Monday, September 30, 2013

A little drug story

A MAG group member, in fact a member of my team, went to his rental house to fix a broken sprinkler head, here is what happened next:


What the story doesn't tell you is that there aren't any suspects, it wasn't illegal. In fact, the DEA let the renter go in and pick out 6 plants he wanted to keep. He is allowed to have 6 plants for medicinal purposes, so he got to keep whatever 6 he wanted. The remainder of the plants were destroyed.

How is this not illegal? I don't understand, perhaps my brain isn't working anymore. One of the renters did get put on the ground at gunpoint by my team member... that's what happens when you start digging in your pockets at a drug house.

So... nothing to see here, nothing illegal. Homeowners insurance won't cover the damage since they classify it as illegal activity, even though it's apparently not.


The first 2 police officers arrived on scene, 45 minutes AFTER the 911 call, one had an interaction like this:
Officer: I understand you are armed
Team member: Yes
Officer: Go ahead and put it in your car
Team member: No
Officer: Well you better stay away from me then
Team member: You better stay the hell away from me


$100k damage is the estimate to fix the house. There is mold everywhere... and mites, all of the drywall has to be replaced, as well as the insulation, and of course all of the damage done to the electrical and heating systems.

I predict some demolition and renovation work in my future. No problem, I like to help my friends out and hopefully learn some things in the process.

Or maybe that would be illegal. The world is f-n mad.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lock picks and a 5th wheel

I ordered a box of awesome (yes, the box says that)  from ITS Tactical and it showed up filled with... well awesome. People at work are constantly losing keys to cabinets and desks and I had always wanted to try my hand at picking locks. It's a neat thing to play around with.
I opened the box and within 10 minutes had every lock in my office (door, cabinets, etc.) locked and unlocked. The simpler the lock, the easier it was, my door lock is a 2 spin to lock/unlock so it was a pain but I still got it. Part of the order was one of these:
A 7 point tubular lock pick. I opened 4 out of 6 tubular locks that I tried in under 15 seconds each. The ones I didn't get open I just didn't want to spend more time on. How about the vending machine... yup, free junk food for all. In the box were some padlock shims and combination padlock shims. They won't work on my master locks but the cheap Chinese ones open like the red light district on payday.

Locks are for honest people, something my Father reminded me of often, and something my little box of awesome reinforced. I spent 5 minutes each on my front door and back door dead bolts and didn't have any success. Practice makes perfect and I had never picked a lock before, so a new skill is building.

A similar 5th wheel might be making it's home with us soon. The one we are looking at is a 33 foot toy hauler. It will fit both ATV's inside, has a full bathroom and shower, queen bed, etc. There aren't slide outs and that's a plus for us, it has an upgraded generator, brand new tiers, etc.

We have been mulling over a drivable RV since we are getting older and don't want to always be tent or pop-up camping. My friend and boss has this 5th wheel he used one time in about 8 years and offered it to us. We passed, having everything checked out, adding a 5th wheel hitch to the truck, etc. it was going to run about $7000. Sure it's cool, but it's still a lot of money. He really want's it out of his life so now it's going to be $3500.

Perfect for weekend (or longer) trips to wherever, including land that we are hoping to pick up next year. 5th wheels have some disadvantages, mainly the size and not being able to get it into all the secret secluded places. If we don't like it after a few months he said we could just sell it, I don't see why would couldn't double or triple the investment easily based on what they are selling for elsewhere.

On the home front, I used the last of the trash barrel rain water for the garden this morning. I started counting tomatoes and stopped at 100 and have over a dozen cucumbers on the vine. I'll try and stay ahead of the frost in hopes we keep getting produce. I'm probably going to make a nice stew this weekend and nothing beats off the vine tomatoes. All of the produce we have given out and consumed, the garden has given us 250+ pounds of produce and it's still going strong. That number isn't trumped up, I like to weight the stuff when I have a huge bag full and 30 pounds of tomatoes is an average haul every 4-5 days.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cheesecake recipe and hello Fall!

The house hasn't been above 68 since we returned from Europe, and we've been keeping the windows closed at night. I don't want to add more blankets or turn on the heat, it's still September.
There was snow on the mountains this morning and we got an inch of rain last night, the creek is still a small river but it does sound wonderful.
Fall is my favorite time of year, the cool weather is great for running and getting all kinds of projects done before the snow falls.

Since it was the first day of fall it called for some chili:
It was also time for zucchini bread:
The chili was just right, a little bit of heat spreading around your body as you enjoy it. The last batch we made in the spring was so hot it ended up getting tossed out after 1 bowl each. I'm from NH, I'm not a huge fan of flaming hot food. Serrano peppers with the seeds removed and then diced up... hard to beat.

