Gun Control, Survival Prepping and Other Controversial Subjects.

Hello My Friends,

authorphotoI know.  It’s been a long time since I posted, and for that I do apologize.  Many of you have been very vocal about that and I do appreciate the added incentive.  Keep those comments and emails coming!  In my defense, I’ve been in the process of enjoying life a little with my new bride and spending some time working on our new camper (now winterized for the season) and even doing a little camping.  As I always say, life is grand.

This week’s blog is a far cry from my usual topics; (I’ll get back on topic next week) but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a current events junkie.  I span the web frequently in search of interesting or poignant news from reliable sources.  Lately the topics of gun control and survival prepping have been foremost on my mind and I feel like babbling about a few of the things I have gnawing at my age addled mind.  Bear with my ramblings if you dare.

For those of you rolling your eyes, apparently you’ve never been the victim of gun violence.

I have.  So I speak from an enlightened pulpit.

For starters, lets face facts: gun control doesn’t work.  The very system itself is flawed from the ground up.  Those incapable of possessing a firearm legally can and will acquire one by any means necessary.  It’s no different than a lock on a door.  It keeps honest people honest.  While  I wouldn’t wish a home invasion on anyone, if Michael Bloomberg’s home were broken into, I believe his current, misguided tirade on gun control would end abruptly.  Of course, he doesn’t have to worry about that.  He has armed security around him wherever he goes.  Most of us “Joe the Plumber’s” don’t have that luxury.  At any rate, the man needs to take off his Ivory Tower, rose colored glasses and take a real look at what he’s proselytizing.

Look at the statistics!  The states/cities with the highest instances of gun related violence are those with the strictest gun control laws.  Washington DC and Chicago are two examples.  Why?  Because the law abiding citizens are ripe for the picking for criminals.  Those citizens can’t legally be armed and the criminals know it.  The criminals don’t seem to have any problem getting their hands on firearms.  Talk about lambs to the slaughter.

The Stand Your Ground laws are being revisited in states like Florida.  Why?  Because of a few unfortunate incidents where the shooter was exonerated by the legal system, through due process. for using necessary force, but the outcry from those uninformed soap boxers with bleeding hearts who took up their banner on a half cocked, loud crusade to right what they believe to be the wrongs done to individuals who were in the wrong place doing something they shouldn’t have been doing.  The loss of a young person is never a good thing, but when you play with fire you’re bound to get burned.

And don’t even get me started on these race baiting, nut job, banner wavers like Sharpton and Jackson whose only purpose in life is to stir the pot for their own nefarious purposes.  If only they’d use their limelight for the benefit of others instead of themselves.  These irreverent Reverends need to take a sabbatical from their rabble rousing and read the Bibles they claim to preach the teachings of.

None of us know all the details of what happened in the Michael Brown shooting, and I’d be an idiot if I were to claim that all law enforcement officers are straight up, capable, compassionate people, but I’d dare say that most of them are-and I sure wouldn’t want to have their thankless jobs for love or money.  My hat is off  to the 99% of them who put their life on the line every day to protect us.  Right or wrong, when a cop tells you to do something, just do it.  If he or she is wrong, deal with that later at the police station through proper channels, or with a lawyer. Getting into an altercation with a law enforcement officer is never a wise idea.  If you do, you’re bound to come out on the losing end.

Those of us who are legally registered to carry firearms are the least of your worries, but our government seems to be petrified of us.  In many cases, as I’m sure you’ve seen in those few unbiased news outlets who don’t hide stories for their political agenda, honest, law abiding, concealed carry gun owners have saved many situations by thwarting bad guys who were attempting to rob, loot and plunder and have aided police in many dire situations.  Click here to read  just a few of them.  We are, for the most part, gun enthusiasts who enjoy gun sports and appreciate and respect the beauty and power that firearms possess.  We also believe in our Second Amendment right to protect ourselves in times in eminent danger.

Those with violent or felony criminal records are forbidden by law to own firearms.  The fact that they’re criminals pretty much tells you that they don’t give a damn about the law.  They carry stolen guns or guns bought illegally (very easy to do) mainly so the gun can’t be traced to them after they’ve committed a crime.  The meth-head who broke into my house had a record as long as your arm and was even on parole at the time.  The .22 caliber pistol he carried was a stolen gun.  Had I not been in possession of my firearm that night, I wouldn’t be writing this blog today.  I have no doubt in my mind that had I not been armed, and had the presence of mind to use it, I’d have been a case for the CSI investigators.  I still have a lead souvenir in my right butt cheek as a memento of that night, and he has three in his hip, a scar across his forehead and the view from his new home includes razor wire and armed guards.  All I lost that night was a little blood, a pair of jeans and the sense of home and serenity I once had in the confines of my hovel.  That night and the subsequent PTSD led to my having to have an alarm system installed, a lot of lost sleep and an increase in my personal arsenal to insure that, heaven forbid, if it ever happens again, the odds of the perpetrator leaving in a zippered bag will be greatly increased.  While I suffered a pretty devastating loss, I’m still breathing, I still have all my possessions and time does heal all wounds.

I could sit here and quote gun statistics but that’s already been beaten to death in the news.  What bothers me most is that with those glaring statistics staring anyone with any common sense right in the face, these grand-standers like Bloomberg keep persisting in trying to make gun ownership more difficult for the average Joe who is only out to insure the safety of himself and his family.

While I don’t own any of what the media calls, “Assault Weapons,” I have fired many and, frankly, they’re a blast to shoot and a beauty to behold.  How many criminals do you think have an assault rifle stuffed down their pant leg?  It would be painfully obvious, wouldn’t it?  How many crimes do you think were committed with assault weapons?  Yes, they have been implicated in cases such as the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, but they are definitely not a weapon of choice for the common criminal and are very low on the scale when it comes to violent crime.

Clip capacities have come under fire of late.  Let’s be honest here:  anyone with any prowess with a firearm can change clips in the blink of an eye so how is limiting the size of a clip going to deter crime?  Large capacity clips are of more use for rapid fire, timed target shooting, a sport, than they are for the commission of a crime.  I believe all too many of these naysayers were raised on 1950’s Lone Ranger serials where a six shooter was capable of shooting unlimited rounds.

Hi Ho Silver!

And I’m really bothered by the media’s portrayal of so called “Survival Preppers.”  While I will admit that some do seem, at least to the uninformed, to go way overboard, there are all too many practical reasons for being prepared for whatever nature, or the evil powers of the world, decide to  throw our way.  Given the current unrest throughout the world: especially the latest threat-ISIS (or as our illustrious dictator calls them, ISIL) and the headline news today/gone tomorrow Ebola scares, it’s time to give some honest thought to where you want to be when disaster strikes.  Let’s face it, folks, the world has become an ugly place and there is a never ending supply of radical nutcases out there who’d think nothing of opening fire in a crowded shopping mall or blowing up a populated building.

Even with the evil “what if’s” aside, what about the guaranteed occurrences-like being prepared for Mother Nature’s wrath?  I live in South Carolina where the weather is usually bearable, but our infrastructure frankly sucks.  All our power wires are still strung from pole to pole.  Every time we have an ice storm here, (at least once a winter) and the overburdened tree branches begin to fall on those power lines, vast numbers of homes and businesses go days, and in some cases even weeks, without power.  When even a hint of an upcoming storm leaves the lips of the local rumor mill, the grocery stores get cleaned out…especially the milk and bread.   Call me a radical prepper if you will, but we have a generator and a good supply of non-perishables, medical supplies, waterless soap and water so we can at least keep the refrigerator cold, a heater running, the toilets flushing and have the means to prepare nutritional meals in relative comfort…and not suffer the wrath of four or five days without a shower.

I also believe that the evil in the world is going to come to a head one day soon, though I pray for the sake of my children and grandchildren that I’m wrong.  Being prepared for such situations may mean your family’s very survival.  One errant strike from an EMP on our aged power grid and the lights are going to be out for a very long time.  After a few days, things are going to start getting very ugly.  Those unprepared will be out scavenging and those lacking any moral fiber will be out looting.  Desperation and hunger will bring out the worst in even the nicest people.  Will you be prepared to protect your home and family when, not if, disaster strikes?  Do you think FEMA is going to be knocking at your door the next day with a nice steak and a baked potato?  If you do, I want some of what you’re on.  Just ask some of the folks in Louisiana how Johnny-On-The-Spot governmental response to a disaster is.

I’m not saying it’s time to go out and buy a surplus deuce and a half and convert it into a mobile fortress, (although that would be a lot of fun), with a ten year supply of MRE’s stashed in various secret hiding places.  What I am saying is that responsible gun ownership and common sense preparation can and will improve your chances for your longevity and that of your family.  Laugh if you will at the folks on shows like Doomsday Preppers and other like programs.  Don’t fool yourself.  They’re the ones who are going to have the last laugh.  And with all the time, money and effort they’ve put into insuring that they have the means to survive, they’ve also developed the skills to protect it.

Just the opinion of an average, semi-normal, non-radical taxpayer that I thought I’d share.  As for me and mine, we shall err on the side of common sense preparedness.

Man it felt good to get that out.  Every once in a while you just have to vent instead of cursing at the news commentators on the daily news programs.  They can’t hear you anyway and probably wouldn’t care about what you had to say.  If you haven’t realized that Fox News is strictly conservative, CNN is strictly liberal and MSNBC is downright dangerous, and all report their stories with those slants, you haven’t been paying attention.

OK, time for my meds and shock therapy treatment.  It keeps the voices in my head cordial.

Until next time, as always, I wish you peace, happiness and good health.

See you in the funny papers!

Brian

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Relaxants and Sleep Aids: Things You Need To Know.

authorphotoHello, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you find this week’s blog interesting and helpful-albeit a little long due to the vastness of the subject.  Hang with me.  It’s worth the read.

We’re going to start this one off with a disclaimer because this is a very serious subject that needs to be studied, in-depth, before you decide to jump on the herbal relaxant/sleep aid bandwagon.

For starters, always remember that just because they’re natural and unregulated, that doesn’t automatically make them safe.  While side effects and overdose possibilities are generally far less with herbals, many do have them, including allergic reaction possibilities for those with sensitivities to certain compounds.  Always, always, always discuss any herbal regimen choices with your healthcare provider before starting one.

If you’re pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breast feeding, do not, under any circumstances, take anything without first consulting your healthcare provider.  Most, if not all of the herbal relaxants and sleep aids are contraindicated, (or should at least be carefully controlled and supervised by a medical doctor) during pregnancy or while breast feeding.

More to the point, while everyone occasionally has problems sleeping, or gets anxious or depressed from time to time, if you’ve ever felt like hurting yourself of others, become disoriented or lose memories or parts of the day, hear voices or anything beyond common life anxiety or transient insomnia, see your doctor immediately.  Herbal supplementation will not help you.  As strongly as I support and believe in herbal remedies, there are many times when professional medical intervention and prescription medications are the only option.  Only a trained medical professional can diagnose the difference.

I, for one, am always thinking.  My mind never stops plotting, scheming and fantasizing about the latest book I’m working on, life…especially about what we’re going to do when we win the lottery.  While I know that I’m probably not going to see my face on a Publisher’s Clearinghouse commercial, or have to dodge paparazzi as I sneak into lottery headquarters to collect my winnings, thinking about the possibilities of life without financial worries is my happy place.  Unfortunately, my happy place becomes less appealing as I lay there awake some nights trying unsuccessfully to shut down my thought processes and get some much needed sleep.  On those occasions which, thankfully are fairly rare, I reach for an herbal tea or a capsule.

And on those occasions when the annual house or truck tax bill comes, or it’s time for my annual review at work, or the dreaded annual trip to the doctor and I start biting my nails and cursing our state and local government, the establishment as a whole or my sawbones, a herbal remedy is usually the order of the day.

But which one you ask?  Ah, that’s the purpose of today’s blog because, believe it or not, the choices are many and many of the choices may be the wrong one for you.

Believe it or not, one of the first questions I ask those who inquire about herbal relaxants or sleep aids is what they know about them.  Almost everyone, and those are the ones who have even heard anything about them at all, say Valerian and Melatonin.  While both are good options in many situations, they are far from the only choice and, in some cases, the absolute worst choice.

Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons.

Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis):  Chamomile, especially chamomile tea,(derived from the plant’s flowers) has been used for centuries to bring on sleep, ease an upset stomach and even treat diaper rash.  It is a herb derived from a flowering plant in the daisy family and a close relative to ragweed.  While its’ natural calming effects are widely known, it has also been used to treat skin irritations, inflammations and even diaper rash.  There are scads of lotions and creams on the market to ease those conditions.  I can’t vouch for their efficacy because I’ve personally never tried them.

Lately, a lot of study has been done on the benefit of chamomile for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), migraine headaches, PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) and a whole host of other maladies including skin conditions.  However, we’re concentrating on sleep and relaxation this week so here goes.

Of all the available herbal sleep aids, for those with mild sleep issues, chamomile tea is probably what you’re looking for.  With few exceptions, it’s probably the most mild of all sleep inducers and probably has the least potential for side effects.  A cup of chamomile tea about an hour before bedtime will help all but those with the most serious sleep issues (or way too much on their minds) slip off into a natural, peaceful sleep.

However, for those with allergies to ragweed or pollen, chamomile is not recommended as some mixtures may contain pollen and/or ragweed.  It is derived from a flowering plant in the ragweed family, remember.

Chamomile is also contraindicated in those taking blood thinners because chamomile contains a natural substance called coumarin (which is synthesized and used in the prescription medication Coumadin), a blood thinner.

Pregnant women should not use chamomile as it is considered an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion).

Many people drink a cup every night before bedtime and claim that there’s nothing like it for bringing on sleep.

If you have no allergies to pollen or ragweed, are on no blood thinners and aren’t pregnant, try brewing a cup before bedtime.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that something so simple could do so much good.

Valerian (valeriana officinalis):  Most of you, I’m sure, have heard of Valerian and have probably tried it or know someone who has.  I’ve even spoken with doctors who recommend it to their patients whose condition may be mild enough that they would benefit more from Valerian than from taking one of the prescription drugs with their associated side effects and, in many cases, chances for addiction.  Many use Valerian for different situations from insomnia to anxiety to menstrual cramps.  Many swear by it, some swear at it.

The sedative properties of Valerian are found in the root.  While it can be taken as a tea or a tincture, Valerian smells really, really bad.  Think of an un-air conditioned, long untended, boys locker room loaded up with basket after basket of dirty BVD’s and gym socks…at high noon…in the desert.  Multiply that by ten and you have the general idea.  Even the capsules, when purchased fresh, will cause you to pause, (and to hold your nose) before taking it.  However, this is one instance when, if Valerian is the right choice for you, the end justifies the means.  If you wanna play, you’ve got to pay, and for most, it’s a small price to pay for the benefits that can be had from its’ use.  Generally, taking the proper dosage about an hour before bedtime will, for most, insure a peaceful, restful night’s sleep.

However, it is not without its’ downside.  Many people who use Valerian wake up feeling drunk/hung over, or remain drowsy for a time after awakening.  Many have said that, along with the lethargy when awakening, they also get a headache.

For those with common, garden variety anxiety brought about by an abundance of life’s every day troubles, Valerian is known to relax, calm and render a feeling of overall peace and tranquility.  Some claim to get relief within an hour, for some it may need to build up over a few doses before the calming effects are realized.  However, Valerian is not a cure-all.  It is intended for temporary use.  If those anxieties persist, see your doctor immediately.

Valerian should not be used for extended periods.  When it is, you may may not be able to just stop taking it without revisiting the initial problem you were trying to solve in spades.  Anxiety, nervousness, shakiness and insomnia have been experienced by those going cold turkey after a long stint on Valerian.  Often you’ll have to taper your dose over two or three weeks when you feel you no longer need it.

Always insure that you buy the freshest capsules available and that there are no inert or inactive ingredients mixed in that you may be allergic to.  Valerian allergies are rare, but some are allergic to it.  More people, however, are allergic to some of the additives in cheap, bargain basement supplements.  I know, you’ve heard me say this time after time, but it bears repeating: always buy your supplements from reliable, American manufacturers and, whenever possible, buy those certified for vegetarians and vegans.  By doing this, you’ll insure you’re getting a consistent, pure and measured dosage with no harmful additives.

Some of the more rare side effects of Valerian are are persistent nausea and/or vomiting, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing of the eyes or skin, dark urine and extreme lethargy to name a few.  These are generally reversible when the valerian is stopped.

Dosages vary from person to person.  Valerian is not a “one size fits all” supplement.  The recommended dose on the label may be too little or too much for you.  Caution must be used when determining your proper dosage.

For those taking prescription medications, especially statin medications, erectile dysfunction medications, other relaxants/tranquilizers or cough and cold remedies containing diphenhydramine, you should not use Valerian as it may lessen the efficacy of those medications or multiply the drowsiness already associated with them.

Before we move on to the next option, I just want to mention that none of the above is meant to scare you.  Valerian, for most, is a natural Godsend.  My only intention in mentioning all of the above is to insure that you’re well informed before you pop that first capsule.  Valerian is definitely not for everyone and the information above is certainly not the all inclusive definition.  Research all medications and supplements fully, and discuss them with your healthcare provider before you decide to take it.  It could save your life.

Melatonin:   Is actually a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  Its main purpose is to  regulate sleep and waking cycles and contributes to maintaining the body’s circadian rhythms.  Unfortunately, as we age, our body’s ability to produce melatonin decreases.  This explains why grandma and grandpa were always up at the crack of dawn.

Supplements, of course, are synthesized in a laboratory because, well, who’s going to volunteer to have their pineal gland tapped?  If that were even possible, I’m sure it would not be a pleasant experience so, technically, melatonin can’t be considered a natural remedy-but for many, it’s a sanity saver.

I’m a child of the night.  I work nights, as does my fiance’, so our sleep cycle definitely conflicts with the natural circadian rhythm of our bodies.  Being over fifty with decreased natural melatonin production abilities is also a major contributor to my occasional insomnia.  Luckily, Brenda is a sleep-a-haulic so sleeping is rarely an issue for her.  I, on the other hand, often have problems going to sleep for the reasons mentioned earlier.  On those nights when my ten-hour shift hasn’t totally exhausted me, mentally and physically (rarely), I reach for a sleep aid.  Sleep is a must whether your body wishes to cooperate or not.  For those of you who can drop off without a second thought, (narcoleptics excluded, of course) my hat’s off to you.  For those of you who cant, melatonin supplements might be the answer.

Surprisingly, some studies indicate that melatonin is ineffective for what is called “shiftwork disorder.”  Either I have some other sleep issue or, at least in my case and those of many I work with and have suggested melatonin to, I beg to differ.  Melatonin is usually my first choice, after a chamomile tea, when I can’t sleep and, for myself and many others that I know of first hand, it works.

The effects of melatonin and generally mild in those who tolerate it well and will usually just help ease you into sleep without your even realizing the effects (unlike most prescription sleep medications).  Side effects are generally mild or non-existent, but can include dizziness, daytime lethargy and headaches.   Other rare but documented side effects can include abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and transient depression-especially in the elderly.

Additionally, if you take birth control pills, blood thinners, diabetic medications or immunosupressants, do not take melatonin without first consulting your healthcare provider.  Melatonin is released into the bloodstream so it may adversely effect other medications in your system.

Kava (kava kava):  I mention kava here with caution. Kava is a root found on islands in the South Pacific. Islanders have used kava for its’ medicinal qualities and in ceremonies for centuries.While a great many people do use kava for everything from sleep disorders and anxiety relief to a treatment for gonorrhea and as an analgesic (pain reliever), the possible associated side effects are many.  It is also used to treat asthma, urinary tract infections, depression and menopausal symptoms.

Research has shown that kava’s calming effects do relieve anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related symptoms like tense muscles and muscle spasms.  It is probably one of the strongest of the readily available herbal supplements.

But!  Of all the herbal supplements I’ve studied, kava ranks right up there when it comes to possible serious side effects.  While certainly not one of the worst, and not a reason to totally disqualify kava as a possible, temporary supplement for sleep and/or anxiety, extreme caution and heavy research, including a discussion with your doctor, need to be done before you take it.

If you are currently taking antidepressants or other mood stabilizing medications, you shouldn’t be taking any herbal anxiety/sleep supplements unless they were recommended by your doctor.  However, kava is definitely not for you.  Kava will multiply the sedating effects of mood altering ( psychotropic drugs), as will alcohol.  Do not drink alcohol while taking kava.

Kava has caused liver failure in people without any history of liver ailments.  Anyone with any liver ailments should steer clear of kava.  While liver failure is a rare side effect generally seen after long term, extensive use of kava,  it needs to be considered when contemplating a supplement.

Allergic reactions are not common with kava, but they are a possibility.

I have tried kava and had no issues with it, but after researching all the side effects, decided to opt for Valerian when the need strikes.  Again, that’s just my personal opinion relating to a personal experience.  Valerian works just as well for me, personally, so that is generally my choice.  Your choice, of course, is dependent on your individual needs and tolerances.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera-Winter Cherry): Originating in India, and used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogenic (promotes homeostasis), the root and berries of the plant are used for various remedies including everything from control of thyroid and adrenal gland disorders to mental agility to osteoarthritis  to an anti-inflammatory to claimed reports of tumor reducing capabilities and increased white cell production in cancer patients and, of course, for sleep disorders and nervous conditions.

In an animal-based study published in 2000, researchers found that ashwagandha root had an anti-anxiety effect similar to that of Ativan (Lorazepam-a drug used to treat anxiety disorders).

Surprisingly enough, and as a lessening of the pain from the constant thorn in my side regarding many allopathic doctors and their “pooh pooh” attitude regarding herbal remedies, ashwagandha has actually made print in none other than Psychology Today, a well respected magazine on mental health-Follow the link for the whole article.  Here’s an excerpt:

“One 2012 study of 64 volunteers randomized asked subjects to take either ashwaganda or a placebo twice a day for 60 days. The ashwaganda group’s capsule contained 300 mg of a concentrated extract made from the root. During the treatment period, regular telephone call check-ins assured volunteers were consistently taking the herbs or placebo, and were used to note any adverse reactions. The treatment group given the ashwaganda root extract exhibited a significant reduction in anxiety scores after two months relative to the placebo group, without side effects. Most notably, serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced in the herbal group (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012). Cortisol is the stress hormone that goes up when we are stressed out.  Cortisol also creates longer term fatigue and mental fogginess, and brain structures for emotion and memory are damaged when cortisol is too high.” 

Ashwagandha is another herb that I have personally tried.  I loved it.  While it’s effects are more cumulative than immediate, the resultant overall relaxant qualities after a couple of weeks were impressive.  I stopped taking it when things in my world balanced out enough and I was trying to reduce my daily supplement intake down to the bare essentials.

Of all the relaxants, ashwagandha is generally considered one of the safest when used short term.  However, there are some cautions:

As I stated earlier, if you are pregnant, considering becoming pregnant or breast feeding, do not take ashwagandha or any of the other supplements mentioned without consulting your healthcare provider.  Ashwagandha is considered to be an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion).

If you have high or low blood pressure, ashwagandha is contraindicated as it may lower blood pressure in those with low blood pressure, or reduce the efficacy of hypertensive drugs in those with high blood pressure on hypertensive medications.

Those with stomach ulcers should not take ashwagandha as it may irritate the GI tract.

Diabetics should not use ashwagandha due to its’ potential to lower blood sugar and may cause blood sugar to go to low.

People with autoimmune disorders should not take ashwagandha due to its’ penchant for increasing the immune system’s activity.

People with thyroid disorders should not take ashwagandha as it is known to increase thyroid hormone levels.

Hops ( Humulus lupulus):  I know the eyes of a lot of beer drinkers just sprung open.  For those who doubt the medicinal qualities of beer, read on.

The female part of the hop plant is used for the supplement as well as for making beer and numerous other uses.  Hops in herbal medicine are used to treat conditions from anxiety, inability to sleep (insomnia) and other sleep disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness, and irritability, to increase urine flow and even bring on breast milk.

