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Monday, July 24, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #153 - First, Do No Harm

Actions have consequences.
  • Beth has had enough of the madness! Yet another woman has been shot, by her own gun, from inside her purse. This kind of tragedy is 100% avoidable if you use your brain and follow the do's and don'ts of purse carry
  • An assault suspect is found dead in the basement of a Winston-Salem home. What killed him? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Just this week, a guy sneaked into the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather press conference with badges he cloned from images on Facebook. Barron tells us how it’s done
  • Miguel is on assignment and will return next week.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the third of a three-part interview series, Charl explains the Christian justification for self defense.
  • What is your calling? Do you know? And are you really being honest with yourself about what your true calling might be?
  • Tiffany salutes those who answer the call of law enforcement, but she also has a warning for those who only do so half-heartedly.
  • Erin breaks a promise this week, but it's so she can explain something you'll need to know for next week. Are you primed for an emotional reaction to stress? Erin explains what that means.
  • Shannon Watts does an interview about the Origins of Moms Demand Action... or at least, how she CLAIMS it happened. Weer'd explains what’s truth and what’s fiction inside Shannon Watts’ mind!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for The Lawdog Files, on Amazon for Kindle.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Emotional Priming
Last week I promised that I would talk about PTSD and ways to break the cycle of flashbacks. However, I’m afraid that I have to postpone that segment for a week, because I need to talk about emotional priming first. 

Put simply, witnessing trauma is itself traumatic to the viewer. This is because humans have structures in the brain called Mirror Neurons, which fire when performing an act but also when seeing an act. This is why you have the urge to yawn when you see another person yawn, why you often vomit when you see or hear or smell another person vomit, and why you wince in pain when you see another person get hurt.

 Mirror neurons are essential to our development during childhood because they are how we learn. “Monkey see, Monkey do” isn’t just a childhood taunt; it’s literally how we and other primates, learn. It follows, then, that if we witness something horrible that happens to another person, our mirror neurons simulate that sense of horror, that pain, that shock within us. And while the sensation isn’t as vivid, it’s still real, and therefore it’s entirely possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder from watching tragedy happen to another person.

In other words, PTSD can be considered an environmental or occupational hazard as much as a psychological one, especially if you work as a first responder. This means that you are more at risk for developing PTSD if you’ve already been exposed to extreme stress one or more times, and this vulnerability can last the rest of your life. This is what is known as being “emotionally primed” for PTSD. 

Think of your mind like a plate. Each traumatic event you witness is a crack within that plate. Some cracks are minor, but get enough of them, and the plate will fall apart. Get a single big crack, and the plate will fall apart.  Unlike bones, which can heal over time and become stronger, the mind retains the memory of the horrors it sees and this can make it weaker, more prone to injury. This explains why so many first responders take up unhealthy habits in their desire to forget what they’ve seen. They’re trying to erase those memories, to heal the cracks in the plate of their psyche. 

So if you have witnessed anything truly horrific or traumatic, I urge you to seek counseling from a professional. Not because you are crazy, not because you are broken; think of it as preventative maintenance. Just as you see the doctor every 6 months for a physical to keep on top of how your body is doing and to get ahead of potential issues so too should you see a therapist if you have a history with trauma, especially chronic trauma. A professional will be able to detect patterns of unhealthy behavior and poor coping mechanisms, and hopefully will help de-prime you so that you don’t suffer PTSD. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Preventative Maintenance Is Affordable Prepping

If you really want to be prepared, avoid some dangers, and save money, then you really need to take care of your stuff.

In this quick video I show you some things to look out for, as well as give some suggestions on where to spend your money to take care of the stuff you have!

Be good. Be safe. If you can't be safe, be good AND dangerous!

Happy viewing and I'll see you next week!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Avoiding Craigslist Scams

I've been thinking about buying an RV for quite a while, and I finally accumulated enough money in my savings account, so I started looking around to see what prices were like. I'm not looking for another bug-out vehicle; just something that I can load the wife into and do some travelling. It'd be nice to see friends who live in other parts of the country while maintaining control of my own security and being able to travel with things that would be difficult to take on an airplane. (Spam cans of ammo are heavy, firearms don't always make it to their destination via the airlines, and I trust the TSA about as far as I could throw one of them.) Having optional living quarters is also comforting when I start thinking about the various disasters that could keep me out of my house.

We have some well-established camper sales lots in my area, one of them having been in the same location for almost 60 years. I know people who work (or have worked) there, and I have dealt with a few of the companies over the years while repairing campers for friends. Buying a new camper is worse than buying a new car: the market is a lot smaller and there is less competition, so the sales-weasels will try to get you to buy way more than you'll need. I looked at some of the new prices -- I can buy a house in this area cheaper than some of the 5th-wheel trailers go for, and I'd have to buy a better truck to tow it with. The new Class A (self-contained and self-propelled) campers all start at more than I paid for my last two houses combined.

