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Monday, June 27, 2011

Global Warming and Other Oddities

I subscribe to  a service that lets me know if there are any extraordinary events occuring in my area - Amber Alerts, Shelter-In-Place and Severe Weather warnings.

I got this earlier today -
Snow at the end of June.  In summer.  In North America.  Damned Man-Made Global Warming!

Huh?  What?  Don't forget your chains...

I'm waiting for the Kool-aid drinkers to issue a statement that this cold spell is being caused by man-made global warming.  Hot weather is caused by man-made global warming.  Cold weather is caused by man-made global warming.

It's Climate Change now.  Come on, sport - is it getting hotter or colder?  I thought this big, bad suffocating blanket of CO2 was killing the planet.  Not so much, huh?

If it's not getting too hot, then Thank God we don't need any of that Carbon Tax nonsense, right?  Right?!

Loosen up the tin-foil hats, boys...

All of my gun classes are still selling out well in advance (woo hoo!).  What's odd is who's taking the classes.  Lots of doctors and teachers.  And couples.  Virtually every class now has at least one husband/wife pair.

A good number of LEOs (men) sending wives, as well.  Oh, and whole families.  Just had a mom, dad, young son and grandpa.  Have a mom, dad, daughter coming up soon.

There's lots of worry out there.  Right under the surface.

I've given up - totally - trying to predict what's going to happen with the price of gold and silver.  Fini!

Gold crashed last Thursday and Friday by about $50 an ounce.  At the time, the dollar was getting stronger, oil was cratering, as was the stock market.

The "inside scoop" was that with oil and stock crashing, speculators were getting margin calls, so they needed to liquidate gold/silver to get the cash to pay up.

Today, the dollar dropped on news that the euro was getting stronger because it looks like the Greek bailout/austerity plan are going to be positive or some other such happy-talk.  The result:  PMs dropped more.  WTF?

I give up trying to figure this out.

I don't buy PMs as an investment, I do it as a hedge - as a "maintainer" of purchasing power.  I'm not going to sell one thin 90% dime I own until:
  1. Our national debt starts to go down. (LOL!), and
  2. The Federal Reserve stops printing money (electronic and paper), and
  3. Our federal budget does not exceed our federal tax receipts
    Until all of these things happen, our economy cannot fully recover.  They may accomplish one or two of them, but I don't see all three happening any time in the near future.  Maybe ever.

    If Number 2 happens, there will be even less money being circulated that there is now.  Stagflation (aka, "Screwed, blued and tatooed").

    Number 3 could happen if we either cut our federal spending by 40% or increased taxes by 70% (or some combination of the two).  Sure.  And I'll be flying to Paris in my super-duper jet pack tomorrow morning, too.

    Good old Number 1, well, come on... really?  Our bureaucrats have a minuscule chance of operating a balanced budget maybe ONCE.  The socialist left tout Billy Jeff Clinton as having accomplished it, but it was merely accounting procedures.  Social Security money was played with.

    A repeated surplus?  $14 TRILLION worth?!

    Surely you jest, comrade!

    So, if we have deflation caused by a sputtering economy (ala Japan), an ounce of silver will go down in dollar value, but will still be "redeemable" in products that now cost roughly $35.

    If we have inflation caused by the FRB printing up money and trying to pay our fixed national debt payments with adjustable print-as-you-see-fit fiat dollars, the one ounce of silver will still buy the same products and services.

    It's all relative and rough.  With deflation, you will probably be able to buy a little bit less, and with inflation, a little bit more.

    If you're holding fiat dollars during deflation, you're sitting very pretty (as long as the government doesn't re-value the dollar).  If you're holding fiat dollars during inflation, you're screwed.

    Depressions bring with them - at first - deflation.  Prices and wages crash because no one is buying anything.  The government jumps in, printing money and handing it out willie-nillie and inflation kicks in.

    If you're a Keynesian Economics advocate (like our current administration), you do the printing up money part in an attempt to halt the deflation.  If the economy ever catches hold, you move right to hyper-inflation.  If it doesn't catch hold, you've just forestalled the crash and hopelessly devalued your currency.  Thank you very much.

    See Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe and Argentina for class projects.

    How about some more happy faces, huh?

    It's just a big giggle-fest...

