The End of the End?

I've had a few good folks reach out to check on me, make sure I had not been abducted by aliens and generally to see what's up with the blog. There's been not much noise out of me since January; I went AWOL without advanced notice, yet again. I apologize for that.

Over the past year, I've taken several long, unplanned breaks. Priorities in life moved T-Blog to the back of the line. I've tried many times to jumpstart with regular updates again, but end up staring at the blinking cursor for a while, perpetually re-writing a paragraph and then moving onto something else.

T-Blog has been rewarding and vastly educational for me, and I've been able to interact with a bunch of very cool, like-minded, good people. It's humbling to know that the blog has been viewed almost 10 million times, and that literally hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people have been helped or educated by the blog in some small way. I had absolutely zero plan for any of that when I started writing way back in the day; T-Blog took a life of its own and I have been happy to be there for the ride.

At this point, though, it's a ride that I am going to get off.

Probably not a huge surprise, given no updates for 5 months, but I owe an announcement to the few of you out there checking T-Blog occasionally to see if there are any updates or wondering where I am.

At this point, there are no plans to re-start active updates to T-Blog. The site and its years of archives will continue as-is for the foreseeable future.

I am considering launching a new, quasi-related project that will require a more minimal time investment to keep updated, but no promises there.

Thanks to all for your readership, commentary and support over the years. Stay safe.


On Risk Assessment

Failure to perform an accurate, reality-based risk assessment is one of the most common mistakes people make. Biases of all kinds get in the way, and lead people down a path of distraction, impracticality and obliviousness. Impulsive, bad decision making instead of thoughtful, methodical planning.

What is risk assessment? It's the process of identifying and prioritizing risks.

On a more concrete level, you step back and ask yourself a few questions:

  • What am I trying to do?
  • What could break/go wrong/interfere?
  • How severe would it be?
  • How likely is it to happen?

For an example, let's look at a fairly common activity -- commuting in your vehicle. Let's outline some common risks:

  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Dead battery 
  • Run out of gas
  • Car jacking attempt
  • Flat tire
  • Vehicle immobilized due to conditions (bad weather, impassible road conditions)
  • Attacked by a mob of rioters or crazy bikers
Once we have our risks identified, we want to identify the big ones. Do that by triangulating the magnitude of the impact (will get you killed vs. inconvenience) and the likelihood of the risk occurring (common vs. very rare).

At that point, you have your risk assessment in hand.

Now, you can get to work on putting controls and plans into place to avoid or at least mitigate the effects of those risks should they occur. Your most severe / most probable risks should take precedence, but don't ignore the others.

These controls can take the form of activities or habits that you perform -- for example, always filling up your tank when you get below 1/2. Or they can take the form of physical preparations and gear--in the commuting example, that would mean carrying jumper cables, a jack and spare tire, gas can, trauma kit and so on. 

A few other examples of some common activities, risks and controls:

