KR Training 2017-02-04 – Lone Star Medics Dynamic First Aid Quick hits

Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics returned to KR Training on February 4, 2017 to put on his Dynamic First Aid course. I like to describe Dynamic First Aid as “First Aid 102”. That is, First Aid 101 is things like dealing with cuts and Band-Aids and such first-aid fundamentals. Dynamic First Aid continues from there talking about dealing with severe bleeding (tourniquets, pressure dressings), shock, burns, splinting, scene safety, and the like. It’s a great course and I think one everyone should take.

Yes, everyone.

In one of my first interactions with Caleb years ago he made a great point. He asked the class how many people had seen a gunshot in the past year? No hands go up. Then he asked how many people had seen a car wreck in the past year? Hands go up. Don’t you think that’s a situation that may warrant first aid skills?

And think about simple things like cuts, or nosebleeds – solving those are first aid skills! The preservation of life isn’t just about “self-defense”; first aid is very much a part of that, and essential skills for all people to possess. Because we ALL encounter such issues at some point in our lives.

Something else to think about? There are people that believe when things go pear-shaped they will rise to the occasion. That may happen, but in a first aid situation? Explain to me how you will rise up and suddenly have the knowledge of how to stop severe bleeding? or administer CPR? You won’t. These skills and knowledge will not just come to you: you must have taking the time to acquire them beforehand.

I made it one of my 2017 training priorities to get more non-gun skills, like medical training. But this class became a little different for me: I wanted my family to take it. And yes, Wife, Oldest, Daughter, and Youngest all attended and participated in the class. Yes, Dynamic First Aid is suitable for children, but within reason. For example, part of first aid has realities of body parts; so if there are issues with words like “penis” and “vagina”, they may not be ready for the class. That’s something I admire and respect about Caleb: he called me before class and wanted to check on all of this. His sensitivity towards his students is part of what makes him a great teacher.


Class ran well. A good and motivated group of students. Caleb balances the class well. There’s a time for lecture, a time for demonstration, and then a time to have everyone practice and try it for themselves.

What’s especially good? The class culminates in some scenario training. This is invaluable training, because it not only forces you to put your knowledge to work, but it adds some pressure and realism to make you have to think.

I also find scenario work to be a good source of inoculation, so when problems happen you don’t freak out but instead can handle the situation with some degree of aplomb. For example, in one scenario Wife was a resucer and Youngest was a victim. When Wife saw Youngest, she was truly shocked and broken up at the sight, but went to work because that’s what Momma has to do. Afterwards, Wife told me how it was hard for her to see it, but I told her it was good because now if something does happen to Youngest, instead of emotions taking control of her, she can know that she’s seen it before, that she’s got the skills to address the problem, and she can get to work.

That’s why such training is so important, and I’m so thankful that Caleb puts a high value on scenario training in his classes.

Get out and do it

Get the knowledge, get the skills. You don’t know when you may need first aid, but I feel safe in saying that you will at some point in your life – you just don’t get to choose when, so it’s important to have that knowledge beforehand.

My family is one of the most precious things to me. I’m willing to put their well-being in Caleb’s knowledgable and proficient hands. If you get a chance to train with him, you should.

Thank you for teaching me and my family, Caleb. Drink water.

Lessons in Perseverance and Patience

Youngest and I went deer hunting again.

When we tried about 2 weeks ago, the hunt was not successful. However, a lot of good things came from it. Best of all, it just meant we had to go out to the field again, spend more time with each other again bonding and building memories. Gee, horrible thing. 😉

And so, we set out again.

We started pretty much the same way: waking up at a very early hour, rolling to the property, setting up and sitting down. We set up in the same place as before, because I know deer show up in that area.

Well, they’re supposed to.

The Morning

We spent 4 hours in the stand… with nothing. I mean, it was deader than last time. The most exciting thing was a bird landed on a bush in front of the stand, and we saw it poop. Yeah… that was the highlight of the morning.

After our patience and bladders reached their breaking point, we got out of the stand, headed up to the house, and relaxed a bit. Had made prior arrangements to have lunch with a friend (Deputy Rudolph), so let him know that we were ready to go. Well, since he was on duty and working, I expected a little wait in case he was dealing with something. Sure enough he was. So we waited a bit, then headed up to Elm Creek Cafe, only to find out it was closed on Mondays. Rearranged plans, went into the town of Giddings. Alas, Deputy Rudolph hadn’t even started the work detail he was on, so there was more waiting. Eventually he finished and was on his way, but then got stuck at a railroad crossing. It took him a while before he showed up. Meantime, we sat in the truck, in the parking lot of the restaurant, and watched many people arrive, enter, eat, then leave… while we continued to sit. I’m not mad at things, not his fault for the timing of it all. But… it was just another case of waiting, and waiting. Still, lunch was really good and it was great to see him. We had a long lunch, talking about all manner of things, including Youngest getting to learn a little about the realities of police work.