I'm getting close to retirement age, and most of my money is tied up in trying to get set to survive living without a daily job, so buying new is not an option. (Give me a few more years and the house will be paid off and I will be debt-free.) If you have a few tens of thousands of dollars laying around or don't mind taking out a loan (neither fits me), then a new camper, trailer, or motor home might be an option. For me, I knew I would be buying something used, probably needing repairs, and I needed to keep the price below $10,000. I started with Craigslist.

Craigslist is easy to navigate and a lot of people like it because it's free. Most listings have pictures (this is important) and a price in the title, and the search function on the left-hand side bar gives options like min/max price and distance from your location. There are warnings about scams at the bottom of the page, but those don't go far enough. The scammers are looking for three things; your money, your contact information, and your personal data. If they can just take your money, they will. If they can't do that, they'll be looking to steal your identity or at least add your contact information to the files of other thieves. Some people are too trusting, and there are always jackals out there looking for some way to get money without having to work for it. Here's what I ran into and how I learned to avoid the scammers.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Nobody is going to sell a five-year-old RV for a couple of thousand dollars. Nobody is going to deliver an RV (more than a few miles) for free. One scammer told me they'd deliver an RV from 1200 miles away for just the cost of gas. That fails the smell test, since they'd be eating all of the lodging and meals for travel both ways.

Read the Ad Carefully
One of the warnings that Craigslist offers is “buy local”. If you are looking at an ad in a local Craigslist and it doesn't have at least a city listed, it's probably a scam. None of the sellers that I contacted who didn't have a location in the ad were local.

Compare Prices
Looking at other used RV selling sites will give you an idea of what RVs similar to the one you're looking at are selling for. There are so many brands, models, and options available that it is unlikely you'll find an exact duplicate, but you'll find something close. Rvtrader is a site with a lot of listings, so it is likely you'll find something similar to what you're looking at. RVT is another option with 100k listings for variety.

Look At the Pictures
If you see text over the picture that isn't advertising a dealership, it's probably a scam. I use a browser add-on called Tineye to reverse-search images that I find on the internet. If the same picture is being used for listings in multiple states, it's a scam. A lot of scammers grab pictures from legitimate RV dealerships and use them in their ads, so watch for other ads to pop up in the results. Google offers a reverse-search option for images that works, but isn't as convenient.

Sharpen Your Search Skills
There are a few online sources of average prices for used RVs, with NADA being the most respected. They are the “Blue Book” that you'll hear referred to in used vehicle ads.

If there is a phone number in the listing, look at the area code and see if it is local to the area. I'm in a fairly sparsely-populated state, so I only have to deal with a half-dozen area codes within 200 miles in any direction. A lot of larger cities have that many many area codes just within the city limits. Internet searches for phone numbers aren't very useful anymore, because they all want payment for any information and a few of the cell phone companies don't even release their data to the public.

Have a Good Spam Filter On Your Email
Craigslist offers an anonymous email option for contacting sellers; use it! Don't give out your actual email address until you have made some effort to make sure you're not dealing with a scammer. Spam filters and throw-away email addresses will give the spammers something to play with. Gmail actually does a good job of filtering out the idiots, and I've noticed that hotmail and yahoo are getting better.

Exchanging Money
Once the scammer has you hooked, they are going to try to get your money. Western Union, wire transfers, money orders, gift cards, and fake escrow companies are the options to look out for. They are all one-way transfers, which means that once you have sent it, the money is gone; none of these options give you any recourse if the deal falls through or the product isn't as advertised. PayPal may be an option, and offers some options for disputing a sale. Be aware that eBay does NOT offer an escrow service, regardless of what a seller may tell you! I've dealt with eBay for 20 years, three of them as a seller, and I know their services quite well. (Check their FAQ here.) A legitimate escrow service will charge a fee for their services, so if you use one you need to negotiate who is going to pay that fee.

I prefer cash, but that has its own problems. Carrying large sums of cash to a location of the seller's choice is probably not a good idea. Practice situational awareness, have someone else with you for security, and walk or drive away if anything looks wrong. Banks will ask a lot of questions if you try to get anything over $1000 out of your accounts, due to federal anti-drug laws. I have a 30-year relationship with my bank and my banker is used to me dealing in cash, but if I hit a different branch I have to answer questions before they'll give me my own money. I've only had to complain once in those 30 years and my banker took care of it for me.

Titles and Paperwork
The best bet is to get a “clear” title: no liens, not stolen, with all of the required signatures in the right places, and nothing erased or covered with white-out will make your visit to the DMV/county tax station a lot easier. Be sure to  check your state laws, since they vary so much, on the different types of titles -- here in Iowa we have regular, salvage, and “prior salvage” titles. Once a vehicle has been damaged to the point where repairs will cost 50%+ of the value, you can get a salvage title. With a salvage title, you can't get it registered (license plates) or drive it on the road legally. Once repaired and inspected by a state official, we can apply for a “prior salvage” title and get it plated. You will not be likely to get a loan on any vehicle with anything other than a clean, regular title.

