Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two year anniversary

I also just realized that today marks the two year anniversary of my bankruptcy filing.

After finding myself owing $240,000 on a home that was only worth about $120,000, and trying to get some help from the banks that were flush with billions of bailout money, I decided that I could either be stuck with 27 more years of mortgage payments totaling over half a million so that I could own a home worth less than $100,000, or I could do the financially wise thing and walk away, I decided to declare bankruptcy.

It was a wise decision. It turns out the bank had sold my loan to 3 other banks at the same time, so no one knows who really owns the loan. They cannot find the loan paperwork, and it turns out that there are no bank records showing who owns the loan, so I still own the home even though I haven't made the last 25 payments. The bank lied in court, and provided forged papers to try and prove that I owed them money. They got caught, I sued them, and won a not insubstantial pile of money.

I have no debt, a 3 year old, paid for in cash pickup truck, and $40,000 in savings. I have no debt. My credit score of 655 isn't too bad, considering a two year old bankruptcy.

Veteran unemployment

There is an article from Reuters this morning about the difficulty that veterans are having in finding a job. This is nothing new, and I blame the military and its recruiting system. When I got out of the Navy in 1992, I thought that I had a large bank of skills that employers would value. After all, that is one of the big pitches that you hear from the recruiters, is that the military teaches you skills that employers want. When it was time to get out, the pressure from the military was high: I was told that there were no jobs out there, and that I would either be back within a year or wind up homeless. They were right. I wound up homeless within a year.

I was trained as an Electrician's Mate. During the six years that I spent in the Navy, I went to the Electrician school, where I learned to repair all sorts of electrical systems, run the ship's electrical power plant, and other valuable (I thought) skills. I spent nearly 4 years performing those activities, and then topped it off my going to Motor Rewind School and learning to rebuild and repair electric motors, another allegedly valuable skill.

It turns out that the best training that I got while I was in the Navy had nothing to do with the Navy. While stationed in Virginia, I had been a volunteer firefighter in a nearby town during what spare time I had, and the volunteer department had trained me to be an EMT.

When I got out of the military, I was in for a rude awakening. I tried to secure a job repairing electric motors, but no one would hire me to do anything other than entry level work for $6.50 an hour, because military equipment and repair procedures tend to be ten to twenty years behind what industry is up to. When I got out in 1992, the Navy was still using amplifiers that had vacuum tubes. I tried running my own business, but it turns out that I was ill prepared for that, and my wife, children, and I were soon living in the storeroom of my business.

We thought it was the job market where we were, so the wife and I picked up and went to Orlando, Florida. I tried to get jobs at power plants, theme parks, factories, and many other places. Many employers told me that military equipment, skills, and training were outdated and meant nothing. They also explained to me that many of the things the military trained me to do required a license to do out in the civilian world. A license that I did not have.
I finally wound up as an electrician's helper, building houses for $7 an hour. I traded jobs as I could find a higher paying one, and we ate a lot of meals that consisted of hot dogs sliced into a pot of macaroni and cheese. We ate so much Hamburger Helper that now, fifteen years later, I still can't stand to even look at the stuff. (neither can my kids.)

During the entire episode, I was a volunteer firefighter/EMT.  Four years after moving to Florida, at the age of 31, I was able to scrape together enough money and pay for the school that would earn me Florida certifications as a firefighter and as an EMT. Once I got my licenses, I was able to secure a job with the fire department for $8.50 an hour, and the rest, as they say, is history. It was tough doing this, as many fire departments have physical agility tests as a part of the hiring process, and I found myself physically competing against men who were 12 years younger than I was. I had effectively started over at the age of 31.

The moral of this story is that the recruiters will tell you that will be learning valuable skills in the military. It is a lie. The general rule is that the skills you learn in the military are loosely connected to the outside world, and when you get out, you will find yourself being treated as if you were right out of high school.