Hops does work.  However, even more so than ashwagandha, the effects are cumulative and may take as long as a month for the benefits to be realized.  Generally, hops are taken in combination with valerian or lemon balm and is more often used for the treatment of anxiety over a longer term.  I have mentioned it here only because it is considered one of the safer herbs for sleep and anxiety and it does work when taken consistently for a month or more.

Pregnancy and breast feeding are about the only known concerns regarding side effects although in some, it has been reported to cause depression.  Those results are questionable regarding any direct correlation to the hops itself.

St. John’ s Wort (Hypericum perforatum):  The St. John’s wort plant has yellow flowers and is considered to be a weed throughout most of the United States. It has been used for medical purposes in other parts of the world for thousands of years.

St. John’s Wort got a really bad rap in the press a few years back.  I attribute that more to the fact that people were taking it willy-nilly without doing their research after a few careless ads were placed in the media regarding the numerous benefits of this herb-but those ads failed to list the side effects and contraindications associated with this now much maligned herb.

With that being said, and given the numerous side effects and contraindications associated with the use of St. John’s Wort, it is definitely not something that should be taken for the relief of transient insomnia or occasional anxiety which is the focus of this week’s blog.

St. John’s Wort has been researched extensively and is being used successfully to treat various anxiety and depression disorders, but it is my belief that diagnosis of those conditions and which ones will benefit from supplementation with this herb should be determined only by a trained medical professional.

St. John’s Wort is known to interact unfavorably with numerous prescription medications including, but not limited to, antidepressants, anti-rejection medications, blood thinners, anti-HIV medications and birth control pills.

Psychosis is a rare, but a possible side effect of taking St. John’s Wort, particularly in people who have, or are at risk for, mental health disorders-including bipolar disorder.

To summarize St. John’s Wort- while I do believe in its’ healing properties, I do not consider it a safe option for common use.  Should you decide to try this herb, speak with your doctor before starting and do your homework.

The herbs we’ve discussed today are far from a comprehensive list.  The number of herbs, minerals and supplements out there used for sleep and anxiety are legion.  I’ve just covered a few of the more common, heavily researched ones for this blog because when all the contraindications are considered and disqualified as not pertaining to you individually, all of these are believed to be safe and effective.

One further note on these and all other herbal supplements: Insure that your doctor is fully aware of all your entire  supplementation regimen so he or she  has a complete picture when prescribing.  Also, stop any and all supplements at least two weeks before scheduled surgical procedures, including dental surgery, to insure there are no interactions between the anesthetics and drugs used during surgery and your supplements.

If you’re still awake,  I guess that’s about all I have to say about sleep aids and relaxants…and in just over thirty-eight-hundred words!   Sorry!

In conclusion, work, your spouse,  finances?  At some point one of these and a whole host of other life challenges cause us to stress.  Stress causes problems with sleep and anxiety.  In those instances, one of the above will probably help you through it…short term.  If those feelings persist, see your doctor immediately.

The next time you’re in a crowd, look to your right and left.  One or both of the people you see are probably taking a prescription antidepressant or mood altering medication of some sort.  The stigma that was once attached to them has long since been forgotten.  What was once considered a life with a scarlet letter on your chest is now accepted as a serious medical condition and is treated accordingly with a myriad of new and safer drugs coming out constantly.  Never take depression or severe anxiety lightly.  There is help…and it’s just a phone call to your doctor away.

As always, if you have any comments regarding this blog or herbal remedies in general, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below.  If you have a comment or question that you’d rather not have seen on an open forum, please feel free to send me an email.  I always strive to answer all emails within twenty-four hours.

Until next week, I wish you peace, happiness and good health.  Be well, my friends.

Brian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Over Fifty Herbalist: Week 4-Vitamin D and the D-ficiency Pandemic

authorphotoHi and welcome back.

This week I have some information that may be shocking to a great many of you: and may even save your life.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  and many other reputable publications, Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a worldwide pandemic.  It is estimated that the number of vitamin D deficient people in the world is over one-billion!  Why this hasn’t been splashed all over the mainstream media is beyond me.

Not surprisingly, I learned this first hand when, after some routine annual blood work, my doctor prescribed an expensive vitamin D tablet that, in my usual, anal fashion, I researched and found to be inferior to the vitamin D supplements I could get much cheaper and without a prescription from any reputable supplement supplier.

As early as 1950, German scientists realized that vitamin D2, (Ergocalciferol- which is synthetically made from radiating a mold that forms on cereal plants) used in most prescription vitamin D, was inferior and far less potent than vitamin D3, (Cholecalciferol-which is a cholesterol that is extracted from wool grease and wool wax alcohols obtained from the cleaning of wool after shearing. The cholesterol undergoes a four step process to make 7-dehydrocholesterol, the same compound that is stored in the skin of animals. The 7-dehydrocholesterol is then irradiated with ultra violet light.   Cholecalciferol is produced intrinsically in human and animal skin when exposed to UVB light, and Cholecalciferol is what’s contained in most quality vitamin D supplements.  German doctors changed their prescribing methods and started prescribing D3 as far back as the mid-nineteen-fifties. A great many American doctors, to this day, are still prescribing D2 in higher dosages to compensate for the deficiency between D2 and D3.

Vitamin D is a gift from the sun.  It is absorbed through the skin.  Given the current scare of skin cancer melanomas believed to be due in large part to the deteriorating solar UV filter, sunblocks, long sleeves and avoidance of the sun have become the norm.  That leaves oily fish, (which we discussed last week in our omega-3 discussion) fortified milk and a few bread and yogurt products as our only source of dietary vitamin D. Unfortunately, as we age, our skin becomes less able to absorb sufficient vitamin D from the sun.  So if you’re over forty, have milk allergies or just don’t drink milk, follow a vegan diet or have health issues such as Crohn’s Disease or other issues that prohibit or limit the intestines from absorbing vitamins into the system, chances are you may be a member of the vitamin D deficiency club.

In the words of the infamous Groucho Marx, “I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member!”

The list of possible diseases that a chronic vitamin D deficiency has been associated with is massive.  These are some of the known consequences of vitamin D deficiency.   Many others are still being studied:

  • Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
  • Weak Bone Syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Rickets in children
  • Metabolic Syndrome and Type-2 Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • 17 varieties of Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Gout
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infertility
  • Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Pain Syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

And the studies continue into even more conditions and diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency.  If this hasn’t scared you into insuring that your next blood test includes a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test (25-OH-D test), you may want to go back and re-read the above list.  The normal range is 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Not that I’d recommend skipping routine annual blood work, but if you’re needle shy or insurance deficient (as many are these days) there are kits available where you just prick your finger with a lancet, smear the blood drip on a chemically treated blotter and send the sample off to the lab you bought the kit from.  There are also kits where the results can be seen immediately, but I don’t know enough about them to list their pros and cons.  Once again, never self diagnose.  See your doctor and request that the 25-OH-D analysis be added to your annual blood work-up if at all possible.  Chances are it will already be included anyway.  Some members of the medical community do keep up on the latest in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and ways to detect them early.

According to Medicinenet.com, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for those between one-year-old and seventy-years-old is 600IU’s of vitamin D a day.  For those over seventy, the RDA rises to 800IU’s a day.  Unless you’re following a diet high in oily fish and vitamin D fortified milk and cereals, or if you have a condition that limits your absorption of vitamins and nutrients, it may be time to consider a vitamin D3 supplement.

As for the osteo (bone) issues linked to a vitamin D deficiency is impaired intestinal absorption of calcium, which results in decreased levels of serum total and ionized calcium levels. This hypocalcemia gives rise to secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is a homeostatic response aimed at maintaining, initially, serum calcium levels at the expense of the skeleton. Following this PTH-induced increase in bone turnover, alkaline phosphatase levels are often increased. PTH not only increases bone resorption, but it also leads to decreased urinary calcium excretion while promoting phosphaturia, (Phosphaturia is a urinary tract condition where there is too much phosphorus in urine and it causes the urine to appear cloudy or murky color.  This is just a symptom of possible underlying renal issues).  This results in hypophosphatemia, (an electrolyte disturbance in which there is an abnormally low level of phosphate in the blood which exacerbates the mineralization defect in the skeleton.[1}

Read and heed, my friends.  For a few dollars a month spent with a reputable vitamin/mineral/supplement supplier you can take one of the risk factors for all of the above out of the equation. Obviously there’s no such thing as a magic bullet guaranteed to cure any and all ailments, especially for those in the over forty club, but as our elders always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Words to live by.

That’s about all I have to say about vitamin D, except to remind you to have your vitamin D levels tested during your annual check-up.

As always, if you have any comments, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below.  If you have questions or comments that you’d rather not post on an open forum, feel free to send me an email.

Until next week, I wish you peace, happiness and great health.

See you in the funny papers!

Brian

1. Dan L. Longo, Anthony Fauci, Dennis Kasper, Stephen Hauser, J.Jerry Jameson and Joseph Loscalzo, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th edition, p.3094

The Over Fifty Herbalist: Week Three-Omega-3 (Fish Oil) Supplements.

authorphotoHello and welcome.  I’m glad you’re here.  Thank you for stopping by.

This week we’re discussing omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

I consider these a must for myself because I hate seafood in any form or fashion.  I can’t even get it past my nose.  Being from Massachusetts originally, my family consider me the family embarrassment due to my loathing of all things seafood.  What’s worse, my girlfriend considers lobster to be a major food group so I frequently find myself having to order one of the two non-fish items on the menu at Red Lobster-and eat it while breathing through my mouth! Thankfully, they have Sam Adam’s Boston Lager on tap…in the 20 oz, mug! Considering that fatty fish such as salmon, trout and tuna, and shellfish like crab, mussels and oysters are the most common source of (EPA) Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and (DHA) Docosahexaenoic Acid, (two of the three omega-3 fatty acids) I definitely need to supplement.  Throw in the third ringer, that I rarely eat fried foods-canola and soybean oils being the main sources for the third of the three fatty acids, (ALA) Alpha-Linolenic Acid, and I’d be out of luck without a supplement.

Before even considering an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, (commonly known as fish oil) there’s a few things you need to know.

1) If you’re taking any medications that effect blood clotting such as blood thinners or NSAIDS,  do not start an omega-3 supplement without first speaking with your healthcare provider.  Omega-3 supplements are contraindicated for people taking any medications that affect blood clotting due to their penchant for extending bleeding times.

2) If you have a seafood allergy, omega-3 supplements can possibly cause you to have an allergic reaction.

3) If you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider before starting an omega-3 regimen (or any supplemental regimen for that matter).  Seafood is recommended only in small amounts during pregnancy, and supplementing may provide too much EPA and DHA.

4) If you’re a Vegetarian or Vegan, there are algae and krill oil supplements that can be taken in place of fish oils.

I’m a firm believer in the health benefits of omega-3 supplementation, but a lot of the studies I’ve read lately are inconclusive regarding the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation-my main reason for taking it.  There seems to be more positive results regarding the effect of omega-3’s for the relief of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and for lowering triglyceride levels.  It would seem to me that if it’s capable of lowering triglyceride levels and slowing down clotting times, it must have some cardiovascular benefit, but I’m no doctor. For me personally, I opt to believe (and I have done extensive research) there is cardiovascular benefit from omega-3 fatty acids and I’ll continue to supplement.  And I’m a little fish in the fish oil believer pond.  Read on.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends everyone eat fish (particularly fatty fish) at least twice a week. While foods are your best bet for getting omega-3’s in your diet, fish oil supplements are available for those who do not eat fish.  Further, the AHA states that taking up to 3 grams (3000 milligrams) of fish oil supplements daily is considered safe (most of the available supplements contain between 1000-1400 milligrams with a recommended dosage of between two to three capsules per day). They strongly recommend that you don’t take more than 3 grams daily unless you discuss it with your doctor first. If you have heart disease, you may need even higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids. Ask your doctor if you should take higher doses of fish oil supplements to get the omega-3’s you need. (source webmed.com)

Obviously the AHA believes there’s some cardiovascular benefits from omega-3 supplements-and their business is all about hearts!