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Gold Illegal?

    Last week, reader/commenter Shy Wolf had sent me a link to an article that blared to the effect of, "Over the counter gold sales to become illegal".  Yesterday, reader/commenter mama4x had asked for my thoughts on what was going on with this issue.

    OK.  Just realize that this is BIG TIME crystal ball reading.  It borders on a Wild Ass Guess (WAG).

    The original article was written on the Zero Hedge website [link to article].

    To summarize:  The Dodd-Frank financial services bill had something in it that made certain types of Over The Counter (OTC) trades in gold and silver illegal effective July 15th.  I don't know why, it just is.  The article posted a notice from telling their customers that any US customers doing these purchases would have to close their positions or they would be liquidated by the company. deals with Foreign Exchange - trading the currencies of different nations.  Apparently, they offer a service where an American can buy gold and silver contracts using currencies other US dollars. 

    First, an Over the Counter trade isn't what is sounds like.  If your company sells its stock publicly, AND that stock is not sold on a stock exchange (NYSE, NASDAQ, etc.) it is traded OTC.  If you want to buy a stock in a non-listed company, your broker calls another broker (or "market maker") in that stock, and buys the stock for you.  It's called an OTC trade.

    Secondly, this prohibition has to do with contracts that are leveraged, or purchased "on margin".  This means you are buying these contracts without having to put up all of the money.

    Lastly, if you are actually going to take possession of the gold purchased with the contract - within 28 days - you are exempted from this prohibition.

    What this all sounds like to me is that the Dodd-Frank prohibition is aimed and crimping the style of market speculators.  Most of these guys buy a contract for X number of ounces of gold, and when the contract comes due, they either make good on their losses, or they get paid for their "winnings" and roll the paper profits over into more contracts.

    From what I've read, this won't have any negative affect on you and me being able to buy gold and silver when we walk into our favorite bullion dealer and plop down some worthless greenbacks.

    I do have one worry, though.  If, starting in July, this big chunk of money is no longer "buying" gold and silver, it could cause the spot market price of these PMs to drop.  Fewer dollars chasing a fixed amount of goods (reduced demand) usually results in a price reduction.

    Yeah, that was the WAG portion of the post... ;-)

    I have no idea if this will affect OTC trades that are not done by Americans using foreign currencies.  This specific prohibition could be a drop in the bucket, or it could be a huge, important number.  I dunno.

    Here's some more WAG - from what I've read, this seems to be a way to squeeze the life out of Foreign Exchange.  It sounds like it might also be about making it less beneficial to use non-US funds when you're out making your money.  It wouldn't surprise me if those two bastards - Dodd and Frank (the two primary drivers, IMO, behind the current real estate and banking collapse) - were just coming up with some way to make it more difficult to make a buck.

    Yeah, I'm biased and very leery of anything the two of them have a hand in.

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

    Friday, June 24, 2011


    How do you plan for a breach of trust?

    I'm thinking about this because of a potential issue with an employee (which I'm not going to go into the specifics).

    This issue in particular had to do with potential trust issues - not providing us with all of the information needed to make a sound business decision.  As it sits now, that omitted information would have personally benefited the employee in question.

    Money seems to be at the root of many trust issues.  I can say that, during my banking career, virtually every employee I ever terminated was let go due to stealing money.  Expenses due to a death in the family, a new boyfriend/girlfriend, a job loss by a spouse.

    They all felt bad - after being caught - but had justified crossing the line in their own minds.

    What kinds of things happen where basically "good" people go bad?  How does this relate to prepping?  And perhaps most importantly, how can we limit the likelihood that we will be the victim of a breach of trust?


    In my experience, there are three primary reasons people break a trust:  Desperation, greed or revenge.

    Desperation can come in many forms.  Most of the time it has been the result of people finding themselves in a situation which they didn't directly cause - a death in the family, a job loss, etc. - but for which they did not prepare.  When living from paycheck to paycheck, putting money away for "a rainy day" doesn't happen.  The emergency presents itself, and they pull from the company till.

    How about this:  Without exception, every person I terminated for this reason had access to Employee Assistance loans if they had just asked.  When we'd ask them why they didn't apply, they said they were too embarrassed to ask for help.