The Return

After lunch, we headed back to the ranch. Karl had suggested we could pass some time by taking one of his .22’s and going squirrel hunting. I’ve never done that, and Youngest was hip to the idea. But it was pretty clear he was hip to it because 1. we had seen lots of squirrels, 2. it seemed to him like his best chance to get SOMETHING.

But it wasn’t to be.

As soon as we pulled into the ranch, a very nice doe ran literally right in front of my truck in the big pasture. ARGH! I didn’t bring my rifle because I have this thing about leaving valuables in the car, and I didn’t even just leave it in the house… no… I had locked it up in the safe. I ran into the house, opened the safe, grabbed the rifle, then ran back out to the pasture. I figured the doe might slow down once she hit the treeline.

We hoofed it through the double-gates into the pasture. As I reached the end of the first fenceline I looked north to scan down by the fence and treeline there towards the stock tank. Sure enough, I saw her right there at the fence about 200 yards away. I rested the rifle on the big corner fence post and as I was finding her in the scope a huge RUMBLE scared her off. Seems the fence repairs guys were out at the far south end of the property, probably what flushed her out in the first place, and as he started up his truck engine it scared her off. Damnit. We hoofed it through the pasture down to the gate, to circle around the stock tank – maybe she was just inside the woods, maybe at the water. Alas, nothing. We headed back to the house to properly prep. I decided to go ahead and just sit in the stand because hey… deer are there, and we certainly have no chance at one if we’re not in the stand.

The Afternoon

Yes, we got into the stand early, probably earlier than truly needed. But you just can’t know when the deer will be out, and if we’re going to sit around and wait, might as well wait in the stand.

And… the boredom sunk in again. Making it worse, a good lunch digesting, unseasonable warmth (it got into the low 70’s), and facing west with the afternoon sun coming into the blind onto our dark-colored clothing… and yeah, we were both nodding off.

But here’s one change we made.

While sitting in the morning, I kept looking at the lay of the land. We weren’t in the best spot. Yes, it was a good spot from a “being camouflaged and blending in” perspective, but we couldn’t see all that we needed to see.

Here’s a map:

This morning (and all hunts prior), we set up around the the green dot. This was at a high point, altitude-wise, and gave very good sight north and south, which game cameras and observation of deer movement told us this strip was very productive. This was also a nice spot because it was up in a clump of bushes and trees so you blended in pretty well. But notice, all you can really see is north and south.

On prior hunts I had scanned the area looking for other positions, but nothing really gave us as good a vantage point. Sure better camouflage, but worse sight lines. I always looked at it tho from a perspective of “remaining hidden”.

This afternoon tho, I said screw it. Well, I actually said that after we finished up in the morning and before we went to lunch I moved the blind a bit north. The blind was totally out in the open, but we had a MUCH better vantage point on all fronts. To the south, it wasn’t as good as we had before, but it was quite adequate because if a deer was blocked by that tree/bush clump, it would just be a matter of time before they moved out. To the north, we were slightly higher and saw northward much better. But the most significant was to the west, as you can see by the red arrow.

I started to have a feeling that the deer were moving but NOT along the normal trail. Too open? Smelled us? the winds were coming from the south, so any deer to our north (normal movement pattern was starting north and moving south) obviously would smell us. Who knows why, but I just got a feeling that given all things I had observed and considered, they were moving, just behind the trees.

My hunch paid off.

My Mistakes

Around 5 PM I see a doe poke her head out from behind the trees, basically where the red arrow ends. She starts walking right towards us.

Of course, I get all excited! Youngest knew to be still, move slow. He watched over my shoulder (he was sitting behind me in the blind; got to know the back of my head really well). But me? My heart was racing, my breathing was deep, and I was just all worked up. Not even so much because it was a deer and finally our opportunity, but because man… I really wanted this for Youngest.

There is nothing wrong with making a kid learn to wait. But there’s a balance to be had, because if all they ever get is waiting then they may well lose interest and all is lost. I really wanted Youngest to finally have his chance to see how everything goes down. I was really worked up and I guess nervous and stressed that this is it… but we might lose this chance…

And so, I rushed it.

