Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Too bad about that common sense theory though..."

"But if more people have more guns, then they'll shoot more people, in fights, or by accident... it's just common sense"...

Great theory... common sense etc... except it's entirely incorrect...

The peak of violent crime in the country was the mid to late 90s. Not coincidentally, this is when the rapid growth in concealed carry also began.

... And since the peak between 1994 and 1997, violent crime, and crime with firearms, have fallen by about 50%... While the number of people legally carrying firearms have increased by over 700% (and total firearms ownership has increased by somewhere around 200 million according to production and import records).

*** An Aside: those 200 million new and imported guns sold in the U.S. in the last 20 or so years (18 million just in 2015 alone, 14 million new manufactured, and 4 million imported)? 
About 1/8 of them have been some variant of the AR15 or AR10... you know, the scary black rifle people keep wanting to ban? 
Semi-official estimates are only about 10-15 million AR15s... but that's because there are now literally hundreds of manufacturers of the rifle if not thousands, and most of them call it something else, or sell it in a slight variant, or different chambering, etc... so it's technically not an AR15... but for all practical purposes it is. 
It's not some kind of strange and powerful "weapon of war"... it's just another rifle, like any other... in fact less powerful than most. It just happens to be black and scary looking to some... 
.... and these days, most people who own guns, seem to own one, or two or more... They're like legos... mix and match, and have fun. 
It's by far the most commonly sold, and likely the second most commonly owned (behind the remington 700) centerfire rifle in the country... and the second most common semi-auto rifle behind the Ruger 10-22 ***

As of today, 29 states have "shall issue" carry licensing. That means anyone who can legally own firearms, and meet the basic standards those states require, can get a permit to carry.

... and millions of people have done so...

Before the carry boom, 16 states didn't allow carry at all, and 25 had very restrictive permits, with less than 2 million legally carrying concealed nationwide.

As of today, there are already almost 15 million people legally carrying concealed firearms in this country (12.8 million at the beginning of 2015, and an expected 2 million more since then, but no 2015/16 numbers are available yet)...

... and that doesn't include all the people in the 11 states that now don't require any permit whatsoever, to carry a firearm concealed (and there will likely be 2 or 3 more of those states by the end of the year).

That's 40 states, where any adult that meets the standards and can legally own firearms, can carry them.... and only 10 where they cant...

... Actually... all of those 10 states technically have a permit process... but it usually requires a big "campaign donation" or a good friend in the government, in order to get one... but technically, all 50 states allow concealed carry now, with or without permit.

...and yet... no increase in accidental or criminal shootings... in fact they fell by half.

...Well... except in a couple of those 10 gun control states, where they didn't fall nearly as much... like Illinois... but hey...

There are about 215 million adults 21 or over, and without a felony conviction... there are about 15 million CCW holders, and some number of carriers in those 11 states with constitutional carry... most likely a couple million, given most of them are heavy gun owner states...

... So... on any given day, basically, at least 7% or so of adults may be legally carrying a gun.

Given that very few of those, are in the 10 states with restrictive gun control... which together have a population of about 105 million...

... that actually means, more like at least 12% of the eligible adult population in the shall issue and constitutional carry states... probably more like 15%.

So... 1 out of every 14 or so at the absolute minimum, and maybe as much as 1 out of 6 adults may be legally carrying, in areas where carry is not restricted... on any given day...

... And yet, violent crime, crime with firearms, and accidental shootings, have all fallen by around 50% since the mid 90s...

Funny that....

Too bad about that "common sense" theory though...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"But there MUST be SOMETHING we can do? We HAVE to do SOMETHING!!!"

The core belief behind those who truly and honestly believe in, and support gun control, as a public safety measure; is the notion that there MUST be SOMETHING that we, collectively, as a society, acting through the state, can do, to stop people from doing bad things....

...and, that when people try to do bad things anyway "someone" will be there to stop them, and protect us.

It's the same impulse behind just about every other time anyone says "there ought to be a law"...

... And just as it is with just about every other issue, in just about every other case... it's pretty much always wrong.

Why "must" there be "something" we can do?

Because we wish there was? Because we hope there is?

Sadly, wishing and hoping don't seem to have much if any impact on criminal behavior. Nor do the literally millions of laws and regulations, hundreds of thousands of police, and thousands of prisons and jails in this country.

Laws don't prevent bad behavior, they simply define the punishment for violating the law... and when someone is already willing to commit a crime regardless of the punishment, making it "extra illegal" isn't going to change anything.