    Yeah, not too embarrassed to steal, but too embarrassed to take advantage of an employee benefit.

    My last termination was a desperate woman.  She was not a "hot mama" and some smooth-talker realized he could be sweet to her and get some bucks.  She was a VP and was a very long-term employee - something like number 4 or 5 when the bank started in the 1990's.

    The boyfriend started pressuring her for more money than her salary provided, and she did some very stupid things with our credit card system.

    Desperation can cloud your judgement.  If you had not prepped and were suddenly without food for your family, what would you do?  Right now, if you could swallow your pride, you could get help from some form of government or private charity.  What if that went away?

    A major societal collapse, such as that being experienced in Argentina, breeds desperation.  Normally law abiding people will cross the line if they're desperate enough.

    Remember:  They rob banks 'cause that's where the money is...

    Greed, in my experience, is quite rare, at least in this context.  Most of the time, a person is a "victim" of greed by choices they've made.  The deal was too good to pass up.  You must usually participate in your own downfall.

    This is combated with knowledge and common sense.  In general, you have to risk-big to win-big.  Opportunities that are touted as being low-risk, high-return should raise a red flag.  It goes against the laws of economics.

    That brings us to revenge.  A wicked, wicked thing.  It can be driven by something as petty as jealousy.  

    Let's say times have gotten tough for a friend, and you aren't as forthcoming with food "donations" as that person might like.  They might feel justified in sharing their knowledge of your holdings and security with a scumbag acquaintance for a piece of your pie.  I'll show those hoarding SOBs...

    Accept The Challenge

    As callous as it may sound, you need to be careful with whom you place your trust.  You may have disclosed to a very trustworthy person some piece of information about how much PM you hold, or how much food, guns and ammo you've got.  They could very innocently mention this in passing to someone else and suddenly, your storage location has a big red circle around it on the map.

    In banking, we would employ practices that would take the allure of embezzlement away.  For instance, if you entered the cash vault, it was always in "Double Custody" - two employees had to be present.  There would have to be collusion between two people, and I never witnessed that in my 31 years of banking.  I know it happens, but it's very rare.

    In prepping, one way we can remove the allure of having our food, equipment an PM stores stolen is to keep our pie hole shut!  It's truly a "Need to know" process.  Your neighbors have no need to know how many preps you've got.  Same goes for family members and friends that don't wish to prepare.

    You also need to assume your security will be breached.  Keeping all of your stores in one place means you may lose everything in one fell swoop.  If your home is your primary storage site, have things stored in multiple locations.  Hidden nooks.  Basements.  Attics.  Storage sheds.

    Diversify locations as best as you are able.  The homes of friends or family of similar thinking as you.  Paid storage lockers.  Hunting cabins.  Hidden caches.

    Your security risk obviously increases the further away from your primary location you store your goods, so consider that in your planning.  For instance, with paid storage facilities, you may forget to pay your bill - or there may be an accounting error so your account wasn't credited - and your cache may end up on a reality TV show!

    If the flag goes up, it will be like ringing the dinner bell for your unprepared acquaintances.  And bad guys.  Assume failure of your primary plan and ensure you don't lose everything during a single breach.

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Yoga and Yogurt

    My little scare two weeks ago with Bell's Palsy - where I knew I had had a stroke - really got my attention.

    I've come to the conclusion that I want nothing to do with a stroke (hey, there's a shocker!).  Especially for a "Type A" personality like me, a stroke would be perhaps the worst possible affliction to get (short of death).

    I cannot overstate the gripping fear I felt when my brain told my face to do something, and my face didn't respond.  A swift kick to the, uhm, gut.

    So, I've made some changes to my lifestyle.  It's really nothing dramatic, but more of a conscious effort to add a little bit of this, and remove a little bit of that.

    Strokes are caused by your blood clumping up in your veins and a big wad-o-clot hits your brain, causing that portion to die.  Or, they're caused by a blood vessel in your brain "blowing" out, killing a portion of your brain.

    That means you want to have relatively thin blood, and you want to have lower blood pressure so you're not pumping so hard into your veins, causing a rupture (high blood pressure is called, hypertension).

    I also want this to be as pill-free as possible.  I have no desire to become a walking pharmacy.  I want to change my habits, not increase my intake of store-bought wonder pills.

