Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Big Wheel Keep On Turnin'

In the past revolvers didn't interested me much. Lately I grown to admire the revolver. They have earned my respect.

I often recommend them to my elderly female customers looking for home and carry protection. Female customers come in and light up when they see these laser equipped adorable little semi-autos such as the Ruger LCP or the S&W Bodyguard in .380acp. These get their attention. Usually a husband or friend has recommended one. If we happen to stock one in a pink or raspberry color it becomes harder to swing them away.

When a lady asks to see one I will explain the operation and demonstrate how to load them (without ammunition of course). When handed over to them for their examination my first request is to have them operate the slide. Often, especially if there is any arthritis present, their hands are too weak to rack the slide since the spring resistance may be to much for them.

If they understand the operation, pass the slide test and like the feel of it in the hand we move on to the background check upon making the decision to purchase. If not my suggestion is for them to consider a short barrel revolver in .38 special such as the Ruger LCR or a double action S&W Chief Special which sports an ultra lightweight aluminum frame.

Some of the time they understand and go with a revolver. It makes me feel better since the revolver is simple and requires little dexterity for swift operation. My goal always is to fit the person with the best possible protection for their needs and experience level.

Last Sunday it was my privilege to handle and shoot the most powerful revolver in the world. It made my day.

The Smith & Wesson 500 is a beast. This is a .50 caliber revolver that costs over $1,000.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Whatever you think of Mr. T-Rump, the man is brilliant when it comes to imagery and media manipulation. Recently I have noticed that at many appearances and media events he wears a ball cap with his campaign slogan emblazoned on it.

Without any style his tacky cap bears a message encapsulating what he intends to do. The cap style itself appears to be a cap worn more by polyester-clad country club golfers than by baseball players. It reminds me of the one that festooned the head of real estate developer Al Czervik in Caddyshack. Coincidence?

The cap projects Mr. T-Rump's words without him needing to speak them. A billboard if you will. The cap has some simple words on it, in an easy to read font. It is the type of cap anyone can buy online and even have custom made with whatever words you would like at let's say, a county fair for about twenty bucks. No style, no design, no logo is present. No doubt his campaign will some extra pocket change selling these.

Today I heard him say he has trademarked the words "Make America Great Again". This means nobody, especially not another candidate will be able to use those words in print or broadcast media. He congratulated himself on his own genius in coming up with his original slogan as well as having it trademarked. I watched him say so live on television yesterday. He is very good at congratulating himself in public every few minutes.

Not so fast Mr. T-Rump. I've seen these words used before and I have an example.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer Summary

When does summer end in the midwest?

Yesterday I saw my first school bus on its route and that does it for me. Plenty of summer weather is yet to come but we awoke this morning to a dry, chilled breeze with temps in the mid fifties. A sample of October. The summer season had a hard start with months of a wet damp lingering spring and I didn't mind.

Summer is nice and this one lacked that oppressive humidity and temps in the nineties. It was one without any heatwave, just the way I like it.

The summer began in early June for me with one of the best Ontario fishing trips of my life. The weather was perfect and big fish were plentiful.

Carl came out to The Country Bunker™ and visited twice, once on Independence day weekend when we went to the Kingsbury range for some quality trigger time. He liked the range so much he visited again a few weeks later with his father. Afterward we retired to the screen porch for some cheap, crappy summertime corn water.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Night Seventies

The Rise of "Conventional" Warfare

After WW2 and Vietnam there was an era of relative peace as the two major superpowers stared at each other, laden with nuclear weapons, through proxy states and alliances. During this era, the major powers continually upped their weapons' capabilities, but rarely tested them, and not against one another.

Certainly there was war of various sorts throughout the world, but the sort of "conventional" warfare analogous to WW2 battles with armor, air power, and crushing violence rather than guerrilla tactics was far from the norm.

The additional, tacit assumption, was that many of the modern democracies were far removed from the front lines and as such they let their military traditions die. In fact, many openly scoffed at the military as wasted dollars, or used their military spending substantially for the purpose of protecting local jobs and / or technologies along with export markets (see Airbus and most of Europe).

