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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Survival Deal Alert: 6 Pack of Solar Lights $6.97 + tax at Sears.com

6 pack of solar lights for $6.97 (was $24.99)
If you are looking for some solar lights to brighten up your garden or walkway, these are light and durable. I use them as a border around my backyard grass and in the corners of my gardens.

Product link at Sears.com

Product Description

6-Pack Solar Metal Walk Light with Plastic Globe, Pewter LZ512-6

Monday, May 30, 2011

Alert! Mountain House Easy Meal Combo Kit at Costco Cheap!

Easy Meal® Combo Kit $339.00

302 Total Servings
18 - #10 Cans

Item # 528480
RatedOverall Rating
4.9 out of 5
4.9 out of 5
Rating Snapshot (16 reviews)
5 stars 16 of 16(100%)customers would recommend this product to a friend.
$339.99
Shipping & Handling included *



The Easy Meal package contains 18 #10 (gallon size) cans. See below for package contents:
Breakfast Case:
  • 1 can of Scrambled Eggs with Ham & Red & Green Peppers (17 servings)
  • 1 can of Breakfast Skillet (10 servings)
  • 1 can of Granola with Milk & Blueberries (20 servings)
  • 1 can of Scrambled Eggs with Bacon (16 servings)
  • 1 can of Raw Egg Mix, Butter Flavor (50 servings) – Requires cooking
  • 1 can of Sliced Strawberries (16 servings)
Entrée Case:
  • 1 can of Lasagna with Meat Sauce (10 servings)
  • 1 can of Pasta Primavera, Vegetarian (11 servings)
  • 1 can of Beef Teriyaki with Rice (11 servings)
  • 1 can of Beef Stroganoff with Noodles (10 servings)
  • 1 can of Chicken Teriyaki with Rice (9 servings)
  • 1 can of Chili Mac with Beef (10 servings)
Ingredient Case:
  • 1 can of Cooked Diced Beef (15 servings)
  • 1 can of Cooked Diced Chicken (14 servings)
  • 1 can of Cooked Ground Beef (18 servings)
  • 1 can of Garden Green Peas (23 servings)
  • 1 can of Golden Sweet Whole Kernel Corn (22 servings)
  • 1 can of Cut Green Beans (20 servings)
I utilize instant email alerts (which go straight to my droid) on certain survival items. This Mountain House deal came to my droid about an hour ago. I've already purchased this kit (soon after the alert.)

If you are in the market/need for this type of item, please don't hesitate. #10 can from Mountain House are getting VERY hard to find. Not only is it available right now online via Costco but shipping is included AND you don't have to have a membership. My understanding, by reading the reviews on Costco's website for this item, is that they simply charge you a little extra if you don't have a club membership.

It won't last long. These aren't even being sold on MH's website. See for yourself.

Mountain House Easy Meal Combo Kit from Costco $339 + FS
Update: Recieved my box a few days ago. Well packaged and no problems. Thanks CostCo and Mountain House! 18 #10 cans of premium freeze dried food going into storage.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Newest Member of Our Family

I sooooo wish I had kids to play with....
Wifey and I had just talked about getting a dog less than a week ago. We have no animals in our home. We discussed rabbits (I love Emily's hotots), pot belly pigs, chickens and dogs.

Summer is here and the kids will be bored out of their minds...even if there is tons of stuff to do. Its time to teach the kids some animal responsibility. Sure enough, shortly after our conversation regarding what kind of animals we'd like to add to our family, a little facebook post popped up.

Turns out, a long time female family friend has a Cocker Spaniel that is in need of affection. She has had him for all of his eight years and feels he is depressed since her father died earlier this year. The father had moved in and become a daily companion to the little furry guy. After the father's earthly departure, the owner felt the pup just hadn't been the same.

We took the whole family over for a meet-n-greet after our visit to the National Memorial Cemetery for a Memorial Day flag decorating ceremony. I knew immediately he was what we were looking for in a family dog: calm, not a puppy, medium sized and house broken.

But I couldn't show my excitement. I drove the family home and begun the negotiations. Who will clean up? Who will feed and water? Everyone eagerly volunteered to help take care of our newest family member. I probably should have gotten it in writing. ;-)

We picked him up today, along with all his belongings, and brought him home. He has spent the last several hours sniffing out the house and his new backyard.

The kids haven't stopped touching him. The big argument now is who gets to sleep with him. Welcome to your new home Kohl.

Remove Mac Guard Virus aka Mac Defender via Intego VirusBarrier X6

Dad Fix Tip #6: How to Remove a Mac Virus

Well well. Seems the Might Mac isn't so impenetrable after all. Now, for the second time in history, the Mac community has found itself in the throws of viral attack. How did I find out? It showed up on Wifey's MacBook

Sneaky little virus too. When you get it, the webpage it shows looks just like the Mac Finder interface (see image, CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW.)



It attempts to fool you into thinking you are being instructed by your Mac to download a protection or antivirus tool. If you click on the link provided, you will see the following image:


 If you click the Continue button as directed, you will download a program called AVRunner (avsetup.pkg). Now, unlike the previous variants of this fake antivirus, no administrator’s password is required to install this program and it will automatically execute.

Two things you need to do:

Step One: Quit Safari (close it). Disable your Mac's factory default option that allows Safari to autorun any "safe" download. in Go to Safari’s General preferences tab and uncheck the “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” option.

Step Two: Download Intego VirusBarrier X6 and run it. It will tell you if it detects a virus. Then, follow the prompts and you're done. It took me less than five minutes to fix Wifey's Mac.


Done.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Ceremony & Job's Daughters

National Memorial Cemetery Memorial Day Flag Decoration
It is the first weekend of summer break for my eldest daughter. Two more have their last day of school this coming Wednesday. So, what's the best way to start a summer break?