    And of course, as a hard-core prepper, I want to be self-sufficient.  I assume all medication becomes unavailable, I need to fend for myself.  It makes no sense to become dependent upon pills when natural remedies are available.

    Foods (where specific foods are listed, these are foods I like.  There are many other foods that may fit a category, but I just don't like them.  Sweet potatoes are on the "high potassium" list, for instance.  I won't eat them unless every other good food has vanished from the face of the earth!)

    Blood thinning foods:  peppers, garlic, ginger, dill, oregano, dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, cherries), Vitamin B6 foods (legumes and whole grains).

    This has entailed really only two major changes - peppers and more dried fruit.  I've started eating a lot more jalapenos and much more cayenne.  I'm already a garlic freak and really like dill and oregano.  No big stretch here.

    Hypertension foods:  dairy/calcium (milk, cheese, yogurt), high potassium foods (dried apricots, bananas, beans, greens, clams, pork, yogurt, potatoes with skin)

    This is no stretch at all.  I eat a cup of yogurt almost every morning, and usually have a banana or raisins each day.  My most consumed meat is pork, and any excuse to add more clams to my diet is very welcome.  As with the blood thinning, I will just add more dried fruits and should be good to go.

    Yoga, meditation and exercise

    Clearly, this will be the most difficult for me, but I've already seen the benefits.  I simply must make it a priority each and every day.

    I do a couple of simple yoga exercises (sunrise salute is always in the mix) for about 10 minutes.  The meditation is simply sitting cross-legged and doing a focused breathing exercise (100 slow, deep breaths).

    I occasionally get this fairly sharp, but short-lived pain in my left ear/jaw/neck region.  It kind of "radiates" -  like when you turn a light on slowly with a dimmer switch - then goes away.  Without exception, when I've done this yoga stuff, I have a much lowered (or eliminated) pain in by ear/neck/jaw on my affected side.  It's really quite cool.

    I already have a regular weight lifting regime that I follow, and am trying to figure out a cardio component.  We've got an elliptical walker in the house - which I hate - and I just got a bike - which I love.  It's all about making the time to work them into my day.  I need to make this a priority.

    B & C complex vitamin supplements - This is my one pharmacology nod.  The B complex helps with the blood thinning and also works to protect the myelin sheath (the protective covering around your nerves).  500mg per day of vitamin C is good for hypertension.

    Bell's Palsy update:  Today is two weeks to the day since it hit.  There's been very minor improvement.  I can drink almost normally from a cup, I can almost "chug" from a gallon of milk from the fridge (my wife's thrilled about that - not!), if I take my time, I can hold most conversations with only a bit of a lisp with the S's, P's (the hardest to control) and the F's.  Honestly, I think it's more about having learned how to compensate than it is about improvement.

    I went an saw my regular doctor today.  He looked at me and had to ask which side was affected, so that made me feel good.  To be safe, he's sending me to a neurologist to give me the once-over.  Cool.

    The ER doc had said I could expect improvement within 10 days, while everything I saw on the Internet said more like a month to 6 months.  Holy crap!  My regular doc said to expect it to take at least a couple of months, and to be mentally prepared to NOT get all function fully restored. [Deleted expletive] me hard!

    We were at a big Father's Day gig at one of my brother's homes yesterday, and the general consensus was that if they didn't know me so well, they would have never noticed.  I've been blessed (if that's the right word for this instance) to have a pretty minor incidence of this.

    As noted, the yoga/meditation is pretty trippy.  On days where I do the whole routine, I sometimes have no pain whatsoever.  It's always less persistent than if I don't do the yoga.

    I'm hoping for the neurologist to give me a thumbs-up or -down on doing facial exercises.  Some websites said to do them, others said it may over-tax the recovering nerves, and hinder their repair.

    The biggest thing is learning to be patient.  Definitely not my strong suit.  In this situation, I don't get to vote, so I have to be patient!  Could be worse, I guess.

    Accept The Challenge

    Most of us preppers "preach" about self-sufficiency.  Put away food, equipment, PMs, guns, ammo, medical supplies, etc.  Most of us also talk about "getting healthy" while we have the opportunity.