The world was on a hair-trigger of nuclear annihilation for so long that the thought of a conventional war became archaic and not normally contemplated. Alongside that was the general feeling that the borders of the nation state were inviolate and while occasional splits would occur (Czech's and Slovaks, etc...), the vast majority would occur without violence and the transition would mainly involve economic concerns.

While the US, Russia and China would be loathe to directly face off head to head due to the very real sense of potential world destruction, everything else has become fair game. Russia takes Crimea, parts of Ukraine, and threatens the Baltic states. Is it conceivable that Putin would move in and take over one or more of the Baltic states - absolutely. This sort of thinking would have been viewed as the raving of a lunatic ten years ago.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The 4X4 Beer Can

The new truck came last Friday. It was an interesting and lengthy buying experience but finally I got what I wanted, a 4X4 beer can. Make it a tall boy.

For the past few years on many occasions we agreed a pickup truck would have served us well. Since both vehicles are over ten years old it's time. After researching the options and investigating a new innovation announced last year the choices narrowed. Last year Ford announced it was offering the traditional F150 with an aluminum body for 2015 and that was the beginning of the end of my search.

Think of it, this military grade aluminum being used will not rust and the weight of a similar model truck has been reduced by 600 or more pounds delivering better mileage while the competition continues to offer the same old repackaged steel.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Who Is Buying That Crap?

Dan and I follow municipal bonds, which is a bit more exciting than it sounds. The State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, Cook County, and many other entities in which I am an semi-unwitting participant will likely soon be on the front pages of newspapers as it sinks in that we can never repay these debts.

Back in late 2008, during the height of that financial crisis, the State of Illinois issued debt. In this post I basically asked the question "Who is buying this crap?" and the answer was JP Morgan, showing its solidarity (in a way) with the state of Illinois by buying the ENTIRE issue.

Puerto Rico is the new problem child of debt failure, and as Dan calls it, a "gapers block" over the entire municipal debt market. There were a lot of good reasons to buy Puerto Rico municipal bonds for many years - it was tax exempt, it had high yields, some of it was insured and / or tied to revenue streams like power or water, and historically there had been few or no failures of large-scale municipal bond issuers. It was great to own this debt and collect the high interest rates, as long as you watched it and got out before it collapsed. In a way this is "momentum investing" of sorts - get in and enjoy the ride up, but make sure you clear the exit before the everyone else runs out of the movie theater screaming "fire".

But the question in the back of my mind was always "Who is buying that crap". Not sophisticated investors who knew how to ride the wave up and get out before it collapsed, but people who honestly believed that a set of statements by politicians and / or laws as they were currently constructed would magically allow a tiny and impoverished island to pay inordinate debts while their economy imploded around them.

A recent NY Times article titled "Pain of Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis Is Weighing on the Little Guy, Too" provided a timely answer to my question.
To Lev Steinberg, it seemed like a good place to park his nest egg. Puerto Rico bonds offered high returns and tax-free income. And there was little chance, his broker assured him, that the government would default on its debt. So Mr. Steinberg went all in, investing more than 85 percent of his retirement savings in funds with large concentrations of Puerto Rico bonds.“They told me this was safe,” said Mr. Steinberg, a 64-year-old mathematics professor at the University of Puerto Rico, “that the legal protections to repay the bonds were strong.”
The NY Times article describes how local brokers and banks created products that leveraged up these bonds with borrowed money and then they were sold to Puerto Rico citizens (they were illegal on the mainland). The article said that 20% of Puerto Rican debt is owed to local citizens, and they bought many of the most "toxic" issuances (those with the least protections, like pension obligation bonds).

Thank you, NY Times, for helping to answer the timeless question "who is buying that crap". The answer is gullible citizens, who believed in their government's promises, and also thought that years and years of high returns could be manufactured endlessly out of thin air without corresponding risk.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Saturday Night Seventies

Big Data Analytics

Big data analytics is all the rage today in Technology. Companies can't hire people with titles like "data scientist" fast enough. Here's an article about a guy who went from waiting tables to making $100,000 a year after a coding boot camp (note - he is a ringer - he at least was a math major in college... but they have other more surprising ones like English majors as well).