The shot was NOT steady. I knew it wasn’t. But I was too afraid to miss the chance.

Well, I missed the deer.

From how she ran off, the lack of any subsequent noise, I knew I had flat out missed.

And I was angry with myself. Angry because I rushed it. Angry because I risked taking an unethical shot. Angry because I may have lost our sole opportunity. Angry for so many reasons. And I made sure to vocalize it to Youngest, not that it was his fault or anything, but I’ve never been anything but honest with my kids and even them seeing that “even Dad” can screw up, I think is important. That we’re human too, and here’s how to deal with it, y’know?

Still, I told him that we wait, because if she’s dead she’s dead, and if not well… sometimes they come back.

Sure enough, she did. About 5-10 minutes later she poked her head out of the same spot. I got her in my sights, perfect broadside shot. But this time I told myself to take another deep breath and steady myself. As I did that, her head shot up, major alert position, and she bolted. I swear I never have seen a deer turn tail and just sprint away so quickly.

Damnit #2.

It was interesting to show to Youngest how sometimes you have to wait, but if you wait too long, the opportunity could be lost. It’s truly a strange game and balancing act.

I slumped back in my chair.

Then… we heard snorting.

There was another deer stamping feet and snorting hard at us. If you look at the map, there’s a clump of trees/bushes between the red and yellow lines, close to the red dot. The deer was just behind that clump. No ability to get a shot, but you could see the deer easily being mad, snorting, fading back a bit, but not heading off. I figured to bring the rifle up and be ready because if she was there, likely she was going to emerge somewhere. I had Youngest watch her movements to see if he could pick up on direction — he was doing really well tracking her movements through the scrub, so I told him to let me know if she was going north or south.


And then, she stuck her head out from behind the trees, about at the end of the yellow arrow. She was quartering towards me and just standing there. I was steady, slow smooth press, and that was that. Youngest watched the whole thing, saw her jump, reported that her front leg “swung around like Jell-O”, and that was pretty clear that between what I saw in the scope and what he saw, that she was taken cleanly. She ran about 50 yards to the yellow dot, and we found her under a tree.

Biology Lesson

Now began the next phase: cleaning and processing. 🙂

Of course, I did most of the work here, but Youngest helped. He helped me put her on the back of the truck, helped by holding her when it was needed to keep her steady. He’d keep the truck bed lights running and other things I needed.

And he got quite a lesson in how the body works, seeing it all up close. He didn’t want to touch any internals, but he did of course hold the body, feel the warmth, and well… it gains you a big respect for life.

He got to see how the organs are hooked up and how things work. He did also see how the organs can easily be stopped. He saw the entry would, the exit wound, and what a bullet can do. I could tell it was a sobering moment for him, which is good. Respect for such things is important, and Hollywood will never teach you that respect – only direct experience can.

We processed a fair amount of meat. As you can see from the picture, she was a nice-sized Central Texas whitetail doe. I was surprised at the meat I was able to trim off her, because yeah… we waste nothing. All the edible meat I could trim I kept. Everything else was left to feed the coyotes and the vultures, because they need to eat too. The ground was nourished by nutrient-rich blood. Really, it’s how nature works, that whole “circle of life” thing.

Youngest learned a lot.

Lessons Learned

One thing Youngest struggles with is being patient, so I think this whole thing was a big lesson to him about being patient. And how patience will pay off.

It also teaches about perseverance, because we had to keep trying. When he wanted to zone out and stop scanning for deer, I’d tell him to keep working because you never know. One moment you see nothing, then it’s like the deer appears out of nowhere. Sure enough he saw that.

He wanted to rush out and find the deer after my first shot, but I told him not to because they’ll often come back. Sure enough they did, you just had to wait.

Oh, there were so many things learned. Little things, big things. From what might have been an insignificant moment, to the overarching issues of “waiting”. There’s just so much to gain here, I can’t detail it all.

Often times the bigger things you get out of life come from the work, not the end achieved. I will be curious to see how 5-10-20 years from now he will look back on this time and how it perhaps affected him. I hope it will be great things.

For me? I’m still not fully sure all that I was to take from this experience, but I can tell you one thing.

After I missed the shot, then missed the opportunity, I was so down on myself. But then after we took the deer, just before we left the stand Youngest stood up and put his arm around me and said, “See Dad? Don’t be mad at yourself. It all works out.” Yeah… I choked up a bit. That was money, right there. 🙂

We had a great adventure. Oldest and Daughter always have pretty straightforward hunting experiences. This time with Youngest was unique, and even his siblings recognize how cool it was. Even tho he didn’t take the deer, it was still his first time for the experience. I think he’s hooked. I don’t consider this “my deer”, I consider it “our deer”, because I know I couldn’t have done it without him. Thanx, son.