    Perhaps this was my own personal wake-up call.  If you think about it, without your health, you are necessarily dependent on others.  You've got to go to the doctor to have this and that looked at.  You've got to go to the dentist to fix a cavity or abscess.  You've got to go to the cardiologist to have your ticker checked.

    I mentioned before that this Bell's Palsy thing is the second time I've been admitted to the hospital - the other being my birth.  I have been taking my generally good health for granted.

    No more.

    If you were to come down with some largely preventable, debilitating condition - stroke, heart attack - it won't matter how many buckets of beans you put away.  You might as well double the amount, because someone is going to have to wipe your butt for you from now on, and they've got to eat, too.

    Make your health your priority.  Everything else is window dressing.

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Off To The Wilds

    I'll be heading to the Yuba River today for some fly fishing with my brothers and some friends.  Things are NOT looking good, though.

    Because of the enormous snow pack in the Sierra's, the water flows are huge.  You normally want to fish in water that is around 1500 cubic feet per second (CFPS).  I've fished water going 3000 cfps, and did OK.

    Right now, the Yuba is moving at 10,000 cfps!

    What this means is that we will most likely not  be doing the dry flies - top-water fishing.  We'll be 'nymphing' - using sub-surface flies that mimic the bugs as they are coming out of the river bottom.  It's a whole different technique and is something I've only done once before.

    Because of the velocity of the water, being in waders is most likely out of the question, so it will be fishing from the shore.  Much more challenging and it takes away a number of techniques for nymphing.  Oy!

    Hey, more skills development, right?

    I'm going to be bringing a set of walkie-talkies as well, and will see how they work out in the river.  My portable water filtration system will be in tow, as well as a small fanny pack full of just-in-case survival gear.  The fly fishing vest has a very nice zippered section in the back of the vest that also will get stuffed with things we may need in a survival situation.  If the fish aren't biting, I may find the time to practice some emergency techniques out in the wild.

    Back in a couple of days, hopefully with some pix of gi-normous trout which were fooled by you know who...

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Some Crystal Ballin'

    I'm in one of those Crystal Ball moments:  What's going on in the nation and world, and how will it effect us?

    Most have heard reported that QEII ends this month.  Bernanke swears the Federal Reserve won't be buying any more Treasury Bills.  Really?  There has been no movement whatsoever that the federal government is going to curb its spending anytime in the near future, let alone by the end of this month.

    I believe old Uncle Ben is word-smithing us again.  Like when he said the Federal Reserve wasn't printing up hundreds of billions of dollars to buy our debt.  He was creating electronic dollars.  The result was the same.  He and his cronies will do something similar with whatever is coming up in the future.

    So, at least in the short-term, we will have to keep borrowing to pay the bills.  Through August 2nd, they will be robbing from the federal employee retirement funds to keep the cash flow coming.  After that, they will either have to, (1)  reduce spending to equal tax receipts or, (2) raise the national debt limit and continue borrowing to fund expenditures.

    Option 1 by itself is highly unlikely.  The government will not cut its spending by August, nor can it increase taxes quickly enough to cover the shortfall.  Neither of these can realistically happen in such a short timeframe.

    Option 2 is much more likely.  The Republicans will cave in and vote to raise the debt limit.  They'll get promises to cut future spending.  Some may actually happen, but future Congress' will pooh-pooh the "draconian measures", and we'll be back where we were.  Some slimy-dog Congressman always seems to be able to find a loophole, or simply enact new "emergency" legislation that effectively counteracts the older restrictions.

    Perhaps more importantly, if the limit is raised, who will buy our debt?  Who is going to pick up the $100 billion per month slack that the Federal Reserve was purchasing?

    I heard Larry Kudlow on the radio yesterday, and he seems to believe Bernanke.  He thinks things are turning around, the dollar is going to get healthy.  I didn't hear his whole show, so I don't know if anyone asked him how the US plans on paying its bills if the Fed doesn't buy our own debt.

    He sounded like he was trying to convince himself that economically, things are swell.

    On a micro-economic level, he might be right.  You can find a company here or there that is prospering.  It might be in a niche market that prospers during tough economic times.  Discount stores and the like.  Places that offer value.

