pull, but steady power.

I have no issue with the V6 in the pony car - the original Mustang was a straight-6. The V8 existed early too.

But an inline four ... in an American sports car? Screw that noise.

Dec 3, 2013

Holy crap, Home Depot!

The duplex we're living in out here has laundry hookups, but not appliances. I've been going to the laundromat and dumping quarters weekly since I got out here. For me alone, that's ten bucks a week on laundry without doing towels and sheets. Add another six to ten bucks when I need to do those. It adds up in a hurry. With MrsZ planning to move out here in the near future, that would probably double laundry costs to "lots".

We'd talked about just buying a low-end basic washer and dryer to get us by until we get a house out here, but decided that didn't make a lot of sense. Instead we decided to take advantage of holiday sales and order a middle-of-the-road washer and dryer.

I went to Home Depot last week after getting out of work. Appliances was deserted. Aisles nearby were deserted. I went to the service desk and asked them to find me someone. It took nearly ten minutes and several phone calls just to find someone who could order a washer for me, but it finally got done.

The washer has been picked up and installed - given the insane work hours I've been pulling I didn't want to arrange a delivery time.

We decided to order a dryer as well, and I started on that yesterday. First I went to the HD web site, and ordered it there. I got an email shortly thereafter saying my order had been cancelled because of credit card issues (billing address). Fine. I was on my way to the store anyway to pick up the washer, so I ordered the dryer while I was there.

This morning, I got another email saying my order had been reinstated. So now I have two dryers on the way. *facepalm*

I called their customer service number and explained the situation, and the nice lady I spoke to went ahead and cancelled the online order... and the in-store order. *double facepalm* Eventually she got that turned back around, and claims to have ONE dryer on order for delivery as originally scheduled. I'm fully expecting the truck to show up with two dryers.

We'll be watching the credit card carefully, and I'll be contacting corporate customer service shortly to explain why they have lost a customer forever. I'll be driving past TWO Home Depot stores to reach the nearest Lowes, and will happily do so.
I opened the laptop with vague ideas of a great post, but somehow between opening the laptop and getting to blogger, it evaporated. So you get the vignette update of my life the last few weeks.

- Whirlwind trip home last month was in the nick of time. Rest well, MS.
- Our house has not sold yet. There was a showing yesterday and a repeat with the same family today. I'm keeping my fingers gently crossed.
- I racked up 147 hours of time at work in the last (two week) pay period. The current one is looking closer to 120, which is fine with me. This week marks my first two consecutive nights off in nearly a month.
- MrsZ is going to be here for Christmas and New Year's - and is planning to move out here permanently by mid-to-late January. We'll have spent nearly seven months apart by then.
- I have been i-ssimilated with an iPhone 5S. It's pretty damn slick, and FaceTime has been a godsend.

Also, an addendum to the last post:
After posting my silver advice earlier, spot promptly tumbled another fifty or sixty cents during the day, and is now hovering just over $19.00/oz. I bought a bit of silver over the weekend when it was still just under $20. This type of thing elicits a wry grin. I don't try (too hard) to time the market. If I'm planning to buy, I shop a little bit and buy what I can, and to hell with the market over the next while. It'll eat you up if you quibble over every dime change in spot price. Besides, if it's just sitting in a corner of the safe, what does it matter how the price changes? Read up on dollar-cost averaging - it'll keep you sane.

Dec 2, 2013

Silver once more...

I know I'm harping on this, but if you are following the economy at all, you know things are rapidly circling the drain. Silver is a relatively solid hedge item and is physical. No ones and zeroes in a bank computer. Cold hard metal.

It's "cyber Monday" and much as I hate that term there are some deals to be had. 

(A company I refuse to patronize any longer) is running a $0.59 over spot sale on select items. The OPM rounds are a solid bet, and the St. Gauden's round has beautiful. 

Silvertowne has some deals but it's mostly on graded stuff - not bullion but collectibles. 

Spot is still hovering under $20/oz. If you want to buy, it's a good time IMHO. 

Nov 22, 2013

I miss my A2 upper. Replacing that needs to move up the list.

Especially since I can now have a proper one with a flash hider and bayonet lug.

Nov 20, 2013


Under $20/ozt again. 

Deal Alert

Bug-out starter kit on woot! today

The bag is solid. I have two of them that I picked up a couple months ago. It's a re-badged Kelty, and by itself is worth every penny of $50.

The knife is a Gerber. They make a great knife for their price point.

Sigg water bottle. Need I say more?

The rest is just niceties and a bit of gimmicking, but it's unquestionably a starting point. I'll be putting up a post of what's in my get-home bag here shortly.

Nov 17, 2013

ham status

With "life" happening around me (and a boatload of overtime) I've not had much time for radio stuff lately. When I had the short-notice trip home, I stripped all the valuables out of the truck, including the radio gear.

It hasn't gone back in yet.

On the plus side, I've got the 120-12V power supply in hand and it works beautifully, and I've just ordered a small Rigrunner power block to make this stuff easier to connect and disconnect.

I've installed EchoLink on my laptop; still sorting out the networking stuff necessary to use that at home.

I also sent in an application for a vanity callsign.

Overtime should be drying up shortly, so I hope I'll get in on some nets and rag chews soon.

Nov 1, 2013

Antenna thinking

I would dearly like to put a Real Antenna on the duplex. I don't think the landlord would be a real fan of me drilling new holes in the roof... but while walking the mutt, I was noticing the mount for the Dish that's up there.

It looks like the dish is friction-clamped on to the roof mount, which looks like a 1-1/2"-ish piece of gray pipe.

I need to pop up there when I have a day off and see if I can take the dish down, maybe put up a 8' piece of fiberglass extension, and then a 2m J-pole on top of that.

Only issue I see ... if said antenna came down, it stands a more-than-even chance of landing on Important Wires. Hrm.

Oct 31, 2013

Back on the ground in MO after a short-notice trip back to NY.

Some family things needed attention.

I've done what I can, the rest is up to greater powers.

If you can spare a thought for a strong woman who is not going gentle into that good night, it would be appreciated.

Oct 27, 2013

Preach it, brother Jay

I've been slowly working through the backlog in Feedly and doing a lot of skimming and "mark read". Just too much to get through. Then I came upon this one from Jay, which hit me hard in the gut.
One of the downsides of being apart from your family is that you feel utterly helpless when something happens. Got a call from Mrs. G. yesterday that BabyGirl G. fell in gym class and hit her head - she's fine, but had a possible concussion so they needed her to be picked up.

I've been in Missouri since June 16. Four months plus a bit.

MrsZ came out on the Independence Day weekend with a truckload of our stuff, and flew home the next day.

My parents gifted us a plane ticket for our anniversary, and she was out for a few days last week.

It has been harder than I ever believed to be here without my partner in life. We text daily, call every few days or so (neither of us is much of a phone person), and email constantly. We've been writing real paper snail-mail letters back and forth.

She has had to deal with a whole lot of stuff that just didn't get done in the four weeks between the job offer and my moving date. My folks have stepped up in ways I can't begin to thank them for, and generally helped out with the few things that MrsZ hasn't been able to handle alone.

I hate that I'm not there to help with or just handle these things. Things like the possum tangled in the fence (thanks, Dad), or the house winterizing. Or mowing the lawn, or fixing the lawn tractor when it ate its belt. Just... life. And I'm not there.

Our house is still on the market (almost four months now) with a depressingly low number of showings, and no offers. Our agent has been ... "apathetic" is the most accurate term I can come up with. The contract with him expires at midnight on 12/31. If the house isn't gone by then, we're going to re-evaluate what we want to do. Option one is to re-sign for another four- or six-month term. Another is to take it off the market for 2-3 months and re-list in March or so, to hit the early market season with a "days on market" of 0.