Life’s better, when you focus on the good things

Yesterday I went deer hunting with Youngest. He got to learn why it’s “hunting” not “bagging” because we came home with nothing.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. We came home with a bunch of great experiences and memories.

It wasn’t until maybe a year ago that Youngest expressed any interest in hunting. But since he did, I’ve been trying to make it happen. Finally, thanks to the generosity of a friend, I had an opportunity to take him out. Now, I’m doing the actual hunting and work here as Youngest doesn’t feel ready to do anything other than observe. But he wants to see what it’s all about.

We set off at an early hour. I swear I’ve never seen this kid so happy to wake up, not to mention wake up at 3:30 am! Obviously excited, and we set off. Over the hour drive there was much talking, asking and answering of questions, and getting ready for things. We get there, we set up the blind, and then we sit and wait.

I made it clear that there are no guarantees. That we could sit and wait and be bored out of our skulls, and have nothing to bring home. So he was prepared for that. Still, I really wanted to be able to bag a doe, as it was his first time out; it’d just help him see a lot of it all.

Alas, we saw almost nothing. We saw 3 does when we parked the truck, and we saw a very immature buck. That’s all we saw in our hours sitting out there. We even got tired of sitting and went on a stalk hunt for a while. Alas, nothing. It was very quiet.

But in that is where we were able to experience some neat things.

I told him that it is a little boring, but that’s ok. Take in what’s around you. There will be sounds, there will be things to see. Watching the sun come up itself is really cool. You never know what you might experience.

We saw movement behind some trees and thought “maybe a deer?” No… it wound up being a feral (house)cat. It was rather cute, and actually spotted us and stalked us for a while. 🙂

We got to see a hawk. Numerous other birds. This one squirrel had no idea about us and was hopping straight at us — that was mighty cute.

But the coolest thing?

We heard a woodpecker. We found him atop a telephone/power pole that was maybe 50-60 yards from us. We thought he was rather large, but didn’t think much of it. We watch him for a long time.

Then he took flight.

GEEZ! He was huge! I mean, for a woodpecker. Imagine a really large crow. He was a big dude! We kept watching him when he landed on another tree, then eventually lost track of him. But it was quite cool. We didn’t realize how cool until we got home.

We determined it was a Pileated Woodpecker.

Here’s a video of one, which is a pretty good shot of what they look AND sound like:

What made this extraordinary is they are an East Texas bird. To find them where we were is a rare occurrence!

Frankly, that made our day! 🙂  We’ve spent more time talking and learning about the woodpecker than anything else.

And you see, that’s really what it was all about.

It’s about having time together, building memories, and doing fun things. Heck, the fact we didn’t take a deer? Just means we have to go out again — gee, darn the luck! Which means another opportunity have time together, build more memories, and do more fun things.

So you see, we could focus on what we don’t have – a deer in the freezer. But life is so much better because we focus on what we do have. 🙂


Do you know what a “Livestock Guardian Dog” is? Let Sasha explain…

My dog, Sasha, is a Kuvasz.

More cute than intimidating (for now…)

The Kuvasz is a breed classified as a Livestock Guardian Dog, or LGD for short.

Often when we discuss this breed or LGDs, people think about herding dogs like Border Collies. No, LGDs aren’t there to herd, they’re there to protect the herd. They aren’t guard dogs either, in the commonly understood sense, like a Doberman, but still they are guards and guardians. They are something unique, but not well-known.

Cody & Liesl Lockhart of the Candll Lamb & Cattle Co. provide a great introduction and understanding of what LGDs are and their role.

[vimeo 60354527]

Here in Central Texas, I see a lot of farms with a “guard donkey” in the paddock, but not too many with LGDs. I have seen a few, and I think it’s a wise notion because of what a strong pack of “sheepdogs” can bring to the table in terms of keeping your stock safe.

Via the Kuvasz Fanciers FB page, I read a great 3-part series on LGDs by Mother Earth News:

  1. Part 1 – a general introduction to LGD’s
  2. Part 2 – discussion of some of the breeds
  3. Part 3 – more breeds

An important take-home is that all LGDs are not the same. As example, when people ask about Sasha we tell them she’s a Kuvasz. Most people are unfamiliar with the breed, so we explain it as “you know what a Great Pyrenees is? Similar.” We do that because Pyrs are fairly well-known, and they are similar: both big white fuzzy dogs, both LGDs. But once you get to know them, they are different. Pyrs tend to stay more with the flock and focus on the ground. Kuvasz are more perimeter dogs and will watch the sky. We see this constantly with Sasha, ensuring a secure perimeter, and ensuring those birds (especially the big vultures) keep away from the house.