Dr. Oz had this to say about omega-3 fatty acids: “Omega-3 fatty acids are the brain-boosting, cholesterol-clearing good fats.” Dr. Oz lists omega-3’s as 1 of the 5 critical supplements every woman should take (along with a multivitamin and additional vitamin D supplements), 1 of 5 daily nutrition needs and as one of the most important steps expecting mother’s can take to promote their baby’s healthy development. (source: Dr Oz.com)

Obviously Dr. Oz believes in the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 supplements.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  While I am in no way one of those conspiracy theorists who believe the AMA rejects any claims about the beneficial properties of vitamin and herbal supplementation due to their inability to control them, I do believe that anything that doesn’t have to be prescribed by a physician is poo-poo’ed by a great many mainstream practitioners and considered notions, potions and snake oil.  This certainly isn’t meant to include all mainstream doctors.  Mine seems to be very open to supplementation and the benefits they offer; but we haven’t discussed it any more in-depth than to weigh my own supplementation choices.  There just isn’t time.  “Take off your clothes, say ah, bend over, thank you, that’ll be $125.00,” is what most of us experience during an office visit.  Rarely do we have time for chit-chat in these times where the insurance companies have doctors offices turned into mass production assembly lines.  It just seems to me that many doctors prefer to be reactive instead of proactive and would prefer to deal with the end result rather than being more open to alternative means to prolong or prevent that end result.  Again, that’s just my opinion.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to omega-3’s.

Omega-3 fatty acids are are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are considered essential nutrients,  They can’t be synthesized by the body.  This means that it must be added either through diet or supplementation.  Studies are inconsistent for many of the beneficial claims of fish oils, but there haven’t really been enough controlled studies to state conclusive evidence pro or con. Unfortunately, that’s the case with most herbal supplements.

However, studies have proven that omega-3 fatty acids may lower triglyceride levels in the blood, lower blood pressure, increase circulation, increase the breakdown of clot and scar forming fibrin, (again, seems like cardiovascular benefit to me) reduce inflammation such as that seen in Rheumatiod Arthritis as well as NSAID’s do, and reduce the risk of the onset of dementia among other, yet unstudied, conditions.

Sound like it might be worth a few dollars a month?

Unfortunately, alternative medicine is woefully short on conclusive studies, mainly due to the fact that they are considered by all too many mainstream medicos to not be worth the effort.  I believe that’s due in large part to the fact that the vast majority of supplements aren’t controlled, aren’t ridiculously expensive and don’t require a prescription.  That’s incredibly evident now that it was found that millions of Americans are vitamin D deficient, a deficiency that can lead to weakened bones, cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, MS and other autoimmune diseases.  Once conclusive studies were out proving this, many doctors immediately started testing their patients for vitamin D deficiency and started writing scripts for prescription vitamin D which, believe it or not, has been proven to be inferior in quality to over the counter vitamin D supplements…and a whole lot more expensive. The prescription formulation vitamin D is generally a D2 (Ergocalciferol) compound which is the same D vitamin used to fortify milk and cereals.  Most of the better supplements contain D3 (Cholecalciferol) which has been proven to be at least 50% more effective than D2.  We’ll discuss vitamin D3 supplements next week.

Now the hard part: finding a good quality supplement.

There are literally thousands of them out there of varying degrees of quality.  It has been my experience that dollar store vitamins are definitely out.  I rarely go into the dollar stores, but had the “opportunity” to venture in to one a few weeks ago.  While I was in there, probably out of boredom while my girlfriend shopped, I wandered into their vitamin section and started reading labels.  When the fillers and additives consist of names you can’t pronounce, they’re definitely something you want to stay away from.

GMO’s are also something to avoid.  In my humble opinion, anything genetically modified scares me and I don’t care to knowingly ingest anything that has been genetically altered.  Many of the garden variety vitamins contain GMO’s.

As for content, I prefer to take a supplement that contains omega-3’s from different sources.  The one I’m currently taking contains Borage Seed Oil, Fish Oil and Flax Seed oil, all natural sources.  All the omega-3 bases are covered, no GMO’s and all contained in vegetable capsule.  Always read the label thoroughly.  All of the better supplement manufacturers show the full label on their website or in their catalog.  Last week we discussed some of the scary additives used in the bargain supplements and the lower quality sources they extract the actual vitamin, mineral or herb from.

Well, I believe that about sums up my soap box sermon on the benefits of Omega-3 supplements.  I hope this information has been useful and that this blog has been enlightening on some level.

Next week we’ll discuss vitamin D3.  I hope you’ll stop back by.

As always, feel free to leave comments below, (good or bad) or send an email if you have a comment or question you’d rather not post on a public forum.

Until next week, I wish you good health, much happiness and a whole lot of smiles.

Brian

Disclaimer:  This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is in no way meant to diagnose, treat or cure any medical conditions and should not be construed as such.  Always discuss any ailments or supplement regimen with your healthcare provider

 

 

Sayonara, Dear Cable Company!…Well, almost.

authorphotoHeidilly Ho-Ho-Ho, friends and neighbors!  Welcome back.  Thanks for stopping by.  I hope I didn’t pull you away from reading your copy of Cast Adrift.  You have ordered your copy, haven’t you?

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you’re well aware of my long-standing, festering, and oft bordering-on-violent love/hate relationship with our local cable company.  For the sixteen years I’ve lived in South Carolina, they have been like a fulminating case of jock itch every month when I had to pay that outrageous bill for the bizillion channel bundle package; the cheapest package I could get that had the Military channel and internet.  Ninety-five percent of those channels we’ve never watched or even cared to watch.  What’s worse is that these so-called bundle packages are always offered for a limited time only and, after Uncle Sam takes his cut, and a whole bunch of unidentifiable added charges, amounts to significantly more than the price you were quoted when you signed on with them in blood and the promise of your first born.  After six months or a year, the length of the agreement, we’d get a ji-normous bill that would cause our sphincters to pucker up because our “deal” had expired.  Then you have to go back through the hassle of renegotiation, threats to go with Dish Network or Direct TV, and on and on.

What’s a demented, evil genius to do?

In my ongoing quest to “Sock it to the Man!,” I spent hours upon hours scouring the dark, outer fringe of the internet and lurking in alleys and under bridges, talking to shady characters about alternative, and possibly even nefarious, means to elicit cable via some questionable back door method without doling out an arm and a leg each month.  The punch line here is that the answer was right there in the cobwebbed recesses of my warped mind all along.  It was tucked in the box with all the memories of my childhood home and almost every other house in the country right up through the nineteen-seventies.

Over-the-air antennas! *smacking my head*

Who among you, (the over fifty set, I mean) doesn’t remember the big old TV antenna mounted to a mast on the roof, or the rabbit ears on top of the old, Buick-sized tube set with tin foil on the retractable metal antennae to garner just a few more dB of signal?  I remember fondly Dad’s constant bellows to move the antenna “a little to the left” (and to get him another beer) while he was watching a ball game so he could see a less pixelated (we called it snow back then) view of one of Carl Yastrzemski’s unbelievable shags in left field.  Ah, good times.

Guess what?  OTA (Over-The-Air) antennas are baaaa-aacccckkkkk!!!  And they’re better than ever!

After a few trials and tribulations, mainly due to my never ending, dumb-assed penchant to believe a lot of what I read on the internet if the perpetrator of said bullshit sounds even vaguely authoritative, I now have an antenna mounted in an obscure area of my attic, out of the way, that pulls in 23 crisp, clear channels in vivid, vibrant HD!  The best part is, of those 23 channels, there are twenty that we’ll probably actually watch.  We now have all four networks, four PBS stations, (I love PBS.  I’m a documentary junkie) three retro channels, a couple of news channels and a few various and sundry others that really look promising.

The three I’ll probably never watch are:

  1. The Test Pattern Channel, (although I swear I saw Jimi Hendrix swapping bullshit stories with Mark Twain on that very same channel back in the seventies one Saturday night after a rather close call with the bong water).
  2. The Country Music Video Channel, (*shiver*).
  3. The Baptist Gospel Channel.  That same sweating fella jumping up and down, pounding his fists and spouting fire and brimstone has been trying to get me to send him a donation to save my soul for long enough, thank you very much.

And they’re all free and completely legal to view!!  There goes my gangster rep.  My bad boy persona is no more.

For the not-so paltry sum of $140 a month, I was getting my internet and over two-hundred channels from the evil cable company and, after brainstorming with the lovely Brenda, realized that we only watched three or four of those channels.  What’s more, with the exception of TCM, (which has gone down hill of late with more and more air time dedicated to silent movies and foreign films), the other three come in over the air.  Brenda is probably the easiest woman in the world to please (obviously; she’s with me).  Give her Judge Judy, Judge Ralph, Judge Hermoine, Judge Reinhold and all the other judges, with a few Jerry Springer-esque shows thrown in for a change of pace, and The Voice, and she’s happier than Sandra Bullock’s thong.

Now, before you go bending coat hangars into antenna’s, or running down to the local Radio Shack to pick up that behemoth antenna capable of picking up the Rover’s transmissions from Mars, let me share a little of what I’ve learned to hopefully start those of you who might be considering cutting the cable out on a good foot.  It isn’t exactly for the faint of heart.

For starters, I, unfortunately, couldn’t completely disassociate myself from the cable company.  Multinational conglomerates are like a mother-in-law: in as much as you ‘d like to drive a stake through her heart and bury her vampire-ass in the back yard, she’s always there, gnawing on your last nerve.  I still need internet: my lifeline to the world.  Hence the continued, albeit greatly reduced, umbilicus to the cable company.

There aren’t a whole lot of options for gaining internet access other than very expensive satellite internet or, Heaven forbid, the phone commie’s antiquated dial up or  DSL.  Dial up isn’t even an option and, from my experience, DSL is light years behind broadband in speed and quality.  Besides, I gave the phone company the big kiss-off on an earlier “Sock it to the Man” quest, so I don’t even have phone lines running to my house any more.  I know, I should be medicated; but that’s another blog.

I actually had an almost pleasant conversation with the cable company this morning.  This was round two.  I lost round one when I tried to renegotiate the contract that just expired and was told that there was nothing they could do.  That wasn’t such a pleasant conversation and was, in effect, the catalyst that got me on the OTA kick.

Today, when I asked them to discontinue my TV subscription, new offers were flying like dandruff at a redneck picnic.  The representative was as sweet as she could be as she dropped the bomb that the $29.99 per month deal they were advertising for internet-only wasn’t available to me because I was a current customer.  Taking into consideration that my contract with them expired last month, am I really a current customer?  Hmmm?  And why wasn’t New customers only listed on their advertisement? The bastards!

Anyway, I managed to get a free modem and guaranteed $39.99 a month internet service for one year.  After twelve months it’s going to go up to $54.99.  Ya, right!  We’ll just see about that in a year.  That date is marked in red on the calendar as Armageddon!  Verizon’s FiOS might just be in our neighborhood by then.  The only downfall with changing internet providers will be going through my creditors websites, places I buy from, etc. to change my email address. Oh, the trials and tribulations of the internet age.

Aside from uploading books to publishers, chronic research, bill paying and Facebooking, we also have a subscription for Netflix which, as most of you know, requires an internet connection.

Those dirty cable Nazi’s have you coming or going.

Now, even with the added cost of Netflix, our home entertainment bill has gone from the projected $160 per month that I was told my cable bill was going to increase to after the cable company completes their all-digital upgrade in January, to $47.98:  and we get to pick and choose what movies we want to watch whenever we want to watch them.  That’s roughly $112 a month savings which will be much better spent on beer and cigars!

Not too shabby!

But alas, there are a few more expenses that have to be considered when cutting the cable.  Some of them can be pretty steep depending on your existing TV situation.  Of course, as always, Bad Luck Schleprock here suffered the wrath.  I’d like to think I took one for the team to soften the blow for the rest of you.  That’s just the kind of guy I am.