The real issue, however, is "what insights come from all of this data we've collected?" Above you can see a picture that illustrates one of the first "learnings" out of big data. This article (I love the internet, can't believe I could find it again) from back in 2009 as the economy imploded tells the tale...
Why did chrome-skull owners skip out on their debts? “The person who buys a skull for their car, they are like people who go to a bar named Sharx,” Martin told me. “Would you give them a loan?”
Thus these big data scientists are predicting (quite logically, IMHO) that the guy (I'm 99% sure it is a guy) who put this skull based ornament on his ACURA (??) is much less likely to pay back his debt than the old lady who puts birdseed on her credit card. That's apparently an insight worth paying for.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Two Bucks Short

Most successful whitetail hunters won't wait for leaves to drop before making a plan. Time spent pre-season scouting and patterning not only increase the odds it allows more time to be spent outdoors which is the best part for me. I like to set up trail cams in at least late July to see who is hanging around.

First, I stay out of the woods. Carousing the denser woods this time of year not only makes human presence more known the bugs are intolerable. Driving or walking around the field perimeter looking for tracks entering and leaving the woods helps identify the best used trails. It is here where some irresistible bait will be placed to draw the animals off their trail close enough to the camera to get some shots. This year I am using some mineral salt blocks and hulled corn.

Looks like two fine young gentlemen showed up last week looking for an appetizer.

The one in the frame is an eight pointer with the felt still on his rack. My guess is he could be a 2-3 year old. The antlers are well developed but trophy hunters would take a pass on this guy.

Since I am not a trophy hunter this buck would go down without a second thought. While not a trophy it is a respectable buck and I would be very pleased to have bagged it. 

But wait, there's more.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Our Disastrous Energy Policy, Continued

New clean air act regulations have recently been proposed by the EPA.
President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry. The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources.
What is interesting is that the EPA recently had their ever-expanding mandate struck down by the Supreme court just a few short weeks ago, when their attempt to kill off coal through regulation of mercury and other pollutants was invalidated for not sufficiently weighing the cost of the proposed initiative.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Farm To Table

Could it be that eggs that were free to roam the countryside may taste superior to eggs that were imprisoned in a tiny nest with many other eggs?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

First Of The Season

Nothing says Life In The Great Midwest better than the first picked sweet corn on the cob of the season. I live for this stuff.

Today I drove to our farm to check on the trail cams. Nothing on the cams so more bait was placed out in order to get some of the whitetails interested in a few summer scout season snapshots.

Here in Northwest Indiana there has been way too much rain especially about 20 miles to the south. A continuous pattern of rainy days for weeks falling on the same geographic area caused big problems. So much rain had fallen that our farm will be an estimated 80% loss for the year.

For two months the Kankakee River has been at flood stage. The farm is far enough away from the river but all the drainage ditches flow into that river. After crops sprouted they spent much of the time below water especially the low lying areas that there is no way for it to come back no matter what the weather.

Alfalfa is about the only crop on our farm worth a crap.

Driving along down and back I noticed many farms in very bad condition. What should be green as far as the eye can see is some green and a lot of yellow.

The local sweet corn is one of the many crops suffering. I drove to the farm on one route and back on another. My intent was to buy some fresh picked sweet corn. Nothing doing. Two farm stands had no local sweet corn and workers told me they did not know when they would be getting any.

Not one to give up I drove eight miles east of the country bunker to a classic local farm stand. The stand  structure sits on the farm where the produce is grown. It's called Coulter's and they live in a home fifty hards away from the stand is located. Today they had the gold. She told me they have been picking for three days and will have no problem offering 6 ears for $2 and 12 for $3.50 between now and the first frost. Northern LaPorte county seems to have been spared from the recent stalled weather pattern of localized downpours.

Looks like some of the mileage saved getting to and from the new job will go to my every-other-day sweet corn shuttle. It's well worth it.

Sweet corn is good cooked in the microwave and on the grill but my favorite is boiled, swimming in butter with copious amounts of salt drizzled on.