LGDs are serious dogs that require serious commitment on the part of the owner. They must have a job, they must be allowed to do their job. This is not a dog you can keep in a crate or alone in the house/apartment for 8-10 hours a day, then hang out with after work. Many people get an LGD breed not understanding what the breed is, and after they realize the strong commitment and work required, give up the dog (always a sad thing). These dogs are not Labs or Beagles, they aren’t a typical “family dog”. But if you can provide what they need over their entire life, they’ll give you something wonderful in return.

If you know anything about me, you could label me a “sheepdog” (in the Lt. Grossman sense of the word). It stands to reason I’d have a dog that embodies the same qualities.

Time to do my own thing

Today, I step out to be on my own.

I’m leaving the world of W-2 employment to become a full-time independent software developer. I’m making Hsoi Enterprises my full-time gig.

I’m excited, happy, and yes, scared. But very much looking forward to this.

Why am I doing this?

I’ve primarily worked for someone else all my life. But for over 20 years I’ve done side-project work to help scratch my own itches. Four years ago I got more formal with it when I founded Hsoi Enterprises LLC. So I’ve always been semi-indie, and one could say today’s event is just the next step in the evolution. But certainly my primary income came from being a salaried employee in someone else’s company.

There’s multiple reasons why I’m doing this. I’ll share two: one business, one personal.

My Own Road

Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.
– Eric S. Raymond

I like to create useful, meaningful software that enriches and improves people’s lives. Throughout my career, things I’ve done on my own usually happened because I had an itch to scratch, a need to satisfy. The best software always is the software that the developers themselves use regularly. But often, the direction of a product is pushed by people that don’t use the software, or care more about selling the software than about the use of and users of that software – this often leads to less than good software (and the users are left unsatisfied). Long ago I came to terms about the balance between “good” and “good enough”, the need to ship even if it’s not perfect because we need to make money to keep the lights on in our ivory tower so we can keep working towards “good” (thanx, Doug!). So I grant all the realities of business. But by the same token, I firmly believe if one writes excellent software, it pays off greater dividends in the long run. This is not only in the form of revenue, but also in reputation and goodwill. Conversely, if one keeps shipping shoddy software, if users are constantly frustrated and hate your product, that just isn’t a solid business model.

I’m tired of compromising on this front. I know you can make good products, have happy customers, and still make money. Look at Apple, which is probably why I’ve been an Mac and iOS guy all my life but also why I believe you can have gorgeous, user-satisfying products, good reputation, and succeed. Look at Liberty Bottleworks. Look at EliteFTS. No, you cannot please everyone, nor should you try. But you can ensure you please yourself, that you hold yourself to high standards, and work to build a solid reputation with satisfied customers.

I want to make awesome software. I want to make more useful things. I want to make people’s lives better. And I won’t get to where I want to be unless I travel my own road.

My Family – Along for the Ride

[I] do not believe in quality time but quantity time. I do thinking creating great memories is important but not as much as “being there”. Because of this I work a lot of strange and odd hours.

– Dave Tate, owner EliteFTS, talking about his kids and who he is

When I was growing up, my Dad wasn’t around much. It was just due to the nature of his job, and his dedication to it. As a kid, I resented this because while it was nice to have money and nice stuff, what I really wanted was my Dad. So of course I did what all kids do regarding their parental shortcomings: swear to do better when I’m a parent! For me, that meant being around for my kids. (BTW, I got over my resentment many many years ago, because I came to understand Dad much better as I got older… but a story for another time).

Early on in my professional software development career, I saw how this was a job that could be worked remotely. This is not a job that requires being on-site; yes there are benefits to being on-site, but it’s not a hard-and-fast requirement. I also saw how due to this fact, you could have a bit of a non-standard life (I’m looking at you, Robin Mair and Greg Dow). This greatly appealed to me, and I set about making full-time remote/telework a hard-requirement for any job I took in the future.

Due to that dedication and focus, I was able to spend 12 years working full-time out of my house. One way I can sum it up is that when Oldest took his first steps, I learned about it via a phone call from Wife. When Daughter took her first steps, I got a phone call. But when Youngest took his first steps, it was right to me because I was home. 🙂 Over those 12 years, I got to be deeply involved with my family on a daily, even hourly, basis. That’s precious to me.