I'm thrilled for Jay - he's got a great new gig, and his house has already got a buyer. I'm also a bit envious, but our real estate market is different from his. It's been a test for us, and one we're doing alright with.

(And if you didn't click through above, BabyGirl G is fine.)

Oct 25, 2013

Power Supply...

I did some ebay digging and have a 30A power supply (Jetstream 31MB) on the way. It's way more than I need for the time being, as the FT-90 I'll be using as a base only draws about 10A when transmitting. Of course, that leaves me room to grow/add.

My co-worker who dumped a box of radios on me found another one in the closet, and I should have a 6m rig shortly. No antenna for that one, and not sure if I'll have one anytime soon - the downside of duplex life.

I'm fully intending to make the core of the "base" radio system 100% grab-and-go - unplug two cords and close the box. Photos of that process will also be posted...

Oct 24, 2013

"Rag chew"

I've been doing plenty of listening on the radios the last few days. It's the anti-social version sitting in a barbershop and half-reading a magazine as the conversations flow around you.

Made a few more contacts today; the mobile at 20W is handily hitting the Raytown repeater as soon as I'm on the highway. If I bumped it to 50W I'm sure it'd reach from the driveway, but no reason to from there.

I've got another mobile waiting to be set up on a desk, just need a power supply for it.

Oct 23, 2013

Project: Truck

I've started to dig in on the truck. I found my extension bar and deep-well sockets, and got three of the four bolts off the "40" on the 60/40 back seat. The fourth one ... proved a bit reticent. It came part way out, and that was the stopping point.

Solution? Impact gun.

A few moments with the air power, and the last bolt came out. The reason it was so difficult? It goes through the body and is exposed to the elements underneath - and thus thoroughly corroded from six and a half years of New York salt. I sprayed it down with a bit of oil and worked it in and out of the threads a few times, and it's still gritty but moving freely.

Most of the stuff I want in my GHB has arrived and it's starting to come together.

The mobile radio in the truck was tested today, and even with the inexpensive Tram Antenna I'm using I made a contact on the K0GQ repeater (~16 miles straight-line) on 20W output. ("You're pretty snowy, but readable," sayeth the call sign on the other end.)

I'm getting excellent reception with the BaoFeng portable and N9TAX SlimJim, although I haven't made any contacts OUT - the 5W it's pushing just isn't enough to reach the nearby repeaters from inside the house.

Next on the list: mounting the remote head for the mobile in the truck. I've got a few locations in mind; I just need to find a piece of aluminum strap to bend as appropriate.

Also received a Bulldog Vaults BD-1100 ($22 at Buds Gun Shop), which is a VERY nice little vault. It is too small for a full-frame 1911, probably too small for a full-size M&P, but is plenty big enough for a J-frame, PM9, or similar. Only negative is the chintzy felted plastic lining; I'm going to pull that out and get some foam egg crate instead. It's a MUCH sturdier safe than the NanoVault boxes (I also have one of these), and once it's secured in the truck it should be both discreet and nigh-impossible to force open.

Stay tuned for pictures in the coming weeks. :-)

Oct 22, 2013

Amazon made a change...

I'm a lover of Amazon. I spend far too much money with them, but I can order things all at once that would take most of day driving around town to locate... and cost more in the brick store to boot.

Seems they changed their free shipping threshold from $25 to $35.

I don't blame them at all - I placed LOTS of orders that were in the $26-28 range, padding small orders with little things from the "it'd be nice" list to get over the limit. Even with the rates I'm sure they have arranged with their carriers, I wondered how they were making any money on shipping a several-pound box halfway across the country.

So ... small change, might slightly change my ordering habits, or it might get me to cough up the money for Prime for a year.

Oct 20, 2013

Callsign assigned

I got my callsign assigned.

No, I won't post it here. It's been put on the book of face, if you know me there - or you can send me an email and ask.


I've CQ'd a local 2m repeater a few times with no answers. I need to find a power supply and set up my second mobile in the house, then see about jumping in one of the nets in the near future. The next two weeks are a bit nuts, so it may not happen right away... but I'll get there.

I also ordered the programming cable for the mobile in the truck - no more entering letters with the knob; just set it up on the laptop and zap the radio. I'm sure that will help, as I only have two of the local repeaters in; there are closer to a hundred to get set up.
Wandered by the ammo rack at the Walmart in the next town this morning.

They had everything in stock... except .22LR.

The racks were loaded full; including bulk packs and ammo cans of 5.56. Good brass stuff is down to $0.35-40/rd again, if you buy bulk.

Now, if some .22LR would show, I'd be thrilled.

Oct 16, 2013

Gear dump!

A coworker found out I was getting into ham, and said, "Hey, I've got a bunch of stuff I don't use anymore - I gave up my license a while ago - you want it?"

Well ... yeah!

He brought in a box o' radios today and handed it to me. It's mostly last-generation stuff, but that doesn't change how well it works!

In the box:
- an iCom IC-T2H portable (2m, I believe?)
- a Kenwood TH-F6 tri-band portable (2m/1.25m/70cm)
- a Kenwood TM-D700 "digital communicator" mobile (2m/70cm, packet radio)
- a Yaesu FT-90 mobile

Some VERY nice gear in this box, and I have plans for some of it already. Stay tuned as that develops...

In a side note, the re-funding of the .gov means that the FCC should be processing applications again - but they'll have a two-week backlog to get through. Still, I'm hoping to have a callsign in the next ten days or so.

I've been playing with the BaoFeng UV-5R portable radio I got, combined with a roll-up J-pole antenna from N9TAX... Nice combo, and a very inexpensive entry into ham. (Radio plus antenna will set you back less than $60.) Reception with the antenna is crystal clear, and I hope to be transmitting soon.

Oct 14, 2013

A few radio thoughts

Now that I've had a few hours sleep (seriously - I got up at 4pm on Friday, worked overnight, took my test at 9am, and wasn't in bed until almost noon Saturday, then up again at 5pm for work stuff...), a few more thoughts.

The tests weren't hard at all. The test material is publicly available, so it's entirely possible to cram and regurgitate. That's roughly what I did, and I'm OK with that. The learning process sent me on a few wiki-wanders as I tried to figure out things like NVIS and Beverage antennas, a bit of electrical engineering, MOSFET, and so forth. There are a lot of folks that won't bother those wiki-wanders, and that's OK too.

The Extra exam definitely got into the hard-science side of radio - antenna radiation patterns, much more complex circuit diagrams, etc. Way over my head for the moment, but I'll pick it up. I'm hoping to have Extra nailed by the end of the year.

Back to the testing... it was at a public library about an hour from the house. The test team was four guys well into retirement. I think one other guy took the Tech exam, and there may have been a few others - I think the exam coordinator said there were four scheduled. I was out of it and didn't look around.

The examiners were a chatty bunch, which was moderately distracting. I found myself reading and re-reading questions a few times as key words in their conversation infiltrated my bubble.

I finished my exams, got my scores and CSCE ("you dun passed" paper), and an attaboy from the examiner. He noted that it's, "Much easier now, since they don't have the code test anymore. Back when I tested, Extra had a 20-wpm [Morse code] test, but I was a CW operator for the Navy so that was nothing." That was the first real-world taste of Ham Snobbery I've gotten.

Tonight in some down time I've done some reading on the demographics of hams. It's mostly anecdotal, but the popular wisdom is that many operators don't pick up a license until they're in their 40s and beyond. I'd believe it. Ham is not necessarily a cheap hobby to get into. Sure, a 2m set can be had for under $200, and with IRLP that'll reach most anywhere - but a good 10m (or longer wavelength) HF rig will easily run over a thousand dollars. Plus space for an antenna, etc... can it be done in an apartment? Sure. Many do. But having the space and financial wherewithal to do Serious Ham means it tends to be a Real Adult thing... or even more common, a Retired Adult thing.