Murder is already illegal... gun, knife, baseball bat, fist... the weapon used doesn't matter.

The second part of the error, is the idea that laws will actually stop people from acquiring the weapons they "need" to commit crimes.

Of course... you don't actually need a "weapon" to commit murder... it's just physically easier than beating someone to death... But then again, so is running them over with a car.

You can't control behavior, by regulating an inanimate object, that has little to do with the behavior... Or for that matter, much at all, even if it IS required...

You simply cannot stop people from acquiring weapons... including guns... no matter how "strong" you think your laws are. It's not possible. No matter how strict the gun control, criminals get guns... never mind knives, clubs, bombs, poison...

You can literally make a gun, and it's ammunition, with a few dollars, and access to a hardware store.
You can make the regulated parts of AR15 in your garage with basic power tools, never mind what you can do with a benchtop CNC machine, or a 3d printer, all of which are now commonly available at low cost.

.... and then there's the hundreds of millions of guns already out there... Actually I personally think, and have posted the math and evidence as to why, it's more like over a billion...

It is impossible to stop people from acquiring basically whatever weapon they want, with laws.

It is impossible to stop people from doing bad things, with laws.

They're just about as effective as the "war on drugs" is today, or alcohol prohibition was in 1919.

All laws do, is hobble the law abiding.

If you want to stop people from doing bad things, you have to do so either:
  1. Before they ever want to do those bad things... with education, mental health care, productive employment etc...
  2. While they are attempting them... with opposing force.

... And I don't know about you... but I don't have a time machine to go back and give a criminal a better life  and a good therapist, so they wont try to harm me... and I live in the middle of nowhere, and don't happen to carry a cop around in my pocket. If someone wants to do something bad to me or my family, I don't have time to wait for police.

... Never mind the fact that it is both entirely irrational, and entirely morally bankrupt, to believe it is acceptable for someone else to use force to defend me and my family, but not acceptable to do so for myself...

What I DO have, is a responsibility to understand all of the above, accept it, and be prepared to do something about it if necessary... Not to hide my head in the sand, deny it, and pretend otherwise.

It's my responsibility to defend myself and my family, because no-one else is going to do it for me (and in fact, to burden others with doing so by my unpreparedness, is immoral)...

... and for that matter, if I am able to do so... without undue risk of harm to myself or my defend those around me, if they are similarly attacked... But that is secondary...

Thus, I have guns, and I train with them, and I mentally prepare to use them to defend myself and others, if necessary. I hope it never is, but I would be failing in my responsibilities, if I didn't prepare for the possibility.


What really gets me though... Is that I have this discussion with people... and sometimes, they really do understand it and believe it...

... and they still think we "must do something" anyway...

For symbolic reasons I guess?

Seems like insanity to me...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Second surgery coming up, and other updates

To start this off, I'm writing this on my phone while laying down next to the 3 year old who won't let me out of his sight.

Probably because he woke up this morning, turned into Houdini and figured out how to get out of his room, and didn't find Mommy and Daddy in the master bedroom where he expected us to be.

Chris has moved into the in-law suite in preparation for the next surgery and radiation, and because it's cooler down there and there's no stairs for him to force his swollen joints down.

And that's where Christopher found us this morning, in the basement. Clearly I need to replace his door knob with one that locks, add some alarms to his door, or something so he can't easily go wandering around the house.

In the mean time the next surgery consult is tomorrow, with surgery expected next week. I'm going to be spending the vast majority of time going between my two men and attending to the needs they can't attend to themselves between toddlerhood and neck surgery.

In other news, I picked up Chris's new meds and they seem to be helping.

Got the Blazer registered, now we need to finish repairs.

I need to make changes to Christopher's room.

I still need to get to the doc, having prioritized getting transportation and getting Chris to the doc and getting meds and this little thing called paying the bills and eating.

Between the meds and transportation and medical costs, we're down to nothing again, and unfortunately we need to pay for things like parking fees at MGH, gas to get there, the final repairs on the Blazer, bills, food, and alarms for Christopher's room.

But we're getting there. We're gaining ground.

So that's where we are.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to always works. and if you want to make other arrangements feel free to email me at or message me on Facebook.

Thanks all.


Monday, June 13, 2016

This sucks less in some ways, and MUCH more in others...

First, the good.

June bills are paid, transportation has been acquired, doctors have been visited.

Now, the bad.

The transportation needs a couple of hundred in repairs in order to pass inspection.

Chris hasn't slept in 3 1/2 days, his lymphedema is so out of control it's making it almost impossible for him to move (so he doesn't unless it's to the bathroom 4 feet away), and the pain is so bad he's not eating properly or sleeping at all.

He's experiencing pain in joints he hasn't stressed, so much so that I had to go get him some ACE bandages with the last of our cash.

He's not absorbing his thyroid meds properly, so he's extremely hypothyroid. The doc is putting him on a new med with a different delivery mechanism for the thyroid hormone in hopes that will help.

Went to the endocrinologist for an ultrasound and biopsy on Thursday. 5 masses were identified, 4 on the side that wasn't operated on and one rather large one that is suprasternal. Between those and the lymphedema Chris is experiencing sleep apnea for the first time since 2012, when the big tumor was removed from next to his airway.

We've also been told his muscle atrophy is starting to be an issue so the doc is pushing for physical therapy, either at home (about $2k in equipment unless we get really, really lucky) or at a facility (costing much more and not covered by insurance).

So, Chris's sleep is out of control, his pain is out of control, hes not eating, his lymphedema is out of control, he's stressing joints just by living and being extremely hypothyroid is making all of this much worse.

And we're waiting for his next surgery, and while I would love to pick up the meds that would in theory help all of this, I can't because insurance is not approving them, and we don't have the cash to pay for the new one (at over $200 a month) out of pocket. I also can't pay for physical therapy equipment, though at least now I can transport it!

So... some things are better. We paid the bills and have transportation and we now know Chris will be going through another surgery which will be scheduled ASAP.

But Chris is much worse and almost unable to move or sleep or eat, we need to finish repairs on the transportation, and I need cash for gas and to pay out of pocket for new meds.

So that's where we are.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to always works. and if you want to make other arrangements feel free to email me at or message me on Facebook.

Thanks all.


Monday, June 06, 2016

Death, Not Life, is the Default Setting

Several memes and complaints have been going around, along with the usual suspects, that hint towards a rather damaging mindset.

Patients spend too much time taking care of chronic conditions, people shouldn't be going bankrupt just because they get cancer, health care is a human right, health care is too expensive, rent is too expensive, utilities are too expensive, EVERYTHING is too expensive, yadda yadda yadda.

The mindset at the center of all of these is the same: health, wellness, and life is the default setting.


If you think life is the default setting, go out in the woods in the middle of the winter (or the desert in the middle of the summer) and do NOTHING.

Don't find shelter, don't eat, don't drink, don't build a fire or shade, and just sit there. What will happen?

The same thing that happens to babies who don't have anyone taking care of them.

Death is the default setting, and we've become very isolated from that fact.

Imagine sitting down with someone from the 17th century. Imagine you're feeding your kids lunch and having coffee with this time traveler.

Them: What is this drink you're giving me?
Me: It's called coffee.
Them: Where does it come from?
Me: South America mostly.
Them: Must be very expensive to get it here.
Me: *Explains transcontinental shipping and their eyes go wide.*
Them: What is that you're feeding the children?
Me: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some milk.
Them: I didn't see wheat or peanut plants outside, much less a cow.
Me: Oh I buy it from the grocery store. *Explains stores, commercial farming*.
Them: Well you'd better use the jelly and milk up quick or else it will go bad.
Me: *Explains pasteurization and refrigeration.*
Them: And how much did all of this cost you?
Me: *Calculates quickly* About $2.
Them: Well that's a lot, how long did you have to work to pay for this?
Me: *Assumes minimum wage* About 15 minutes.
Them: *Falls out of chair.* *Recovers* So little work in order to eat?
Me: Well it's not perfect, for example for some kids the peanut butter would cause an allergic reaction.
Them: So they'd die?
Me: Well no, a lot of the time they have what's called an epi-pen that stops the allergic reaction.
Them: That's amazing. How many children do you have?
Me: 3.
Them: So few? How many did you lose?
Me: Um, none. There's this thing called birth control now...
Them: You didn't lose any? Not to smallpox or whooping cough?
Me: *Explains vaccines and germ theory.*
Them: And you didn't lose any infants? Obviously you yourself survived childbirth, but surely some women aren't as lucky.
Me: Well babies and mothers don't die in childbirth quite as often anymore. *Explains hospitals, sterilization, ultrasounds, and about a billions things.*
Them: So how many times have you been in a hospital?
Me: 4. 3 births, and one kidney biopsy to see if I could donate a kidney to my brother with kidney failure.
Them: You can do that?
Me: Yes, it's actually pretty simple. Now that I'm done having kids maybe the docs will clear me this time.
Them: Wait, your brother is still alive? How long has it been?
Me: 10 years. *Explains dialysis.*
Them: So people survive these things now?
Me: Oh yes. People can live decades with kidney failure or diabetes with the right treatment.
Them: So what do people complain about?
Me: Things like people who have cancer going bankrupt going through treatment.
Them: Well that's understandable, you don't want to spend unnecessary money dying after all...
Me: Actually, a lot of the time people don't die, they survive cancer, and some live for decades afterwards. My own husband will most likely survive his second round of cancer and cancer treatment.
Them: Isn't that worth all of the money you have?
Me: It is to me. But people who haven't gone through it think it shouldn't be as hard as it is, and think chronic health conditions should be easier to deal with, and cheap to deal with.
Them: So let me get this straight: more people live, more babies live, you spend less time feeding yourself and your family than any other point in history, people can survive many things that used to kill them, and people are complaining that it's too much work to do so, and that it should be less?
Me: Pretty much.

