Marketing Fail

Every now and then, I’ll see a store display that just stinks of some out-of-touch marketing mind doing something that they think will be clever, not taking into account reality or people or human nature. At the local office supply store, there is a Sharpie marker display that is set up as a try-before-you-buy affair. It is a colorful display with racks of markers in different colors, and at waist height, it has a paper scratchpad and a couple pads of Post-Its. One must be careful how they design a promotional store display. It is nothing short of laughable that whatever aforementioned marketing guru did not foresee the shortcomings in this otherwise clever marketing piece.

See, people can’t leave well enough alone. If you leave an opportunity to make havoc, someone will take you up on the offer. How many times have you seen a prank video based around the placement of a mysterious button, and the filming of passers by pressing it to see what will happen? Indeed, I would defy you to leave what appears to be a very large firecracker someplace with a lighter, and see how many people try to light it. It’s irresistible. As another example, on Sunday, one of the local grocery stores had a rack full of herbs. I could not help myself and had to do a little rearranging.

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Are you going to the grocery store? Remind me to one who works there.
So, Sharpie has this great display where people can try out many colors of their permanent markers.

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They even provided a little pad of paper for people to try out their markers on. There’s a sign over the paper that reads, “Try Me”. And surely, nobody would mark anywhere but the provided paper, right?

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“Try Me” you say? Don’t mind if I do!

I’ve been watching this display for a while. When it first went in, although pristine, I recognized it for the degenerative folly that it would eventually become. Here’s part of the display which shows a picture of a little girl a few months ago:

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And, more recently:

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I <3 poop

LOL! Beware of the quips of marker wielding idiots! The differences are subtle, but clearly more artists have contributed as time has gone by. People even took the opportunity to mark on the shelving to the side of the display.

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Here, you can see that someone wrote a greeting to the world not once, but twice, just in case the world wasn’t paying attention the first time. World, you’ve been greeted. And finally, there was at least one brony representing:

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They at least had the decency to leave the message on one of the provided Post Its instead of defacing the display or store property. I realize that most of this graffiti is likely the work of under attended children, but it illustrates a part of human nature that never really goes away. As we mature, we learn to rise above it, but it never fades completely. We’ll always have that prankster that wants to press the button or rearrange the herbs or scrawl “I <3 poop" in a speech bubble on the Sharpie display. Note to all you marketing people out there; make your product labeling witty and humorous enough that your prospective customers won't want to deface it when their attention is drawn to it. awesomesauce

Because seriously, who would want to mess up a perfectly good jar of Awesomesauce?

Irony In The Music Industry

When my commute to work included a drive in the car, I would often listen to the radio on my way in because I always forgot to change out the CD selection in the car. Of course, the stations that played any of the good indy stuff that I liked never made any money and so were always short-lived. There were two Christian stations in town, but the good one went belly up and the remaining one was a little koombayah for my taste. So, I wound up listening to NPR. Even though their ‘news’ broadcasts are a little slanted, their shows are entertaining. I especially liked their music reviews.

Radio is now dead. When I was a kid, there were multiple stations in town that gave a nice cross-section taste of what was out there. There were multiple CD stores in town that had nice selections of new and used CDs. They had single-disc CD players set up with headphones where one could pre-listen a used CD prior to buying it. The clerk didn’t care if I sat there and listened to the full 45-minute CD prior to spending my eight bucks to take the CD home with me in my little station wagon. There, I discovered Bjork. There, they’d recommend new CDs to me that they had just gotten in, based on my tastes. If I pointed out that it was wrapped in cellophane, they would roll their eyes and unwrap it so I could give it a listen. In those days, I’d hear something on the radio and go buy the CD locally.

Now that radio is dead, we have the internet. Youtube and Pandora have filled the space of FM. When I find something interesting on the internet, I seek it out at the stores. I see embedded videos and links to songs that are entertaining. When I go to a store that has a generous CD section, I scan interesting selections with my smart phone to compare prices on Amazon. This Johnny Cash CD is eight bucks here, and I can get it for five on Amazon Prime.