Getting up at 5 A.M. on a Saturday.  ;-)

My oldest three daughters participate in a young women's group called Job's Daughters. The "Jobies" gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery in Cave Creek, Arizona at 7 A.M. this morning for a special flag ceremony. It was about a 50 minute drive for the eight of us but well worth the trip.

Several attendants were on site handing out bundles of American flags. Each grave site was adorned with one flag and all 10,000 plots were decorated. We watched as our girls walked up and down the rows, helping each other to place the flags.

There was such a tremendous turn out of volunteers, the entire cemetery was decorated in under 40 minutes! I was amazed and humbled. This was our first year to participate and I'm sure it won't be the last.

Thank you to all the men and women who served this country.

Salute!

Job's Daughers Bethel 13, Mesa Arizona

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The College Scam: Debt AND No Job

I grew up being told by those around me that all that life had to offer was more readily available to those who took the time to earn a college degree. High school counselors were quick to point out that over a person's lifespan, more money would be earned if I had a college degree as opposed to only possessing a high school diploma. Heavily touted were the Ivy League or elite colleges such as Yale, Duke and Harvard among others.

I started college a year after high school. I was 19 years old and on my own. Housing wasn't too hard to find and I quickly settled in to a quiet, sleepy little college town of about 15,000 people. About 5,000 of that population was the college.

It didn't take long to figure out that the lack of jobs in town was due to the large population of students in the area. I still managed to land a few odd jobs at a corner store and the university cafeteria and library. The problem with these minimum wage jobs was they barely covered living expenses, let alone college tuition.

I met with a financial advisor from the regional university in the town of my new residency. It was there that my life changed forever. It changed forever and I didn't even know it. At least, not until more than a decade later. That was the year I learned about student loans and began to acquire debt.

Up until this time, the only debt I had was $1500 for the 1983 Camaro I was driving. Grandma had co-signed with me a few years earlier and my payments had always been made on time (no way was I going to let Grandma down.) I was almost debt free and didn't really know what freedom I (almost) had at my fingertips.

I was "awarded" several student loans from different entities within weeks of my financial advisor helping me to fill them out correctly. The paperwork was daunting but with the aid of a professional, it only took about twenty minutes. The best part, or so I thought, was that the "awards" not only covered my university tuition AND my books and fees but it also allowed me a little extra for living expenses. SWEET!

I had very little credit history but to my knowledge the student loan companies didn't even ask about previous credit or credit scores. Just have the school fill out their portion of the document, sign on the dotted line and wait for the money to come.

And the money came. And it came. Semester after semester, I continued to pass my classes and proceed to the next year. Freshman and Sophomore year were a blur of lectures and tests. It was during my junior year that I moved from Oklahoma to Arizona, thus switching to the lavish Arizona State University. Ah, the palm trees and sunny weather. I hardly noticed the increase in tuition expense with so much going on around the ultra-large campus (remember, I came from a small town.)

ASU quickly got me in the fast track to financial aid. Their process was so streamlined, I could do most of it by dialing an automated telephone line. Aid continued to ebb and flow. I rented a condo here and shared a four bedroom house there. Towards the end of my college "career" I met my wife, in a class at ASU. Needless to say, my education was reduced to summer classes only during the last few semesters as we begining to have children.

When it was all said and done, I beamed with pride as I held my Bachelor of Science degree. I had accomplished what everyone told me I should do. My mother and father had Bachelor's degrees and now, so did I.

Now what?

For the sake of time, I'll just tell you that they jobs I held after receiving my degree, for the most part, had NOTHING to do with my degree. I managed a smoothie bar in a health club. I sold Toyotas at a car dealership. It seemed as though my job income was slowly falling below the needs required to support a growing family. We were starting to run late on bills.

That's when the student loan companies began to call inquiring about my repayment options. Oh, did I mention I racked up $80,000 in student loans? Yep. $80,000 for my Bachelors degree. There was no way I could afford to pay that back at this time. Luckily for me, or so I thought, I was introduced to a process known as deferment.

Deferment means the student loan company will let you "skip" your monthly payments for usually six months to a year. You don't have to pay a dime but the interest continues to accrue. "Sure, I'll defer. I should have a better job in a year. After all, I have a Bachelors degree."

I am now indebted for the rest of my life. Indebted to an entity which has been taken over by the federal government. If I don't make my payments, it will eventually be garnished from my wages. Laws were passed to make it impossible to file bankruptcy on federal student loans. I believe it is the only thing that can not be washed away by a bankruptcy.

Am I making more money now? Yes, because I went back to school again...twice. This time I learned two trade skills: Radiograhy and Sonography. It is because of these trade skills that I can now "afford" to have a family. The kicker: Sonography only cost me $6000 for the whole two year program.

I'll never understand how a government can impoverish its young people by offering them loans with no credit worthiness necessary to get approved. Enslaving us to be doomed to pay back loans for decades to come with no REAL guarantee that we'll even get a job.

Mac Slavo's recent title says it all: "Nowhere to Go: 85% of College Graduates Will Return Home Jobless

It is one giant College Conspiracy and EVERY student from junior high and up should watch the documentary detailing how we've been scammed about colleges all along.



Now, I'm NOT saying don't get educated. I'm saying don't take out student loans to do it.

Luckily, for now, student loans die with the borrower. It won't be passed down to my children when I depart this earth. That's a good thing...because I just may still have a balance when I die.

I GOTS NO KLOUT!

CAN I GETS A BAILOUT? I GOTS NO KLOUT!
Sorry for the poor grammar in the title, I just couldn't help myself. I picked up a really cool linkback gadget from Bacon and Eggs.  The linkback gadget automatically posts linkbacks to everyone who visits my blog. Likewise, it lets me see who has been here.

Yesterday, while checking out the linkbacks, I noticed a URL that I didn't recognize. So I did what any other person would do that doesn't worry about downloading viruses, I clicked on it :-).