Any sale without a title is a problem. State laws vary, but to get a replacement title without a current registration in hand you're going to have to jump through some hoops. The DMV will have to do a title search, which gets tedious if they have to contact another state, and then determine that it wasn't reported stolen or totalled by an insurance company. Most states will try to contact the last owner to make sure it wasn't stolen. Then they will have to inspect it and issue a new title, which adds more delays. Unless you're buying an RV for parts, I'd avoid the hassles of buying one without a title.

I managed to find a motor home in my price range about an hour from home on Craigslist and will be writing more about it once I get it home. I need to get cash from the bank to pay for it, so it will be sometime this week before I drive it back and start working on it. It has some issues, but is mechanically sound and none of the damage is irrepairable.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Prudent Prepping: 6 Month Gear Check

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

My calendar alert went off, which means that now is the time to start looking at dates on my stored food and swapping out those things close to their sell by dates. After my food, I check everything that's kept in my GHB, my Buckets of Holding and my pantry shelves.

I do have a system that lets me see everything, but it does take a bit of time to go through all of it. I also have to set alarms before the regular 6 month check if I find items that will go past their dates, since all food I don't eat myself goes to the local Food Bank.

If my finances ever improve, some of my emergency food will rotate out and their freeze dried replacements will be at the top of my list. So far, I'm finished with the buckets, and the only things close to going out within two months are hot chocolate and canned chicken breast.

Canned Chicken Breast

The chicken I buy is Member's Mark Premium Chunk Chicken Breast from Sam's Club

From their web site:
  • ​Fully cooked chicken breast in water
  • Minimally processed
  • Contains only three ingredients, nothing artificial
  • 98% fat free
These are 12.5 oz cans packaged in a six pack, and I try to not buy more than one pack at a time to reduce the hit to my food budget. I really like the can size for because it gives me the option of eating the whole thing as a meal, or sharing it, or mixing it into other things.

Hot Chocolate

The other item that I originally purchased from Sam's Club is Land O'Lakes Cocoa Classics Variety Pack, unfortunately no longer stocked there. If I want to have an assortment of flavors, it appears I will have to order the same multi-pack from Amazon, and I really like the assorted flavors and pack count in the boxes.

From the Product Description:

  • 5 Delicious Flavors : Chocolate Supreme, French Vanilla, Arctic White, Mint and Caramel
  • Just add hot water!
  • Good Source of Calcium
  • Made The Old Fashioned Way, Like Mom Used To Do. We Put The Nonfat Dry Milk In So All You Do Is Add Hot Water
  • Total: 42 Servings, 5 Different Varieties, 6 Envelopes of Each Arctic White, French Vanilla and Caramel. 12 Envelopes of Chocolate Supreme and Mint
Since Mint is not a favorite flavor of chocolate, I leave it in the buckets and put another flavor in my GHB and on my pantry shelf.

There is some pasta, sauce, and a few other things being rotated out by the fall, so I've set alerts for this time every month up through November.
The Takeaway
  • Rotate food to keep things fresh.
  • Donate quantities that can't fit on my pantry shelves.
  • Keeping interesting flavors stocked for an emergency can reduce stress.

The Recap

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Replace Your Lights With LEDs

I've recently begun converting the light bulbs in my house to LED. It's a quick, simple upgrade that any prepper could benefit from.

Why LED?
Just a few years ago, LED lighting was expensive, very niche, and tough to find. Even industry professionals were skeptical about LED for residential use, and for good reason, as manufacturers made huge claims that rarely came true.

Intervening years and economy of scale have since righted the course of residential LED lighting, and the cost of screw-in LED light fixtures has fallen almost to the level of a compact fluorescent light (CFL). Power consumption is roughly 10% of a traditional incandescent, or half of a CFL. In addition to the lower energy bills, many electric utilities are offering rebates and other incentives to convert to LED.

There are three other reasons that I am a fan of LED lighting.
  1. Heat: LEDs put out far less heat than the alternatives. This means less general heat in your home, but it also means less heat in your light fixtures and wiring boxes. Heat in these locations can cause damage to wires and fixtures, and sometimes even fire.
  2. Safer Construction: They usually use plastic instead of glass for the globe (something made possible by lower heat). They also don't contain toxic chemicals like mercury that can cause a health hazard when broken.
  3. Overall Quality of Light: Fluorescent lights have a pulsing strobe effect, which gets worse as they age. This is known to be a major headache trigger, even causing migraines in some people. In addition, it can negatively affect mood in people with certain mood or environmental disorders. LED lighting doesn't pulse and is just generally "cleaner."
Shopping for LEDs
There are two ways to convert to LED lighting. The first is to buy dedicated replacement fixtures, which are  painless to install and require little or no maintenance or work after installation. They are also quite a bit more expensive up front. From a prepper standpoint, it's best to look at these fixtures only if you have an existing fixture that needs replacement anyway, and if you have any doubt about your ability to replace a fixture, please call a qualified electrician.