Someone asked for my Pina Colada cheesecake recipe, so here it is:
Large spring form pan
Crust: 1.5C graham cracker crust, 1/4C sugar, 1/2C butter, 1/2C shredded coconut
Note: I like a thick crust and I like a good side crust, so I double the above amount and mix it together. The coconut amount is a guess, I use a handful.

Filling: 3 pounds cream cheese, 2 1/4C sugar, 6 eggs, 1/2C coconut milk, 1 pound crushed pineapple
Note: If you use canned pineapple, make sure you drain it as much as possible

350 Degrees for 90 minutes until it's browning on the top. This cheesecake is wet, so it will never seem cooked in the middle of you test it any other way than the top starts to brown and/or you jiggle it and it doesn't move around too much in the middle. It's wet and it's a little messy when you try to dish it out but it's awesome to eat.

Caution: Make sure you wrap your spring form bottom and sides (outer) with foil or it makes a mess in the oven. The coconut in the crust releases oil and it will (yes, it will) drip out of the spring pan edges. I once used a baking sheet under the pan but it still smoked a lot when the oil dripped out. Nothing has been better than foil, if you don't have really wide sheets of foil, make a large sheet out of 2 smaller ones but make sure you fold over where the 2 sheets meek so it's continuous.

Coconut cream topping: 2C heavy cream, 2t vanilla, 1/4C cream of coconut (all guesses, your taste will tell you when it's good).
Note: You can just make whipped topping and add the cream of coconut. This cream is usually found by the margarita mix in the grocery store. It's usually in a tubular can, drop the entire can in hot water for a while so it all becomes liquid again before you open it up. If you don't, it's sort of an oil/cream glob and is hard to mix into the whipped cream.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Barcino, the original city

What's left of the original Roman city of Barcino lies buried under the current city. Building on top of other structures is nothing new, it's just a shame that there is very little left over from the original city. We took a bunch of pictures, but it was a new camera and it wasn't my good one. I didn't feel like lugging it around the city, we walked everywhere. Some of the pictures are a little blurry but it's neat to look back at life in 1-3AD.

 Typical Roman construction including access to the sewer system.
 Mosaic from the largest house in Barcino.
 Can't remember where this one is from.
 Roman sewer system. This type of construction was also used in moving any type of liquid in shops, wineries, etc.
 Various pools for the fullonica, the laundry. This was also the dye shop, and a place where urine was collected so the dyes would set into the clothing. Eventually the government realized how valuable urine was so they began to install public urinals and then sold the urine to those who needed it for business.
 Fish factory. A lot of salt and a lot of fish gives you some good eating. This shop also made garum, a fermented sauce made from fish intestines. The tanks would hold the finished sauce, this sauce was a daily  supplement with meals, mainly for the wealthy.
 The large round hole is where the fish sauce would ferment. The square tanks above is where they would stack the fish in layers with salt and a final deep layer of salt. You can see the drainage system from tank to tank for liquid.
 Random tablet.
 Column work.
 Inhabitants who could afford it would have their loved ones last forever in life like carvings.
 Tanks from the winery. The locals, including children, drank 1/2 to 1 liter of wine each day.
 Tools from the day.
Mosaic from the church, around 3AD.
The church sprung up in the same place as the original Roman town after Constantine the Great converted to  Christianity. The higher ups in the church took over the wine and fish factory for the church. I didn't get pictures of it, but you can actually see the construction on top of the original roman buildings, and some incorporation of the passages on the original outer wall.
 Eventually the church grew up and became what you see here.
 The alter area.
 No shortage of amazing design, including the ceilings.
Outside view of the church.

Some fun info:
Roman buildings were designed with a central room and small rooms for sleeping. The roofs of these buildings pointed down and in so the rainwater would collect in pools and gardens for drinking. The wealthier families would have shops on the street side of the house and either sell whatever product they produced or rent the spaces out. Semi wealthy families would have mosaics and sculptures that were visible from the main entrance to all those walking by. The more elaborate the gardens, mosaics and sculptures, the more wealthy they were.

Everyone trying to outdo each other with the latest and greatest. Bigger and better. Sort of reminds me that some things never change.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Some local pictures

I figured I would run up the street and head up the trail once I got past the police.... but  the trails were marked closed and had "fire line, do not cross" tape across the entrances. I decided to continue my run of obeying the laws, for the most part, and I ran around the area instead. The last time there was flooding was in the 60's and it was minor compared to last week.