Turns out, Claire Wolfe over at Backwoods Home gave me a flattering shout out in a recent blog about Situational Awareness. Thanks Claire! This one blog post has sent over 60 people to my blog and it is really exciting to think that someone else is enjoying my writings. If you read my work you'll see that I'm still developing a writing style but I'm having a great time in the process. I'd also like to think that all those English classes in college might turn out to be useful after all (my fav was ENG 301 Writing For The Professions.)

Anywho, while soaring on cloud 9 thanks to Claire, I happily clicked on another unfamiliar blog analytic URL. This one, turns out, was a reader brought to my blog by Google. This reader went to Google and typed in the search terms "dad blogs." Another Hooray! I was #6 on the Google results for Dad Blogs. This is all silly, of course. I'm somehow justifying in my mind that the popularity of my blog would indicate that my writings are worthy of reading. I can dream, right?

Sure enough, I poked around long enough to find out how NOT popular I am. In the same "Dad Blogs" search mentioned above, and in a result higher than my #6 placement, was a blog post titled The Top 50 Dad Blogs. Was I listed? Of course not. I haven't been blogging for years and years like most successful bloggers so I chalked that loss up to being new in the field. But wait, as I read the Top 50 blog post, the capitalized word "Klout" keeps getting mentioned. Klout?

Turns out the Top 50 Dad Blogs were picked solely on their Klout scores. What's a Klout score? That's what I said...so I had to Google it. Appearantly there's some sort of ranking system based on your activity on Facebook and Twitter. I don't know about anybody else but I was sick of Facebook a year after it came out. I thought for sure people would be sick of it by now. Guess not. I don't even have a Twitter account and haven't planned on getting one.

So, just when I thought I was all that and a bag of chips, turns out...I ain't gots no Klout at all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Did You Say BOWLING BALL CANNON?

The long range table of goodies.
While I'm not quite as busy as Rambling Anne and her mad transplanting, I accomplished more than I intended this weekend. As I'll happily proclaim a billionth time, I can now enjoy weekends off after working my arse off for most of 2010.

One of numerous things I did this past weekend was attend a shotgun shoot with my church. This was my first time going with fellow church members and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Past experience (at non-church events) told me we'd be shooting tons of ammo at metal plates and other random targets like discarded bottles, signs etc.

Boy was I wrong. First off, there were three shooting areas set up: long range, shotguns, and handguns. The table displaying the rifles was so captivating, I had to take a picture. Not only were there tons of different models to try out but there was plenty of ammo and various targets. I must have (attempted) to shoot around 50 clay pigeons myself. I also took my turn hand throwing (hand throwing device, not tossing by hand) and a few spring-loaded throwers to the tune of another 50 pigeons.

But one of the best parts of the event was when the bowling ball cannon was brought out. It looked like a large CO2 tank cut in half. Mounted on a large anchor and heavy spring, the tank was first loaded with gun powder followed by a bowling ball. I was told it would launch the ball around 400 yards and I believe it. What a spectacle to see that ball explode from the tank.


Ad hoc bowling ball cannon.

We had bountiful refreshments on hand.  Did I mention there were so many bakery muffins that I got to take 12 home to the kids? Dad was the hero of the day when the kids got chocolate chip muffins the size of large grapefruits.

"Practice makes perfect" as the saying goes. Survival skills needs to be practiced ahead of time, not just WTSHTF. I'll gladly go shooting any time I can.  I enjoyed myself so much, I didn't even mind the hot pink shotgun shells ;-)

Hot pink shotgun shells, must have been on sale...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

CraigsList + $25 = Happy Wifey (aka Win-Win)


.
An urgent call was heard yesterday at the OJD house. "We've got to go!" Wifey found something she was looking for on CraigsList and felt if we didn't leave right away, someone else would snag the deal. I had already been out shooting all morning, which I'll blog about in a bit, and was surely ready for a relaxing break on the couch.

I couldn't relax however, knowing that Wifey would be heading to an unknown house, with unknown people living there. Safety first. So I drove. Misguided by our Verizon GPS, we finally found the house. A man stood in the driveway next to his pickup truck. We both exited the vehicle and Wifey asked where the item was located.

Pointing to the old sewing machine table already loaded in the back of his truck, the man said "Right there." My puzzled look prompted him to say that he was just about to take it to the dump. Seems he had already listed it four times and had no buyers. It belonged to his mother and had been collecting dust in the garage. He didn't know if it even worked but he wanted it gone.

Wifey jumped up in the truck bed, spent about ten seconds looking at it and exclaimed "I'll take it!" I whispered to her "You should haggle the price." She looked at me like I had a third eye on my forehead and handed over the full amount: $25.  A few more words with the man and he gave us a free VCR from the truck bed as well. We loaded it up and brought it home. Turns out, everything works fine. The drawers were all filled with countless sewing supplies. I noticed a spool of thread in one drawer which had a $0.40 price tag from TG&Y. There was a wooden spool or two and numerous other items I couldn't begin to tell you what they were.

All I know is that for $25 and less than an hour of drive time, Wifey is extremely happy. That's what I call a "Win-Win."

For more pics, see Wifey's blog (now linked.)(now corrected, grrrr)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blogging For Food

I'd like to give a BIG shout-out and thanks to everyone that posted a link to the Sowing Millions Project hosted by Seeds of Change. Thanks to everyone for taking their time to blog and share their experiences with the world.  I am happy to share a picture of the numerous bags of seeds we received in the mail yesterday.

The seeds were free and we just paid a little for shipping. Boy, was it worth it! I have over 25 packets of different veggies and flowers (duplicate bags were laid on top of each other to save space for the picture.) And heirloom too! I am grateful for the blogs I have found and the new friends I have made on these blogs.

Thanks again...and happy blogging.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How To Buy A Car Without Getting Scammed

Business is business, some might say. If people are dumb enough to pay too much for a car then why shouldn't a dealership make a profit on them?  In my opinion, this is taking advantage of a person's lack of knowledge in a particular area and certainly doesn't mean they can afford to be taken advantage of. There will always be greedy people, I just hope this helps someone buying a car to navigate the transaction.

I was in need of a job near the end of my twenties and I had not yet acquired the many healthcare skills I now possess. Having grown up with a family steeped in the automotive industry, I was drawn by a newspaper job advertisement to seek employment with a local Toyota dealership.

I had no previous car sales knowledge but was willing to learn. The dealership sent new recruits to training seminars where I learned basic salesmanship. Keep track of everyone you talk to. Call them until they "buy or die." Cold call sales and friends/family referrals were pushed as potential buyers. The standard sales tips and tricks found in most "How-to sell" type books.

What I didn't learn until I got knee deep into car sales was how greedy and unethical this business truly was. And these unethical behaviors came from top management. It wasn't just lowly snake oil salesman trying to eek out a living. Our General Sales Manager was advocating this garbage.

I'll list these in the order that the scam goes down. First, note that cars which have been on the lot too long tend to have a sales BONUS. In order for a Sales Manager to encourage his sales team to push the not-so-appealing cars, he pays out an additional cash bonus to the team member that sells the unwanted. So the sales team is skewed from the get-go...meaning THEY want to sell you a specific group of cars, not necessarily the cars YOU want.

The Price Negotiations Scam
Let's say you've finally picked a car you want to buy. The people you are doing business with have NO idea what kind of intelligence you have. Just in case you are a complete moron, they are first and foremost going to offer you a price that is rediculously high just on the off-chance that you take the first offer handed to you. I actually saw this personally happen ONCE during my time as a car salesman. I offered full sticker price on a Toyota SUV. The lady turned to her 16 year old son and said "Do you want this one?" He emphatically said yes and she bought it. No haggling at all. Needless to say, I sat there stunned. When I went back to the sales desk to tell my sales manager (thinking I had done a great job), he mumbled that we should have offered a higher price. These guys weren't happy until they stripped every last red cent out of a customer. And this is just the first part of the negotiations.

In the event that you don't accept the first offer, the salesman parades back and forth between buyer and Manager. The salesman returns to the table, says the boss likes the way you negotiate and with a big, fat permanent marker writes the latest "these are the best we can do" numbers on paper. If you say the sales price is too high, they lower it but raise the monthly payments. If you can't afford those monthly payments, they lower the monthly but raise the total. When that doesn't work, they say you must raise the down payment. This can go on for hours. If you don't settle on some numbers and attempt to leave the negotiations, they send in a Closer.

A Closer is usually a veteran car salesman. He has negotiated deals long enough to know the key phrases and successful rebuttals to turn NO's into YES's. He slowly works you back to the negotiating table and tries to close the deal. I remember being a noob and letting a customer leave the lot. I was chastized for not "turning the customer" or telling management that the customer was losing interest so they could sick a Closer on the customer. To me, these inital stages of negotiations seemed to last unnecessarily long and appeared to keep many customers hostage long enough that hunger became an issue. Once the customer became hungry and was tired of negotiating, they began to give in to the deal presented before them.

The High Interest Rate Scam
After a sales price is agreed upon, the buyer is turned over from the Sales Team to the Finance Team. Now, I had bought several vehicles in my time. I had always thought that once I made it past the sale and onto the financing, it was all just routine paperwork. Did I want a warranty? Did I want a plain detail package or chrome lettering, leather seats versus cloth, etc?  Little did I know, this was just another step down the path of getting milked.

Every single potential customer, in the beginning stage of the purchase negotiations, had their credit report pulled (obtained.) This credit report, as we all know, tells any lender how much of a risk is involved with this particular buyer. What I learned AFTER working in this dealership was that the Finance Team followed the same rules as the Sales Team. They don't know how stupid you are, so they immediately offer a rediculously high interest rate. There was a fair amount of people that didn't know how interest rates worked. Few, but some, accepted the first offer. They accepted 13% when they could have qualified for 3% or 5%. There's thousands of dollars hidden in finance fees that the uneducated buyer doesn't see up front because it is added as the loan progresses.

The other aspect I learned about the Finance Team was that they, at least at this dealership, learned a scripted sales pitch. The way they presented the GAP insurance, leather seats, chrome trim package with floor mats and such wasn't just a mere "Hey, you want any of this?" Oh no, this stuff was scripted and memorized in a manner that glamorizes the top tier in each category. For every tier you moved up in each category, the dealership made more and more money. GPS, On-Star packages, heated seats, moon/sun roof, dvd players etc all inflated the final price higher and higher.

The Trade-In Scam
Now if you wanted to trade a used car in, and apply the value towards your purchase, you had a whole other scam to endur. Trained professionals would test drive your car and then proceed to nit-pick every single little problem in an effort to reduce the value of your trade. I routinely saw $7000 range used vehicles get traded in for $3000 or less. Sometimes owners just didn't want the hassle of selling the car themselves. Sometimes it was owners that just really didn't know what the value of the car was or how to calculate the value. Other times it was the only means of a down payment towards the new purchase. No matter how it got devalued, I don't remember ever seeing a trade-in traded for full kelley blue book value.

The Hold Back Scam
Most manufacturers offer incentives to dealerships to move the inventory quickly. The manufacturers, in my case Toyota, offered dealerships a bonus for each new car sold. This bonus was referred to as a Hold Back. One of the common sales lines I heard when up against a savvy negotiator was "But Mr. X, we're a business. We have to MAKE money somewhere. We can't just GIVE the car away."