For at least a decade now, the artists and even more so, the record labels, have fought to keep music from being downloaded off the internet. And yet, the smarter artists have freely given their music in various forms. In listening to NPR, I was fascinated by Infected Mushroom when they were featured one afternoon. When I found their website, I found that their music is all streaming there. In working at my last place of traditional employment, and subsequently for myself, I have streamed Infected Mushroom for many hours for free.

I decided that I wanted to hear Infected Mushroom in better sound quality than is streamed online. For years, we had cut out all of our excess spending for the purpose of business building. I had asked about Infected Mushroom at several CD stores because I couldn’t find any of their CDs. I was usually met with, “No, I’ve had all my shots.” No, do you have any of their CDs? “Is that the new Garth Brooks album?” I kid, I kid. To all you who may be IM fans out there, do you download MP3s, or order CDs on the internet, or do you find them in stores?

I know that MP3s are the new thing, but they lack depth of sound definition and clarity. Personally, I prefer the warmth of vinyl, but I can certainly live with the resolution of modern CD tracks or WAV files. It’s also nice to get cover art and a physical, hard copy. I have ripped all of our CDs to the hard drive on our media server and stream that when I want to listen to our music library now. Hard drive space is cheap, and it keeps the wear and tear off the originals. This has pointed out some transfer speed weaknesses in the network, which has been interesting.

Anyway, having grown fond of Infected Mushroom, I placed a $45.00 order on Amazon for some of their CDs last night. I’m excited to receive them. I will rip the discs to the media server and listen to them from there, which will certainly be better sound quality than streaming from their website or YouTube. And, I will have put a little money in their pockets too. For all of the musical artists out there that don’t make their work more accessible, I don’t know of their work and have not placed an order for CDs. There is the difference.

Aging in a changing world is interesting. I try very hard to roll with the punches without blindly folding to whatever comes next. Shopping for music is vastly different than it used to be. I don’t hate all the new music in a generalized fashion, but MP3s aren’t worth the price of a physical disc that has superior sound quality and cover art. It benefits the artist to put their work out there to be heard prior to purchase. Just as I would spend hours pouring over used CDs on the player in the CD shop in town, I now spend hours listening to music on the internet to determine what I want to invest in. Where I used to adventurously put money down on a disc to add to the collection, now I see if I can have it delivered for a better price, but plenty of times I still buy on location.

I wish that the record shop was still a major industry, but I understand why it can’t be anymore. MP3s are inferior in sound quality, but they aren’t the sucking mistake that cassettes were. I keep hoping for an improvement over CDs, as this is now almost thirty-year-old technology on the consumer level, and it leaves sound resolution to be desired, but despite SACD, HDCD, and DVD Audio, nothing better has stuck. As Murphy’s Law dictates, once I settle into CDs as the defacto, common use, audiophile medium, the next great thing will happen and then all my stuff will be obsolete. And, it probably won’t even be played over conventional speakers.

*sigh.*

Tactical Assault Compact Sedan

We are weird when it comes to being car consumers. When Jennifer and I started dating, I was driving my first car which was the 1983 Honda Civic Wagon that my parents had bought new, and Jennifer was driving a 1993 Ford Taurus. I wrecked the Civic and wound up buying another one almost just like it. The ‘new’ Civic was also a 1983 model, but it was in far better shape, and was an attractive silver instead of the metallic brown that my parents had passed down. We wanted to get out from under the payment on the Taurus before it was worth less than what we owed on it, so we sold it and purchased Jennifer a 1982 Datsun 280ZX 2+2. Her dad thought we were crazy. Heck, half the people we knew thought we were crazy. They may have been right, but we were having fun.