Task: Family security and safety at home
Risks and controls:
  • Home invasion / armed robbery
    • Sturdy doors and locks, and the habit of always locking the doors
    • Alarm system (and habit of using it)
    • Dog
    • Home defense guns (accessible quickly, and training / mindset to use)
    • Family plan
  • Fire
    • Smoke alarm
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Family plan / evac routes
    • Homeowner's / renter's insurance
    • Off-site backups of important documents / data
  • Household accident
    • First aid kit and training
    • Emergency contact numbers
    • Family plan
  • Natural disaster
    • Designated safe room
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Comms gear (back up cell phone, weather radio, HAM radio if licensed)
    • Stored food and water
    • Family plan and evac practice
    • Bug out bags aka 72 hour kits and other survival supplies
    • Evac routes and destination planned
Task: Family security and safety outside the home
  • Armed attacker(s) (robbery, active shooter, kidnapping attempt, road rage, etc.)
    • Concealed carry license and handgun (carried regularly)
    • Firearms training
    • Self defense training
    • Anti-kidnapping / escape training for family
    • Trauma kit, flashlight, knife and other tools
    • Practice situational awareness
    • Avoid high threat areas and situations
    • Family plan
  • Vehicle accident
    • Trauma kit and training
    • Self-extraction tools within arms reach
    • Drive defensively and avoid driving in terrible conditions
    • Buy vehicles with good safety ratings / keep them in good condition
  • Natural disaster
    • Get home bags and supplies in vehicles and/or some basics in EDC gear
    • Situational awareness
    • Communications gear
    • Family plan, rendezvous points and evac plans
Task: Provide for family financially
  • Job Loss / loss of income (normal economy)
    • 3 month emergency fund
    • Both spouses work (or are able to)
    • Maintain network of business contacts
    • Multiple income streams
    • Alternate skills
    • Unemployment insurance
    • Live within means and minimize debt
    • Food storage and other stores at home
  • Economic crash / banking system collapse
    • Cash on hand
    • Precious metal holdings / other 'tangible' investments
    • Food storage
    • Food production ability
    • Off-grid capabilities (power, water, etc.)
    • Ability to switch to 'barter' economy -- valued skills or production ability
  • Health problem / inability to work
    • Emergency fund and savings
    • Health insurance
    • Disability insurance
    • Both spouses work (or are able to)
    • Passive income streams
    • Live within means and minimize debt
You'll note that many of the "controls" are good for more than one risk -- those are smart ones to focus on.

You can get more specific or less specific than the risks above; focus on a very specific task or mission, for example. Here's another:

Task: Travel from home to bug out/evac location during time of emergency
  • Vehicle becomes stranded or stuck (congestion, road conditions, bad weather, EMP)
    • Travel in a group of 2+ vehicles
    • Drive 4x4s with off-road tires, winch and tow straps (less likely to get stuck)
    • Alternate routes planned (avoid getting stuck)
    • Maintain situational awareness
    • Alternate transportation (dirt bike and ATVs)
    • Have on-foot routes planned and packs for the journey
  • Bridge over river is impassible
    • Alternate routes planned (alternate bridge 15 miles away)
    • Plan to leave vehicles and float / swim across river
    • One vehicle to have inflatable raft in case of crossing
  • Attacked en route to location
    • Travel in group of 2+ vehicles
    • Take tactical driving course
    • Training and response plan (e.g., drive through at high speed if possible, else bail out from vehicles and engage)
    • Weapons and support gear in vehicles
    • On-foot routes planned / bags for the journey in case vehicles must be ditched or become inoperable
    • Communications gear to call for support
    • Trauma kits
    • Plan routes through decent areas, including alternate routes
    • Situational awareness
Avoid the temptation to focus purely on extreme impact events that have an extremely low likelihood of happening. Our minds have a tendency to focus on those big, scary things and artificially inflate their perceived likelihood of happening--that one in a billion event can become a perceived near certainty overnight. Devoting too much time and resources to any one extreme long shot event can be unbalancing, unhealthy and counterproductive. 

There is also the idea of "risk acceptance," which is simply recognizing the risk exists but not taking any actions to control or mitigate that risk. You may choose not to take action because of cost, resources, laziness, acceptance of impact should the risk occur or your judgment on how likely the risk is to occur. 

People do the risk acceptance math all the time, whether consciously or not. They live in hurricane zones but have zero in the way of emergency supplies, they say things like "if the crap hits the fan, I guess I will just die," or maybe they'd just rather spend their time and resources on fun and leisure. To each their own.

Corporate, government and military planning is full of risk assessment -- it's used by business execs planning expansion into new regions, NASA for planning missions into space, and spec ops units gearing up for a direct action raid against a terrorist cell. 

Think through the eventualities, plan and prepare for the bad things that can happen.


BHO's Useless Gun Control Executive Orders

The futility of BHO's executive orders under the guise of stopping violence is clear even in by the BATF's own words.

From their final ruling for 41P, which changes the process for transferring firearms covered by the National Firearms Act (NFA), page 42:

The Department notes that some individuals who own NFA firearms do in fact commit crimes. A review of trace data and criminal records from 2006 to 2014 disclosed twelve incidents in which owners of NFA firearms were convicted of crimes; however, there is no evidence that these crimes were committed with NF A firearms.