Actually, they can GIVE the car away. When I was selling, the Hold Back on a new Toyota was between $300-$500 on EACH car/truck. This had nothing to do with the advertised sales incentives. If a dealership advertised $1000 cash back on a purchase, this has nothing to do with the Hold Back. Typically the "cash back" was really just subtracted from the overinflated retail sales price of the vehicle. The Hold Back is never given nor offered to the public. It is only given to the dealership. So, even if a dealership sold a car to a buyer at the actual cost the dealership paid for the car (aka wholesale price), the dealership still made $300-$500 dollars. Depending on the earnings structure, the salesman would be lucky to get $100 of that (usually more like $50 per new car.)

I did see a few of these type of sales. Typically it was friends or family of the Sales Manager or Owner of the dealership. New cars sold at cost and the dealership profited on the Hold Back. The Fleet Department sort of works on this principle but I won't get in to that. Sales Managers also have monthly quotas which earn THEM additional money. The dealership Owner may offer a Sales Manager an additional $2000 if x number of cars are sold in a particular month. I noticed that Managers were more apt to make a buyer-friendly negotiation on the last day of the month in order to reach quotas.

The Car Key Scam
I'll never forget the day of a large sales event. Flyers were sent by postal mail to a large local community. The event was to encourage local community members (aka potential buyers) to come visit the car lot and have some hotdogs and hamburgers from our parking lot grill. The main reason they came to visit: each mailbox had been sent an invitation with an attached car key. The invitation read that one of the car keys mailed out to the public would start the engine of a brand new car. I believed the whole thing up until the Sales Manager handed me a car key and said "Go put this in my office, top desk drawer, in the very back of the drawer." He then explained to me that this key is the only one that will actually start the prize car. The whole thing was a scam and I was naively shocked.

Some simple things to remember:

  • If you are going to buy a car from a dealership, please do your research. Car values can be found on the internet. Research the value of your trade-in AND the car you want to buy.
  • You can get financing from YOUR local bank before going to the dealership. That way you know what your interest rate is BEFORE you even go to the dealership.
  • Research all the features you want to add prior to shopping so the Finance Department doesn't lure you into more features at the last minute.
  • The last day of the month may be the best time to shop (think quotas.)
  • Set a time limit for your trip. Stick to it. If you feel pressured or bullied, just leave. There are 15 other car dealerships who want your business.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Students React To Flag Burner...With RAGE.

Ben Haas, a Communication Studies Graduate student, originally planned to burn the American flag in protest at the LSU campus.

That is, until a swarm of red-blooded Americans forced him into a squad car.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

America: Post Nuclear Blast


Started watching the tv series Jericho this weekend with the whole family. I knew very little of the plot other than it was set in a small town and the plot was dealing with life post nuclear explosion. Jericho is actually the name of the small American town where the story plays out.

We're only on episode five but it has been VERY interesting. I have seen it mentioned numerous times on SurvivalBlog as a post catastrophic survival series. Now that I've become interested in watching, I've gone back to SurvivalBlog and done a dedicated search for the word "Jericho."

This search turned up numerous articles referencing the series. Several people mention how their prepping REALLY got kicked into high gear after watching this show. Many people used it to open the eyes of their spouses as to why they need to prep for emergencies. One person went back and re-watched the series to get ideas on how the citizens of the town communicated after all the electronics stopped working.

I was actually asked many good questions from my daughters as the story unfolded. "How long does a nuclear explosion last," "what would we do if that happened to us," etc. This gave me a backdrop to explain the uses of our Bug Out Bags, besides just going hiking, the purpose of a retreat, etc.

I won't recommend it as a "must see" show on survival until I watch the whole thing myself. I will say that a quick IMDB search indicates the series was stopped before season two ended and I'm pretty bummed about that. I just hope, as Wifey verbalized, that this show isn't a Hollywood preview of our future...like Oil Storm.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Happy Anniversary & Birthday

Happy Anniversary Sweetie!
Q: What's the best way for a guy to remember his wedding anniversary?

A: Get married on your birthday.

Happy Anniversary to my wife of 13 years and thanks for making my 40th birthday so enjoyable.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Save Money On Meat - One Slice At A Time!

Usually we buy our deli meat from the grocery store. Our Home Owners Association doesn't allow anything in our backyard except dogs and cats. I actually have neither at this time, well...of my own anyway (see prior post "Pesky Pooping Cat".)

Anyway, until I catch the cat (tastes like chicken?), I buy our sandwich meat from the grocery store shelf. In our little neck of the suburbs, one pound of deli ham WAS selling for $2.98 a pound...until a few months ago. It is now $4.98 per pound! Gasp!

Having been tipped off by Inflation.us, SurvivalBlog.com and others, we started stocking up on meats before the price increases. But the point of THIS post is to tell you that the best thing I did was buy a meat slicer off of craigslist.

Its used and only cost $20. Now, instead of buying pre-sliced ham by the pound for $4.98, I buy a 5 pound log of ham for $7.98 and slice it myself. Saves me a ton of money (we eat lots of sammys!)

With the adjustable slice thickness, I can shave it razor thin and cut thick ham steaks. More options, less price...does it get any better?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Garden Seed Question About Lettuce

Lettuce ready to give seeds?
I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that if you let a plant or two continue to grow past optimum harvest time, a shoot will stick out of the top and THAT'S where you get your next batch of seeds.

Is this true for lettuce? Here is a pic of my lettuce:

Thanks Google

So once again I learn about the need for REDUNDANCY the hard way. I never thought I'd need a backuo for my posts bit SURE ENOUGH, Blogger crashes and my last blog post is gone. Guess I'll have to start emailing a copy of my posts to myself.

Anybody else have a solution? Like a blog backup app or something?

I've only been doing this blog about six months and I've seen it go down at least twice. THIS time there was data loss.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Are You Pregnant? Nope, I'm A Lesbian.

Working my usual night shift in a small town hospital. I roll into the Emergency Room with my portable xray machine after getting a request for a chest xray.