Here is what the creek normally looks like at this time of year:
I stole that, but they watermarked it so thanks plain adventure photography and google You can see the water isn't deep, nor fast flowing. Even in the deepest pools it's only gotten to be a couple of feet deep in the past.

Here is what it looks like now. I added some color arrows, cause I have mad skills, and gave you some play by plays.
 The creek in the first picture runs into a second creek right here (2nd creek comes in on the left). The second creek is rarely ever flowing at 1/4 the volume of the 1st, so the first picture reduced 75% in water volume. You can see the difference, I'm standing on a bridge that has a rock wall that was underwater several times during the few days of rain.

 The areas circled in red are 5-6 feet from the current water level to almost road level.
 The area to the left is a flatter area, it flooded entirely, along with the unmarked right side and road
 This road was completely underwater, the creek is on the left side. The right arrow shows the up-slope to our house (well not really but the slope/height is similar) or at least how high and wide the water would need to spread/climb to get us wet.
 This is taken from back at one of our MAG members driveway. The bridge at the arrows isn't structurally sound anymore (unless you are a resident....), this entire area was underwater. The houses along the creek, on each side of the bridge could be total losses. This morning the MAG guys threw the road closed signs into the bushes so they could get trash service. They both had some water issues but nothing like those closer to the creek. One has a sump pump, and tests it each month... none of the neighbors sump pumps worked and they couldn't remember the last time they bothered to check them.
Here is a video a MAG member sent me AFTER just the first afternoon/night of rain... and we had 4 more days of water after that. You can see the creek almost over the road in the video, super tame compared to what I saw today. I realize it's sideways, but unless you can tell me how to fix that when it's shot on an iphone.... suppose you have to deal with it. I have a monitor that I can rotate 90 degrees, hopefully you do as well.

Forgive my hand, I had a lot of running done at this point and it's about 70% humidity or more, very unusual for the area, and very draining. This shows the slope of the roads, this road didn't flood out, it just contributed to the flooding on the lower road. This road was constantly covered in water from the upslope runoff.
This picture shows the area above our street. The arrows point to the 2 water reservoirs (that are full for the first time in 6+ years) but it also shows the slope so you can image the constant flood of water from this area down to the main streets. If either dam broke (or both) the water wouldn't hit us, but it would make our place like an island.
The main streets are all sloped downhill, with all the runoff ending up in the creek pictured up top. The entire time the creek is flooding, the runoff from this entire area was helping add to the volume for those further down the line. I never thought I would see sandbags in the area, and filling sandbags is part of the fun I'm glad I missed.
This 55 gallon bucket is under a large tree and bush. That's a lot of rain to make it past both obstacles and almost fill it up. I'm going to use this water for the garden this weekend, it needs to dry out some so I don't get more mushrooms growing. All this moisture has the mushrooms growing like ragweed, and they are all deadly.

Almost time for the gym. I have to get pumped up to return to work tomorrow.

Home again and the area after the flooding

What an epic day of travels. I don't think I'll do that for a few years, vacations and new countries are nice but it's hell on earth coming home with 12+ hours cramped in a plane. We even canceled our trip to Italy next year, I think we are staying closer to home.

This morning I was up with the sun, had to check everything out in the daylight. Since the gutters can only hold so much water as is flows off the steep roof, it has to go somewhere. The water on the backside of the house went under the roofing material and into the wood. We have to do some work in 2 places that the wood is soaked, one is going to be a fairly large projects. This large area caused water to run into the new kitchen corner, ruining the paint. Monsoon rain for hours on end just overwhelmed the drainage capacities of the gutters and drainage system.
We might actually have an estimate done and let insurance deal with it, estimates are free anyhow.

Everything else seemed to be ok at home, the humidity was up in the basement but it's already back down thanks to the dehumidifier (we get 2-3 gallons per day out of the air). The house sitters did a good job, but somehow managed to miss 7 piles of dog crap in the upstairs rooms. I knew it as soon as I walked in, how can someone stay in a house with the smell and not figure it out? We assume they were rushed in the morning when the teenage daughter had to go to school, so they didn't get let out for long enough periods of time. Easy solution, they won't be house sitting anymore, I'm not going to have our dogs go through that.

By 9AM the house was back in order and the sun shined. We toured the damage around the area and it's obviously been overplayed. Sure, some people got hammered and flooded, but we were expecting disaster like they are having up in the north end of the state. I'm heading out for a run in a while and will take some trails around the police cars that are keeping roads closed. It will be interesting to see the river higher up in the mountain, I'll take my phone so I can get some pictures.