Do yourself a favor, and remember this: Do not join the military for the education and training. If you want to join to defend your country (I can understand that, even though our military hasn't had to defend our country in over 70 years) but go to college first and do it as an officer. At least then you can use the degree to get a decent job when you get out.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Safety is an illusion

I ran across this article about five of the safety measures that we take that do not make us safer. Interestingly enough, number five is the TSA and their airport security measures. According to the article:
There's a reason security expert Bruce Schneier described the No-Fly list as "a list of people so dangerous they cannot be allowed to fly under any circumstance, yet so innocent we can't arrest them even under the Patriot Act."
 So they are so innocent that they cannot be arrested or charged with a crime, but there are plenty of people out there who would add this secret government list to the reasons why you should not be allowed to own one of the best tools of self defense: a gun. Secret lists kept by the government never work out very well.

 It turns out that antilock brakes and bike helmets do not help us, even though they are required by government. Sunscreen is a marketing ploy (because it doesn't block the rays which are most likely to cause cancer). Breast exams actually increase mortality, because the number of unnecessary biopsies and the complications associated with them cause more deaths than the cancer they are designed to detect. Gated communities are also worthless.

In other words, security and safety as it is practiced today is an illusion designed to make you FEEL safer without actually making you safer. I guess feeling safer is better than actually being self reliant.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blogging milestone passed

Today, I crossed the 25,000 hit mark. I know that I am not in the same league with some of the mega-blogs, but I am impressed that eyeballs have decided to view my writings over 25,000 times over the past 4 years and 3 months. Thank all of you for coming to read.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

45 days

I am retiring in 45 days, and I will be moving 1100 miles away to become a full time student. In a way, I look forward to what is to come, but I am also a little apprehensive. What will happen? Will I succeed? How difficult will school be? Even though I have budgeted, did I make an error? Will I be broke?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Of laws and tyrants

There are some lawyers who are arguing about the legality of the Declaration of Independence. Let me settle this: Of course declaring Independence from the King was illegal: If it weren't, then it wouldn't have been necessary. No tyrant ever makes it legal to resist his power.

The only difference between George Washington and Osama Bin Laden is that Washington won. Let me explain:
Did the colonists burn down the homes of tax collectors, and kill their families? Yep.
Did the colonists use force to destroy public property to further their political aims? Yep.

There was little difference between what the American Revolution attempted to do, and any other citizen uprising. What made the American Revolution unique is not the Declaration of Independence, it was what came after the revolution was run. Very few revolutions succeed in providing more freedom, many simply cause one tyrant to be replaced with another. When Washington became president, he insisted that he not be a king, and that the office remain one of the people, and that the Federal government was to remain a servant of the states, and of the people. That held true until the beginning of the civil war, nearly 100 years later.

Was it legal for the southern states to secede? Of course not, but they did. They only came back through military conquest. When the civil war ended, so did the republic. What replaced it has become far worse than that which caused our founders to declare independence from the King.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We are doomed

This is why this country is going to shit. These people's votes count the same as the votes of people who actually have knowledge of things that do not happen on Twilight, American Idol, and other stupid television shows.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Scam of traffic safety

A cop with a stopwatch is more believable than a GPS unit. At least, that is what the Ohio court system believes, if their March 2010 ruling is any guide. In this case, a man was clocked by a cop in an airplane at 84 miles an hour. The way this works, is that a cop in a plane times cars with a stopwatch as they pass over quarter mile segments of the highway. The time to traverse the quarter mile is then used to compute the speed of the vehicle.

The problem here is that the driver had a GPS tracker placed in his car by his employer in order to control speed limit violations. The tracker indicated that he was going 50 mph, not 84. The court ruled that they could not accept the reading of the tracker without expert testimony from the manufacturer that would testify to the accuracy and method of operation of the device. According to the court:

"Barnes presented no evidence from a person with personal knowledge regarding how the GPS calculates speed, whether there is any type of calibration of the equipment used to detect speed, whether the methods employed by his particular company to detect speed are scientifically reliable, or the accuracy of the GPS' speed detection," the panel said. 
 This would have required that the accused hire an attorney and expert witnesses to attend the trial. To beat a $35 traffic ticket (I wish. In Florida, a speeding violation of 84 in a 65 will cost you $180) you are expected to spend several hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, the government has a bottomless checkbook with which to defend their cash cows. In Sonoma county, CA in 2009, the government of Petaluma spent tens of thousands of dollars to beat the GPS readings. Protecting speeding ticket fines, a $10 billion per year scam, is of utmost importance.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Zombie adventure

Use fake guns in a giant Z day simulation, only $50! They are only a 40 minute drive from here. I am going to do it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A lot of cash

I haven't mentioned this on over a year, but I want to take a look at the US debt. As of today, we are $14.9 trillion in debt, according to the US treasury.