I wound up getting a 1982 Civic hatchback by a weird twist of events, which after some modifications, was running so hot that I couldn’t keep it in head gaskets any longer, so I swapped the motor out for a 1.8-liter from a 1979 Accord. It received a Weber carburetor, cowl induction hood scoop, and a very abbreviated exhaust system. It breathed fire, sounded like an angry hornet, and would spin the tires at 60-mph. The Wagon got put on the back burner when its clutch started slipping and the CV joints started clicking. I knew the syncros were worn and the rings were starting to leak, and I intended to do the work, but couldn’t at the time. It was joined by the hatchback for reasons that I can’t recall right now. We had other things going on and I couldn’t really give them the attention they needed at the time.

The Hondas eventually left my life. Jennifer’s 280 got T-boned by some idiot driving a brown Buick in the rain with no lights. We bought a 1991 BMW 318i convertible off the credit union’s repo lot. That car had 250,000-miles on it when we brought it home, and we put in excess of 100,000 additional miles on it before we passed it on. Shortly before we got rid of the BMW, we were shopping for something a little less used, that would be practical for our family. We wanted something with four doors that had more leg room in the back than our convertible. We wanted something with some pep. Understated looks would be good, with overstated gear under the sheet metal.

I was working at the Ford dealership at the time, and some guy had just traded in his 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec-V in on a new pickup. It was black. I’ve always hated black cars. This is the little, unassuming Sentra body with the tuned version of the Altima’s engine shoehorned in, mated to a six-speed close ratio gearbox. I saw a technician driving it across the lot. It even had the optional Brembo four-piston brake calipers! So, I asked about it. The used car manager quoted me a price that was allegedly 10% over what they had in it. The mileage was low enough that it still had factory warranty, and the price was low enough that we could afford it. We consolidated some old credit card debt into the loan. I decided I could live with black.

Originally, I vowed to never fall behind on maintenance and always use synthetic fluids, and make this car last forever. That was before all of the accidents. We had most of the body damage fixed, but had an emergency come up that we wound up using insurance money on instead of bodywork. The car still ran good and we had just barely had to do anything mechanical in the 100,000-miles we’d had it. And just before the 150,000-mile mark, the engine blew.

As it turns out, Nissan had had problems with the ‘pre cat’ on this particular engine. In an attempt to make good even better, they had mounted an exhaust catalyst in the exhaust manifold, with the thought of it getting to temperature faster, thus increasing efficiency. Since this was the tuned-up version of the engine, the computer is programmed to run the fuel/air mix a little richer, thus the exhaust will pop and backfire from time to time. When it was popping into this forward-mounted catalyst, some particles of ceramic were blown back into the combustion chamber, and destroyed the rings in short order. I located the necessary parts to rebuild the engine in our driveway, committed a week off from my work, and borrowed Grandpa’s pickup.

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Everything came apart more easily than I was afraid it would, even if I did have to borrow an air compressor and impact wrench from a neighbor, who just seemed tickled that I’d ask to borrow such things from a total stranger.

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The timing marks were a mystery that I eventually unraveled, but there was some head-scratching first. It seems that not even the fanbois in the Sentra forums can make much sense out of them.

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That little sprocket with the chain on it is the balance shaft. I pulled that out and didn’t reinstall it. The Sentra kids on the internet say that it robs power and doesn’t help much with anything. I haven’t missed it.

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You might be a car guy (or gal) if this is a familiar sight. The weather was beautiful for most of the week.

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Not only are the main caps fully girdled, but the whole engine is glued together with gray silicone. There are literally like three or four actual gaskets in total under the hood. I was dubious, but it hasn’t leaked since the rebuild, so I guess it really does work.

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I honed out the cylinders, but nothing was in need of machining. Thank God! The head gasket came off cleanly enough that I probably could have reused it.

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The shop manuals say to separate the head and intake manifold. I didn’t find this to be necessary, so they stayed mated up.

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Teen Bot helped. I think he got bored at times, but it was a very educational experience for him. He thought reinstalling the pistons with the new rings and bearings was interesting.

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I said it would take a week, and it took a week. That’s the first time that has ever happened to me on any project. The car now has around 10,000 miles since the rebuild. It has more power now than it ever had before. There are a couple of things it still needs including a motor mount insert, a new radiator, and a muffler. With the many hours behind the wheel and many miles traveled in various cars with nothing but straight pipe, I finally actually got pulled over for the lack of muffler a few weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Jennifer called me and said that the car had done something strange. There was a pop, and an acrid smell, and the dash lights all went out for just a second. Hmmmm… She brought the car back and I poked around at it. Apparently, the alternator had gone out. This is a close-up of the side of the alternator, and you can see the stator windings inside of the case:

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Toward the right, you can see the wire is reddish and coppery in color like it’s supposed to be. Toward the left, it’s blackish and burned looking because it’s all burned up. That’s not good. The local parts houses could order an alternator to fit for around $200.00, but we found one online for more like $50.00. It hasn’t arrived yet, so I’ve been hooking the trickle charger to the battery overnight until I have the replacement part in hand. Jennifer called me again this morning to tell me that she was stranded with a car that would not run.

I arranged to borrow a spare car from my parents, retrieved Jennifer, pulled the battery, dropped Jennifer off at work and the battery at the auto parts store to have it charged on their commercial charger. My friend Sean called and offered to come and help (God bless him). We ultimately got the battery back, replaced the terminals which were badly corroded, and reinstalled it into the car. Upon arrival back at the house, I figured out what the most recent problem was. If you hook your trickle charger to your car battery, but mistakenly bump the control switch to “6V”, that battery will never charge. *facepalm* I figured I’d see the replacement alternator by now, but I’m nearly certain I’ll have it by this weekend. At any rate, the drama is getting a little old.

And, on a Lighter Note…

Since I have no intention of this becoming a gloom-and-doom blog, I have been attempting to balance my enraging/disturbing/worrying entries with lighter hearted ones. To that end, my brother, Microcosm Overlord, has been selling everything that’s not nailed down lately. His wife works part time, and he is currently unemployed with no unemployment benefits. In order to pay the bills and have a little scratch left over, he started selling some surplus belongings on Craig’s List and ebay. Then, he got hooked. Now, he’s telling me that the water is fine, and there will be punch and pie if I join in. Maybe. Anyway, this new… *ahem* hobby of his has led to some hilarious interchanges, such as the following:

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Why he even thought to send that first pic is anybody’s guess, but bravo! I had to twist his arm to send me the image files so I could stitch them together and post the thread here. I hope this gives you a giggle, as it did me.

And, Speaking of Domes…

Jennifer and I have long talked about setting up a rudimentary greenhouse in the back yard. The growing season here in Oklahoma is such that a greenhouse is highly useful for getting a head start when late frosts can be unpredictable. Currently, we do still live in town (much to our chagrin), and city code limits building construction without a permit to 100-square feet and without a permanent foundation. In the past, I’d thought about framing in something with used lumber or pipe, and wrapping the whole thing in heavy gauge Visqueen, or similar clear, plastic sheet. Recently, I began thinking about framing up a geodesic dome out of 2x4s or 2x6s, with the clear plastic stapled to the inside and outside of the framework. That would give plenty of light passage with 3.5″ or 5.5″ of airspace for natural insulation – probably plenty to buffer against those last few late frosts in the beginning of the Spring.

Shortening pi to 3.14, and working out the math, I find that a 11.2-foot diameter dome would be precisely 100-square feet, so I’d likely want to take the footprint down to an even eleven square feet, just to stay on the safe side. That would give us just about 95 square feet that we could use for sprouting seeds, growing things that are otherwise difficult to grow here, and even stretching out the Fall growing season to a degree. Using this nifty utility, I can see that an eleven-foot diameter, 5/8 dome can be made with 165 boards of just over two feet, using 61 joints. If my math serves me, that would give us a ceiling height of about 6.5-feet in the center, which is plenty for us short people.