People keep bringing up those death-bed regrets, and no one says they wished they worked more, that they wished they had less time with their family.

See, much of life tends to boil down to two things: time and money. I can always get more money, but I can not get more time. Time is the more precious of the two.

After the 12 years at home, I took a job in an office. I spent 2 years there. It was an educational experience in many regards, and I’m happy I went back for the experience because I learned much from the good and from the bad. But the biggest thing I took from it was that that was not the life for me. The precious time wasted being stuck in traffic every day. The orchestration of life around a time-clock and someone else’s notion of what “productive” meant. It just wasn’t working for me. This isn’t a slight against any employer in specific, it’s regarding that sort of life in general. It is not for me and does not enable me to best satisfy myself and provide for my family that which is most important — me.

Working at home gives me the ability to be around my family all day every day (helped in part because we homeschool). Yes, some people think, as a result of our work/school situation, we live an insular lifestyle. No, we just are a tight family. This work setup, the ability to have a more flexible work schedule, allows me to provide my children what I believe is right and best for them, including mentorship as they embark on their own business ventures. What’s funny to me is I’ve thought about having daily “stand-up meetings” with the family. Yes Dad, your daily asking of “Son, what did you do today that was productive?” has come full circle. 🙂

Yes I know. The life I’m leaving is the life many of us live with. Understand this is a personal preference for the road I wish to journey down. I have friends who prefer working in an office; it’s just not my preference. I have friends that consider commuting to be a useful endeavor; I don’t. I know what my priorities are in life, what I want out of the life I have left on this Earth, including what I wish to provide for my family, and well… tho I’m scared and have no idea how this will work out, I’m closing my eyes and taking the plunge.

What’s Ahead

For the immediate future, it’s about getting established. I have infrastructure to firm up.

I already have some projects to work on, and I actually will  be contracting back with my (now) former day-job for a time and helping them find a replacement for me and transition to that replacement person. For the record, I am thankful for the support and mentorship I’ve received from Lee and Carrie Little, founders and owners of Bar-Z Adventures.

If you or someone (some company) you know is looking for a solid software developer, drop me a line. 🙂

Meantime, I forge ahead. I don’t know how this will work out, and honestly while there’s much about this situation that I’ve done before, there’s much that’s new and novel — I don’t know how it will go, or even if it will wind up being the right road for me to travel. But still, I look forward to the challenges, to the new experiences, and the hope for the life I wish for myself and my family. If nothing else, it’ll be an interesting experience, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

My Great-Grandfather

I never knew my great-grandfather, John M. Daub — simple matter of time and age differences. But I do recall as a young boy reading my baby book and seeing the family tree, and of course seeing “John M. Daub” stood out to me due to the name similarity (different middle names). I was always curious about him.

When I asked, Dad told me what he could. A little while ago a distant family relative was in Plymouth, Nebraska and took the following pictures at the community center.

Learned something new about my great-grandfather.

Here’s a close-up of the text on the left:

Quite a businessman! Quite handy too.

Here’s a close-up of the right:

I love it. He made gas pumps. Electrician. Made batteries. Opened a grocery store and meat market. Prided himself in a job well done and ensuring customer satisfaction. Which… was stuff he handed down to his son, and to his son, and then to me. And hopefully I’m doing the same for my sons.

This is neat for me on so many levels. 🙂

Great-grandpa? I never met you, but somehow I guess I’ve always known you.




How’s it going, Amazon?

About a month ago we said goodbye to Sprouts and hello to Amazon. I’ve been an Amazon customer for many years, but the change was starting to use Prime.

So, how’s it going?

Quite well, actually.

There’s no question, we buy more from Amazon than before. I mean, shipping cost (both money and time) is no longer an issue. I feel no reserves when it comes to ordering something — just click click click and done. Of course, this is precisely what Amazon wants. So, mission accomplished.

However, it’s not without a few gripes.

A key selling point of Prime is 2-day shipping. We don’t always get that. Now, I’m going to cut some slack here because I’m not sure where fault lies. There’s been all sorts of bad weather across the US this past month, and that’s certainly thrown off the shippers. So I’m willing to bet it’s mostly due to weather and things outside Amazon’s control. But a few things haven’t shipped in a manner such that would lead to two-day shipping. That is within their control. But it goes both ways, because I have gotten some things that shipped a day late, but then shipped in one day, so in the end it worked out to two days. Overall, this is fine, but the key thing is when you start getting enough things that don’t meet the promise, you start to get skeptical (make a promise? keep the promise, y’know?). However, I’ll reserve getting fully irritated because I’m guessing a majority is weather-related. So we’ll see how things fare come summer.