Emphasis is mine. It then goes on to list the crimes committed, and none of them are even actual murder, mass murder or terrorism:

Convictions include attempted homicide, conspiracy to commit felony offenses of firearms laws, operating a drug involved premises, possession of unlawful firearms, possession of marijuana, intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm during commission of drug trafficking, domestic violence, theft, dealing firearms without a license, and possession of an unregistered NF A firearm. 

There are hundreds of thousands of people who have NFA firearms; of these hundreds of thousands of people, the ATF could only identify 12 incidents where NFA owners were convicted of crimes, with no evidence that the crimes had actually been committed using the NFA firearms.

Again, per the ATF itself, from 2006 to 2014, not a single NFA firearm owner has actually killed someone.

So, explain to me how adding more requirements to the NFA process for trusts is helping "reduce gun violence"?

It's not.

In fact, the crime rate suggests you'd likely have a hard time finding a more law abiding, less violent group of people in this country.

It's ridiculous, just like the claims you can buy guns off the internet without a background check or the so-called gun show loophole.

But of course, you and I know that none of this BS is really about solving the violence problem. It's about political gestures, ringing of hands and putting more control in the government's hands.

Most of the noise I'm hearing is coming from the issuance of 41P, which impacts the hurdles that need to be jumped through for transferring NFA items (suppressors, short barreled rifles, etc.) into a trust or other legal entity.

If you want to read the full 248 pages, the ATF has made it available here.

Key bullets at this point:
  • Trustees now have to submit fingerprints and passport photos when submitting for a form for an NFA item (beneficiaries are exempt unless they meet the definition of responsible person)
  • The CLEOs are now to be notified when a NFA form is submitted (no CLEO sign off required for individuals)
Given that it's a 248 page document written in government speak, so the gun community is still digesting the final rule and nuances.

Overall, it's a bit of a compromise (removing CLEO sign off = good, adding requirements for trusts = bad); not horribly onerous, but more hoops to jump through when using a trust. It removes some of the reasons for using a trust for NFA transfers, though the estate planning benefits still remain.

The rule has 180 days before it takes effect.


Grumblings and Goals

Well, glad that 2015 is done and over with. Some good, some not so good. Got stronger from lifting heavy things. Built Project AR-2015. Had some good friends move from across the country and live by us. New Mad Max was awesome; new Star Wars was pretty good, too.

Didn't make the progress that I wanted to make on a number of fronts, and took steps back in several areas. That always sucks, but we do what we can.

Given the current state of the country and world, should likely be pessimistic about 2016 shaping up a whole lot better, but I'll be damned if I'm going to start off a year expecting it to be a crap fest.

I haven't really written down any goals for the year; we've got family goals of moving to a new house and improving our general financial situation (thanks again, 2015). Wifey has signed herself up for replenishing/expanding our food storage.

Personal goals? Well, let me hash those out now.

First goal is to get new laptop. My current laptop has been in warranty repair limbo since November. Should be resolved by next week, hopefully with a check in the mail to me to purchase a replacement.

Strength training has been a big personal focus for me since I got my equipment in August. Today, I found the notebook I used to track my lifts for the first month, which was cool to see the progress that I've made over the course of the past several months.

I started up Wendler's 5/3/1 in December, and have been enjoying the program quite a bit. The focus on setting new PRs and progressing every session gives a great sense of accomplishment.

Currently planning on running 12 cycles of 5/3/1 over the course of the year, which would (on paper) give me +60 pounds to bench press and overhead press (upper body) and +120 pounds to squat and deadlift (lower body). There about those increases would put my lifts into respectable territory...nothing to brag about, but at least into intermediate territory.

Goal: Foreseeing some complications over a 12 month period, a goal of +50 pounds to upper body lifts, and +100 pounds to lower body lifts by the end of the year.

Loads of people have been clamoring for the book...and I am re-arranging some things to make it a priority this year and have the support of the family to dedicate the needed time to it. If you haven't read the novel I wrote up for the blog, you can check out You Took Away Tomorrow by clicking here...can't believe that it wrapped up back in '13. Yikes.