... And then I managed to find this article discussing the fairly static numbers (per-capita-wise) of operators. And lo, the FIRST comment on the page:

I think (opinion, not statistics) that about a third of [new Tech licenses] would be the EmComm Whackers that get tech licenses so they can use ham radio in their jobs. They don't progress to an HF license because all they care about is Saving The World with minimal investment in the hobby.  
Another third are the CBers who get their Techs so they can use their modded CBs on 10 & 12 meters but don't want to invest anything else in the hobby. They're just sitting around and waiting for the sunspots to come back so they can shoot skip on their "extree channels" and in the meantime are still on CB  
The rest are just the usual ones who once they get their license have no interste in ever getting on the air. Those will all go away in about 7 to 10 years. In the meantime they spend their days on Hamsexy or EHam under anonymous logins.
Ouch. The next comment sums up my opinion nicely:
Sometimes I am surprised there is any growth at all in amateur radio. 
With attitudes like the preceding, it should surprise you. Grumbling about the no-code testing, bashing people who get a license because it's a job requirement, or who want to use radios differently from you... This attitude is the Fudd of radio. ("Those Cowboy shooters just want to play dress-up and pretend." "Those Modern Warfare kids don't know what a real rifle is." "Who needs more than a pump gun for anything?" "I'll never carry a plastic pistol.")

(I should note that the comments on that article are long and troll-filled, and come down on both sides of the fence.)

Here's my short piece of advice to long-time hams out there:
If you want to grow ham as a hobby, talking down to the new operators is not likely to help your cause. Belittling the new operator for buying a cheap Chinese portable without all the bells and whistles is not going to encourage him... It's going to get him to throw up his hands in frustration and stick the radio on a closet shelf and forget about it. Teaching him how to get the most from that portable until he can afford something nicer will take the hobby a long ways down the "growth" path, instead of slow death by attrition.

Indeed, I followed the herd in some regards and ordered a Baofeng UV-5R handi-talkie from Amazon. It's a $35 2m/70cm portable, with a fairly small memory bank and slow scan speed... but it's cheap, functional, and did I mention cheap? I added a programming cable for eight bucks, and now have all the local repeaters available in a radio the size of two decks of cards. More on that at a later date...

Oct 12, 2013

Ham update

Tested this morning.

The constant practice exams seem to have sunk in. I passed the Tech exam with a perfect score, and went on to General.

I did not ace General... I got a 33/35.

I took a swing at Extra. My lack of sleep and distractions in the test area caught up with me - along with the fact that I had done NO studying for it. I logicked my way to a 28/50, which was good but not passing.

Maybe in a couple months.

Of course, the FCC isn't processing licenses right now, so instead of being on the air by the end of next week, I'm in limbo until the government decides to start running again. *eyeroll*

But at least that's done.  :-)

Oct 9, 2013

Just another taste of freedom

I made a trade of my M&P for an LCP and some goodies.

The LCP was at the shop today, I stopped in, did the 4473, and walked out with the pistol.

No "purchase permit" or "purchase coupon" ... just ... normal gun purchase.

(I understand this is actually a fairly recent change for Missouri, as they DID require purchase permits until 2007.)

I also rather like this dealer ... he's cutting me deals left and right on transfers. It's a good thing.

Oct 8, 2013

Mostly for myself...

3/4 A-C
carpet + adhesive
1.5" angle
rigrunner block

It shall all make sense eventually.

Oct 7, 2013


No, not liquid X.

Get Home Bag.

Call it a 20-mile radius. What should be in it?


(I have my own thoughts and when I'm done building I'll share.)

Sep 28, 2013

Esoteric hobbies

I should have known HAM was going to be a rabbit hole.

Started with the mindset of, "It'd be nice to have the 2m/70cm stuff for aw-shit."

Then I started reading about HF and DXing (outside-the-US contacts), and realized the General exam isn't much of a jump from Tech.

Now I'm reading about QRP (how far can you reach on as little power as possible) and finding things like the SmallWonder Rockmite.

And SOTA (Summits On The Air).

There is something decidedly nifty about the idea of wandering up a hill/mountain with a half-watt CW transceiver and reaching out to someone a thousand miles away.

My Yaesu 7800 is here. A coworker has offered me some of his used gear, including a FT-90 ... which looks to be a nice size for a desktop/kit box setup.

Yep. Dangerous.

Except now I need to learn CW.

Sep 24, 2013

Another machine part...

... from York Arms.

Wally snapped a few pics of the latest run of receivers, including my Freedom Lower:

Left side:

Right side:

There are a TON more beautiful custom pieces over there. Click, go, look around ... order ASAP if you want one of your own, because Wally is predicting things to be a little tight soon.

Sep 23, 2013

A human being...

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."  -- RAH, Time Enough For Love

This is likely to be one of those introspective-type posts. Feel free to skip it by if that sort of thing doesn't interest you. Gun content has been at a low lately.

Somewhere along the line, I realized I was slowly ticking off the things on Heinlein's list... and specializing at nothing. It's been a routine for me throughout my life: find a new hobby, interest, etc; learn it well enough to be competent; shelve it as "can-do".

Sometimes this is useful, other times frustrating. I'm not ashamed of any of my skills. There are people out there who are far better writers than I. There are people who are far better photographers. Better shooters (with some overlap to the previously-linked!), better cooks, better healers, better seamstresses, better builders, better farmers, better hunters, better radio operators, better most anything you can name.

And I'm OK with that. No matter how good you are, no matter what level you're working or playing at, there will always be someone, somewhere, somehow, who can and will be better than you. Cassius Clay and Mike Tyson lost bouts. Tiger Woods lost tournaments. Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Hank Aaron, the list goes on and on. They've all lost to someone. Records shatter, streaks break - that's the way of things.

I just need to be "good enough". I think, in general, I am. I can wire and plumb a house. Change my oil or brakes. Butcher a critter. Be field-accurate with a rifle out to several hundred yards. Avoid botulism cultures in the fridge. Handle basic first aid. Fell a tree. (Useful concurrent skill set, there.) Do enough advanced math and physics to get by. Dig and plant a garden. Preserve food. Make cheese. Make bread.

Am I ever going to be another AD, Marko, Roberta, Tam, Jay, Peter, Robert, MrsZ, Pediem, or Brigid?

Of course not! That's them, and I'm me!

Am I envious of their abilities sometimes? Of course. Marko and Peter have people buying their work. Jay has a new gig that's damn near perfect for him. Roberta talks radios in ways that are WAY over my head. Brigid (aside from being a wicked smaht secret squirrel) is a fantastic cook. Pediem can set a bone, then go home and bake a couple dozen cookies that are to die for. I'd love to be able to do the things they do... but they're them. I'm me.

And I'm OK with that.

The latest tick-mark on the skill list? HAM. I'm studying for my Tech and General tests, sitting for them in just under three weeks, and fully expecting to pass both with no trouble. I've got a nice used dual-band (2m/70cm) mobile on the way and will eventually start looking for a HF for the long-distance stuff. If I'm comfortable with the General this week, I'm going to start cramming for Extra - because I might as well have it if I can get it. I might even learn CW - just so I can try it. Something about "talking" halfway around the world with a set that I can stuff in my truck is pretty damn cool.

Stay tuned. (Pun fully intended.)

Aug 31, 2013

Optics advice?

I'm in need of some optics - or at least thoughts on - for the HandiRifle mentioned in my last post.

Lightweight is key on this one, as is budget. I'm not putting a $600 Aimpoint H1 on a $300 rifle. (But a thousand-dollar suppressor? SURE!)

Since 300BLK is - particularly with subsonics - a short-range cartridge, I'm leaning heavily to a simple dot or holo sight. Leading contenders are:
- Primary Arms Microdot ($80)
- Lucid M7 ($200)
- Vortex SPARC ($190)
- ???