When Obama took office, that amount was $11.9 trillion. An increase of $3 trillion (or 140%)  in just 33 months.

When GW Bush took office, we had a national debt of $5.7 trillion. The debt increased $4.7 trillion in 8 years. This means that the Obama administration is just $400 billion shy of borrowing in 3 years what it took his predecessor 8 years to borrow.

Not like I am really happy with Bush's spending, either. Or Clinton's.

Monday, October 10, 2011

D day minus 82 days

Packing, and not the fun kind. I am busy trying to pare down all of my stuff for the upcoming move. Trying to pare down the contents of a three bedroom house into a one bedroom apartment is a chore. I have rented a storage facility for the things that I am not taking, and the remainder of my things are going into the trash, or are being sold.

One of the things that I cannot take is my suppressor, as it is illegal in the state where I am going. I am trying to find a buyer. Meanwhile, storing over 20,000 rounds of ammo, 8 cases of MREs, 30 cans of freeze dried Mountain House food, about 2,200 books, and all of the other assorted items is giving me a backache.

It is a busy time. I need to complete all of the paperwork for admission to the school, rent an apartment, get the services hooked up, rent a U Haul trailer, ensure my shots are up to date, pack, finish my classes, work my two jobs (I am leaving one at the end of November, the other two weeks later), and do the move.

To make things worse, I noticed today that the windshield of  my truck has a foot long crack in it. I have to get that fixed, as well as all of the other chores. Busy, busy. There are 82 days until I go.

Friday, October 7, 2011

There's an app for that

They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. That didn't happen with Steve jobs, because Apple doesn't support Flash. I wonder if they have an app for that?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

So long EMS, and thanks for all the fish

I applied for, and was accepted to, a Master's degree program that will allow me to become a Physician Assistant upon completion. This means that I will be retiring from my current job and moving several states away to attend the school. For the first time in 22 years, I will not be associated with prehospital EMS. It is a big step, and a bit scary, but exciting at the same time. I am giving up security for a chance to have a better career.

What first planted the seeds of my desire to leave was an apparent lack of medical standards in my agency, and the way that it was ignored by the administration. I wanted to maybe find a job at another local agency, but there weren't many hiring at the time who would pay me what I was already making, and besides, I know people who work for other agencies in the area, and they didn't seem much better, nor did the idiots at some of the local hospitals. I decided to stay put.

Then the TEA party came around, and I had to listen to them drone on and on about how I am a parasite and how I and my benefits are a drain on the system. My pension and my health care are costing the taxpayers too much money, even though they are a mere 4% of the state budget. Free lunches for poor kids in school add up to more than what it costs to run the pensions of state employees.

Meanwhile, I am hauling a Medicare patient to the hospital for the third time this week, this time for knee pain times two weeks. Knowing that Medicare is 30% of the state budget makes me realize that the TEA party is politics, not solutions.

Anyway, all of that came to a head when I began working for a theme park doing BLS first aid for $12.75 an hour, and got a raise at my 90 day point to $17.50 an hour. You see, when I was hired by my original agency 15 years ago, my starting pay was $8.45 an hour. In fifteen years, I made it to $19.27 an hour, and that includes two promotions.

That was when I realized that I was no longer happy working in EMS. I love the medicine, I just don't like all of the politics and the games that go along with the job. I still feel like I have more to offer patients and I want to stay in medicine. Becoming a PA will help me do just that.

No hard feelings to the TEA party, or to the public. You decided to pay less, and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The people who are skilled and able to leave will do so. If you are willing to accept a lower level of service, then so be it. As for me, it is time to move up to bigger and better things.