With the media and it's nonstop coverage including mandatory evacuation zones and maps, we had looters. One of our new MAG group members lives next door to my Mormon friend, so now we have 2 group members 1/4 mile away. They patrolled at night and ran 2 guys off who were checking around and peeking over fences. They also got harassed by a few police officers for walking around with weapons (perfectly legal), but if I was here I would have been right there with them. This is our neighborhood, our homes and our stuff, we won't let people take it so easy and the supervisor who was called on scene understood and accepted that.

Speaking of media, every paper at the JFK airport in New York has assault weapons n the front cover and were calling for a ban. "Same Weapon, New Slay" was the headline on one, including a picture of an AR-15... I bet they won't (or the idiots on the TV) say they were wrong, they will just skip over the fact one was never used.

First order of business was Starbucks. I pointed to the employee memo that was  highlighted "ALL EMPLOYEES MUST READ", detailing the request for Starbucks customers to not bring weapons into the stores or sitting areas. I laughed and told the employees I read that policy online this morning, and then we ordered some drinks. My XDM was open carry, large and in charge, they can politely request until they pass out.

Pictures up this weekend from the trip once I get them sorted out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The 1000 year rain

According to the national weather service, there is a 1% chance for the amount of rain to fall that we just got pounded with. It has let up some, but it's still raining each day. This amount of rain only falls every 1000 years, and it's interesting to be in the midst of an epic event.

Well, midst is a broad term, we don't get one until late Tuesday, but we are still involved. FEMA and the Red Cross were in the neighborhood delivering bottled water and advising the local city crews on what to do. Our street is fine, the neighbors street has been evacuated and he was able to get his car to our house when the opened the bridge for an hour. They are staying out, no need to evacuate just because you are advised, especially when you are prepared.

Here is Spain the diving was horrible, but at least we went. The food is ok, very fresh but loaded with cheese and sauce, very rough on my eating routine. I did get a run in, going for another one this afternoon or evening. 70% of the people here smoke so it's pretty harsh running with all of the people creating a cancer cloud around you. They also don't look when they move, stopping in front of you to talk, walking out of a shop and expecting you to move. Perhaps I'm tired of that attitude, more than a few people have gotten a shoulder, why should I be the one to move all the time.

Thanks for the comments on m last post, I'll try to respond if the Internet lets me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Let the flooding begin

We are in Barcelona right now, enjoying the sunshine. Back home we had had about 20 inches of rain in 2 days, no joke. We are diving, ironically.

The road I usually run up and down is gone, and from the picture 

it's going to be closed for good. The last huge rain, last year, caused the upper road to wash away the same spot, but just 10% of the road edge. Instead of fixing it they closed the upper road and put some markers up so people wouldn't drive over the washed out edge. It's a 80+ foot slide drop,if you did. Yes,instead of fixing it, they just did a band aid and now the band aid needs a tourniquet. You can't just fill in the road, it's just gone in a large section, you would have to build a new section from 80 foot down, won't happen so woe is me my favorite running spot is gone. Perhaps they will drop some beams in and build up, but it's a non essential road for all but about 6 families.

My place,is dry and secure, the small stream that is currently flooding:
This stream wood need to come up a 30 foot slope, and in order for,that to happen, it would have to spread out even more, so unless we get a 35 foot rise, I don't anticipate anything. The worst was last night, today it's been up and down. The little stream, under the blue sign in picture 2 is right now about 18 feet above normal, when you consider the spread width. The 2nd picture is earlier in the day, it's flooded over again right now.
The first picture is 2 miles downstream from us, the 2nd picture is 1/2 mile. We are not on this particular road.

Our MAG group neighbor and friend can't leave his street via car, his bridge is flooded and suspect to collapse. I told him to use our truck if needed, he has been checking on our place in case he house sitters get turned back at the road blocks, even though they live a few houses up from us. His house will flood in about 8 more feet of spread width, but the utilities is working hard to keep the water debris from blocking up anything.

We are lucky, many others now so much. If you want to see videos and pics go here, it's not our place but its close. Hope they work.
This is the whole state
Local, I think, tablet version

Lets see if people think being prepared is still stupid. Our neighbor group member, and neighbor house sitter have years of food to access at our house if theirs ever runs out. Hope fully the roads will be open next week when we come home.

Keep your powder dry.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fueling up!

Winter is coming and nobody likes to be cold pouring gas into vehicle in the driveway and then going to refill the can down the street at shop-n-rob. We don't rotate much during the winter (if at all), but it's easy to use 10 gallons at a time, more than once a month if we drive a lot, so the rotation waits for warmer weather.