I'm vaguely tempted by the Leupold Deltapoint ($400) or even an EOTech, but that's really reaching into the same range as the Aimpoints.

Anyone have pros or cons for each of the above?

Aug 29, 2013

New boomer

I did a little horse trading and brought home the rifle on the bottom today. (The top one is an M&P15-22 for scale.)

It's an AAC HandiRifle in 300BLK, with their 51T flash suppressor/suppressor mount on the barrel. I've got the 5/8-24 thread protector tucked away.

This thing is LIGHT - a hair over 5lb without a sight - and tiny. The FFL I used measured the barrel to be SURE he was OK to transfer it. Beyond that, the LOP is about an inch and a half shorter than the 15-22; overall it's about 3" shorter.

I'll be adding some kind of compact optic to this; I'm leaning strongly towards a Primary Arms MicroDot. It just seems like the "right" fit for this rifle. Stay tuned for a range report...

No can yet ... but I will procure one eventually.

Aug 25, 2013

Best-laid plans...

... gone awry.

I have company for the weekend, so fate decided to give me a swift kick in the pants and I got mandated for overtime today.

There's a thousand-table gun show going on this weekend. I elected to skip it yesterday, since I was dog-tired and we weren't feeling motivated to do a whole lot. I had debated checking it out today. Ah well. Not to be. It runs again in October; I will probably try to check it out then.

The intended range trip for today has also been cancelled. We may try to do that tomorrow instead.

We DO have reservations for dinner tomorrow evening at Em Chamas. I intend to eat myself stupid on grilled meats.

I flipped a few things (see previous post, most of that is still around if anyone is interested) and have a new boomstick on the way. Stay tuned for that. I am considering trying CeraKote on this one.

Aug 22, 2013

Got a lead on a good deal on a nifty piece of equipment. Have some of the money, not all of it.

Anyone interested in a complete AR/A2 lower, Hipoint carbine, or Kabar Potbelly knife? drop me a note.

Aug 20, 2013

Gun-safe shuffle

I've shuffled around the order of things in the safe. I keep a rifle at the very front, with a full mag or two sitting on top of the safe.

I just changed that rifle from a 5.56 AR to the M&P15-22.

Let the flaming begin.

Aug 12, 2013

Another notch...

... not on the bedpost or the gunbelt, but on the freedom list.

Seems Missouri isn't afraid of automatic knives, aka "switchblades".

I've ordered a Boker Mini Kalashnikov to see how it feels. And ... because I can.

(I should note that ownership of autos was legal in NY, but actually carrying them was forbidden except while actively fishing or hunting.)

Aug 9, 2013


For the M&P15-22 owners out there ... For a while, magazines were hen's teeth. They're more common now but most places are trying for panic prices still.

Midway has factory 25-rounders in stock for $17.

Yes, I ordered a couple.

Aug 8, 2013

Fun silver

(A company I won't do business with) is releasing a "Zombuck" silver round next week.

Unlimited mintage but there is a cutoff date on orders. Right now looks like about $22/oz, which isn't a bad price for a round that will likely carry a premium in the future.

And, through 1700 today (the 8th), coupon code "ZOMBUCKFISH" will snag free shipping on any order that includes at least one of the Zombucks, saving you $6+.

Figured it was worth mentioning.

Aug 3, 2013

One for the prayer list, please

I just got email from Brigid, asking that I pass this along.

TinCan Assassin is in the hospital with some kind of heart issue; his wife passed the info to Brigid and will keep her updated. I'll post any updates I receive.

If you could keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers, light a candle, whatever, it'd be appreciated.

Updated 1953CDT:
TCA is stable and apparently Mrs. TCA is feeling a little better about things.

Jul 30, 2013


I've been shooting with a Canon EOS 30D for quite a few years now. Seven? Eight? Wiki says it was introduced in Q1 2005 and ended after Q2 2006, so at least seven years. I've taken tens of thousands of pictures, shot two weddings, and learned a lot about photography and myself along the way.

Unfortunately, it seems that camera has given up the ghost. It's only displaying a CF ERR message when I turn it on, and a closer examination makes it look like it's got a bent pin. It's probably repairable by someone who knows what they're doing, but I am not inclined to spend the money to do it.

I have a small selection of lenses and accessories that are Canon-specific, but not that much. If/when I buy a new camera, I'd be OK with swapping to Nikon if there was a good reason. I've always had good luck with Canon, though.

So, shutterbugs... what are you shooting and why?

Other things in a free state...

I've slowly been unpacking and sorting. I traded a few of my ten-round M&P9 mags for full-capacity mags, and simply dumped the contents of the short mags on a shelf until the new ones arrived.

I put all the ammo from two NY-compliant mags into one new standard-capacity... and still have room for three more rounds.

To my Tennessee brethren...

... would one of you please bash this man upside the head with a clue? He's not doing us any favors.

Leonard Embody arrested again

Seems this time he was wandering around downtown with an AR and can, and tugged the lion's tail a few times for good measure.

Jul 15, 2013

Seems the panic has subsided

... at least for the most part. The local Walmart has ARs of several flavors on the rack. A Colt LE6920/Magpul is right where it belongs at $1150. Bushamsters are there as well. Online classifieds are running stripped lowers at $140-150ish, which is a touch higher than last year but not unreal.

Still no ammo, though...

Jul 1, 2013

So long already?

Over the past few days, men have been pouring into the Pennsylvania countryside, coming down the Taneytown and Chambersburg Roads.

They are following not only their generals, but their hearts.

Names like Heth, Pickett, Meade, Buford, Hancock, Longstreet... and yes, Grant and Lee.
[Good catch, C-90. I do need to re-read.]

Today, and the next few days, etched a few words into our national history:
"The Wheatfield"

"The Peach Orchard"

"The Devil's Den"

"Little Roundtop"

"Bloody Run"

"Seminary Ridge"

"Pickett's Charge"

One hundred fifty years ago as I type this, the men of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac were a day into the Battle of Gettysburg.

If you haven't visited the battlefield, you should. Walk on Little Roundtop and think about the Rebel Yell coming up... or stand on the treeline in Pickett's ranks and imagine what motivation it would take to leave those trees and charge the Yankee lines - a mile away.

I visited the Battle of Lexington (MO) historic site here yesterday.

Now I understand why people say the war never ended...

Once Chamberlain had a speech memorized from Shakespeare and gave it proudly, the old man listening but not looking, and Chamberlain remembered it still: 'What a piece of work is action how like an angel!' And the old man, grinning, had scratched his head and then said stiffly, 'Well, boy, if he's an angel, he's sure a murderin' angel.'
-- Michael Shaara, "The Killer Angels" 

Jun 29, 2013

Someone already said it, but y'all write too much. Thanks. :) Feedly seems to be stuck ay "999+". I've marked a few "all as read" but working through many more. And I've got a few in the pipes - as soon as I have solid net access, probably this week.

Jun 24, 2013

One Week In

It's been a week (and a day) since I got here. Seven nights.

There have been a few down moments/days, but mostly it's been positive. I'm still calling New York "home" when conversing with coworkers. That habit will be a long time to break.

The piles of boxes are starting to shrink, albeit slowly.

The first week of work went reasonably well. I've got plenty of learning to do yet, as I try to sort out the geography and landmarks of a new area... but radios are still radios. We're far more involved here than I was at my previous center, which is a nice feeling. Coworkers have been great; pointing me towards places to go and away from things to avoid.

It's DAMN hot out here. Thank goodness for central air. Dixie and I are taking our walks either first thing in the morning or well into the evenings.

Gas service should (finally) be turned on tomorrow. I've been taking cold showers for a week and quite frankly, I'm tired of it. Seems the previous tenants weren't fond of paying their bills, and the gas company had to "investigate" to make sure I wasn't them with an assumed name.