    But in the macro-economic view, I just don't see it.  Kudlow said he expected this to be a, "jobless recovery."  What the hell kind of recovery is that?  Who's buying the goods and services if they don't have a job?  It was just about the most stupid thing I've ever heard.  At best, it could last for a short period of time, but there is no way for it to be sustained.


    Let's play Devil's Advocate, and say that the Republicans hold strong, and the debt limit is not increased.  That would mean our expenditures would drop by 40%.  Immediately.

    Where are they going to cut?

    You may remember that in 2010, for the first time since The Great Depression, more direct cash payments were made to individuals than was received in taxes by the federal government.  That means the money for the rest of the federal government was borrowed.  Every federal department - defense, commerce, education, Congress, the White House, the court system... whatever - was loaned to us.

    So, will they cut Aunt Millie's Social Security payment, or shut down an NEA art exhibit?  How about choosing between funding student loans or making Section 8 housing payments?

    [I know I ask this a lot, but can anyone show me the article or amendment in the Constitution that allows for federal taxation and payments for ANY of those things?  At least Aunt Millie MAY have paid into the Social Security system and is being reimbursed for her forced participation in the plan.  The rest are nothing but bald-faced thefts.]

    If they cut Social Security, the seniors will vote them out.  If you cut student loans, the twenty-somethings will riot.  If you cut the Section 8 housing, you'll have massive Dependent Class rioting.  Cut the NEA... hmmm, that one might be kinda painless.

    The problem is, there aren't enough painless NEA-type cuts to be made.  Too many have become too dependent on handouts.


    So, I'm putting my bettin' money on the feds keeping up the borrowing game.  At this point in time, I think this is the best option for those of us who don't want big government.


    It buys us time.  Time to prep.  Time to acquire tangible assets.  Time to train.  Time to plan.

    Eventually, things will go squirrel-y on us, and the Greece-style austerity riots will ensue.  Social Security will be a fraction of its current promised value, so you'd best not make it the centerpiece of your retirement plans.

    I'm re-thinking my whole plan on owning land.  At least the concept of adding permanent structures to a piece of property.  The higher the value, the higher the taxes.  Local governments are hard pressed right now for money, and increasing property taxes is one way to keep their boat afloat.

    We've got Prop 13 here in California which currently limits how much property taxes can be raised, but I don't know how long it will stay intact.  I think we're going to end up like may other states that raise taxes as they see fit, regardless of the market value of the property.

    I'm not a member of any special interest group, union or racial minority group, so I can't expect any special union deals, minority discounts/affirmative actions or other special dispensation that will allow me to suckle for free at the Nanny's teat. 

    I've worked hard my whole life and saved a couple of bucks.  I've chosen to risk a huge proportion of those saved dollars on the two businesses I own. 

    Those formerly noble choices will be used against me when I belly up to the bar to get my Medicare and Social Security re-payments.  If I am successful, I will be reducing the amount of money I will be able to recuperate from the federal government because "means testing" will surely be a part of the equation when my time comes.  Only if I fail, will I get the money.

    What kind of crazy system is that, where failure is rewarded?

    What an idiot I've been.

    It always comes back to self-reliance, doesn't it?  Acquire and retain as much as you can.  Retain being the operative word.  Hold on to as much as you can while going through the rough spots so you can prosper on the other side...

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Scariest Day Of My Life

    On Saturday, I had a Introductory gun class.  I drove to the range and got there early as usual to set things up.  While I was sitting in the car, I noticed that the left side of my tongue was numb.  I figured I had bit it the previous night or something.

    I spent the next 8 hours on my feet, setting up, teaching, taking down.  When I got in my car to come home, I noticed my tongue was still a bit numb, and my left ear was stuffed.  I did the old "hold your nose and blow out" deal to equalize the pressure, and it seemed to work a little.

    Being a numbness in the head/face, I did some rudimentary tests for stroke - hand strength, mobility, checked my pupils, spoke quickly outloud.  No problems.

    I got home, and as a precaution, I took a big old honkin' aspirin.  Just in case.

    Sunday, being one of my days off, was uneventful.  A slight numbness in the tongue, but it actually seemed to be subsiding a bit.  Good day.

    On Monday - my other day off - my wife and son ran off to work.  I rolled out of bed around 8am, and made some coffee.  I took that first glorious sip, and preceded to drool all over my chest.  The lips on the left side of my face did not function.