Me: "Hi there. Doctor's ordered a chest xray. Any chance you might be pregnant?"

Patient: "Nope. I'm a lesbian."

Me: "Well...okay then."

At least I didn't have to wait for lab tests...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

xP Total Security Virus Removal via Malwarebytes and Trend Micro Housecall

Update: Fix is located in this blog


Returned home this morning after taking the girls to school and found a pesky virus blocking my internet access. This virus, known by a dozen or more names, causes professional looking popups to appear on-screen and they look just like a legitimate Windows security program. The popup pretends to inform that the computer has been infected as you are directed to click certain links. These links, of course, lead to more trouble.

I will update this post with instructions after I have cleared the viruses. I've found 9 so far. I'm sure my teen and pre-teen internet-surfing daughters have nothing to do with it ;-)

(Posting this from my handy dandy Droid Incredible while the computer is infected.)

Critters In The Garden (Name That Larvae?)

While digging up the front garden, I noticed quite a few of these little translucent larvae.  They're pretty good size in my opinion. When they curl up, they're somewhere between the size of a nickel or a dime.



Anybody know what these are?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Self Sustaining Garden Under Way with SeedForSecurity

Our SeedForSecurity vegetables have REALLY started growing fast, faster than expected. Just a few weeks ago, I blogged about planting pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers and beans. These seeds are already reaching for the sun and are above soil level.

As I've mentioned, the pumpkins that were planted in the front yard for Halloween harvesting are coming along nicely. A few raised mounds have taken a beating from passers-by (aka toddlers) and I've lost a little in the process. When I arrived home this morning from my night shift, I found the same pesky cat pooping in my pumpkin patch that had required me to bird net my raised box gardens in the backyard. Oh, he's really climbing to the top of my list. Keep you're fertilizer to yourself pal! It wouldn't be so bad if he didn't paw at the ground like he's trying to cover up his big, heaping pile. He's pawing right were my struggling seedlings are blooming. Grrr.

The Jacob's Cattle Beans and French Horticulture Beans which replaced the uncooperative carrots are producing nicely in our raised box gardens.

I took pictures of all the veggies starting to bloom and am still thankful we found a good seed supplier (SeedForSecurity).  Here's the pics (click on pics to enlarge them to full size):


Dirt mounds containing watermelon seedlings

Mostly bean seedlings, one lonely carrot on the left


Row of cucumbers looking good (planted 2.5 rows)


Squash making a "run" for it



Indian Corn outgrowing my bird net cage



 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Framing A Bathroom Archway to Add A Door

View from outside bathroom (door inside is toilet)
[Update: Part Two of Adding a Door to a Bathroom Archway is posted.  All drywall and texture completed.]



Dad Fix Tip #7: How to Frame in an Archway

Part One

As I was working on my living room niche last week, a buddy from church stopped by to borrow a razor knife. He was a carpenter by trade and was working on adding a walk-in pantry inside a neighbor's house across the street (neighbor's solution to MORE food storage space.) Somehow in the conversation between him and Wifey, they discussed how he added a door to his master bathroom which was originally only designed as an archway (read: shower without privacy door + 6 daughters = no privacy for Dad.)

Next thing I know, he's offering to add a doorway for us for around $150. Seriously? How can I turn THAT down! He came over a few days later and framed in the archway. I'll show the pictures of the framework and update the progress of this structure as it happens (see Part Two.)

No pun intended but this project opens up a ton of doors for us! Not only will we be able to LOCK our bathroom now (think six daughters!) but we could also potentially turn this room into a safe room. I've blogged about using Armor Concepts and their amazing door jamb armor (police battering ram video) and could use it to create a safe room.


View from inside the bathroom.

The drywall should be done this coming Saturday and the door will be hung after the drywall is finished. We might have a hard time finding a matching door since our house was built back in 2001. Nevertheless, we are excited about our soon-to-be bathroom privacy and security. A large part of Wifey cleaning and re-cleaning our bedroom is due to the toddlers pulling out all the scrunchies, hair clips, bobby pins, etc from the bathroom and littering them everywhere else.

I'd like to replace the over-sized bathtub in this bathroom with something more practical since we mostly use the stand-alone shower. The toddlers get to use our tub on occasion as their play pool. But until we find some pictures/ideas of something to actually replace the tub with, we'll just leave it.



Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wall Niche is Complete

Wall niche finished product.
I really look forward to weekends now that I don't have work six days a week. I got an early start on this weekend and continued working on my living room niche. The trim was cut and nailed in place with finishing nails. The shelves were cut with very little plywood left over from the original sheet.

I sealed all the gaps and corners with caulk and am attempting to sand it smooth.

All that is left now is trim on the front of the middle shelves and paint.

Update: shelves are done. Once the paint dries, the tape comes off the borders and voila! Another project for more prepping space is done.

Of course, the kids HAD to check the shelves for durability by climbing up in them and having a sit.

Bella, Chloe and Lily enjoying the unfinished shelves.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Successful Gardening Seeds From SeedsForSecurity.com

Indian Corn (Link to purchase)
Wifey and I are new to gardening. We have two man-made gardening containers: cinder block pictured below with corn and raised box gardens. These have bags of soil and fertilizer from the local gardening center. Our other backyard garden area is simply hard, Arizona dirt. The same goes from our front yard garden. We purposely plant in both improved and unimproved gardens to see what works and what doesn't.

So far, we've had terrific results. In plain dirt, lettuce (pictured) has done VERY well. The butternut squash is starting to really take off. We have several little ones that play in the dirt and it is possible that seeds get dug up from time to time (or seedlings pulled out.) I covered all raised gardens with bird net to discourage critters and rugrats (cats, birds, and kids).

Most of our seeds were bulk purchased from SeedsForSecurity.com. We didn't know where to get our start in gardening seeds and took a chance on an internet ad displayed at InfoWars.com. We bought the Super Survival Pack.