There's plenty left on my to-do list - I need to get MO plates and license, take a CCW class, find car and renter's insurance, and eventually find a local bank... but none of those things are today's priority. Today I'm going to unpack a few more boxes and head up to the furniture store to see if they have any mattresses I like.

And last but not least... guns aren't a taboo topic here. They run a CCW class at the union hall monthly, a couple people have targets hanging in their offices, my landlord and I had a nice discussion on deer hunting... It goes on. Open carry is generally legal (although it can be locally regulated) so I don't have to worry about an accidental exposure...

And all my mags are back up to standard capacity.

Stay tuned.

Jun 18, 2013


Not gentry, but I have landed in Missouri.

I have an apartment in a town a bit east of the new job.

I have the dog with me.

I have all my guns and most of my ammo with me.

I do not have my wife with me... and that is very tough.

The drive was awful. I can't think of any better way to describe it.

I rented a 6x12 tandem-axle trailer from Uhaul, and it was as expected: Heavy. It did, however, fit most of the important stuff. The truck is rated for 5,000lb towing - and I suspect I was well over that when all was said and done. It survived the trip, averaging somewhere around 14.5mpg over 1,155 miles and a lot of hills. Now that the trailer is gone, it feels like a sports car.

Day 1:
I left the house at 7:15am, and drove through the hills of western NY at a stately 55-60mph, occasionally less. I got my teeth rattled out on the washboard of I86 in the Seneca Nation, then on into PA and free air. I tried to grab a picture of the "Welcome to Pennsylvania" sign, but the camera wasn't quick enough as I went by.

I stopped around 2 at Pediem's place for a bathroom, drink, and to stretch legs for a bit. Dixie appreciated the stop... By 2:30 I was back on the road west. On to Columbus, where we picked up I70 and smoother (flatter) roads. Traffic picked up some around there, but not too bad. I chugged across western Ohio and into Indiana, stopping for gas every 120-150 miles or so. Note: if you're going west on 70 in Indiana, there are some truly horrible potholes in the right lane in the first ten or fifteen miles. They have signs well before them, that say "ROUGH ROAD, USE EXTREME CAUTION". The signs should say "HEY STUPID MOVE TO THE LEFT LANE OR YOU MIGHT LOSE AN AXLE OR VOLKSWAGEN". I managed to get BOTH of the potholes with truck and trailer; if I'd been going any faster it might have been interesting.

I'd been intending to have dinner with Brigid, BRM, Wing, and Barkley - but timing was not going to allow it.  I was doing OK to meet for a drink and chat, until I70 came to a complete standstill at mile 110. As in, "shut off the truck and get out to stretch while you sit for 20-25 minutes" standstill. Once we were finally rolling again, it was far too late for dinner and bordering on too late to visit - but Brigid was again the gracious hostess and stayed up a little late, put a plate of food in front of me, scritched Dixie a few times, and let me babble at her, BRM, and Wing before I made my apologies and headed to my hotel for bed. (Side note to those present: sorry I wasn't more of a conversationalist. Totally wiped.) I checked in and crashed shortly after 11pm. Yes, sixteen hours on the road, to go 650 miles.

Day 2: Up early again, I was on the road by 7:15 once more, and just kept chugging. The drive across the remainder of IN and IL was uneventful. I stopped in St Louis for coffee with a dear friend, then continued west. I picked up a follower in the form of BabyBrother and his wife around Marshall, and they followed me to New Place to help me unload. We got here around 4:00 or so and had the trailer empty by 6:30.

I am still surrounded by boxes and chaos, but things are slowly getting organized. I'm learning where things are, I've met many of my neighbors, my new landlord seems like a nice guy...

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit homesick. The first 36 hours here were VERY tough. There may have been some overactive lacrimal glands once or twice. I went through Walmart to get a few essentials, and zoned out while standing in the cereal aisle trying to decide. The woman stocking boxes broke my reverie by asking me if I was OK or if I needed help finding something. ... When the Walmart lady is wondering if you're OK, there might be a problem.

There's a beautiful city park about a half-mile walk away, which Dixie and I have done both mornings since arriving. I've chatted with the other half of our duplex over a beer, and with the landlord over a beer - he lives three houses away. There are several firefighters and at least one cop living within a block or two. It's a pretty quiet neighborhood - very working-class, very good people, who have been nothing but welcoming to a stranger.

This has not been an easy process - in any way. Nor has it been cheap. My fun money will be zero until the house in NY is sold and MrsZ is out here and hopefully working some... but you know what?

I'm free.

You can't take the sky from me.

Jun 8, 2013

Movie Goofs

I can forgive a lot of movie errors in gun stuff. Bottomless magazines, clips/mags, cocking noise for a GLOCK, etc...

but ... I just watched the first four minutes of "End of Watch". Aside from it seeming to be an LAPD version of "Jarhead", the main character is doing a home-video type thing of getting ready in the precinct locker room.

Including holding up his, "department issue side arm, the GLOCK 19 9mm":

Click to embiggenate... but it says "GLOCK 22 .40" on the slide.

That really makes me grind my teeth tonight, for no apparent reason.

Looking back...

I'm on my last shift tonight.

I've been in this job for nearly eight and a half years.

I'd like to say I'm bittersweet about leaving, but the truth is - I'm not. I'm ready to go. It's time.

I've made a few changes that the next generations will hopefully enjoy, and I've made a small difference in a few lives along the way.

I expect I'll be touching a lot more lives over the coming years, as I change to another environment with similar work.

I've heard the good, the bad, and the ugly. I've picked up my share of demons along the way - I'm sure that MattG, LawDog, AD, and all the rest of the emergency services pros can identify. I've had a few calls I'll never forget - good and bad. Including this gem:

It was a major holiday. Which one doesn't matter; suffice to say it was a family-type holiday. I was working the evening shift, which tends to be calm until dinner is over, the two-buck-chuck has kicked in, and everyone starts dealing with (A) five-hour chest pain, (B) that time my cousin stole my phone, and (C) forgetting to turn off the stove.

It was still early in the shift, so we were kicking back, comparing notes on the dinners we'd all had with our respective families, watching TV, and so forth... until the phone rang.

"911, do you need police, fire, or ambulance?"


"What's the emergency?"

"Well, I guess I need the police."

(About this time, the address and name of the caller popped up on my screen. It was ... familiar.)
"OK, Jane Doe, what's going on tonight?"

"Well, you need to come over and tell her to stop!"

"Tell who to stop, and stop what?"

"The little colored girl who's stealing my bras!"

(Migraine salute begins.)
"I ... see. And where is she now?"

"Right there in the corner of the living room."

"Uh-huh. And can you ask her why she's stealing your bras?"


"Why not, Jane?"

"Well, she doesn't have a head, so she can't hear me."

(Enhanced migraine salute.)
"Right. (Pause.) Well, actually, Jane, we already talked to her."

"You did?"

"Yep, earlier today. She promised she wasn't going to steal your bras because it's a holiday."

"She promised?"

"Yep, she sure did!"

"Oh... well, okay then."

(Further migraine salute, and laughter.)

Was it proper call-handling? Eh. Debatable. I was quite familiar with the caller - Jane is a very sweet lady who occasionally forgets a dose of meds, and sees things. She's never been a danger to anyone (including herself), and her husband generally gets her back on a dosage schedule pretty quick.

If she'd called again, she'd have gotten a welfare check from a badge - but I was comfortable with how it went, and I'd probably do it again.

Little chuckles like that make up for an awful lot of acute tachylawdias, SOCMOBs, and all the other nasty shit I listen to.

Jun 4, 2013

Cleaning house

I'm digging through piles of stuff that has accumulated over the past several years, as we prepare to move. I'm unearthing a few things that I really don't need to move across a few more states, because I really have no use for them. Obviously, I want to send them to good homes... so here they are at bargain prices:

20 7.62x39 stripper clips with an AK guide. Yours for the cost of shipping, call it $6 for a small flat rate box.  SOLD.

