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Veterans day, why i’m not excited.

November 12, 2012

It is veterans day. I always feel weird when someone thanks me for having had the privilege of serving the nation. Some of this is from the fact that I have served, but I have been paid for that service. I was/am just doing the job I volunteered to do and have been paid for.

After all, do you thank the dustman for picking up your trash? Do you thank the casher at the store for ringing you up? Or the highway worker for filling in pot holes? Not normally because you say “they were paid for their work and they chose to take that job.”

I know, I know, military service is different to some extent. It is more along the lines of Police and Fire/EMS service. Maybe the thanks is some understanding that this voluntary service has some higher risk than other employment.

Another reason I feel weird about being thank is I have not done that much. So many others have done more, have given up so much more than I ever have or likely will. Being thanked for doing what compared to others is really nothing just does not feel right. I’ve gotten this from guys that have deployed five times and lost limbs. They know others who never came home. Or came home in worse shape.

Lastly, I feel weird when I get thanked because serving is a privilege. Not everyone is allowed to serve. In fact I would not be allowed to join the military today because of something that happened to me when I was 8 years old. Only a select number of people get to serve. And it saddens me that so few over all even try to see if they can serve. Being thanked for being allowed to serve feels weird also.

I appreciate that I will be thanked. It has been a privilege to serve. But if I don’t seem thrilled to be thanked, this is why.

We were thrown out of our house!

November 10, 2012

Yesterday we got “thrown out of our home” by the North Olmsted Fire Department. Our neighbors, a garden supply store, had a propane tank spring a leak (or a leek as it was only a week after St. Crispin’s day, ah those funny Welsh)

At 0555 we woke up to someone pounding on our door. Turned out to be a Fireman who greeted us with “Not the news you want to hear first thing in the morning but we are evacuating the area”.  This was only a short time, about five hours.  But it could have been longer, up to three days.

I know most of you think i’m all squared away, high speed, low drag, really cool Emergency Management Grad with tons of great ideas? I’m not. We did not have our BOB (bug out bag) ready. What was on the list to put in the BOB was lacking also. Had they wanted us to shelter in place, we would have been in even more confused state.

So, I would ask each of you to do something: get a pad of paper, pen or other writing tool, and sit down. Write down everything you think you would need to go away for three days – cloths, food, toys for the kids, family entertainment, chargers for electronics, maps, etc. Then go get it all and put it in a pile neatly. Then get a bag or tub that will hold it all. There, your BOB is now done and you are better off than we were.

The “Most important election of our Life Time! (Again)

August 30, 2012

Freedom is not free. Freemen are not equal. Equal men are not free.

Last night at the ICU i had a small conversation with the Charge Nurse. She was urging everyone to register to vote. She explained that “this is the most important election of our life time” (something i’ve heard every four years since 1984) and “you realize that if just 2,000 more people had voted in 2000 we would not have gone to war”.

I normally don’t get involved in these kinds of talks when I’m doing the student thing as part of my Paramedic training.  I’m there to learn not talk politics.  But this time she asked me directly “are you registered to vote?”  and I said “I don’t like to encourage politicians, voting just makes them want to do more.”.  Normally this gets most people to drop the subject and we can go on with life.  But then she told me those two statements.  I felt that I was allowed to give my view.

I started with a response to the “Just 2,000 more votes statement”.  “You mean had just 2,000 more people voted for Gore, not just 2,000 more people voted. Because 2,000 more votes divided up would not change anything.”  This got a statement of agreement and a restatement of if Gore had won in 2000, we would not have gone to war, “see all those lives lost or gone into debt”.

“No, we would have gone to war, likely lots more wars.”  was my response.  The Charge Nurse said no because it was all Bush’s fault for the nation going to war.  Because Bush was President, she said, the US got attacked on 9/11 and it was just an excuse for Bush to invade Iraq.