The first stop for the prospective cable cutter is a website called TVfool.com.  This is actually a pretty amazing site.  You simply type in your address, choose a few options and it actually shows you on a satellite map/image (an actual satellite picture of your house in which, when I zoomed in completely, I saw myself in the shower!  Egad!!).  You’ll also get the following important information:

  1. All the transmitters (stations) you’ll be able to access, their distance from your house and their signal strength.
  2. What direction they’re in in proximity to your house with lines radiating from your house to the transmitters, (for properly mounting and pointing your antenna).
  3. How high to mount your antenna, and whether you can use a set top antenna, attic mount or whether you’ll actually need to mount your antenna on the roof with a mast.
  4. Which type of antenna (directional, multi-directional etc.) is best suited for your situation, and a whole host of other valuable information to help you do it right the first time.

Unfortunately, I also went to a third-rate forum for addicted, rabid, cable cutters (probably while I was enjoying a few malty beverages) and was sucked in by their never ending mantra that you have to mount your antenna outside to get the best reception.  Until that point, I was definitely decided on mounting it in the attic.  Outside probably is the better option, but it also comes with its’ own added problems that have to be taken into consideration such as grounding, weather, impediments, aesthetics, etc.

After mounting a bracket on my roof, (four new screw holes in a fairly new roof!) giving myself a near heart attack during the two hours it took me to drive an eight-foot long ground rod into the concrete-equivalent turf  we have in South Carolina with a rather weighty sledge hammer, running a solid #10 wire from the antenna bracket to the grounding rod and hooking everything up, I found that the dense wall of 30 foot Leland Cypress trees running the length of my property line posed too much of a force field for any earthly signal to penetrate.

Meanwhile, back in the attic!

So I mounted the antenna in the attic where I should have mounted it in the first place and ran all new RG6 coaxial cable throughout the house because, frankly, the cheap stuff I’d installed during a mad rush to get the cable piped through the house in a hurry when I moved in wasn’t exactly conducive to excellent signal transmission.  I wanted to clean up the old mess and start fresh and neat.  I also bought and installed a signal amplifier because I have four TV’s in the house, with the potential for five should both guest rooms ever be in use simultaneously, and I wanted to be certain that I got the best signal possible to all points.

Costs to this point:  Antenna=RCA ANT751-$39.99.  Signal amplifier=PCT 4-port=$21.99.  500 foot roll of RG6 coaxial cable and assorted ends and fittings=$50.

Not too bad, you say?  What’s $111.98, right?  I’ll save just that on the reduced cable company bill in one month, right?

Not so much!

Realizing that we’d need a means to access Netflix, and possibly other movie channels, I went online, yet again, searching for wireless streaming video boxes.  I don’t want my laptop or desk top connected to my TV, and I don’t like watching movies on my computer.  After some exhaustive research, and reading a great many reviews, I settled on Roku 3 boxes. They’re normally a little pricey at $99 each, but I stumbled on two of them, brand new in the box with free shipping, on eBay for $67 each.  Add to that my sister Kellie’s assurance that they were using Roku boxes and loved them, and I was sold.

The tab has now reached $245.98.  Still not too bad, right?  So it’ll take a little over two months of the reduced cable bill to make up the costs and start realizing some savings.  Pretty cool!

Not so fast!

One of the little known caveats with getting free HD, digital signals over the air is that all the TV’s you intend on actually getting a picture on must be digital HD TV’s.

Only two of my TV’s were digital HD and, as is always the case with my luck, the one digital HD TV in my office didn’t even have any HDMI ports on it!  This made the Roku 3 boxes I’d just bought useless with that TV. The Roku 3 is the latest and greatest Roku box, but it can only be connected to the TV via an HDMI port.  The Roku 2 and older versions have the option of connecting via RCA jacks.

I would have sworn in a court of law that that damn TV had an HDMI port?!  Yet another of my frequent Alzheimer’s moments.  Thankfully, the Blu Ray player in my office is Netflix capable via an Ethernet connection to my wireless router, so that TV was salvageable.

Online again, scouring the electronics stores for TV sales, I finally found the best prices for what I wanted at Sam’s Club.  Two digital HD TV’s (a 32″ for the living room and a 24″ for the bedroom) with HDMI inputs for right about $400 for the pair.

We’re rolling now!  We’re over $600 out of pocket, and I wasted a weekend installing the outdoor antenna that wasn’t, but believe it or not, everything is finally complete.  It’s going to take about six months to realize any savings from the conversion, but it was the shove I needed to get rid of the thousand pound behemoth TV we had in the living room and move into the 21st century.  I bought it over fifteen years ago, but it still has a beautiful, albeit non-HD, picture.  It’ll take a crane to get it in the truck.  I’ll be donating the two TV’s I replaced to a local charity thrift shop so I’ll at least get that charitable warm, fuzzy one gets when doing something nice to help ease the pain in my wallet.

But wait?  The math still doesn’t add up?  Four TV’s on the antenna, but only three streaming video boxes?

“Dear future guests: if you’re not fond of network TV or PBS, there are massive book cases in the living room overflowing with books on numerous subjects and interests.  Feel free to chose one and broaden your horizons!”

In other words, this cash ship has sailed.  Mission accomplished.  Should a great deal come along on another Roku box, I’ll get right on it.  Until then, dear guests, read a book!  It’s Christmas and daddy’s broke!

This is our first day un-tethered from the cable company teat, so I’ll reserve any hooping and hollering until we’ve had a chance to really kick the tires and take her for a full test drive.  So far, though, the picture I’m getting on all four TV’s is far superior to the picture I was getting with cable.

In summation, if you’re a died-in-the-wool, rabid sports fanatic, cutting the cable might not be the right move for you.  While there was nothing but football games on the networks while I was tuning in the channels earlier, there’s no ESPN.  I did notice some sports channels available via the Roku channels, but I believe they’re pay-for subscriptions and probably not as extensive in content as the numerous ESPN’s.

If you’ve got a Jones for any of the HBO series programming, (I’m sure going to miss Boardwalk Empire) cutting the cable might not be for you.  HBO series aren’t even available on Netflix or Hulu:  yet!  I’ll just wait til the older season box sets hit the bargain DVD bin at Walmart.

However, if you’re like we are and, with a few exceptions, use the TV for news and as background noise while Brenda does her Sudoku puzzles and I my writing and web surfing, cutting the cable may be a very good option for you.

And, if you’re still getting your TV through an older set, or if you took advantage of the coupons a few years back and got one of those free government digital-to-analog converter boxes, you might want to start replacing your TV’s now.  They’re probably on their last leg anyway and it’s much easier on the wallet to replace them one at a time.

Yesterday the phone company, today the cable company, tomorrow the power company and. a week from next Tuesday, the world!!  Bwahahahahahahah!!!!!!!  Think big.

In closing, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very merriest of Christmas’s and a bright, prosperous and happy 2014 filled with much love, good health and never ending smiles.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Buono Fortuna!

Brian

Cast Adrift coverAnd don’t forget to order your copy of my latest book, Cast Adrift, the sequel to The Paramedic available here:  

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“Cast Adrift,” the sequel to “The Paramedic,” will be available soon!

Hello all!  Welcome back!

Cast Adrift coverI know, I’ve been very naughty regarding blogs lately, but I do have an excuse.  I haven’t been just sitting back on my duff; contrary to popular belief.  I have been banging away at the keyboard, pulling forth the much anticipated sequel to The Paramedic: *trumpets blaring* Cast Adrift!

I’d like to thank all of you who have been sending those emails, asking about the book and encouraging me to get it done and out there for you to read.  It has gone way beyond its initial planned publication date, for which I humbly apologize, but I honestly feel that once you’ve read it, you’ll agree that it was worth the wait.

To be honest, there have been more deletes, rewrites, plot changes and start overs than I care to admit to, but I believe all of that scrutiny has given birth to a real winner.  To date, I’ve read it at least 500 times and I still find myself holding my breath at certain points, waiting for the next giggle, tear or finger nail to bite.

You’ll also find that Cast Adrift bypasses a great many of the steamier love scenes you read in The Paramedic, (although there are quite a few) but I really pressed to keep tight to the plot and worked harder on the twists and turns you’ll find throughout the book…OK, I didn’t take out all the naughty stuff.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.  And for you medical fetishists, here’s your sign!

Due to the fact that Cast Adrift picks up exactly where The Paramedic left the reader, (hanging by two fingers over a cliff was how one of my readers put it) I am working with the publisher to offer a special price coupon for the purchase of The Paramedic so anyone who hasn’t read it (shame on you!) can do so, then go right into Cast Adrift-not only with the satisfaction that reading a good book gives you, but with a full feel for all the characters and the events that lead up to where Cast Adrift starts.

Of all the books I’ve written, I consider this to be my best.  A lot of me, heart and soul, went into writing of this book over the last couple of years and the incentive and opening for the third book in the series has also appeared on my horizon.  I can promise you that it won’t be nearly as long between Cast Adrift and book three as it was between The Paramedic and Cast Adrift.  I’ll have more information within the next couple of weeks as we get nearer to Cast Adrift’s publication date that I’ll share here and on my website, so stay tuned.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special thank you to my muse, Brenda.  Her addiction to Sudoku puzzles and Face Book has allowed me untold Sundays, all day, to write in peace with her support and encouragement.  Thank you, Bella Donna.

And I do thank her in the book, but I’d also like to publically thank my sister, Michelle Greenleaf, for the cover photo for Cast Adrift.  I humbly admit to being the most talented among my siblings, but Michelle is a savant’ with a camera and does some beautiful work.  You can see more of her work here: Michelle Greenleaf.  Thanks, Shell!

It’s short and sweet this week because I’ve got to get back on the ball, insuring that our early October publication date comes to fruition.  I will post a few excerpts from the book in the coming weeks to whet your appetite.

In the meantime, check out the short stories and information on all my books on my website: bgreenleaf.com

All of my books are available through Barnes and NobleAmazon and many other fine paperback and ebook retailers.

Until next time, I wish you peace, love and happiness throughout all your days.

Ciao!

Brian

Calling All Big Boy and Girl Scouts. New Camping Group Forming.

Hello, my friends and any perspective campers who will soon be friends.  Welcome!

A little change of pace with this blog.  Now that I’ve “almost” finished the camper (known to most as Nosty’s Nook) and it’s camp-able, and the new standee camper is still on the drawing board, it’s time to get out there with it and start enjoying the fruits of my labor; as well as the stress relief that only a weekend in the woods can afford me.

What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with friends, old and new?

I’m in the polling stages at present, looking to find out if there’s any interested adults who’d like to be part of an active camping, and, of course, dog friendly, group with one agenda:  Fun.

As for me, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Brian Greenleaf.  I have been an avid camper since my Cub Scout days back in the sixties.  I have slept under the stars, spent many years tent camping, have owned a pop-up and a full sized camper and now take great pride in the tiny travel trailer I spent a year building. I am a super hero by day and a Failure Analysis Technician by night.  I wrote my first camping book back in 1999 called The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping.  Over the years, I have been part of many camping groups, mostly family oriented groups, and have decided it would be a whole lot of fun to get together with a zany bunch of like minded middle-agers and make some memories.

Sour pusses and overly anal retentive people need not apply.  Those terminal diseases are contagious and would spread through the group.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tent camper, pop-up or camper enthusiast, like to sleep under the stars, or whether you own a 30′ motor mansion, we’d love to have you.

As I mentioned, I’ve been part of various other camping groups over the years and, unfortunately, many of them failed miserably due to waning interest directly related to internal strife or disagreements, usually brought about due to the advent of the dreaded “cliques.”  Once a clique gets started, it’s like a festering pustule that almost always signals certain death for the group.  I’m hoping to start a group of like minded (translation: slightly crazy) folks who’d look forward to group trips to various and sundry places within reasonable range of the Upstate of SC/Georgia/NC;  places decided on by democratic vote, of course.

As those of us who live here well know, there are a plethora of beautiful places to camp in our area.  From the mountains to the sea, and everything in between, we have it all right here in our own back yard.  What better way to reduce stress, meet new people and just plain have fun, I ask you?

What I’m hoping to bring together are folks who’d like to get out in the woods once a month, (or twice a month or once a quarter depending on what everyone wants), see new and different places, relax, have fun and meet new people.