We've totally lost sight of the fact that without all of our modern methods of dealing with the world, we'd all be back to scraping out an existence and watching people die on a continuous basis.

I'm not saying there's not room for improvement, there clearly is, but for just one second could we just be grateful that there's work to do, because that means we're all still alive and needing to be kept alive?


Saturday, June 04, 2016

Cleaner, hotter, blacker, better... Charcoal

Humans have been making... and cooking with... charcoal for thousands of years.

It was literally our first processed fuel technology, making a much hotter, cleaner, and more manageable fire than wood, with MUCH lighter and easier to pack fuel.

...In fact, charcoal is STILL the most common cooking fuel in much of Africa and parts of Asia and south America even today.

We've come up with hundreds of ways of cooking, since we started cooking over charcoal... None of them taste any better, and very few nearly as good.

Sadly.. Lots of people thing cooking with charcoal is a hassle and a mess. They prefer propane, or just using their ovens or broilers.. or maybe cast iron preheated in the oven, then used over really hot burner...

... all of which can produce good results of course, especially cast iron....

... and if they've only cooked with "charcoal briquettes"... which aren't anything like actual charcoal (more on that later)... I can certainly understand why they would (mistakenly) think charcoal was not that great, a mess, and a hassle...

Because they've never ACTUALLY cooked with charcoal.

Cooking with natural lump charcoal, is one of the most efficient, quickest, easiest, and least messy means of cooking there is... And of course, one of the tastiest.

Wood, natural gas, and propane (and some types of mineral coal), all make for medium temperature, and very "wet" heat, with lots of, sometimes unpleasant, residues (and odors).

Natural lump charcoal makes for a cook fire, so hot and dry, (because it burns very efficiently and nearly completely), that it lets you get a hard sear, or even char on the outside, while still staying juicy, tender, and medium rare inside.... Even for very thin cuts of meat, or very small pieces like steak tips.

Propane can't do that, nor can any home oven or most home ranges... even with thick cast iron. In fact, it's basically impossible to get anywhere near as good delivery of heat into your food as natural lump charcoal can give you, without very expensive specialty restaurant equipment.

... and if you like cooking in cast Iron, you have no idea how great it can be, until you cook with cast iron and proper charcoal... Propane and natural gas can't hold a candle.

Now... if you're cooking with briquettes, that's another story entirely... They're awful...
Briquettes really ARE a high effort hassle for poor results...

They don't smell right, sometimes food doesn't taste right with them, they're heavy and messy, they are difficult and take forever to light and usually need starting fluid (sometimes even with a chimney starter), they make for low and uneven heating... they can even choke off their own fire and end up going out... and most of all, they can take 30 or 45 minutes before you're ready to cook.

And of course, with propane... or even with an oven or a range and cast iron, you've got to pre-heat for 10 to 20 minutes as well...

Real charcoal is nothing like a hassle...
With a chimney starter, and natural lump charcoal; going from nothing to ready to cook, is very quick, and takes almost no effort.

Literally 20 seconds of trivial effort to load the charcoal and light the starter, and 10-15 minutes of waiting for the coals to get ready...

...and then you're cooking, at a FAR higher temperature than any home oven or burner can get.

How hot can it get?

A natural lump charcoal fire, in a chimney starter, can easily get to over 1400 degrees.

If you use enough charcoal, and let it burn a few minutes longer and hotter, it will get to the point where it is generating its own blast draft, just like a furnace.

When it's blasting like a furnace, that fire can get steel to cherry red, which is over 1500 degrees... even up to a bright cherry red as high as 1700 degrees... (leave it long enough, with enough airflow, and enough charcoal, and it can go even higher, and melt the thin sheetmetal of the chimney starter. With a bellows or blower, you can easily get a charcoal fire hot enough to forge, and even to smelt, steel).