The much easier way is to replace your light bulbs and fluorescent tubes with LED lights that install into your existing fixtures like any other lamp, and last an average of 8-10 years before needing replacement. Replacements are available for almost all lamps made in the past 30 years.

When purchasing LED replacement lamps, there are two unique things on the packaging to pay attention to. The first is if the package is marked as "dimmable." If you have or want a dimming switch in your room, you'll need dimmable lamps. Otherwise, they produce an undesirable flickering light.

The second unique packaging notation is the wattage. LED packaging usually shows two wattage ratings. One will be tiny, usually a single digit; this is the actual wattage that the light uses. The other will look more like the wattage you expect on an incandescent bulb and is called the "wattage equivalent", which is the size of incandescent bulb you would expect to replace and get the same amount of light. Swap these out like you would any other bulb and forget about them for a decade.

Save money, save effort, and possibly improve your health with LED lighting.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #152 - Facepalm, Give a Sigh, Everybody Roll Their Eyes

This episode is brought to you by the letters W, T, and F, and the number 8.
  • It’s more than just a mom’s dilemma: What do you do when you’re too busy to get to the range for some recoil therapy? Beth gives us some advice.
  • What kind of person cuts, strangled and tries to rape a woman? Sean takes a closer look.
  • What happens when an insurance company decides that they’d like to “help” their customers by sending them information on a USB stick? Barron facepalms himself so hard that he gets a concussion, that’s what.
  • Miguel wanted a break from ranting, so he pulled some books from his book pile. This week, he’s recommending two: The Siege and Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the second of a three-part interview series, Charl tells us how he went from being an ordinary young man to a responsibly armed citizen.
  • Tiffy’s back, back again. Tiffy's back, tell a friend. In this installment of The Bridge, Tiffany talks about that Dana Loesch video and what it means to her.
  • Following up on her segment on "proprioception", Erin explains how our brains think of loved ones as extensions of ourselves, and why losing them is like losing a limb. 
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part three of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
To Our Brains, Loved Ones Are Limbs
In last week’s segment about proprioception, I asked the question “if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being?”

And the answer is “This already happens. We just don’t realize it as such.”

The classic example is a mother with a baby. The act of bonding with that child produces critical changes within the mother’s brain, re-wiring parts of it. While it can be joked that we now have definitive proof that having kids causes brain damage, these changes are in fact vital for the continuation of our species.

When you think about an infant in a clinical, objective sense, what you see is a helpless bundle of needs that feeds parasitically, consumes resources and deprives sleep, and generally acts as a detriment to the parent. Without these changes to the brain, humans would not love their children as themselves, and we would see a huge increase in infant death.

But the fact remains that parents love their children as their own flesh, because their proprioception, their body map, has extended into the child. We see this most strongly in mothers whose arms ache to hold their children. As those children grow, the body map slowly changes to accommodate the growth; the need to hold morphs into a need to have them on your lap, which evolves into the need to hold their hand. This is why parents will forever see their children as, well, children; there’s still a part of them that years to hold us and cuddle us in the same way that those of us who have pets still sometimes wish our dogs and cats were still puppies and kittens.

But this proprioception of another as ourselves doesn’t begin and end with children. It happens with those we love, as well. When you think about it, sex violates the desire of the body to keep its DNA and fluids to itself, but in order to reproduce, we need to bypass this isolationist urge. Seeing our lover as a partial extension of ourselves is how our brains trick our body into violating one of the key principles of our immune system.

This is why losing a loved one causes an aching sense of absence that is above and beyond emotional pain; we are, quite literally, experiencing a phantom limb pain, except the missing limb is the person we lost.

This also explains why so many people seek out rebound relationships: just as a mirror image of the missing limb was able to cure phantom limb pain, so too does finding another person to fill the void of the missing relationship.

So looping back to my first segment on the topic a month ago, losing someone is like losing a part of yourself, which causes anxiety, which activates the rage pathway in the brain.

Next week. I’ll talk more about PTSD and discuss ways to reprogram the “fire together, wire together” clusters which cause flashbacks. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A little bit better every day

The whole point of prepping is to have a high quality of life, even in an emergency or after a disaster, but trying to maintain that level of preparation can be overwhelming.

In this week's video, I give a you a little advice on how you can stay prepared without making yourself crazy.

Be good. Be safe. If you can't be safe, be good and DANGEROUS!

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to