Most of a box (originally 250) of Nosler .451 185gr JHPs. (I loaded a handful of rounds and didn't like how they shot in my GI 1911). Plus a few dozen no-name 230gr TMJs. $40 shipped.  Sold.

Leather ammo slide, holds a dozen .30-30 rounds. Well-worn, but still flexible. Some mink or Neatsfoot would go a long way. $10 shipped. Sold

Comments are moderated, so let me know.

Jun 2, 2013

New safe

In preparation for the impending move, we evaluated what stays and what goes. The gun safe I bought a few years ago was on the "it ain't going" list. It's large, heavy, and ... well, isn't that enough? Moving it would be awkward at best.

Accordingly, I put out some feelers, an ad on Craigslist and Armslist, and found a buyer relatively quickly. He picked it up yesterday.

This morning I went down to Tractor Supply and bought a new, smaller safe. It's not that much lighter - 500ish pounds as opposed to the 800 of the previous Cannon - but it's much more compact and much more secure. Twelve bolts on four sides, instead of four on one side. Full-swing door. Slightly higher fire rating...

I am pleased with it, and getting it into the house was remarkably uneventful. Most of the collection has been re-secured, and the remainder will be put away in the next day or two. I will probably be purchasing a steel cabinet for the low-dollar stuff, as well...

May 31, 2013

Look around...

You never know who's around you.
The words on the page leapt out at me: “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire … with no regard for personal safety … on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions.” It continued, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States …”  
“Holy cow,” I said to my roommate, “you’re not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor winner.”
Read the whole thing at NFO's place.

May 25, 2013

A few more arrivals...

I continue to be intrigued by the incredible variety of silver coins and bullion out there. Pick a hobby. If it interests you, there is almost certainly some sort of bullion coin to honor it. Wildlife? Flowers? Sports? Check, check, and check.

I sold some of my "junk" silver and turned into a few Canadian Maple Leafs and a few ounces of silver shot. I have plans for the shot, and the Leafs are beautiful:

I also ordered a few pieces of copper because the designs are beautiful. Copper is far from an investment metal (at least in raw form), but it does have value - as art if nothing else:

And last but not least, I traded for these specimens of Liberty Dollars. The guy whose signature adorns them - Bernard von NotHaus - has been convicted of various federal crimes and labeled a domestic terrorist for having the temerity to create his own currency. The actual creation of a currency is not the issue - there are many local currencies in use around the country - but the fact that it "may be confused with legal tender". He did very tricky things like putting the words "Liberty" and "Trust in God" on the coins he minted... which have since been confiscated by the federal government.

Apparently there is a New Liberty Dollar being minted now... and I fully intend to acquire a few.

May 24, 2013

Jennifer has wise words...

"Where have all the good men gone?"
You really think he’s going to keep buying all those drinks and dinners while you prattle on about the inherent misogyny of society? Or the patriarchy? That’s a great way to score yourself your very own beta male.

Just read it all.

I've been saying this for years. And I spent too many of those years listening to womyn who wanted an alpha male - that is to say, strong, popular, handsome, a leader amongst his peers - willing to become her own little beta.

Not me, sweetheart.

I had a woman (she was no lady, that's certain) snap at me once because I was holding a door for her. Not opening it for her; this was a mall or something and I happened to reach the door first. I simply held it open after I had walked through. She got to the door and snarked, "I can get those myself, you know."

I went through the next door ahead of her too - and pulled it shut behind me. Petty? Of course. Satisfying? In the extreme.

Fortunately, I got lucky and found a lovely lady who was willing to let me hold doors for her, buy her a drink, and listen to my babbling... in return, she holds doors for me, pushes me to be a better man, buys me a drink now and then, and babbles right back.

It's about partnership, folks...

May 23, 2013

Continuing apace...

The dash to the finish line is starting. I'm wrapping up projects at work and trying to document precisely where things stand so that some might be able to pick them back up in the future. Is that likely to happen? Unknown.

My exit leaves the department with about 2.5 FTEs open (or about 15%). Another person is out on short-term disability, one beyond that is scheduling a disability leave next month, and yet another is counting days to retirement.

Thirty percent understaffed, with no current candidates. Ouch. Much as some like overtime, there comes a point when it's just too much.

Things at home are wrapping up too. I've been sorting things for junk/donate/sell; starting with clothing. I'm up to two laundry baskets full of stuff to be donated, mostly shirts that I don't wear anymore. I've started listing the bigger stuff on craigslist - my kayak, golf clubs, and the like.

There remains a VERY long list of things to do in the next [mumble]. Packing. Dumpster. Cleaning. Selling.

Stay tuned...

May 19, 2013

Stubby P-Mags... because.

I went to the ArfCom Going-away party last night, at their new, never-really-opened retail store. You see, they're just as screwed by the new laws as the rest of us, and they're on the way to Texas.

It was a HELL of a good time. Thirty or forty people, good brews, a roasted pig, lots of good talk about a wide variety of topics, bonfire, camping... Much-needed relaxation.

I got a good look around the store, and picked up a few things... a Maxpedition bag I'd already ordered, a few t-shirts, an ArfCom-engraved Zippo, a few Maxpedition accessories, and ... can it be...

Oh yes, it can be.

A pair of ten-round PMAGs. I have a small stack of pre-94 aluminum mags in a safe place, and another small stack of new 30-round PMAGS waiting in Colorado ... but the truth is, I actually LIKE shooting with a ten-round mag when I go to the range. If you want to get prone, these are great. And when I have some free funds and I'm in MO, I'll add a few 20-rounders as well. Because I can, and because screw you, NY.

May 16, 2013

Big News - and a HUGE to-do list

I got the call this morning. I have been offered a job in Missouri.

I have conditionally accepted, pending my review of their benefits package, etc.

I have that information in hand, and tomorrow I'll go through it with MrsZ... but it looks good.

Real good.

It's quite likely that I will be living in Missouri within 30 days.

I am slightly freaked out by this idea, but mostly excited... and I have a lot of you to thank for it.

The support, both moral and on my multiple trips west, has been incredible. I got to meet a few more bloggers, not stay in impersonal hotels, and relax with My Tribe.

Now ... the hard part: divesting ourselves of four years of house accumulation, packing up, selling the house, and getting out.

Holy crap.

Deal Alert: Pseudo Pelicans

Over at UnholyCocktail. These are "Vault Case" brand, and have excellent reviews over at Amazon - and they're a HELL of a lot cheaper than comparably-sized Pelicans.

"Small" (-7) cases are $13-15, and should be just big enough for a J-frame or pocket auto. The -12 is much more conveniently sized for a medium- to full-size pistol with extra ammo, and has padlock loops for air travel.

It's worth noting that anything over the two-pistol size will incur per-item shipping charges, the -7 and -12 fall into flat-rate shipping.

I've ordered two -7s and a -12 - the 7s will get minimal "prep" gear and be tucked into my kayak and truck toolbox, and the -12 will be a grab-it or travel case.

(I don't get anything from the above link.)

May 15, 2013

Another Blogger self-published!

Marko put out his book not too long ago, and today, Peter - the Bayou Renaissance Man himself - has done the same thing.

Take The Star Road (The Maxwell Saga)

Kindle only, $2.99. I've got my copy, have you got yours?

Silver once more...

I've been tracking spot price pretty carefully at Kitco lately. Silver has dropped a little more and is hovering just under $23 right now.

What little research I've done on sourcing says that's about the point where the mines and refineries will start cutting production because the margin is too thin.

Can paper (spot) silver go down some more? Absolutely. Will it? Some say yes, some say no. I suspect it'll drop a little further, but not by much. (Although I've also heard rumors that tech factories in China are spooling back up and will increase demand, driving spot back up.)