As I write this, I have a cast iron griddle, recently obtained in what most would consider pitiful condition from a closing antique mall for a song, seasoning in the oven.  I admit it.  I’m a camping addict. I eat, sleep and drink camping.  I’d rather have the Outdoor Channel than the Playboy Channel…….OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.  I enjoy camping; fall, winter and spring, and plan on having my Thanksgiving turkey breast, (actually, probably a steak and baked potato), beside a roaring fire again this year.  While I realize that everyone doesn’t have a taste for winter camping, late winter and spring are the perfect time to get out in the woods for almost anyone so, if we get the ball rolling now, we should be able to plan the inaugural camping trip in early 2013 (if the Mayan calendar prediction doesn’t come true and we’re no longer inhabiting this world after December 21st).

In summation, I am  hoping to bring together an all-for-fun group who enjoy camping and having fun.  People who would get a kick out of participating in things like chili cook-offs, lively and jovial fireside cocktail parties, great conversation, probably some singing and story telling (and, of course, SMORE making) around a roaring camp fire; possibly visiting some of the local attractions wherever we camp………..you get the picture.  And all of this with fun people who appreciate and don’t mind going along with the democratic decision making process.  If all goes well, and we’ll do our best to insure that it does, everyone will get to go to the places they’d like to go and do the things that they’d like to do at some point during the camping season.  All for one and one for all.  No fuss, no muss, no infighting.  Personally, I can have a great weekend anywhere when I’m camping.  Rain or shine, there’s nothing like camping.

What we don’t want is a strictly regimented group where every minute of your weekend is planned out.  Camping as a group is a blast.  Being up everyone’s butt every minute of the day doing planned activities becomes tiresome.  The group, as a whole, will choose what they want to do and everyone will be free to either participate, or take a stroll down to the water with a rod and reel and scare the fish or crawl up in their preferred mode of camping with a good book.

Axe murders need not apply.  It’s nothing personal, but I get the heeby-jeebies being around someone crazier than I am.  Other than that, the only other requirement is that you have to love to camp and have fun.  Married or single, everyone is welcomed.

If you’re like minded, and would be interested in becoming part of the group, you can contact me via email:  doc@bgreenleaf.com , on Facebook,  or comment below.  If the interest is there, I’ll put up a web page dedicated to the group where we can share ideas, chat and keep abreast of what’s going on, all while secretly plotting global domination.

I look forward to hearing from and talking to you and, hopefully, sharing a campfire with you in the near future.

Until next time, I wish you peace, fair winds and happy trails,

Brian

Some Emily Post for Cell Phone Users!

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m warning you ahead of time; I haven’t taken my meds today so we’re fixin to get busy in a most euphoric way.  Once again, I’ve swerved off of the camping course to air another pet peeve: cell phone etiquette.

As always, I like to qualify my statements by showing that I have some knowledge and or experience on the subject I’m speaking on.  While I may be fifty-two, and considered by some to be a dinosaur, let me assure you that I am now, and have been for many years, gainfully employed in the high tech electronics world.  I proudly fit most of the criteria for being a card-carrying geek.  I have, and drool over, a whole host of the latest electronic gadgetry; including a  cell phone, which is my only phone.  I am a fairly competent “texter” and I can surf the internet on my Droid with the best of them.  I consider cell phones to be one of the greatest inventions since the automobile:  in their proper context.

For starters, since doing away with my home phone some years ago, my cell phone is my only connection to the outside world (the internet not withstanding).  That doesn’t mean that I want to be that accessible.  The idea of someone knowing where I am and what I’m doing at any given time just isn’t me.  It reeks of Big Brother.  Just because I have a phone on my hip at all times, that doesn’t mean I like being called constantly and pulled into unnecessary conversations at all hours of the day and night.  Frankly, I hate talking on the phone; land line or cellular.  I freely admit to being one of those, Say what you’ve got to say and get off the line, phone minimalists.  When I’m talking to someone, I like to watch their eyes and their facial expressions to insure I’m getting the straight poop.  I keep my cell phone to be accessible to my children and grand children to hear about their latest ups and downs, occasionally, though grudgingly, for work and to prove one of the many bullshit artists I come across on a daily basis wrong with a quick visit to Google.  Other than that, there’s a great big world out there full of real people to converse and mingle with. 

I am a fairly laid-back fella, tolerant of others and their different ways, but nothing can get my dander up quicker than trying to carry on a conversation with someone who is half in our conversation and half into a text conversation; or even a verbal conversation, on their cell phone while I’m trying to broaden their horizons with my wealth of useless information.

The dark side of my font of useless information comes from the information I’m forced to ingest just for committing the heinous crime of being seated near someone on a cell phone in a restaurant.  It’s like watching an old movie where Ma and Pa Kettle get their first crank up phone and have to scream into it to be heard by the party on the other end.  You’re sitting there, trying to eat or have a real time conversation with whoever you’re dining with while having to listen to supposedly intelligent people speaking into their cell, at a volume far higher than the ambiance requires, telling the individual on the other end about their hemorrhoids, toe nail fungus or the sordid details of last nights’ conquests.  TMI, people!  I’m trying to eat in peace and converse here!

Moreover, Mr. Webster and a few others spent a great many years compiling a dictionary that has come to be the literary bible for most of us.  Underpaid and overworked teachers dedicate their lives to teaching our children the English language.  Yet, in the comparatively short time since texting has become the preferred source of communication, the English language has been reduced to a lingo, unintelligible to most of us over forty, that would have Mr. Webster rolling over in his grave.  I shudder at the thought of the literary masterpieces that will come from the current texting generation.

I love the written word.  I am a voracious reader and, according to some, a hack writer (to them I say, DILLIGAS).  I spend a great deal of time writing and looking for just the right word to make my point.  I put great stock in words and, admittedly, though probably wrongly, sometimes measure people by the way they communicate; both verbally and in print.   If I’m going to tell someone that I love them in a text, it certainly won’t be with ILY.  Love is not a word that should be taken lightly.  To abbreviate it just takes all the zing out of it.  If I’m going to take the time to thank someone for something they’ve done for me, THX just doesn’t express that sentiment sufficiently; IMHO.

Most work places have a break area with an insufficient number of uncomfortable tables to, in “the Man’s” warped way of thinking, insure that the masses keep their breaks to a minimum.  As such, at peak break times, it is often necessary to share a table with others.  More often than not, that table is probably inhabited by others carrying on a face-to-face conversation, yet more and more people find it acceptable to sit at that table while talking on their cell phone, thoroughly disrupting an ongoing conversation, and share, on occasion, details of their personal lives that no one else should ever hear or care to hear.  And, more often than not, they’re talking on their phone while shoveling food into their mouths; totally oblivious to the others sitting inches from them.  Whatever happened to not talking with your mouth full?  How about my mom’s favorite: Don’t interrupt people while they’re talking, young man!”  I know; I’m ancient and from a land and time where manners were of prime importance and considered the norm instead of the exception.

Even more disturbing; how many times have you walked into a public restroom and heard voices wafting over the top of the stalls?  There’s nothing more unsettling than to hear something like, Of course I love you *grunt* baby doll!  There’s no other*pffffffffttttttt* woman in the world *splash* for me!  How romantic!  A profession of love from a petri dish of fermenting filth.  Frankly, I’m one of those who has worked diligently at training my bowels to function only at home so as to avoid the disgusting experience of having to even sit on a public toilet.  In keeping with my geek persona, I even keep a tub of Lysol wipes in my backpack, right next to my collapsible umbrella, “just in case.”  The thought of sitting on one of those fungus colonies while holding my cell phone in my hand, probably the same hand that will soon be used to do the paper work, and then return that phone to my mouth and ear shortly thereafter, is revolting.  Just the smell of a public restroom should be sufficient to deter anyone with any sense from even pulling a cell phone out of its’ case for fear of untold, and as yet unidentified, germs jumping on it and later causing them to grow a third eye.  I’m ugly enough.

Ladies, you have my deepest sympathies over your disqualification from the stand and deliver method of elimination.  That, however, is an entirely different blog.

That third eye takes on even scarier connotations when you factor in the radiation you’re absorbing into your brain while you mindlessly blather into your phone.  They have actually categorized said radiation now and have named the phenomenon SAR, (Specific Absorption Rate), measured specifically from the brand of phone you use.  It must be something worth considering if they gave it an acronym all its’ own.

I’ve been secretly doing my own scientific research, observing those who constantly have a cell phone glued to their ear to see if I notice any ill effects from SAR.  So far, my research is proving fruitful.  Those who are constantly on their phones are usually observed walking around in a daze with that glassy eyed look I used to see in my days as a medic on the campus of Happy Acres (my alias for an insane asylum for those of you who are new to my warped sense of humor).  A great many of them are also crotch scratchers and nose pickers.  The more dedicated cell phone addicts have even developed a facial tic.  None of them realize that whatever their spouse or significant other is doing at that very moment can wait til they get home!  As a father, you can trust me when I tell you that  lil Mortimer is certain to make another stinky on the potty.  It’s nature.  You’ll see it in all its’ technicolor glory soon enough.  Get a life!  Converse with real people.   I’m going to publish my scientific findings soon so I can’t divulge anything further for fear of plagiarism.  I’m sure MAD Magazine is chomping at the bit to publish my thesis and a great many unsavory hack colleagues would love to beat me to the punch.  If you fit the aforementioned description of a cell phone addict, please get help before it’s too late.

A very good friend of mine, a computer geek of the highest esteem, was one of the first people, back in the day, to own a blue tooth.  Imagine my surprise, having never seen one, when I walked outside to the break area one night to see him storming up and down the sidewalk screaming at, I thought, himself.  Being a member of the medical team, I reached for my radio to call out the rest of the team to help subdue poor “Myron” and get him neatly packaged and properly restrained in the back of an ambulance and off to Happy Acres.  I knew “Myron” and his wife were having some extreme marital difficulties and I just assumed he’d finally snapped.  I do have to credit him for having the deportment to have his breakdown outside and out of hearing range of everyone else, though.  Imagine my chagrin when the team showed up and found “Myron” wearing his blue tooth.  Maybe my phone has an extremely high SAR and my short, infrequent use of it emitted enough radiation to  cause me irreversible brain damage?  Most who know me would probably just shake their heads knowingly in the affirmative.

So, in the relatively short time that cell phones have been around, we’ve managed to cause Emily Post and Noah Webster to roll over in their graves and untold millions to say WTF?  That’s quite an accomplishment for one little piece of electronic gadgetry.

Cell phones are wonderful devices.  However, in the wrong hands, they are a public nuisance.  Don’t be a nuisance.  Be considerate of the people around you.  Walk off someplace private to have your conversations and allow the rest of us not interested in lil Mortimer’s bowel habits to converse in peace.  After you’ve disconnected, get a life!  That person sitting next to you might just have something interesting to say.  In these days where everyone thinks the internet is the real world, the art of conversation has all but died.  Whatever happened to visiting?  Enjoying the company of  people in their flesh and blood persona and not as an avatar?  Shut the damn thing off for a while and smell the air.  There’s a wonderful world out there, full of beauty and knowledge.  Grab your piece of it before it’s too late.  Remember, if your cell phone is turned on, Big Brother knows where you are…………..GPS can be used for good and evil.

I have to give credit and thanks my beautiful daughter, Shelby, for her input on this blog.  She’s got her daddy’s heart wrapped around her fingers and always has.  The lil darlin is the texting queen: a true master of the lingo.  With the exception of the idioms and acronyms I see on Facebook, I am ignorant to most of the latest lingo…….and I intend to stay that way.  I don’t understand half of my daughter’s texts.  She usually throws in enough of The King’s English to allow me to follow the gist of her conversation, but the rest is all Greek to me.  I texted her to get a list of the latest abominations to disperse throughout this rant so as not to preclude any of the cell phone generation from the point I’m trying to make.  I’m a firm supporter of proper English and I support literacy for all: literacy meaning reading and writing in proper English!  Drop the phone and read a book.  I hear that up-and-coming, stupendous author, Brian Greenleaf, has written a few doozies!   Check them out here.  I know.  That was a tasteless and tacky promotion.  ROTFLMAO!