SeedsForSecurity has turned out to be a terrific source for high quality seeds. We highly recommend them and we are NOT sponsored to say that in any way. Here are some of the plants we have grown using SeedsForSecurity:

 
Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage (Link to purchase)

Lettuce










































Not pictured yet:

peas (Super Survival Pack)

french beans (Super Survival Pack)

cattle beans (Super Survival Pack)

waltham butternut squash (Link to purchase)

cucumber

sugar pumpkin (Link to purchase)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Using TDSSKiller To Remove The Google Redirect Virus

Google Redirect Virus On The Prowl.
After my refreshing weekend off, I came back to work to find a lovely computer virus waiting on our main Windows PC. I didn't notice it at first. What I DID notice was that every time I did a Google search and clicked on one of the search results, I would immediately be taken to some strange website made to look like a search engine. Problem was, I wasn't trying to get to a search engine.

I began to test my Internet Explorer browser (yes, I don't like IE either) by running some queries. Google search for "drudgreport" netted me several results linking to the Drudge Report. But when I clicked on the result links, I was taken to what looked to be fake search engines. Some even had script error codes on the page, lame script kiddies.

First thing I did was restore the computer to a prior date. This is a low-level fix but has worked at home when the kids accidentally messup some settings. I had worked on this computer last week and didn't have this issue so I restored the computer to a date last week. Rebooted and tried the Google Drudge query test again. Same problem.

Second, I visited Trend Micro's HouseCall and ran a diagnostic. TM is a global leader in cloud security. All you do is download their HouseCall program and run it. It scans the computer and gives a report. If it finds something, it will attempt to fix it. If it can't fix it, atleast you know what the name of the culprit is so you can google it. HouseCall did NOT find the problem and I uninstalled it and deleted the install folder.

TDSSKiller worked in under 3 minutes.
Third, I searched "Google Redirect Virus" and received numerous results. After reading through a few posts, I found a simple narrative on using a tool called TDSSKiller. This is an anti-root kit offered by Kaspersky, a trusted online anti-virus software provider. I downloaded TDSSKiller, ran the program, and within 3 minutes it found the problem and isolated it. A quick pop up told me to reboot the computer so I did. The next time I logged in, I performed several Google Drudge search queries and haven't had a problem since. It worked like a charm. Then I uninstalled the TDSSKiller and deleted the install folder.

And mom said watching Wargames 78 times when I was a kid wouldn't pay off. Pshhahh.

Autorepair: Diagnose The Problem WITHOUT Spending a Fortune.

Chilton's Manual: The bible for your car.
I've recently been blogging and commenting about how hard it is to save and prepare when life is lived paycheck to paycheck. This is certainly a common scenario felt by many people. Just when you think there will be a little extra cash after paying bills...another NEW bill pops up: medical bills, automobile repair, house repair etc. I even had a collection company call me, for the first time, about an Anesthesiology bill for when my 5th daughter was born three years earlier. Three years? I finally have some extra money and you want me to pay a medical bill I didn't know about...from three years ago? Nevertheless, I settled for half the amount and paid the bill. Grrr.

So, on that topic, I have had a very unusual problem lately. You know how when you turn your car's blinker (turn signal)  on it makes that tick, tick, tick sound in sync with the flashing lights? Well, my tick, tick, tick was ticking ALL THE TIME! Whether we used the blinker or not, the sound was NON_STOP. Talk about annoying!

I finally pulled over and popped the breaker fuse out of the fuse box. Sure, I had no turn signals now but I had peace and quiet. After dropping the kids off at school, I swung by the car dealership where I take the Suburban for things I can't do myself. I had planned my questions in advance so that I could milk as much information out of the service technicians as possible WITHOUT having to pay the huge "diagnostic fee."

This is somewhere in the shop of every dealership.
I pulled in the service drive and hopped out of the truck. "Hey, have you guys ever heard of a turn signal that keeps making noises even when it's not turned on?" Three guys behind the counter looked at each other and shook their heads. I've peaked their interests. One tech said that sometimes theres a module under the backend of the truck and he crouched down and looked underneath. Nope. Nothing there. Let me go ask Mark!

He walked to the shop area and came back a few minutes later with news that Mark could get under the dash and have it fixed in under 30 minutes. I asked "How much?" The tech said, "Well, its probably the flasher and all total it runs about $250." I said, "No, how much is the cost to have him diagnose the problem?" The tech said "Oh, $107."

So, I've had a Service Technician physically inspect the truck. The mechanic has reported that it is probably the turn signal flasher. I haven't spent a dime and I happily explain I don't have time to wait at the moment so off I go to buy a Chilton's Manual.

The Chilton's Manual, for those that don't know, is the how-to book for your car. You can buy a Chilton's for just about every make, model and year. It goes chapter by chapter through your car and how it is put together. I'll be looking up the turn signal flasher to find out exactly where it is in the truck and how to replace it. A quick call to the automotive parts store reveals that the part for my vehicle is $14. Yup, $14. A quick google search for "2001 Chevy Suburban turn signal relay" shows me several pictures of what the part looks like.

Another option is to google your problem. I searched "my turn signal keeps clicking" and sure enough, there are several entries where people are asking the same question. Sometimes you have to change your wording around to find the results you need but in today's internet age, there aren't many questions that haven't already been asked by somebody somewhere on the internet. Most of my search results have answers relating to the turn signal relay/flasher. Looks like I'm headed in the right direction. If I'm lucky, the automotive parts store clerk will be able to tell me roughly where the flasher is located and I won't even need a Chilton's. Since I've had the truck for over a year now though, I think I'll go ahead and invest in one.