Ok... but how hot can I actually cook with it?

After dumping the chimney into the grill, when the charcoal is glowing bright red on the grate; with good airflow and proper insulation under the fire, you can see a temperature at the grill surface of 800 to 1100 degrees easily... sometimes higher (I've regularly measured 1200 with a non contact thermometer).

... Which means cooking faster, which means getting better texture and flavor, without overcooking.

In fact, if you're just cooking a couple of steaks, burgers, breasts etc... you can just take a grill grate, and cook right on top of the chimney starter, using much less charcoal.

You cook right on the starter, it takes about 3 minutes total to cook a 1" thick steak to medium rare... 90 seconds a side.

It only takes enough charcoal to make the chimney work properly... a few ounces, a few inches, and some waste paper. I light it with a blowtorch to make it even faster and easier... and more fun... When the charcoal is fully ignited... you don't have to wait for an orange hot jet of flame but you can if you like... you're ready to cook.

When you burn it that hot, charcoal burns almost completely... Almost no cleanup... because it's REAL charcoal. No pan, no oven, just a little bit of ash... and really, it's only a little bit.

... and it's not all about the fast and hot...

If you want a lower and slower cook, get your starter to the point where all the charcoal has caught, but not where it's generating its own updraft blast furnace...

Then dump on the grate, and restrict the airflow into the firebox. Everything will slow down, and smolder, for quite a long time.

You can easily sustain a low and slow, or a medium heat, for hours... anywhere from 190 degrees in the grill box, to 400-500 degrees... adding new charcoal as necessary.

With a well insulated hot box, this dry controlled heat is ideal for pizza and certain kinds of bread baking. In fact, it's likely the only way most home cooks can actually get an oven hot enough to make proper pizza (though using a combination of firebrick and a thick piece of pizza steel, and preheating for a long time, can get you close).

... and of course, you can smoke meats this way, with seasoned smoking wood added to the charcoal.

It really is just better...

When I have the gear, and the space, I cook with REAL charcoal year round, rain, shine, snow (just rig an awning)... doesn't matter.

It can actually be much LESS hassle, and much LESS cleanup, than using your kitchen.

It's not like cooking with "charcoal briquettes"...which... and this is the importan't part... aren't even actual charcoal.

Wait... Briquettes aren't charcoal?

No... really... they're not. Not even much like it at all actually.

"Charcoal briquettes" are actually mostly sand or clay, and binders, with a little blackened sawdust, and coal dust mixed in.

Kingsford, the %1 brand in America lists the following as the ingredients of their briquettes:

Wood char (partially charred sawdust and wood flour)
Mineral char (partially burned coal dust from processing of soft brown lignite coal... often high sulfur coal)
Mineral carbon (unburned coal dust from soft brown lignite coal)
Sodium nitrate

Even the "wood char" isn't really charcoal, it's blackened sawdust and wood flour (often left over from paper and saw mills, which is good), but it hasn't really been pyrolized as proper charcoal.

Basically, they're over 90% stuff that isn't anything like charcoal, and less than 10% of stuff that is sort of like charcoal... but no actual charcoal.

That's why they can't cook worth a damn, why they take forever to heat, and why there is so much mess. They don't light well, they don't burn well, and they don't cook well.

Thankfully, you can get natural lump charcoal almost anywhere now (including walmart), and given how little you actually need, for how much you can cook with it... it's actually LESS expensive than briquettes.

Good natural lump charcoal runs between $1 and $1,50 a pound. "Good" briquettes run between $0.50 and $1.00 a pound.

Initially, that may seem significantly MORE expensive, however, with lump, you never need to use starting fluid ($4 a bottle, which lasts what... 20lbs?) and you don't waste 80% of your heat "waiting for the coals to be ready".

More importantly, because it cooks so much hotter and so much faster, and because you start cooking in 10 minutes not 30-45...

...You can cook more with 1lb of lump, than you can with 5lbs of briquettes...

Yes, really, it's about 5 to 1.

... And of course, because lump burns much more completely and cleaner, and briquettes are literally more than 90% "nothing like charcoal"...when you're done with that 1lb of lump vs 5lbs of briquettes... the briquettes end up making about 10 times the ash, and nasty residues.

So... yeah... grilling with briquettes is a high effort, expensive, messy hassle...

Which, of course, is why you should grill with... you know... actual charcoal.