Until next week, dear friends, unplug once in a while.  Snuggle up with the one you love and reaffirm your position in reality.  Most importantly, be considerate of others.  Walk away to have your phone conversations and keep them brief so you can get back to the conversation at the table and maybe learn something or even make a new friend.  Life’s too short.  Live it for all you’re worth.

B4N,

Brian

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.

Gun Control Is Not the Answer!

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m damn glad to have you here.  I’ve got something to say.

Let me start with an apology.  I made a promise to myself when I started writing this blog that I’d keep it light and humorous.  The news reports these days are always so full of gloom and doom that I had hoped to be an outlet for laughter and a little food for thought.  There are enough political blogs out there with a never ending range of viewpoints.  I don’t want this blog to become one of those, but I feel so strongly about this week’s subject that I’m compelled to say what I’m about to say.

The never ending, rhetorical chant from our elected officials and liberal news media to make villains out of gun owners with their misguided, ad nauseam, plea to the masses from their bully pulpit about America’s need to render the victims (those being the honest, hard working legal gun owners) unarmed and at the mercy of the animals who, of late, seem to be coming out of the wood work has finally plucked my last nerve.

Let me first say that my heart goes out to the victims and loved ones of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.  What happened there is so tragic and senseless that no words of sympathy or comfort could ever console the victims and grieving families of this senseless tragedy.  I pray that your friends, loved ones, your memories and your faith help you cope with your sorrow in your time of bereavement.  This despicable,  premeditated act was committed by a deranged coward who should die a very slow and painful death in the public square.

Unfortunately, immediately following the movie theater tragedy, and after just about any other major crime involving firearms, the liberal news media and our clueless elected officials were again ablaze with their patented war cry: “Gun Control!”

The matter of gun control hits very close to home for me.  This is not a story I like to dwell on; one I would love to be able to forget, but I will tell it to show my credentials for making the point I’m trying to make in this post.

For those of you who don’t know me, I was the victim of an armed home invasion two years ago that, to this day, still haunts me to my very core.  During this nightmare, I was shot three times.  I no longer feel that warm-fuzzy that the warmth and safety of being “home” brings to most people.  Every strange sound I hear in the night sends ripples of fear throughout my mind and body as I’m reaching for my gun.  On those rare occasions when I don’t have the horrors of that night on my mind, I have two lead slugs in my right hip to remind me of what happened in my own kitchen two years ago.

Two weeks prior to this incident, I was away for the weekend and came home Sunday evening, in the pouring rain, to see my shed door swinging in the breeze and one of the front windows broken out.  After closer inspection, I found that the tools I had stored out there were gone and the inside of the shed was in shambles.   My cornice flood lights on the corners of my house had been extinguished when the perps killed the main breaker to my house so they could take their time in the dark back yard without fear of being seen by the neighbors.  They weren’t even kind enough to turn the power back on after their cowardly act so, over the weekend, without power to the house, all the food in my freezer thawed and everything in the refrigerator was useless.  The police made a cursory investigation, tsk tsk’ed a few times and told me about the terrible times we were living in as they took the report that, I knew, would never be investigated.

I work a weird shift and usually get home at around three-thirty in the morning.  I got in that fateful morning, two weeks after the shed robbery, went through my usual routine; a glass of tea and a quick perusal of my email and Facebook page to wind down, and went to bed to watch some mindless TV before I went to sleep.

Just as I was drifting off, the TV and the lights went out.  I initially suspected a power outage, common to this area on rainy winter nights, until I looked out the window and saw the street lights on.  Suspecting the worst, I grabbed my gun and a candle (my flashlight batteries had died) and went outside in the freezing rain to reset the breaker.  When I went around the back of the house to reset the breaker, a cranked up neighbor slid in the back door to hide and wait for me.  This was someone who lived right across the street from me and who knew my schedule, knew when I was home or away and knew that he had ample time to do his dastardly deed while I was at work.  He wanted to break in while I was home!

I came back in, locked the door and stepped up into my kitchen, only to be met by a masked, gloved maniac awaiting me with a gun pointed inches from my head, screaming at me to get down on the floor.  A gun which we later found out was borrowed from someone else of questionable credentials for the soul purpose of insuring that it couldn’t be traced.

It’s amazing how the mind and the bladder work together, believe me, but I knew in an instant that if I went down on the floor, I wouldn’t be getting back up.  Running entirely on my most primal fight or flight instincts, and not the machismo that most  who profess the bravery they’d exhibit in a similar situation say they would show,  I jumped back behind my refrigerator and started shooting blind from around the corner.  A lot of that night is still fuzzy, but sometime amid the ear-splitting booms and the thick blanket of acrid cordite smoke that permeated the small kitchen, I took three in the gluteus and, as I later learned, so did he.  I made a dash for the back door while he bolted for the front.

Fortunately, he didn’t have time to take anything but my sense of peace and tranquility.  He did, however, leave, to date, two years of nightmares and two of the three bullets still in my right butt cheek…….and an almost new pair of jeans that are probably still in the evidence room at the police station.

One day I’ll be able to write this story with a humorous twist and throw in all the unspeakable acts of debauchery performed on me, both by the police and the staff at the hospital, with the comedic slant that they now so deserve but, to date, I haven’t been able to muster that amount of mental healing.  I fight daily to clear it from my mind and stop being a victim, but I have been unable to, as yet, fully achieve that.  It will come, I’m sure.  If nothing else, I’m an optimist.  One thing is for certain; I wouldn’t wish that feeling of helplessness on my worst enemy.  However, thanks to my gun, I lived to tell this tale of woe.

The point of that story is this:  Had I been unarmed that night, and left to the devices of a crank infused, mentally unstable, would-be thief/potential murderer, I probably wouldn’t be here to write this blog today.

My guns are registered and I carry a  legal concealed weapons permit.  I went through all the requisite steps to legally carry a gun.  How many of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes do you think have done that?  As a matter of fact, current laws would prevent most of them from legally possessing a firearm at all.

According to Wiki, it is estimated that between forty-three and fifty-five million households in the United States own at least one gun.  That’s a liberal estimate because those are the guns owned by people who went through the necessary steps and bought their guns legally.  These “ordinary people” have proven to the extent required by existing, satisfactory law that they aren’t felons, don’t have a history of mental illness and all the other mandated criteria the federal and local government requires of those who legally own guns.

Of those approximately fifty-five million legal guns, only one percent of the crimes committed in the United States with a gun were committed by those fifty-five million legal gun owners.  One percent!  I’d have to conclude from those statistics that it’s fair to say that the legal gun owners who follow the rules aren’t the people we need to fear or place further restrictions on.

I could mention the extremist’s view and say that if law enforcement were doing their jobs, we wouldn’t need to be armed.  The more rational among you all know what a foolish statement that is.  Police departments everywhere are all woefully understaffed and under funded.  Police men and women are underpaid and over worked.  Given the alarming crime rate, due in part to our plunging economy and the amount of drugs available on every street in every city in the country, the police are basically outnumbered and doing their best to put out the small fires while the raging inferno continues to blaze hotter by the hour.

I read constantly.  I’m a bit of a news-a-haulic and spend a great deal of time sifting through the news on the internet to weed out the hogwash and pick the gems out for future reference in my ever growing font of useless information.  Like it or not, a lot of the tidbits I picked up along the way hit really close to home.

I learned that before the Nazi’s took over control of Germany, the preceding Weimar Republic put into place gun laws that were later reinforced by the Nazis which,  in 1938,  effectively disarmed the citizenry.  From 1939-1945, over 13 million Jews and others, unable to defend themselves, were sent to their deaths.

In 1929, the government of Russia imposed gun control.  From 1929-1953, approximately 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

During WWII, one of the key reasons the Japanese never invaded US soil was because they knew that a great many Americans were armed.

These are but a few of the many things I’ve picked up in my reading.  The list is endless but this is a blog, not a book, so I’ve whittled the list down a bit.  The point is that if you take the guns away from the law abiding citizens, only the criminals will have guns.  It’s so blatantly obvious that the question of gun control should never even be broached in intelligent company……which explains why the politicos keep waving the gun control flag.

More to the point, the Constitution of the United States was written for a reason.  It has, in effect, ruled the land and brought this country from the revolution to the strong, free, wonderful country that we have enjoyed for over 200 years.  It is the very foundation that our culture was built on.  The 2nd Amendment is a part of that constitution.  Thomas Jefferson said it best when he said, The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.  If we start changing the very basic principles of our country to satisfy the whims of a few, as we seem to be doing with the current trendy fad of political correctness, (another blog) we’ll have anarchy.  Does that sound extreme?  Possibly, but it is something I believe deeply and, considering that this is my blog, and because I’m an American with the right of free speech, also thanks to the First Amendment of the Constitution, I can express my views as I like without fear of reprisal; other that that which I’m sure I’ll get from those who disagree with what I’ve had to say here.  Feel free to comment below.  While it is my right to voice my opinion, it is your right to disagree.  Welcome to America.  She may have a few chinks in her armor, but she’s still the greatest country in the world…….and we speak American English here.  If you would care to view this blog in Spanish, push the escape key numerous times and, please, let me know how that works for you………..reply in English, please.

Agree with me?  Disagree with me?  Agree to disagree with me?  Just keep this in mind:  According to the New York Times, police response times to priority 9-1-1 calls has increased to an average 8 minutes, 25 seconds in metropolitan areas.  Even longer in rural areas.  In that amount of time, you and/or one of your loved ones could possibly be murdered or assaulted, your home cleaned out and the scum who committed the crime well on their way to the pawn shop where everything you’ve worked and slaved for will be sold for drug money.  While owning a gun, and knowing how to handle it properly, may not save your life, it will certainly level the playing field somewhat and possibly save your life or the life of someone you love.

Responsible and legal gun ownership is our constitutional right and, to coin an old phrase, the only way they’ll get my gun is to pry it out of my cold, dead hand.

Until next week, I wish you peace, love and every happiness.
Brian

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.

My latest book, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, is now available as an ebook as well as in paperback and hardbound editions.  Order your copy today.  I promise there are no tangible political opinions in the whole book.  There are, however, laughs galore.

Peruse our politically incorrect website at your leisure.  Read some of my stories and get information on all of my books at www.bgreenleaf.com

A Born Bent Over-Achiever Goes Camping!

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back!  It’s great to have you here.  “Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.”  I’m like a fungus:  after a while, I grow on you.

Yes, I’m slowly getting back to the important things in life; camping and writing so, God willing, the blog will go back to a certain regularity and, hopefully, be more informative and entertaining than ever before.

I don’t know whether it was all the time I spent editing and revising Born Bent Over for ebook publication, or just the typical day late and a dollar short realization continuum that is my trademark, but a funny thing dawned on me the other day that set off bells and whistles all over the atomic wasteland I call a mind.

Before I go any further, let me clarify one thing:  I have been an avid camper from my short-pants days in the Cub Scouts and have probably logged more hours in the woods than a few middle-aged bears I know (most of them are moving into the suburbs now, anyway).  I have camped extensively up and down the east coast and have even hiked a significant portion of the Appalachian Train.  Suffice it to say, with all that experience and the fact that my first book, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping is in its’ third printing and still receiving great reviews, I might be considered somewhat of a camping expert:  in my own mind, perhaps, but an expert nonetheless.

That being said, and in keeping with my Born Bent Over birthright, I have had some experiences in the woods that would have most mere mortals running for the comfort of a Holiday Inn.  It’s my lot in life.  I accept it and have learned to deal with it……somewhat.  If something didn’t go wrong in everything I do, I’d get extremely nervous and start chilling the beer and awaiting the arrival of those five, thirsty, dreaded horsemen (whom are rumored to be coming December 21st, bwahahahahaha!!!!).  That drunken sot guardian angel of mine, the infamous Murray, just keeps falling deeper and deeper into the bottle and the Victoria’s Secret catalogs and the proverbial poo just keeps hitting the fan.

Am I bitter?  Nah!  I just pray daily that the curse ends here and my children and grandchildren are spared the wrath.