I then explained: No, you have to keep in mind that Bin Ladin started planning the WTC attacks in 1999, under Clinton/Gore.  This was in retaliation for the Clinton/Gore policies of embargo of Iraq, deployment of US troops in Saudi Arabia, bombing of Afghanistan, Yemen, Kenya, Nairobi, Iraq, and support of Israel.  Keep in mind that Gore, in the debates with Bush, restated his support of all that and a call for further “nation building” that worked so well in Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Somalia.  Gore had repeatedly stated support for sending troops to Sudan, Somalia, and other “failed states” to include Afghanistan and Iraq.  Gore also supported the embargo of Iraq, regular bombing of Iraq and expanding the number of troops in Saudi Arabia.  While Bush campaigned under the idea that the US should not be sending troops to invade other nations that are not a threat to the US.

The only rational belief we can have is that, as Bush stated, the that the attack on 9/11 changed his view.  Gore, on the other hand, was willing and eager to attack Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and other nations with out 9/11.  9/11 was going to happen either way.  Gore was on record as being in favor of war with out provocation, and he would have been chomping at the bit with it.

The Charge Nurse gave some weak response that Gore would have made Afghanistan a priority and would have used peaceful means to change Iraq and would not have cause the US to become so debt ridden.  She touted out the lame “Clinton left the budget with $5 trillion is surplus”  To which I said “that is not true, Clinton took office with $4.3 trillion in debt, he left office with $5.6 trillion in debt. The ‘surplus’ was projected for 10 years into the future with the idea that the budget would only grow at 2% a year, for ten years and the tax revenue would grow at 5% a year in that same time.”  Now Bush did not help thing with his tax cuts AND doubling of government spending growth on top of the war spending.

Over all, she did not change her mind.  Gore would not have invaded Iraq or Afghanistan, he would have kept a balanced budget for 8 years and paid off the national debt, and 9/11 would not have happened.  And if I had any understanding of what that would have meant to the Soldiers I would not be so non-political. That is the thing about politics, you don’t change politically active people’s minds with facts.  Only emotions over minor issues by making them either or issues.  After the Charge Nurse left, one of the other nurses who had been tuning into the conversation asked me how I knew so much.  I explained that I was in the Army Reserves, was on Active Duty in 2003, so I knew what it meant to the Soldiers. So I pay attention and remember.  This may be the most important election in our life time…again.  But i’m not going to vote for evil, even if it is the lesser of them, it is still evil.

Freedom is not free. Freemen are not equal. Equal men are not free.

Way too much to do, way to little time

August 15, 2012

One of my part time jobs have me an opportunity I could not refuse.  Really, I had no way to say no.  I was made Company Commander of my Army Reserve Unit.  I’m an NCO, not an officer.  So this means I’m doing everything that the First Sergeant should do, as well as what the Company Commander does.

So my work load has gone up massively.  This morning I spent five hours getting tasks done and signed so I can spend the rest of the week with my other jobs and schooling.  Sorry, no money saving recipes this week.  I will see if I can find some time saving ones though.

Preparing for the crash – political rant, kind of.

August 11, 2012

I recently had some “free time” to go on line and join a conversation on Slate.com. It was called “Bet against America” by David Weigle.  He was talking about his conversation with Peter Schiff, the guy who in 2007 published a book about how the stock market was going to crash and the housing bubble would pop.  (and was made fun of for thinking that home prices would ever go down)

The “article” was just a page and change long, very little from Schiff but a lot from Weigle on how pro-tea party Schiff is so there is no way we should trust him.  After all he got lucky predicting the pop and his prediction of hyperinflation has not come true so it never will. (Schiff is saying the economy as we know it will collapse some time in 2013 or 2014, and either go into hyper inflation or be restructured in a sustainable way.)

In the comments section was the normal Slate comments that complained that Schiff was known for his tax evasion schemes (Paul Schiff had those and went to jail for them, not Peter Schiff who is a very well respected investor in international banking) and the claim he was just lucky like a stopped clock.

I felt compelled to comment on the National debt and the current low interest rates the US bonds are paying.  Most of the commenters said this was proof that Schiff was wrong, that there was no problems with the nations current debt load and “gosh darn, that tea-bag supporting Koch loving anti-poor hate nut” is just wrong because the end has not come.