Of course, paper and physical prices have diverged - physical is still selling at $26-28/ozt for generic bullion and $28-30 for government bullion.

So, if you were thinking of buying some silver for a rainy day, here's my advice:

Do it. Silvertowne still has free shipping on some items and Amagi Metals has very reasonable shipping.

Skip the dinner out and Starbucks this week and pick up 4 ounces of silver.

(I'm not a financial planner, advisor, or consultant, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night.)

This article/opinion, linked by Silicon Graybeard, is worth the read, if a little tin-foil-ish.

I'm not going to tell you to put ALL of your cash into silver. Keep a ready reserve on hand, always... but if you have some extra...

May 14, 2013

Bit more silver...

I traded into these, and snapped a few pictures last night.

First up, a 2013 "Panda".
These have a serious following, as they are absolutely gorgeous coins.



Second, a "Strategic Reserve" 1oz round. These have some history behind them. In the 1970s, the Hunt brothers along with a few other investors made a significant effort to corner the world silver market - and succeeded, with holdings of about 1/3 of the world's silver - at least on paper. The market and government made some rules changes, and the US Government decided that silver was no longer a strategic metal. Accordingly, they started releasing some of their holdings for sale, both to private mints and the US Treasury. (See "Silver Thursday" for the market effects.) The Continental Coin mint picked up a significant portion, and in 1981 struck the "Strategic Reserve" series from that silver. There are 1oz rounds and bars, 5oz bars, and 10oz bars... I'm still looking for a 1oz bar. ;-)



And finally, a 1921 Morgan dollar - the last year of mintage.


May 12, 2013

Today's gems

First, a quote from The Miller:
"A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because its trust is not in the branch but on its own wings..."

That's some deep stuff, right there. Take five and let your mind go down the rabbit hole.

And my not-so-deep thought for today...

The Great Seal of the United States has a 13-star-burst at the top. It reminds me a whole lot of the classic comic-book punches:

Seriously. All we need a cartoon TR going, "BIFF! POW!"

May 10, 2013

Friday Musings

Two posts from BRM got me thinking today...
First, some thoughts he has on the current ammo drought:
I've taken my own advice (from the article linked above), and cut down on the number of firearms I'm keeping, and rationalized the number of calibers/cartridges in my collection. On a limited budget, I don't really have a choice. On the other hand, the money raised by doing that has enabled me to build up my stocks in calibers/cartridges I really need, and I now find myself with sufficient for the next few years at least. By shopping around, and swapping ammo when possible rather than buying it, I've been able to achieve that without breaking the bank.
Wise words. I can't tell you the last time I bought ammo; I stacked what I could when I could in '10-'11 and can't say I've bought more than a few boxes here and there since. Other things in life have taken priority, like the house, paying down our debt, etc.

I occasionally look at the contents of the safe and debate what I could pare down, and there are definitely some that could be removed (anyone want a Hipoint carbine?) but I've pared down a lot of the excess-caliber stuff already. .22, .223, .300, .270 in the rifles, 12 and 20ga, and .38, 9mm, .40, .45 in the pistols. (OK, and one .44Spl wheelie, but that comes out during hunting season only.) The .17HMR went down the road, as did the AKlone and several .30-30s over the years. None of my pistols are anything remarkable, which means shipping them makes most deals less-than-a-deal. Other stuff has sentimental attachment - f'rex, my first shotgun is a plain-jane 870 SuperMag, but it's on the never-sell list.

So, yes, I could thin the safe if I wanted to - but it's been pared a fair bit already. I've toyed with paring the ammo stash, but there are limits to how low I'm willing to go - and to what end? Another few ounces of silver? A lower loan balance? Those things can come later, the ammo ... I don't know when I can replace that.

And secondly, What happened to sharing in the blogosphere? I'm not even going to excerpt it - just go read it. He makes a great point. I don't have a huge following, because what I write isn't THAT interesting to many. I check the sitemeter now and then, and once in a great moon it'll get Tam- or Uncle-lanched, but not often. I got linked by CommanderZero a couple weeks back, which was a noticeable uptick in traffic (thanks!) ...

but mostly I'm writing because I can, and because I enjoy it. I have a lot of stuff in my head that I just CAN'T share, which is frustrating. Like AD and LawDog and MattG, I have some fun stories from work - but I'm not comfortable with releasing them yet. And truth be told, I'm not half the storyteller any one of those three is.

But meantime - I hope you enjoy my brain droppings, and I'm going to make a sorta-promise to link to one of you hooligans in every post.

Maybe I will be... someday. :-)

Verrrry nice

Ran across this coin while looking for info on some other stuff. Now I want one. With a mintage of 15k, that's... slim. But I'll keep an eye out.

May 8, 2013

Flippin' silver

Looking to shuffle around some silver as things catch my eye. Thus, for sale:
- two rolls of Mercury dimes, $135/ea shipped/insured. Average circulated condition, some pretty worn.
- eight Monarch "Butterfly" 1/2oz rounds, $150 shipped/insured for the lot.

- 5oz Strategic Stockpile bar
- Taku
- ASEs/Leafs
- "Slave Queen" or "Freedom Girl" rounds

Drop me an email or a comment if interested.

ETA: Well, those are gone. If anything else hits the block, it'll be here. :)

May 7, 2013

Spring maintenance

Since spring seems to have finally arrived, we dug the mower out of the back of the shed, sharpened the blades, and I am keeping busy cursing the thing. Don't get me wrong - this mower is 25 years old and still runs (JD Green and made in Moline) - but it's more rust than metal now. If we weren't trying to get the house on the market, I'd be pushing hard for a new one. As is I'm still considering options for acquiring a newish one...

May 6, 2013

Proper Customer Service, two stories

First, my own experience:
I ordered some silver from Montana Rarities a few weeks ago. An extra piece arrived with the order, and I emailed the owner to find out what he wanted to do. He eventually got back to me, apologized for the delay (it's been busy in the PM market), and suggested a couple options. Perfect.

Second example, from the Larue forum on Arfcom:
Guy buys a used Larue scope mount on a classified ad. It arrives and looks hinky. He posts pictures, asks, "is this real?" and waits. Less than two hours later, the company owner pops in, declares it counterfeit, and offers him a new-in-box exchange for the counterfeit so his flying monkeys can work over the fake.

What's the common thread? Meeting (and exceeding) expectations. Montana Rarities isn't the cheapest silver seller on the 'net; they seem to be $0.50-$1.00 higher per ounce than the big shops - but the owner answers the phone and his emails. Larue charges dearly for their products, but they stand behind them - and even behind products that aren't theirs.

Yes, a Larue bipod and mount is still on my wish list.

May 2, 2013

I spent most of last week on the road for BabyBro's wedding. MrsZ and I got to meet Brigid and Barkley on the trip out, and another evening with the always-gracious pediem and ThotPD on the way home.

Aside from that, it was a LOT of seat time. Near-on 2,700 miles in five and a half days of driving. The rental - a Nissan Altima S - racked up a very impressive 36mpg average for the trip (and I'm not known for a light touch on the go-fast). It wasn't *quite* as comfortable as the Toyota Camry from the first run west, but it was decent.

The interview seemed to go well; I'm keeping my fingers crossed for further news on that soon.

If this move actually happens, I'm beginning to think I will thin the safe out a bit more than I otherwise might. Very little in there is truly irreplaceable, and I'm not keen on the idea of moving *mumble* guns 1,200 miles and into an apartment.

Apr 18, 2013

Silver arrived

Again, kudos to Mark at Montana Rarities - I ordered Monday morning, made a change to my order Monday afternoon, and the order was still waiting at my post office Wednesday afternoon.