Anyway, back to my intended point (I tend to drift).  Just a rough pass through the moldy, yellowing, brittle files in my gray matter brought back some graphic horror stories from camping trips past that really got me thinking.  Some of them are so bizarre that, at the time they occurred, the only way I could avoid a stint as a guest at Happy Acres on their Celebrity Haldol and Shock Therapy package was to opt for selective amnesia with the hope that, if the memories ever resurfaced, they would do so well past the statute of insanity limitations and become funny fodder for future campfire stories.   A few of them still send a chill up my spine; but I’m long past PTSD due to the far more frightening events that have made up my everyday life for lo these past fifty-two years.

So, I said to myself, “Self,  why not compile those stories into a new book?  Born Bent Over Two:  Camping Stories No One Would Ever Believe.  I can even hear the banjo music theme song now.  I guess I’d better learn to play one before I finish the book.  Look at the pretty colors!  Squirrel!!!”  The seventy-five voices currently occupying my gray matter all agreed in unison that a compilation of all those horror stories would be a great idea.  That’s the first time that ever happened.  They’re such a diverse group, as those of you who’ve read Born Bent Over well know.

One story comes immediately to mind.  This tale may not be for the faint of heart, so those of you with a weaker constitution might want to skim down to the end.  This ain’t pretty.

Picture this, if you will:  Orlando, FL, the Year of Our Lord 1993.  My son was seven at the time and my daughter was just the cutest little two year old holy terror you’ve ever seen.  Up until that point, we’d been avid tent campers.  I had always been a tent camper and, by golly, I was going to remain one til……..OK, til I started waking up paralyzed from sleeping on the hard, root-riddled, damp ground.  I was thirty-three with the body of an eighty year old and the whole “roughing it” thing was losing its’ appeal rapidly.  To top it off, Florida is Africa hot: always.  No exceptions.  Throw in the constant, 300%, humidity and you’re pretty much living in a twenty-four hour sauna bath.  We needed AC just to breathe!   At the time, we were camping, on average, two weekends a month.  What’s a dad to do?

Swallow your pride and buy a camper, that’s what.  For the kids sake, of course.

Having never before owned a camper, I asked around a bit and did some research on what type of camper would best suit our needs.  I was on an extremely limited budget so whatever I decided on would, without fail, be not-so-gently used and require a great deal of elbow grease and fix-it acumen.  I figured I had those so, on one crisp, clear Florida Saturday morning, my son and I, “Campers For Sale” paper in hand, went cruising.

I don’t know how many counties we covered that morning, but by early evening, almost ready to call it a day, we passed an old farmhouse somewhere in Deland with, as “my” luck would have it, a pop-up camper, fully erected, sitting on the front lawn with a For Sale sign on it.

We stopped to look, but it appeared to be in immaculate shape so I assumed our stopping was for naught.  My son jumped out of the truck and went running up to it as the owners, who resembled the sweetest pair of Norman Rockwell grandparents you ever saw, came to greet us.  Here’s where that old line, “Never judge a book by its’ cover.” comes into play.

After some sugar-coated introductions and their oohs and aahs over how cute my wing man was, I asked right up front how much they were asking before bothering to inspect it.  If it was something astronomical, we’d just thank them for their time and go home and try again another day.

“Eight hundred dollars and not a penny less,” grandpa said.  Danny had absolutely no poker face back then.  “Dad!  That’s what you said we could spend!  We can get it!  Yeah!!!”  I could have strangled him right about then but, as I said, he was such a cute little guy.

I proceeded to look it over closely, pretending to know what the hell I was looking for while Danny was doing his own inspection of the inside and extolling grandma with his camping acumen.

“The tires are new, the wheel bearings were just packed and she don’t leak a drop,” the aged, used car dealer from hell proclaimed.  I still stick pins in the voodoo doll I had made of him in Cassadaga on a later camping trip.

I had to admit:  a visual inspection of the “beast from hell,” as I would later name it, was impressive.  I spent a good thirty minutes checking this and “ah-ha-ing” that, pretending to be somewhat of an expert.

“Sir, as you can see, I’ve got two small children at home.  We love camping and we’d like to get out of our tent and into a camper, but to be honest, the most I could possibly come up with would be six-hundred dollars.  I’m sorry we wasted your time.”

“Aw, give it to um, Henry,” the aged Stepford wife giggled as she was listening to another of Danny’s stories while telling him how cute he was.  He was always such a little ham.

“Well………. Sure; what the hell.  Ma and Me were young once.  Six-hundred and she’s yours!”

I couldn’t believe it!  I’d finally won one (or so I thought).  My dumb ass usually ends up offering more initially than the seller was thinking of asking in the first place.  Danny got his poker face from me.

With Danny’s staunch and boisterous supervision, I paid the man, got the camper hooked up to the hitch, waved our good-bye’s and thank yous and we were off.

The following weekend I spent familiarizing myself with all the gadgets and doo-dads, cleaning this and that, fixing the tail lights that didn’t work and preparing for our first trip in a camper.  We were all as elated as a fat kid locked alone in a candy store over night, all working together, prepping for the following weekend.  After a full weekend of preparations, we went inside and perused the Woodall’s Catalog for a great place to go on our first trip.  After a whole bunch of giggly back and forth (Shelby suggested Hawaii), we decided on Tomoca State Park in Ormond Beach.  It was relatively close to the house, had full hook-ups, fishing and hiking as well as an interactive Native American exhibit; the prospect of seeing that thoroughly fascinated the kids.

I spent the entire week packing this and checking that: trying to insure we had everything we needed so that nothing could possibly go wrong and put a damper on our first camper outing.

Boy, was I a dreamer.

Everything started off well.  We’d gone out for groceries the night before, packed the coolers, sundries and half of Toys R US in the van and made it to the park without incident.  Ah, but the plot thickens.

We no sooner got the camper set up when the sky decided to open up with a deluge of biblical proportions.  No biggie, right?  Wrong!

The rain relegated us to the confines of the camper for the duration (which turned out to be the entire weekend).

Again, no biggie, right?  We weren’t in a tent any longer.  Like the late George and Weezie, We were movin on up!  We had a camper with electricity, running water and a VCR with stacks of movies for the kids just in case such an emergency befell us.  We were no amateurs!

We’d been inside for about all of ten minutes when my wife began a sneezing fit, followed closely by my asthmatic son.  The sneezing we might have passed off, but the advent of the hives and swollen eyes from both of them told me only one thing: those “sweet, kind” former owners had dogs who camped with and slept with them in the camper; contrary to their claims to the negative.  Both my son and my wife were terribly allergic to dog hair and I specifically asked Ma and Pa Kettle if they’d had any dogs in the camper.

I was digging through a cabinet, looking for the first aid kit containing the  Benedryl when I heard a pop and my daughter crying out that the TV went off: and right in the middle of her favorite movie……which she’d watched six-thousand times.  At just about that time, I began to feel as if I was being subjected to the Chinese Water Torture.  Drops of water were coming down on my head at an alarming rate and, as I later learned, on top of the TV, too……which shorted out (eating Shelby’s favorite tape in the process).  Water was pouring down on the beds, the counter top, the floor…..you get the picture.  The canvas on that camper was about as water repellent as cheese cloth.

But, if you spent just a month in my shoes, you’d learn quickly to always look for a silver lining.  You know it’ll never come, but you look for it nonetheless.  It’s what keeps me out of Happy Acres.  Determined to save the day, I went out and pulled the plug to insure the whole thing didn’t short out, dug the umbrellas out of the truck and took my soggy band of stoic campers to see the American Indian exhibit……..which was closed for renovations.

We went back to the camper to regroup and see what we could salvage, hoping that the rain would pass quickly as most Florida showers do, when we realized, rather shockingly, that when I backed the camper into our site, I’d parked directly over a very active, angry, fire ant mound; the inhabitants of which were now occupying the inside of the camper, en mass…….and they were pissed!

A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.  Head hung in defeat, (it should be obvious by now that I’m definitely not a winner: at least not in the literal sense) I loaded the family into the truck while I, now soaked to the bone, collapsed the camper and prepared for our trip home.  I could have used Moses at about that time to part the angry sea because it was high tide inside the camper and, even collapsed, water was pouring out from under the half-doors.

In an attempt to mount the trailer tongue on the hitch ball, I realized that the jaw wasn’t opening and the two refused to mesh.  In the interrum, the deluge had reached a point where I was considering building an ark.  The wind decided to join the parade and, in some places (namely right where I stood) it was actually raining up.  We’re talking serious rain here.

Expletives spewing from me like a man possessed, I opened the back doors of the van to get at my tools and, hopefully, fix the receiver. I’ll never forget Danny’s little face as he looked over the back seat, eyes puffed closed and a huge bugger stuck to his upper lip as he asked, through slightly swollen lips, if I needed any help.   All I wanted was to get everyone home safely, find a huge cliff to push the camper off of and reconsider taking up golf when, in my rage, I accidentally reached under the receiver a little to far just as it decided to relent and come down with a resounding SMACK!, (followed closely by a series of loud, effeminate shrieks) sandwiching my finger between it and the hitch ball.

You’re laughing, right?  Admit it.  But wait:  it gets better.

My van was a three speed with the shifter on the steering column.  My wife couldn’t drive a three speed.  My nearly-severed finger was now resting in a cup of blood-soaked ice that I was holding between my thumb and three remaining fingers.  Daddy needed to get to a hospital to have his finger sewn back on before shock set in and Daddy had to drive there.  I still remember fondly my little ghoul two-year old wanting to see Daddy’s boo-boo finger and just staring at it without the slightest bit of revulsion or disgust, just amazement.  My lil punkin!

Go ahead and laugh.  This was just a day in the life for me.

I made it to the hospital, using language (derived from pain and my inability to drive a manual transmission truck with one hand, I assure you) that probably still haunt the kids dreams, (who am I kidding?   They could probably teach me a few new expletives) only to find that the local hospital didn’t have a hand surgeon and they needed to call one up from Daytona Beach.  Thirteen hours later, with an IV catheter still in my arm due to a disinterested nurse and pain meds sufficiently on board, two bored-to-tears, screaming kids who were acting out the American Indian war dance they never got to see and a tired, hungry, disheveled wife in the waiting room, (not to mention an enormously large bandage on my hand and my arm in a sling) we headed home in torrential rain, pulling a trailer with a three speed that I was steering with my knees and reaching my left hand over the wheel to shift:  the gear shift that was on the right side.  Did I mention that the van didn’t have power steering?  Just wanted to paint as clear a picture as possible.

That’s one of my more mild camping experiences.  We didn’t have to bury any bodies on that trip.

And I still love camping!  The rumors must be true.  My mother did raise an idiot.

You know life has dealt you lemons throughout when you’re working on a sequel to a book on just how screwed up your life is and there will still be tomes more to write.  Ain’t life grand?  Admit it: you wish you had my life.

Right now I’m awaiting a slight reprieve from the Florida-like weather we’re having here in SC so I can drag Nosty’s Nook out of the barn and get her ready for what I hope to be a long and frequent camping season.  I’m hoping that September through May brings about some fantastic camping weather and I can get out and do what I love best……..well, second best, but I’m currently camping alone so that prospect is a moot point.

I may be fifty-two, but I ain’t dead!

In closing (the crowd moans, “Thank God!”), things are hopping at Danby Mountain Press.  Aside from the forthcoming sequel to Born Bent Over, the Paramedic sequel is nearing completion and should be published later this year.  On top of that, Danby Mountain Press has added an audio studio to our glamorous, skid row, publishing facilities so our published works will soon be available as audio books.  Busy, busy, busy.  I don’t date much, can you tell?

Until next time, and as always, my friends, I wish you peace, love and every happiness life has to offer.  Until the next blog, beware the couple from the American Gothic painting trying to sell you a pop-up.  It’s sure to be a lemon!

Adio!

Brian

If you haven’t read my latest ebook, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, shame on you.  Everybody needs a good belly laugh and Born Bent Over is sure to please.  Download your copy now.  You won’t be sorry.

Again, my many thanks to my wonderful sister, Michelle, for her hard and creative work on our website.  We all know who got the brains in the family.  Stop by and check us out.  We’ll be uploading some new stories very soon.

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.