In all fairness I stole that picture from google, but we not only have cans like that, we have the exact same 2 wash tubs (and the stand they go in). We use the tubs for ice and drinks when we have large parties or BBQ's and of course they can easily become a place to clean clothes or do dishes.

Harbor freight had a sale and I had a coupon so we recently picked up a couple of gas jugs to add into the prep storage. We now have close to 80 gallons that get rotated and stabilized, and it sits next to the 5 20# propane tanks. If you are going to go up in flames, at least go big and fast.

With the fuel on hand, and what's in the vehicles, it's around 160 gallons of gas and 25 gallons of diesel. With an inverter hooked up and a few extension cords we can keep the freezer and fridge going for a long time in a power outage. Since we have 4 vehicles (5 including the company car), that's a lot of backup "generators".
We haven't made the plunge for a large generator, but we can take care of the basics (and more) with the vehicles. Since you don't need everything running constantly, we should be able to get 2.5 months of power out of our vehicles and preps. That's assuming 6 hours a day of total use between 5 vehicles at idle... I think the math is sound.

We need to get more diesel fuel but feel comfortable with the fuel preps. I'm going to pick up an electronic single burner "stove". This will help stretch out the propane stores as well.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Another typical Colorado elected official

Here is an example of what we are dealing with in Colorado while trying to recall 2 elected officials. I know it's boring, but just let it load and listen from 6 minutes on... or even less, 8:45 to 9:20

Youtube Video

Heck, this is exactly the problem across the country, a government by the people not listening to the people all the while knowing what's best for the people.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Preparedness tasks weekend

We spent a lot of time this weekend doing preparedness stuff. I gave myself a few hours of downtime yesterday and managed to do this:

Oh, you didn't know we rode ATV's? Well we do now, again.
The gear I'm wearing is vintage, from about 14 years ago when we had ATV's the first time. For some random reason, we kept the gear through dozen of spring and fall cleanings; helmets, goggles, boots, riding pants, shirts, crash guards.
Friday night we heading over to the local toy store and picked up 2 Polaris Sportman 550's with fuel injection and power steering (yup, getting old). We didn't have the ATV's 18 hours and I had already sat mine on it's back end (right after the first picture was taken) and buried it in deep mud (in the second picture with the water rushing into my boot). I also got a flat tire right before we were loading back up, but it was just a bad valve stem luckily.
These ATV's will serve other purposes once we pick up some land, they can pull heavy trailer loads and plow. They will also serve as our new rigs for a majority of our mountain adventures, we can see 3x as much stuff in one day, we just wont be able to bring the dogs along. They will have plenty of fun times, but when we are 6+ hours from civilization it's better to tow and ATV back instead of try and figure out how to get a full size off road rig repaired. Wisdom.

This is how the rest of my weekend went:

We put up 46 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 30 pounds of oats, 25 pounds of flour, and 130 pounds of dog food. Once we hit the store for a sale this evening, there will be 20 pounds of elbow noodles added. We restocked and/or added about 60 canned goods along with several boxes of other items in hygiene and first aid. We canned 4 quarts of ground beef and once it cools off enough this evening we are going to put up 4 quarts or more of grapes. Wearing full kit and doing this stuff was rough, even simple tasks require a lot more effort and energy. Practice and familiarization eventually becomes second nature.

We picked up another spare pressure canner seal and vent weight at ACE hardware (my favorite store for all things canning). I was surprised to find 1/2 gallon mason jars that I can use for bread starter, powdered milk, etc. We grabbed a few boxes of nails and large packs of sandpaper, I realized we  have a lot of screws but few large nails.

This week we picked around 25 pounds of tomatoes, 12 pounds of cucumbers and around 12 pounds of zucchini/yellow squash. I checked an ear of corn and it's almost all ready to harvest... perhaps for this evenings dinner since I'm not always patient. Here is a view of the fridge after we gave away most of the harvest to the in laws and group friends:

Lunch was some food storage elbow noodles and chili, all mixed together. I made the chili 2 years ago and it tasted exactly the same as the day it was canned. We took one night off from the gym. I got an hour run in while it was sprinkling... I love the smell of the wet tree's and ground. Tonight is gym night and it should be empty so I'll be able to get a great chest and tricep workout done and possibly a few miles on the dreadmill.

So we didn't contribute to the strength, prosperity or well being of our country.... but we did contribute all of that for ourselves. As a reward for our labor, we will be going here in a few days on our yearly scuba diving trip:
Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain.