Sunday, September 12, 2010

September = National Preparedness Month

Basic information can be found at, including making a preparedness kit.

Unofficial nudges from me (not the .gov):
  • Have your important documents copied or scanned and backed up? I carry mine (encrypted) on one of those flash drive dongles, but that might be overkill for Normals.
  • Have a bit of water on hand in case we get into a no-water situation as happened in a nearby town this year?
  • Have a bit of food in the pantry in case a distribution infrastructure problem prevents the local supermarket from getting restocked? (note: many grocery stores are an extreme case of Just In Time and have about 3 days of inventory at any given moment).
  • Have a way to cook if your power/gas goes out unexpectedly? Or at least have a few meals that require no cooking?
  • Have a plan to prevent spoilage in your freezer/fridge if the power goes out for a couple of hours? Days?

  • Have an agreed-upon plan for housefires and tornado?
My most recent preparedness efforts included making a Get Home Bag (GHB) to stay in the trunk of my car. I picked up a serviceable, used Jansport daypack for $2 at a garage sale in Heights this summer and it goaded me into action.

Note that a GHB doesn't have to be all 'tacticool' or $$$; do the best you can with what you've got. You probably have all the items already, or can find them at garage sales or dollar stores. Something is better than nothing. Build one, then build another for your mate's car, kids' cars, etc. Hopefully you'll never need it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

No more apartments at Brick Row

Word is that the developers (Winston Cap?) are going to ask COR to let them skew the existing 300 condos / 500 "luxury apartments" agreement toward more apartments units at a lower price point.

DART Rail + cheap apartments = bad news. Listen to a scanner and see how often RPD is dispatched to the rail station. There is already graffiti on the upper deck, and broken glass panels. DART PD is MIA. Maybe the new radio tower will encourage them to show up in Richardson from time to time?

Anecdotal, but interesting: my last two experiences on that DART rail platform have been unpleasant. This Tuesday I rode the DART down to the VA hospital for a dr's appointment. While I was buying a ticket at the Spring Valley station ticket kiosk I was approached ("Hey, dawg...") with an offer to participate in an activity specifically prohibited on the ticket. I will note that getting approached with a "Hey, dawg" when you have your wallet in your hand bumps up the threat level from yellow to orange pretty fast. My right hand settled down to the Spyderco Endura clipped to my pocket.

The time before that I called 911 when it appeared my wife and I were in physical danger. Yay, DART.

Got a little sidetracked there. What was I saying? Oh yeah, NO to more apartments in Brick Row.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dallas Green Festival, Sept 18th

I'm more of a "primitive skills" guy than a treehugger green if that distinction makes any sense. I recycle fairly rigorously, mainly because it seems wasteful and pointless to pay someone to bury a bunch of stuff that could be repurposed. I don't do it because a Wolf spirit guide (be sure to read the reviews) appeared to me in a dream and told me to "get back in sync with Mother Nature, man."

Anyhow. I haven't attended DGF before but will go this year to take a look around.

Dallas Green Festival 2010
Texas Discovery Gardens • Fair Park Dallas

The third annual Dallas Green Festival will be held at the beautiful Texas Discovery Gardens, Saturday September 18, 2010 from 9:00 until 2:30.

Join us for a day of family fun and environmental stewardship including...

• Monarch butterfly tagging
• outdoor recreation zone
• recycled arts and crafts
• lifestyle demonstrations
• food and live music
• door prizes and give-aways
• mass butterfly release
• children’s area
• face painting
• classes for adults and kids
• vendors and artisans
...and much more!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I. Did not. Have. Postal relations. WIth that mailer.

[the formatting is a little weird. This started out as a comment but was too big for to accept. D'oh!]

A commenter (Mark) identifying himself as Mr. Harcrow has taken issue with the content of my [original] post. Since he deleted the comment I will not repost it to comment on it.

I will try to summarize and address his concerns. I hope to do so fairly.

1. I have the facts wrong.

My response: I look forward to correction in any factual errors I have made.

2. Misrepresenting oneself as the VA is wrong.

My response: Well, I agree. I will point out that I did not claim SMI was misrepresenting themselves as the VA. Readers can make their own judgement about that. The scan of the actual mailer, with the Seal of the United States, the words "Verterans Affairs" and "Official notice", combined with a total absence of a business name does not seem purpose-built for transparency or clarity.

BTW, it is not entirely clear to me that the Seal is lawfully usable in that manner:

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 33 > § 713
§ 713. Use of likenesses of the great seal of the United States, the seals of the President and Vice President, the seal of the United States Senate, the seal of the United States House of Representatives, and the seal of the United States Congress
(a) Whoever knowingly displays any printed or other likeness of the great seal of the United States, or of the seals of the President or the Vice President of the United States, or the seal of the United States Senate, or the seal of the United States House of Representatives, or the seal of the United States Congress, or any facsimile thereof, in, or in connection with, any advertisement, poster, circular, book, pamphlet, or other publication, public meeting, play, motion picture, telecast, or other production, or on any building, monument, or stationery, for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States or by any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

3. I (Mark) have not sent any email or mailer advertising a rate reduction.

My response: I didn't say you did, nor did I say you generated the mailer at all. The mailer itself has the words "rate reduction" on it. The readers may decide for themselves whether or not an advertisement with the words emblazoned with the words "rate reduction" is, _prima facie_, an advertisement for rate reduction. The rate reduction aspect seems to be the smallest of the problems of this mailer, anyhow.

4. I assume you searched for the mortgage company, found my name, and thought I sent the mailer to you.

My response: Close. Since no business name was given I searched for the address, found the company at that address (SMI), found another page related to SMI ( by address and email, which had Mr. Harcrow's SMI email address on it.

To be fair, the site referenced above no longer gives the 4230 LBJ address and no longer lists the SMI email address. This, combined with some of the content of Mr. Harcrow's removed comment, suggest he has moved on to greener pastures. I accept this, even though the SMI page still lists him as a staff member:

I did not claim you sent the mailer. I did claim:
* the mailer claimed to come from the 4230 LBJ address
* where SMI claims to reside,
* where your company/site VA Mortgage Connection claimed to reside (now changed)
* and on the VAMC site MH's SMI-based email address was given.

That is the sum total of my claims directly or tangentially related to Mr. Harcrow.

5. Deceptive practices are wrong; slander in this type of forum is wrong.

My response: Deceptive practices are disagreeable and ultimately unproductive. Slander is illegal, which is why I didn't do it. The phrase Truth is an absolute defense come to mind. If you believe any of the facts in my post are incorrect, point out the counterfactual information and I will correct it. The approach you are taking appears to be "You claim I did this. I didn't do this, the other people in my office did it." Fine with me. I never claimed you personally did it. I claimed your email address was on a VA-related website related to SMI.

BTW, the TDSML complaint link on your contact page is STILL broken. Specfically, it's missing the http:// prefix so it looks like a relative URL to the server. Your webmaster will know what this means.