    I took another sip, and the same thing happened.  This is not good.

    I went into the bathroom to look into the mirror.  I did the "smile test" and only my right side responded.  I could not close my left eye all the way.  When I raised my eyebrows, only the right side of my forehead wrinkled.

    I did the "blown pupil" looksee, and it was still OK.  My motor skills on both sides seemed OK, but a million horrible scenarios were swirling through my head.  Please, not now God, I've got too much I still need to accomplish.

    It was 8:30 by now, and I called my doctor.  They didn't open until 9am, so the answering service asked if I wanted to leave a message.  I told them that I was having a tingling in my tongue and face and wanted it checked out.  They put a nurse on the phone, who basically said, "Get thee to the ER".

    Now things got interesting.  The medical plan we're on, John Muir Medical, has 2 ERs in our county, but the closest one is 30 minutes away.  The nurse said that, if I could make it, I should try and go to the one in Concord, as they would have immediate access to my records.  If I went to an affiliated hospital that was in the next town over from where I live, the records might not be as easily accessed.

    So I jumped in my car and drove the 30 minutes.  For some reason, this seemed reasonable.  I know... huge, incredible mistake.  I not only put myself at risk, but if I had some sort of episode on the way, I could have harmed others.

    I found the ER, and the nurse did a quick evaluation.  I was in one of those crappy gowns inside of 5 minutes from walking in the door.  For the second time in my life - the first being my birth - I had been admitted to a hospital (I'm a pretty healthy guy!).

    The doctor did all of the tests I had done, as well as a few others, and then spoke the sweetest five words I've ever heard:

    You didn't have a stroke.

    Huh?  With my vast medical knowledge (I used to watch House on a regular basis), I had assumed I had a TIA - one of those mini-strokes.

    Instead, I have what is considered to be the default diagnosis when you haven't had a stroke or you don't have a brain tumor (more on that later):  Bell's Palsy.

    It is caused by a constriction of the Facial Nerve that goes through some tiny hole in your head.  When it becomes inflamed, it shuts off.  You have one nerve that controls the left side, and one that controls the right side.

    The nice thing is, it is almost always reversible, usually within a month.  They started me on a steroid and anti-viral regime.  The steroids are to reduce the swelling of the nerve, and the anti-virals are because some authorities think it might be caused by Herpes Simplex I (cold sores) or Herpes Zoster (shingles) [NO, not by Herpes Simplex II, aka "Lumps on your junk"].

    Why don't they think it might be a brain tumor causing this?  Because of my forehead.

    If you go to the Wikipedia article I linked above, you'll see a picture of a guy raising his eyebrows.  Only one half of his forehead is wrinkled.  That's what I have got going on.

    It seems that the forehead, for some reason, gets extra-special treatment from your brain.  Both sides of the brain feed nerves to both sides of your forehead.  If your palsy is being caused by a brain tumor, let's say on the left side of your brain, when you raise your eyebrows, the right side of your brain will kick in and allow you to raise both eyebrows.  With Bell's Palsy, the whole side of the face is shut down, resulting in a smooth forehead on the affected side.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, it could be a tumor that is pressing on the Facial Nerve, but let's not go there.  The doc felt around and didn't find anything untoward, and I had no other symptoms.  So there!

    My own belief is that is was caused by two things:  A pinched nerve and/or stress.  In my previous profession as a banker, I sat all day long.  Now, when I teach a gun class, I'm on my feet for 8 hours.  The same goes for the PM shop.  I've long had a bad lower back, and when stressed, it "climbs" up into my shoulders and neck.

    With both of my jobs, I'm always "on" - there is no down-time whatsoever with the gun classes, and only occasionally with the PM shop.  Both are "go, go, go".

    Accept The Challenge

    I literally feel like I dodged a bullet.  I genuinely thought I was having a stroke.  When I was driving to the ER, I continued to do a self-diagnosis.  When I wouldn't "pass" one, I'd get more stressed.  By the time I got to the hospital, when they checked my blood pressure, it was 195 over something.  After I got the good news, it dropped like a rock down to normal levels.

    What did I learn from this?  I need to know where every damned ER is in my area.  That seems so natural a thing to know, but I was clueless.