It’s true that Amazon cannot control how poorly UPS handles your boxes. But they should be able to control how well they pack the items in the boxes.

We’ve had more than enough times of receiving damaged goods. One situation had a larger box filled with light bulky items, like cereal boxes, but then also a box of canned goods. And things weren’t tightly packed in the box such that things would avoid shifting. Why would you do that? So all the cereal boxes had burst open, and numerous cans were dented (yes, some along the seals). I’d reckon things would be OK to eat, but how can I be sure? How can I know where the damage occurred? And regardless, I’m not paying for used/damaged goods, I’m paying for new ones. We’ve called, complained, they have taken the complaint. I’m not expecting much to change.

I’ll say this tho. If the merchandise is damaged in the warehouse, it should never ship.

Then, pack things to minimize shipping damage. We expect the shipping box to get banged up, but the box and packing materials are there to be destroyed so that our purchased goods won’t be.

Normally I don’t have this problem with Amazon. It’s groceries that have been the issue.

All in all tho, Wife and I are happy. It’s going to take time before I can assess the financial impact. Right now, it’s costing more, but it’s because we’re buying just about everything in bulk. I would assume, over time, it will save us money because 1. bulk is usually cheaper, 2. there’s less impulse buying.

But we’ll see. Need more time. So far, mostly good.

Improvised Weapons, and kids

Of all the presentations at the 2nd annual SDS Conference, the 3 kiddos were unanimous in what their favorite presentation was.

Leslie Buck‘s presentation on improvised weapons. (yeah, it should have been Dad’s presentation, but I’ll let them slide). 😉

Not only was it just a fun presentation, with lots of good video. It was something that was really valuable to the kids.

Because I got to thinking.

The purpose of the presentation was primarily for us adults that probably carry a gun normally, but for some reason cannot. So what else could we have at our disposal.

But think about kids.

Kids are vulnerable. They are generally physically smaller, weaker. When it comes to force disparity, usually kids are going to get the short end of the stick. Weapons are tools designed to help us overcome force disparity.

However, look at how our legal structure denies children the ability to use and possess these tools.

Look at how schools and other groups and places kids go will deny them.

If the mantras are “won’t someone think of the children” and “if it saves just one life, then it’s worth it”, then why are we doing things to make our children even more vulnerable?

And while it wasn’t necessarily a new topic to the kids (given their father), sometimes things make more impact when it comes from another teacher (especially one that isn’t Dad), or due to the presentation. From talking with kiddos afterwards, it sounds like Leslie’s presentation made a lot of positive impact on them and really opened up their minds to the possibilities. Even Wife took something from it.

So, when it comes to your kids, think about how they could use improvised weapons to help them defend themselves. Temper it of course (it’s not license to bash the bully upside the head with hammer), but help them realize there are things they can do when the situation arises and they may need it.

Hello Amazon

Saying goodbye to Sprouts is tough. You know the saying, “don’t you what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone”? Well, now that Sprouts is gone, I realize it was a larger part of our groceries than I realized (I knew it was a primary, but it’s even more than I knew). I didn’t realize how many Sprouts-branded things Wife bought. Everywhere I look in the fridge, in the pantry, I see Sprouts, Sprouts, Sprouts.

But in time, our stock will dwindle. And in the meantime, I can hope Sprouts will reconsider their decision, basing upon facts and not emotion.

The hardest part was thinking what to do as an alternative. There’s a lot of things we bought that we can’t find at other stores in town, or to do so would become difficult, with Wife running all over town to collect all the things we use. That’s a big sink of gas money, and most of all… time.

You know the saying about closing a door and opening a window? Well… I think in this case, what was opened was a laptop computer lid. 🙂

I’ve shopped at Amazon for many years. I mean, what CAN’T you find there? Very few things. And Amazon works at expanding its offerings all the time.

I’ve never bought Amazon Prime tho, because I never felt like I ordered enough in a year to have Prime offset the shipping costs. I mean, most things I order from Amazon I can wait a week or two for, so I’ll always pick the cheapest slowest option, which often yielded free shipping anyways. So it was just difficult to justify Prime. And things like Kindle and movies? Meh.

But I thought about it. Yeah, what can’t you get? Often the prices are competitive or better. So Wife and I sat and searched Amazon for many of the foodstuffs and other products we bought at Sprouts. And gee if we couldn’t find most everything there. In fact, there’s probably a lot of non-Sprouts things too that we could get. I tried to convince Wife to consider Amazon for things like toilet paper, paper towels, etc. (things you know you’ll use and use a lot of, eventually in time), but the idea never really took off with either of us because again, shipping.

But now? Well, we’ve been pushed to try it. 🙂

I signed up for Amazon Prime. When it comes to things like groceries yeah, I’d rather have it in 2 days than 2 weeks. If I can get 2-day shipping “for free”, and we can buy a huge bulk of stuff via Amazon (regardless of container size and weight), well gee… I suspect we could do alright with this. That local grocery shopping could be reduced to things like fruit, eggs, milk, etc.. I mean, we get our veggies delivered once a week….

The biggest win that Wife sees? Time. It’s a big time sink to do all that grocery shopping. But now? She can shop and build her cart in her own time. While she’s homeschooling the kids, they’re doing some work and she can search and click to get shopping done. Kids need attention? she can stop, tend to them, then resume shopping as time permits. She can shop at 5 AM before the kids get up, or whatever. There’s more flexibility, there’s better use of time.

I also think it could be a win because impulse buying might be curbed.

So… this will be an experiment. We haven’t bought anything yet and I don’t know how it will go. But, this should be fun to explore.

Children learn from our example

“The Angry Coach” at EliteFTS was writing A Sad Commentary on the State of Youth Sports. As I read it, it actually felt like a sad commentary on today’s youth and parenting in general.

He was observing a youth sports practice, and three things stuck out to him:

1. Practice started at 9 AM, but more than half the team showed up at 9 on the dot or later. This kills me. As a coach, 9 does not mean 9. Ideally, it means about 8:30. At a minimum, it means 8:45. When your kid has practice at 9, and you drop him/her off at exactly 9 (or worse, you’re later, which many parents were), what message are you sending? These are not going to be the “first in the weight room, last out” kids, because that concept will always be foreign to them. The good player, when he has practice at 9, shows up 20-30 minutes early, gets his equipment on, then goes out and warms up with his friends, throwing the ball around. He doesn’t show up when practice is supposed to start, stealing everyone’s time while he gets ready. That’s a shitty message to send your kid.

2. I saw multiple parents carrying their kids’ equipment bags across the street for them. I’ve never seen anything like this before, but I guess it’s because I don’t have kids of my own and because I’m not really involved with any youth leagues. For pretty much every other kid on this team, one parent would open the back of the mini-van, take out the kid’s gear bag, and carry it across the street while the kid walked over with his friends. I saw one kid (remember, they were 12, tops) on a cell phone while his mother was carrying his equipment. I don’t think I need to go into great detail on how this will hinder these kids as athletes. What was shocking about it was the number of parents doing it.

3. I saw multiple parents ignoring the one-way signs at the entrance to the parking lot so they could jockey for closer parking spaces. Again, another horrific message to send your kid (and likely one of the reasons why my car insurance payments are so f-ing high). This teaches the young athlete a number of things: 1) Narcissism, i.e., “I’m entitled to a better parking space than all my teammates.” 2) Taking the easy way out. 3) Flouting the rules because “we’re special and they don’t apply to us.” 4) “Nobody else matters but me, and I can do whatever I want no matter how much it inconveniences my team.”

Frankly, I see all three of these things as a more general problem today.

What happened to being early is being on time, and being on time is late? I deal with this every day, where meetings are set for a certain time, and people consider that time to start thinking about coming to the meeting. No, if the meeting starts at 10:00, you are seated and ready to go by 10:00, not that at 10:02 you leave your desk and saunter in delaying everyone until you grace us with your presence. Everyone seems to give service to the notion that time is precious and matters, but yet, actions don’t treat that time as precious.

What happened to kids being kids, and parents being parents, instead of parents being the servants of children? Parents should not be begging their children to undertake some action; the child should be told, the child should do, and if they don’t there are negative consequences. Granted, it’s not always so cut and dry, but the parent is supposed to be the one in charge. Should Mom be stuck unloading the groceries from the car while the kids run into the house and play? Hell no! They should be unloading, putting everything away, and doing their part to help out around the house. They should carry their own bags, their own stuff. Sure, small children are different, but as they get older, they need to start being given more treatment like adults, which includes carrying your own weight.

And #3. Oh, I deal with this one too often. I have nothing more to add above what The Angry Coach wrote.

Really, you want to know why kids are as they are today? Here’s a good starting list. And really, it just leads back to the parents… because they will learn from our example. And if this is the example set, what will their children learn from them?