So I wrote the following: “If in 2000 you had told someone that the US would have over $16 trillion in debt, they would not have believed that the US could get that deep in debt and still be a nation. I remember my neighbor, an Economics professor saying that if the US ever had more than $10 trillion in debt it would be mathematically impossible for the economy to function.

Saying we are heading into hyperinflation is not a bad bet. The US bonds are at low rates now, but for how long? Does anyone believe they will stay low for the next 20 years? Right now the US pays $450+billion in interest alone with the low 1.5% rate it currently gets. What happens when that rate goes up to 3% or, like Spain, 7.5%? The US would be facing interest payments of $900 billion +. They can’t tax that much to cover it, which leaves only massive printing or “reevaluating” the dollar. 

Now when that will happen is the real question. Five years ago I would have said getting to $13 trillion would provoke it. I see now I could not say.  

So i am doing the logical thing: paying off my debt (credit cards are done, one car left, and then the student loan) planting a garden, storing food, only spending cash, buying items that I can use to be less dependent on out side systems of support, and planning for bad times.” 

This prompted one person to reply: “You have a window of historically low interest rates. You don’t need an imminent fear of the collapse of society to understand that paying debt with low interest rates is probably a good thing. Actually if you were really certain society was in imminent collapse paying down your debt is totally irrational.

In other words, to want to pay off debt is a bad thing.  I should be racking up as much debt as I can so I can pay it back with hyper inflated dollars!  (sounds like our current Government and how the GOP Congress acts)

Now note that I did not say I feel there will be an imminent collapse.  I feel that there is not a way to avoid it forever. I also pointed out that I would have thought we would have reached there a long time ago.

This is why I’m paying off my debt now.  When the collapse does come, it won’t be over night. It will spiral back and forth, some months good, others bad.  Each getting worse over all.  So holding debt on credit cards and car loans is not a good idea. Those rates change quickly, faster than I will ever see any increase in pay.

Sure the idea that you can pay off debt with cheaper dollars is nice.  But I only get an annual pay increase (when they give them – going on a year and a half since my last at my EMS job), and they recalculate my interest rate each month on a credit card.

So ask, which way would you be better off: 1) having $5,000 of credit card debt, $12,000 car loan, $120,000 student loan, $3,000 other debt and the economy going down as you face a job loss. Or 2) no debt other than $75,000 student loan, $5,000 in cash in your checking, $4,000 in savings, 30 to 60 days of food stored up, a garden that produces 5% of your food in the summer, and a PV solar charger that keeps your rechargeable batteries charged while facing a job loss?

Now ask yourself: if things don’t go bad, which way are your better off?

Money Saving Aunt Ginny Recipe: Venison (or Cow) Stew

August 8, 2012

Using venison or elk or other game meat can really cut your over all cost of food.  If you’re like me, you have friends, brothers, brother-in-law, neighbors, church acquaintances, etc. who like to hunt and are very good at it.  You get offered “free” meat when they have more than they can put in the freezer.  Venison has a flavor different than what you get with mass produced cow meat, more like free range meat.  So this Aunt Ginny recipe has more flavor helpers than most.  Not to cover the taste, but to bring out the best of it.  It also works well with pot roast or other cow meat.

You will need:

  • 1 ½ pounds of venison cut into bite size cubes. (Free or less than $1 a pound)
  • 2 Table spoons of oil ($0.02)
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut in to bite size chunks (about half a pound, $1.49 a pound so $0.75)
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in slices. ($0.29 each, $1.16, but we grew our own)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped. (grew our own also, but about $0.20)
  • 12 oz can of whole tomatoes (drain, $1.35)
  • 10 oz can of beef broth ($1.09, or 1 cup of water)
  • 1 Table Spoon of Worcestershire sauce, (less than $0.05)
  • 1 Tea Spoon of parsley flakes (less than $0.10, free if you grow your own)
  • 1 Tea Spoon of salt (less than $0.01)
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic (less than $0.10, free if you grow your own)
  • ½ Tea Spoon of pepper (less than $0.03)

Total cost: $6.40 for eight servings, $0.79 per serving.