This guy got the same idea, and built himself a nice little greenhouse dome, and he even worked out the angles that the boards should ideally be cut to. It looks like there are all sorts of choices for fancy hardware connectors, but the gentleman mentioned above industriously used steel strap and PVC pipe for jointing. In fact, there are lots of organized resources for anyone who might want to build a dome. Given the size of the lumber that this project would require, I bet I could get used lumber for next to nothing if I keep my ears open. In fact, I wonder how close to free I could build this bad boy. I may have to go haunt Craig’s List to see what’s available…

Water Dome 2.0

Years ago, when we were teaching the cat to use the toilet…

I’ll let you soak that in for a minute.

…yes, we taught the cat to do his business in the commode instead of a box of grit. See?

Anyway, at some point in time, he decided that the water in the water bowl wasn’t fresh enough for his taste. He started to find more creative places to do his business to keep his newly preferred water (toilet bowl) as clean as possible. We got to the point that we were changing out the cat water twice a day and he was still drinking from the john and pulling towels off the rack to pee on. Yuck! Something had to be done. So we bought The Water Dome.

This was a contraption that we found on clearance at the local franchise of whatever chain pet store we happened to be frequenting at the time. It cost something in the neighborhood of $15.00. I have been unable to find anything else quite like it, even in imagery only. It was a clear acrylic dome full of water that would trickle from the top, and dribble down into a shallow tray underneath. It worked like a charm. Emerson began drinking from the dome and using the toilet like clockwork.

Previously not having a care in the world where the water came from, so long as there was water, Ferrule discovered what he never knew he was missing in The Water Dome. He loved The Water Dome. Physically. Being half siamese and half bengal, Ferrule is an odd one. His mannerisms are not like many other cats you are likely to cross paths with. When he loves, he does so with grand gesture. And, he had a ritual when he took a drink. He would court The Water Dome and speak to it, informing it of his intentions. He would then rub against it affectionately. After he had buttered it up with his attentions, he would then take a sip of water. At that point, fairly well soaked, he would find Jennifer so he could sit in her lap and drip on her.

Needless to say, The Water Dome got clogged with cat hair and croaked after a few months’ use. And yet, it had been worth its weight in gold. We tried to clean it out, taking apart the pump to free it of all debris. But, its spirit had passed on. As precious as a pet water circulator had been to the household, we rushed straight out to purchase another. We never did find another one like The Water Dome, but we found a Petmate fountain for around $30 and took it straight home for the cats’ inspection. Ferrule never loved the fountain like he did The Water Dome, but they both accepted it as the utility that it was.

As we added our chihuahua, Heidi, and another cat, Chance; the little Petmate was strained in its duty. We topped it up when it ran low, and we cleaned it religiously to keep it running. But, it was never intended to support the load we had it under, and two days ago, after many years of service, the inevitable happened. The now mineral-stained Petmate finally gave up the ghost, and no amount of hair removal or swearing would bring it back.

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Believe it or not, all those colorful stains are from our hard water. I’ve chipped that crap off of that fountain before, and it likely had a hand in the destruction of the pump. In case you were wondering, the Mayans were predicting the end of our pet water fountain, not the world. I have spent the last couple of days looking at these things on Amazon and other sources. Years ago, we bought this unit for around $30. Years ago, I scoffed at paying upwards of two dollars per gallon for gas. Years ago, I purchased a one horsepower food waste disposer for around $90 that can’t be replaced for $300 today. Oddly, I do believe that we could get another pet fountain for around $30, but I’m not convinced that it would last.

But, I did have a spare water garden pump that I purchased at the koi shop to use in our rain barrels. As it turned out, it didn’t have nearly enough oomph to circulate water from the barrel. When I purchased this pump, it had been sitting on the shelf so long that I paid a fraction of the $65 scrawled on the yellowing cellophane in black marker. I didn’t have the heart to return the pump when it wasn’t going to work in the barrel. But, we had this extra pump. So, Teen Bot and I inspected the garden pump and compared it to the pump that came stock in the Petmate. The difference was shocking. We probably could install the water garden pump in the Petmate chassis, but it would be about like shoehorning a Chevy big block into a Volkswagen. Needless to say, it would have required some massive modification.