I stopped in and picked it up this morning, and did a quick inventory. Mark sent me one extra piece; I have emailed him to ask how he'd like to handle it.

The bullion is neat, but the coins ("junk" silver) are what really fascinate me. I got both quarters and dimes; all are pre-1964 so contain 90% silver - about 0.71 troy ounces per dollar of face value. I found a few Liberty (Barber) dimes amongst the Mercury dimes - worn nearly smooth, but some of it is still legible. In particular, the "1892" date stamp. It's nifty to think about how many hands that dime has gone through, how many pockets it's sat in... Worn as it is, it may be worth more as a collectible than as junk silver. I'm no numismatist, so I'll have to look.

Most of the quarters I got are 1940s through 1964, although I did spot a few "Standing Liberty" quarters from the 20s.

Here's my advice, and it's worth what you paid for it: if you have disposable cash, putting it into tangibles is not a bad idea at all. Could I have skipped a small pile of rounds and just gotten a 10ozt bar or two? Sure. But if I end up trying to trade this stuff down the road, it's pretty tough to buy a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs with a 10oz bar. A few silver dimes? No sweat.

And because it was worth a shot, a few pictures. Quality isn't superb - I need to fiddle with positioning and lighting and removing the cat hair - but they're pretty representative.

Apr 16, 2013


One brief word of wisdom:

Be VERY careful who you buy precious metals from. That guy on ebay with a new account? Not a good bet. Reputable retailers or local shops? Better bet.

And that's all I'm going to say until later this week, when I might try my hand at some macrophotography of coins.

Hedge, a recommendation

I'd been doing some digging over the past couple years on sources for silver. is well-known and -regarded in the precious metals world, and tends to have fair pricing. I'd also found multiple references here and there to, not only for good selection but for their monthly purchase plan.

I skimmed through both sites, and ended up ordering from Montana Rarities. I ordered a small assortment of "junk" dimes and quarters, and a small selection of non-coin bullion - that is, assayed silver from private mints without a face value. In my ordering process, I mis-clicked one bar for another, and didn't notice until I re-read my order confirmation email in the afternoon. The price difference was measurable, so I took a chance and called them up.

I spoke with Mark, who sounded tired (in his words, "We've been slammed today!*") but was cheerful and helpful. I explained what I'd done, and asked if there was any way he could change the order. He checked current inventory and pricing at the time of order, and found he'd owe me a small refund. I asked if he could make up the difference with a few of the smallest bars they have - five-gram pieces. He did some fast math, and agreed to do that with no quibbling.

The computer decided to argue with him, so after a minute or two of trying to convince it, he said, "You know what? If you don't mind an incorrect invoice with a hand-written note on it, I'll do it that way and go pull this order myself as soon as we're off the phone."

I got the shipping notice last night. My silver should be here by the end of the week.

That is exemplary customer service, and they have just guaranteed a long-term customer (that monthly plan is next on my list).

As an aside: I ordered early in the day. The silver market did strange things yesterday, and my order went in around $24/oz. By 7pm the market had dropped to $22/oz, and as of now it's back to almost $24. Yes, I could have tried to watch and time the drop for bottom, but I didn't have time for that. Buying PMs for a hedge means accepting some risk or potential for lost capital. I don't expect we'll ever see silver at $8-10/oz again. Under $20 is possible albeit not very likely. Over $50? I suspect that's more likely than the low end.

* - the other thing Mark mentioned was that while the market was falling, all his calls were not people panicking and trying to get out - they were people buying as quick as they could. This suggests to me that people are definitely not interested in switching their hedge funds back to cash, and will accept a pretty hefty short-term loss to protect their capital in the long run.

Apr 15, 2013

Ammo report

On my drive home, I decided to take a swing through the Cabelas in Hazelwood, MO. It was early in the day for them, and the store was nearly empty - although there was a "take a number" line at the gun counter. Pistol displays were thin but stocked. I didn't even look at new long guns.

Used long guns? Ouch. A handful of beat shotguns for outrageous prices (f'rex, a corncob Ithaca 37 in *rough* shape for $450), and quite a few boltguns. No Mosins, Springfields, or much of anything "tactical" (.223, .308, etc). A few varmint rifles in oddball calibers - .22-250 and the like. And LOTS of Mausers in various flavors. Turk. Argentine. 8mm. 7.92mm. All the prices I checked were north of $500. I don't know the market for those, but they seemed ... high.

Zip .22. None.

Lots of .17HMR, and almost as much 7.62Nagant.

None of the common pistol calibers - 9mm, .40, .45, and .38/357 were cleaned out. There were a half dozen lonely boxes of Buffalo Bore 10mm-Heavy.

Rifle ammo: "hunting" calibers were plentiful - .270Win, the various belted magnums, .243, and .30-06. I didn't see any .308 on the shelves. There were a couple dozen boxes of higher-dollar and a couple boxes of low-dollar low-weight .223. LOTS of 7.62x39 - all Herters-labeled steel, but lots of it, at about $6/20. A fair pile of 54R, also Herters steel, around $8/20.

Shotgun: Plenty of everything. Cases of Rio sport loads (#6-#8 shot) were on sale for $70. There was a rack full of Rio #00 buckshot cases, no price visible. Individual boxes of 25 were marked for $19, so I'm guessing a case would run $170-180ish.

Ammo purchases were limited:
- 100 rounds or 1 brick of .22.
- 5 boxes of centerfire rifle ammo.
- 3 boxes of pistol ammo, if memory serves.

Reloading stuff was picked over - there were presses and other gear, but components and dies were thin for major calibers. Oddball and hunting stuff still had a good selection.

I left with a new IWB holster for the M&P and a jar of their honey-pecan seasoning.

Hedge part 2

After some careful discussion with the CFO (aka MrsZ), we decided to put some money into tangibles. Beyond the accumulated brass and lead, that is.

I had a small 401k floating around in never-never land from an employer I left more than ten years ago. I never rolled it over, moved it, or did anything with it. The value hasn't increased appreciably in most of those ten years.

Therefore ... I cashed it out. I took the hit on value and taxes, and dumped the entire remaining amount into silver. Mostly bullion, but a fairly sizable pile of "junk" silver as well.

For those who don't quite get precious metals: I am not speculating, I am not investing, I am not hoping the prices go up... I am hedging. I will have a small amount of a tangible product tucked away that is relatively inflation-resistant. If we go all Weimar-Republic in the coming years, I'll still have a little bit of value tucked away.

(And that is why I got some junk silver in addition to bullion rounds: a mercury dime has about 0.07 troy ounces of silver content, which makes it handy for trades on smaller stuff.)

And yes - I'm planning to gently increase the storage on a regular basis.

Apr 14, 2013

NRA meeting Houston... a favor

Can one (or more) of you going to Houston ask one of the Remington reps why they sold their souls to the .gov?

For what it's worth, my first gun was a Remington 597. My first centerfire rifle was a Remington 710. My first shotgun was a Remington 870.

I've added another 870 and an 1100 to my safe in the past few years. I'd been pondering an 11-87 or VersaMax for more utilitarian work.

Remington's decision to stay in a state whose residents can't buy many of its guns means I will not buy another new Remington product.

Damn shame, because I happen to like my 870s. I'll just have to check the used racks at Gander, Cabelas, etc, for well-loved ones.
I just sorted and re-boxed a whole lot of ammo.

The odd thing is, the cabinets don't really look any emptier.

Hedge time

I think ... it's time to look at some careful hedging.

Apr 11, 2013


A Mosin-Nagant. Shooter-plus grade. (No safe queens here.)

Preferably a 91/30 (or two) with the bayonet. Oiler etc don't matter as much.

I'll happily trade some ammo, or p'raps something out of the safe. (I'd make negotiations towards the Hipoint 995...)

Let me know if you have one or have a line on one.

And feel free to mock me for not getting them from AIM while I could. *sigh*