    I'm doing a number of things to reduce my back pain/problems and stress.  Yoga every morning is the first step.  Two birds with one stone.  Flexibility/mobility and meditation.

    On the days I don't go to the PM store or teach a gun class, I'll have my butt on our elliptical machine.  I need much more cardio work.  I already do dumbbell weight work and push-ups on those days, but I will get up a half hour earlier to get on the machine.

    Dropping a couple of pounds (OK, more than a couple) will put less stress on my back, and give me fewer problems.

    I'm also looking into blood thinning foods.  I didn't realize how much the thought of a stroke scared me.  I already eat a ton of garlic, but will be adding more ginger, peppers, rasins, cranberries and other foods to help keep the old red matter flowing smoothly.

    I'd already planned on going on a fishing trip next week (woo hoo!) but I had an advanced gun class at the start of the week and an introductory class at the end of the week.  Both have been canceled so I can just focus on relaxing.  This will be the first real vacation I've had in 3 years, and I'm going to enjoy it!

    As a reminder to not blow this off, I've taped the hospital admittance wrist band onto my office laptop.  I will see this each and every morning.  I don't want another one any time soon.

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Return Of The Catwoman

    About 6 months ago, this lady came into our shop.  She was dripping in gold jewelry.  Tons of necklaces - ala Mr. T - and a bunch of very heavy bracelets.

    She browsed our jewelry cases, which were very lean at the time  Hey, we'd only been open a couple of months!  She couldn't find anything she liked, so she left the shop.

    As the door closed, one of my partners noticed that one of her bracelets had somehow come off, and was on the floor.  He looked out our front window and saw that she was still walking towards her car.  In a semi-panic, he secured his sidearm, ran around the corner of our cases, grabbed the bracelet and bolted out of the door.

    By the time he got the door open, she had just gotten into her car, had started it up, and was backing out of her space.  My partner came running and yelling up behind her car, trying to get her attention.

    Apparently he looked like some kind of mad man.  The lady "burned rubber" out of the parking lot as this "crazy dude" - my partner - chased her towards the lot exit!

    So... what to do?  Well, the first thing we did was weigh this bad-boy bracelet up.  It had $1700 of gold in it - 6 months ago!

    We had no idea who the lady was, so we pulled some images from our security cameras, and called our rep at the local newspaper to see if they would run some sort of Lost and Found story.  No dice, unless we wanted to kick in $300+.  Not really possible for our start-up company.

    So, we just kept the bracelet in one of our safes, hoping she'd pop in again.

    Guess who came in yesterday?  Yep, The Catwoman.!  The same partner who had chased her down was working yesterday.  When she came in, he recognized her immediately.  Still dripping in gold jewelry, he told her he had a very special piece for her.

    He ran back to the safe, and brought out the bracelet.  She said something along the lines of, "Wow, I've got a bracelet just like that."

    "No you don't," was the reply from my partner.

    She was a little taken aback, so he told her the story about how he had chased her in the parking lot 6 months ago.  Yep, she remembered the incident!

    He gave her back the bracelet, and she started crying.  It was pretty cool.

    OK, you're probably wondering why we call her the Catwoman.  No, she didn't have a bunch of cats, or boxes of cat food, or cat charms, etc.

    When we looked at her footage on our security system, my other partner noted that her hair style looked like someone had wrapped a dead cat in her hair!

    Apparently, her hair style is still the same, as my partner recognized her immediately!

    Hey, cut us some slack - we sell PMs, not cut hair ;-)

    Did we ever consider melting this thing down and taking the cash?  Hell yes!  But the whole pesky morality/karma thing kicked our butts, and we decided that if we had it for a year, we'd melt it down and donate the money somewhere.

    Unlike a bank - where unused or forgotten bank accounts are escheated (handed over) to the State - there are no clear rules for shops like ours.  No way was this going to some bureaucratic Lost and Found.  The bracelet would have "found" its way to Sacramento to be pissed away.

    We told the story of the Catwoman to many, many folks that came into the store, and one of our customers gave us the answer.  The customer, named Kat (seriously), did animal rescue of..... wait for it.... cats! 

    If the Catwoman had never returned, at least the money would have gone to her namesake!

    Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.