You can reduce your cost by using home grown tomatoes, switching out water for the beef broth, and growing your own potatoes.

How to make:

  • Brown meat in a pan with oil. (15 min)
  • Put meat in crock pot, add rest of ingredients. (5 min)
  • Mix up and cook on low for 8 hours.

Total time: 20 min of prep.

To make a thicker stew, add 3 table spoons of “quick-cooking” tapioca (pie thickener).  For variations on the flavor, add some (1 to 2) bay leaves, or basil sprigs.  For color, toss in some frozen veggies (corn, peas, green beans or the like, about two cups) about 30 min before serving.

Money Saving Tips – Vacation!

August 7, 2012

I’m going on a vacation.  Really!  My first vacation since December 2011.

In December we go as a family to Great Wolf Lodge just north of Cincinnati Ohio.  We go Sunday evening to Tuesday for a few reasons: one it is much cheaper.  You get all the amenities and activities as on a weekend but at a lower cost.  The other is that it is not nearly as crowded.  There is no need to make reservations at the restaurants or wait in line to ride the rides.  Your room gets upgraded more often, tends to be closer to the pool areas and the staff is more relaxed.

This is not going to be like that.  We are going to a family cabin in the middle of Hocking Hills, Ohio.  This is the busy season for them.  This means no discounts, no short lines, no easy parking.  But it is the only time my family and the extended family on the wife’s side can all get together.

We can’t save money by booking in the off season, or the location.  But we can reduce the cost by not eating out a lot.  We chose a cabin that everyone can fit in which means cost sharing.  By choosing to make a majority of our food in the cabin or bring picnic lunch for our out doors activities, we lower our cost even more.

Wanting to make sure we don’t spend a lot of money, and wanting to prepare for hard times, this works out well.  So today I went shopping!  We normally spend about $100 to $140 shopping a week. (this includes non-food like diapers, soap, paper, ink, etc.)  We eat about $80 worth of food a week, and add about two days of food to our food storage each week.  When we reach 90 days of food storage we will be switching to getting long term food storage like Thrive brand or Mountain House.  Right now our storage is 100% eating what we store and storing what we eat.

A normal shopping replaces what we ate that week and adds a few more things to our storage.  This shopping was an opportunity to buy some bulk items we normally would not.  Plastic cups are nice, but getting 25 for $3.54 vs 100 for $3.89 makes more sense.  We don’t need 100 for our storage, but 50 would be good.  So we bought 100, set 50 aside and are taking the rest with us.

Now the key to making this work is to be smart about it.  Buying that huge box of 100 all beef patties when you only need 30 means breaking the box up.  If the box is not set to allow smaller set up you end up with a big box in your freezer that is half full.  Look for things that separate into smaller amounts, that store well, and you will use.  If the only time you use pre-made beef patties is on vacation, do you want year old ones next year?

Saving money on vacation means not going to fast food joints and planning for snacks on the way there and back.  You could stop at the Kwiki mart and pay $1.99 for a soda bottle, or you could buy a six pack of the same size for $2.99.  Put them in the fridge the day before and a small cooler for the trip.

Being aware of your family’s needs on the trip can also help out. These days kids are strapped down to plastic chairs with very little room to move around with. (not like when I was a kid in the 70’s and dad took out all the seats in the VW Bus to put in a twin mattress for us to play on when going on long trips)  So they will want to eat or watch something or both.  You could give them cheesy puffs or blue berries.  Cut up apples make a better choice than candy bars.  Going with the cheeper, prep before going and stick in a cooler option will save you time and dental bills

Use the internet to find low cost or free events in the area.  Near where we are going is a “feed humming birds by hand” event, making baskets, even a play for free (donations accepted).  All will be interesting and even educational. (Ha, tricking the kids into learning!)  Some of the low cost events are canoeing, a hands on museum, and “discovery weekend”.  Or we could go to events that charge $35 to $50 per person – cooking class, flower arraigning, train rides, etc.

Being on a budget, I would rather do fun low cost things!