There are lots of good tales out there these days; I am aiming for something a bit different that I think will stand out from the crowd. Stay tuned.

Goal: Novel on Amazon by end of the year (or sooner).

Gear wise...nothing huge. Plan to upgrade my CCW rig and get some new plates. Otherwise, mostly plan to focus on updating and restocking some of the current gear/kits and expanding stores of consumables...food, fuel, ammo and so on.

Long shots would be some NFA fun -- SBR and suppressor, or a set of night vision. I may try to get some budget NODs together as a fun project...pieced together depending on deals for a tube and parts. Not holding my breath on those.

That should get me to a good start for the year.

How about you guys--what are your goals for the year?


Lifting and strength training - Intro and the Big 4

I grew up a computer/video game nerd and have zero strength training background and little natural athletic ability. Early this year, I decided to get myself into lifting, get strong and get in better shape.

I have been pretty committed, dedicated and have found myself enjoy time with the weights. I am by no means an expert, but I've learned a few things so far that I thought could be of help to those thinking about getting into lifting.

When we talk about serious strength training, nearly all programs focus on the big 4: squat, bench, deadlift and overhead/military press. There are lots of great YouTube videos on the correct form for each of these--search them up and watch. Having good form is important for not only helping you lift the most weight, but also ensuring you stay injury free.

Of the big 4, I've found the squat hardest to perform. I have tight, not very flexible hips, and have had to focus on improving my mobility there. YouTube up "Mobility WOD" if you run into similar issues--lots of excellent stretches to help loosen things up.

Though most agree that the big 4 should be the foundation of any program, there's less consensus on other program variables like number of reps, sets, frequency of training, progression and what, if any assistance work one should do. That's where the differences come in when you look at programs like Starting Strength, StrongLifts 5x5, 5/3/1 or whatever else. More on programming to come.

The big 4 are all barbell exercises, so you'll need to hit a gym or invest in some home gym equipment to perform them. I went the route of setting up a garage gym, and it took me several months to put together all of the needed equipment. The wait and expense has been well worth it and the best way for me to ensure I can lift 3-4 times a week. More is in the works to discuss the equipment side of things. I have become a huge fan of Rogue Fitness gear -- a bit pricier than some of the Chinese-made stuff, but super solid, great company and made in the USA.

Whatever program you choose, adding incremental amounts of weight, tracking your progress and tracking your personal records (PRs) is key and part of the fun. Watching your strength progress is awesome. Crushing reps with weights that you couldn't even lift once...pretty sweet, and the progression quickly becomes addictive.

More to come. Hit me up with questions or requests in the comments section.


The world is NOT ending this weekend

Once you're ready spiritually and physically...you're ready. After that, it's physical and spiritual maintenance, constant improvement and enjoying life
For those who haven't heard, there's a bunch of buzz over tomorrow night's "super blood moon" and various other signs of the times as indicators that the rapture is nigh. Mormons in particular have been getting caught up in this latest panic to the point where church leadership issued a statement telling the minority who were freaking out to calm themselves down. The freak out hasn't been limited to my Latter-day Saint peoples of course; many others are getting their panic buying on.

There are a lot of bad things going on in the world right now that one could certainly see as signs that the end is near. I am totally with you. And convincing arguments can certainly be woven by using scripture, historical records and some good story telling.

However, before you get carried away, take a look at this long list of failed apocalyptic prophesies for some perspective. People have been prophesying the end of the world for a couple thousand years now. Nobody has been right yet.

After this weekend, they'll be adding another line item to that list.

The KJV is pretty clear on apocalyptic predictions: But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

But I suppose the prophets of doom disregard that verse.

Trying to predict the end of days or foresee cataclysmic events is a waste of time and mental energies.

Instead, prepare what you need, physically and spiritually.  Be ready and stay ready for tough times--they will come, and you probably won't be able to see 'em coming. Be ready to meet God, whether that's tomorrow or 60 years from now. 

The timing and nature of these things is out of your hands. Control what you can, don't sweat the rest.