This morning, I woke up with inspiration! Once Teen Bot was up and around, we collected a disposable Rubbermaid dish, an empty one-gallon water jug, and some vinyl hose that I was going to use to pad a leather storage rack at one point in time. I wedged the hose onto the nipple on the pump and ran it into the top of the water bottle, so that it would overflow the jug and dribble out into the tray below. I trimmed it so that it would just go into the top of the handle. That way, if we lost power, it wouldn’t siphon the jug onto our bathroom floor. And I figure, if this setup gets too nasty with cat hair and mineral deposits, the pump is the most expensive component on the contraption. Everything else can be discarded and easily replaced. The entire system holds just over two gallons. I present to you Water Dome II:

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Magnificent, isn’t it?

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But, what will the water critic think of it? That’s the real measure of the success.

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“LOL! WTF is that supposed to be?”

No, really, Emerson. Give it a try!

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“YHGTBSM. You have finally lost your mind, hooman.”

Just try it please.

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“Well, it smells okay…”

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“Haz to make sure nobody’s looking when I try this silly thing…”

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*sip sip* “Hey, that’s not bad!”

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*slurp slurp slurp*

And, he likes it! I suspect he was waiting for a replacement, because he stayed like that at the trough for several minutes. So anyway, I was able to avoid spending money on a new pet water fountain, this thing will likely outlive a store-bought unit by a factor of ten, our picky cat approves of it, and if it gets too gross, we won’t feel too bad about pitching the whole thing. I’m calling this one a solid win.

Jumped. The. Shark.

I know I’ve been hitting the politics pretty hard and heavy recently. Let’s take a break from some of that, shall we? Teen Bot pointed me to this YouTube video, and I must say that it did induce some laughing out loud in a very literal sense. So, please do check it out. There are more than a couple of familiar faces in this little production. I hope it brings a smile to your face as well.

Srsly. I wish life could be more light hearted and silly.

Open Carry – First Day in Oklahoma

As you have probably already heard, Open Carry went into effect today in the State of Oklahoma. I don’t intend to do a whole lot of OC, but I have been preparing for this. I’ve sold several OC specific rigs to other Okies in the last year. I made a matched pair of ostrich, horse, and stingray paddle holsters for my Performance Center revolvers, and have a black belt with red stitching to match them. Jennifer got a new, red, metallic, patent leather holster to fit her FN with a CT Rail Master and a matching double magazine carrier and belt. She also got a black holster for the same setup with flat dark earth stitching to match her pistol. Today, I’m wearing my M&P45 in black basket weave with matching magazines on the off side. I think they probably set OC to go into effect on November 1, because it’s usually too cold to not wear a cover garment this time of year. Joke’s on them though. It’s absolutely beautiful out! Before the sun was up, I took out the trash and rolled the dumpster to the street, carrying openly. Nobody was out and it was dark. Nobody noticed. Twice today, I checked the mail with my gun uncovered. Nobody was out. Nobody noticed. So, this historic date remains boringly non noteworthy. If I was trying to make a statement, I’d be quite disappointed. Frankly, if I wasn’t the holster maker, I might very well not ever Open Carry. I don’t know for sure. I figure I probably will from time to time, but not indiscriminately. As I go about my daily life, I prefer to stay far more under the radar than that. Even so, experience tells me that most people wouldn’t notice even with the gun hanging out under their noses in plain sight. It should be interesting to see how this works moving forward.

KTKC – Many Thanks!

You people are truly awesome. AWESOME. Twenty-four hours ago, I had not generated a single donation for the cause. I appealed to my readership in my frustration and have seen $150.00 $160.00 come in since then. With sixteen days left in the month, if we can keep this pace, we could raise $2400.00, which is very nearly $2560, which is over* half of the flippant goal I put on my page. You have no idea how happy that makes me. Big, big thanks to you all. And, if you haven’t donated yet, please do. Every bit helps – even five or ten bucks at a time will add up in a hurry. Please do give however much you feel called to.

*corrections made, as I got a donation while writing this entry.