The last bit of advice I'll give is on diagnosing engine lights. My Jeep right now has a Check Engine light on. As I said a few paragraphs ago, the dealership wanted $107 just to diagnose my problem. I learned years ago to use an OBDII engine code scanner ($30.) This is a handheld device that plugs right in to the little computer module that sticks out from under the dash right above where your left leg is when you drive. The OBDII simply plugs in to the port and you turn it on. Then turn on your car just enough that the radio comes on, don't start it all the way to running. The scanner will do a little diagnostic test and show you a diagnostic code on the screen (sometimes more than one code.)

With this code, you can look up EXACTLY what is wrong with your car using the accompanying CD software that comes with the scanner. For my Jeep, the code is P042 which turns out to be related to the catalytic converter. A quick wiki search teaches me that the converter is used for emissions and wasn't used in mass production until 1975. This tells me several things. I don't have a MAJOR repair on my hands that requires me to be without a vehicle so no worries there. It also tells me that I can continue to drive without causing major damage to the engine. Sure, gas mileage may decrease or it may idle a little rough but it will make it until payday and I'm not due for an emission test any time soon. I'll repeat the same process that I used for the Suburban. Search google for forums discussing how people fixed their jeep P042 code problems. Read through my Chilton's Manual and go from there.

In summary, when you have car problems:

1- Drive to (or call) a mechanic (or several mechanics) and find out what they think it could be. I've found that over the phone, they're more likely to tell you to bring the car in so they can see it.

2- Ask the auto parts people what they think. These folks sell the parts to fix everything. They are VERY knowledgeable and their usually happy to help you install it since their vested interest is in simply SELLING you the part, not the labor.

3- Use a $30 ODBII scanner to diagnose your own engine codes. The scanner will pay for itself the first time you use it. I take mine on road trips too, just in case I get an engine light in the middle of nowhere.

4- Use the knowledge of the internet. Search for images of the part you need, where it goes on the vehicle, and what other people have done to fix the problem. Don't forget YouTube. Many users have made videos showing exactly how they fixed it.

The less you rely on other people to fix your car, the more self sufficient and confident you will become...and you're guaranteed to save money in the process.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Prepping One Step At A Time...At Alternative Cache Locations.

I was reading through yet another terrific blog post at Rural Revolution regarding how much cash to keep on hand versus utilizing the current value of cash to purchase tangible assets. It all follows the bigger question of how to prepare for your family when it doesn't seem like there is any disposable income left after bills are paid. The answer: do what you CAN do and find some peace knowing that you are working towards a goal.

Save money by eating simple meals at work: soup & water.
How do you know what you CAN do? Write out a plan. Do the math. Figure out what you need for YOUR situtation and write it down. Then break it up into little steps. One source is the LDS food storage calculator. It says a family of four, for a three month supply of basic food, needs 300 pounds of wheat and 60 pounds of beans/legumes. That's $137.40 in wheat and $89 in beans, according to the LDS Family Home Storage Center pdf file. Total is $226.40 and divide by 12 months gives you $18.87 per month that you need for a (very) basic food supply that feeds four people for three months.

Now of course you'll want more than wheat and beans. This simple meal plan was simply to illustrate how to break down something seemingly daunting into smaller, more achievable goals. There are tons of food lists from all kinds of perspectives listed all over the internet. Find one that suits you and break it down into small, manageable chunks.

Food storage: start with a little and keep adding.
I need more space to store food, for example. I realized I had an empty locker at work which would make a great place to store a little canned food. Since I spend a lot of time at work and therefore eat meals at work, it makes perfect sense for me to store food there. It gives me more storage space AND decreases the chances I'll run out for a burger or tacos knowing that I have food already here. I can't afford to just run to the store and buy 30 cans of Campbells Chunky soup to fill my locker so I'll start with a few cans and add from there. Small steps towards a bigger goal of filling the locker.

Make a plan and get started...TODAY!

Beans Replace Carrots in Our Raised Box Gardens

Jacob's Cattle Beans from SeedsforSecurity.com
After planting some new seeds on Saturday, wifey and I decided to re-plant some things in our raised box gardens. Each box is 3'x3' accomodating a good 5-6 rows of seed. Two of our boxes were filled with carrots and for reasons uncertain, we have ONE sprout in each box. Our seeds sat just under the soil surface for over a month before I covered them with bird net. I suspect either faulty seeds, scavengers (birds,cats), toddlers (who thought the gardens were sandboxes) or improper watering techniques...or all the above.

Regardless, after checking our growing chart, we planted bean seeds in both boxes and were careful not to distrurb our lonely little carrot sprouts. I didn't see any budding carrot seeds while planting the beans. One raised box got French Horticulture Beans and the other box got Jacob's Cattle Beans. 90% of our seeds come from Seeds for Security. We've learned that seeds bought on sale at dollar stores don't do as well as our Seeds for Security heirlooms. Like the carrots for example. I wanted to try purple carrots and the only place I found seed was online. Turns out they came from Sweden?

I managed to make it to Home Depot to buy trim, finishing nails, and some epoxy/putty to fill in the cracks on my wall niche project. I ran out of time before I could actually use the items though. So I tucked the supplies away, in the garage, out of reach from the little ones. I'm looking forward to finishing the project and seeing how much stuff the shelving will hold.

I was graced with a visit by a carpenter in our ward. He was adding a walk-in pantry to a home across the street and needed to borrow my razor knife. I coaxed him in far enough to see my handy work. It was painful to see him stammer for words to describe my first carpentry project but I was still proud just the same. He admitted that most of my inaccuracies could be covered with trim and I was happy to hear it.  The way I see it, with six daughters, I would rather learn how to do this stuff now on my house than to booger up my girls' houses when they need help. I have to admit, coming from the medical field, this building stuff is kinda fun too.

Mystery plant in the potato garden.
I found something growing in the potato garden although I'm not too sure it's a potato. It is growing right up next to the sprinkler head and looks to be the only thing growing among the store bought potatoes that I cut up and planted.

Now I just have to figure out when its time to harvest everything.