Be wary of scams when deal-hunting.

As holiday shopping rears its ugly head, we can anticipate more scams.

Let’s say John Smith did some Black Friday/Cyber Monday internet bargain-finding.
He found a deal he’d been dreaming of. A price too good to be true, and, to his sorrow, several weeks later it turns out that it wasn’t true at all.

Here are several common scam types:

  1. You purchase from an online retailer, but never receive information or a package.
    The seller fails to reply when you try to contact their helpline.
    You contact your bank, card company, or PayPal, and have them cancel that transaction.
    Suddenly, the seller is responsive! They supply a tracking number that was delivered to your approximate area. Onward to scam type two.
  2. You receive a real tracking number, but never get the package.
    On further investigation, the tracking number was for something sent to the same area (town, zip code, etc.), making it easy to shift blame onto the package delivery service.
    However the tracking number isn’t for your package – it doesn’t have your address, and often has a very different weight. Even if you’ve been given a valid tracking number, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your package is real!
    And now you, the scam victim, are stuck with the burden of proof.
  3. You receive a tracking number, and the package associated with it is sent to you, but isn’t what you ordered.
    Perhaps you open it up, think “what the H-E-double-hockysticks is this?” and promptly forget about it…
    A month or so later, when you realize that you never got those fancy pajamas, you realize that the time window to contest the charge is now closed.
    (This is a common scheme for international scam packages – even if you want to return it for your money back, the postage to ship it back may be more than what the item or refund is worth). For example, mailing a package from China to the USA is far less expensive than vice versa.

eBay and PayPal will almost always side with the scammer if they can produce a tracking number that got delivered in your town. And, regardless of how they’re doing this, scammers seem to be pretty good at finding tracking numbers.
You can appeal this, by showing evidence that the item you ordered was not the item that they sent. The US Post Office, FedEx, and UPS all have the ability to check the addresses associated with their tracking numbers, and sometimes may have GPS coordinates for delivery as well. If you have a FedEx or UPS tracking number, chances are you can get the package weight and dimensions from their tracking websites, too.

Here’s a story from a relatively local eastern Idahoan who experienced a valid tracking number scheme earlier this year. The comments below the story are good and discuss a number of scam websites and apps to avoid buying from.

Safeguard your purchases ahead of time by checking the sale websites – google it, and see if folks think it’s a good place to shop, or if the website sells lower-quality items than it claims. Do a search on the Better Business Bureau’s “Scam Tracker” to see if the site you’re contemplating buying your firepit or that steal of a computer from is legitimate.
Consider trying to call the helpline phone number provided on an online retailer’s website. Be wary if an online retailer redirects you to a new website to pay via PayPal.

If you receive a package you’re not expecting, take pictures of it while you open it.
Photograph the label and tracking number, and record the weight and parcel dimensions – it might pay off just a little ways down the road.


Historical Village Christmas Bazaar Online

Last year, the Village Christmas Bazaar went online, and this year it returns in online format. The store is through the website Square, which takes about 3% of the transaction as a fee.

The offerings are similar: aprons and baby quilts, scrubbies, catnip mice, scarves, kitchen towels, face masks, potholders, holiday wreathes, earrings, coasters and christmas ornaments. Also vintage quilts.

But- check it out yourself! Or stop by the historical village on Friday and shop in person.


Canadian Television

As we prepared to get back to Trego, one of the things we anticipated was getting Canadian TV channels again.  It had been about a quarter-century since we enjoyed that particular form of entertainment – so we bought a special, long range antenna to bring them in.  Sadly, developments and improvements as we passed into the third millennium eliminated the repeater stations that had made it possible in the eighties.

Still, the goal wasn’t forgotten – merely filed away for later use.  Finally, I found a search routine that brought Canadian TV series from the past to my computer screen.  Here are some of the enjoyable Canadian programs I’ll be enjoying during the long evenings of the upcoming winter.

Corner Gas – This program went on for five years, then had about three years of an animated version, centering on the minimal life of a gas station/convenience store operator in Dog River, Saskatchewan, 40 miles from anywhere.  Search it out on youtube – it’s worth watching.

Kim’s Convenience – the parental Kims (Korean immigrants) run a convenience store somewhere in Toronto.  It’s a bit more current than Corner Gas, but takes humor into a few politically incorrect areas.  I didn’t find much on youtube – a few outtakes, but it’s just a search away.  It ran from 2016 until last April.   The scripts were written by the same writers that did Corner Gas.

There are 72 episodes in Due South – the first episode is available on youtube.  It’s a combination of comedy and crime, and looks like a story about an RCMP guy working with a Chicago cop. 

It looks like Trailer Park Boys is also available – this one had a seven-season run while I was far south of the 49th parallel – and it looks like they’re available on youtube.

 It may be a while before I get a current episode of “this hour has 22 minutes” – but I can get back to watching Canadian TV.


Professor Mikey- The Early Years

A friend’s photograph, from the early years of our marriage – at the first stop in my career in academia, teaching at Trinidad State Junior College.  A T-shirt that came in a Christmas package from my mother that is recognizable, as is the Oldsmobile.  The photograph is a bit out of focus, and I suspect that, over the years, the memories are also a bit out of focus.

At Trinidad State, with an entire department dedicated to gunsmithing, and the NRA Whittington center just across the pass in Raton, my hobby interest in firearms could grow.  As a teacher, when Kelly Vigil asked, “Why can’t we do it this way?” I had the time, and reason to answer the question – when I had been designing irrigation systems, I had just done things as I had been taught.  As a teacher, I had time and space to discover why.

Below the college library was a place of magic – earlier TSJC had offered an Associate’s program in museum management.  While the degree was no longer offered, the practical museum was still there – and the artifacts and bones from the Folsom excavations were mine to inspect and appreciate, just because I was the one faculty member interested in archaeology of the Southwest.

As I look at my own artifacts, I notice my switchblade – given to me by my student Gonzalo, “that you might have something to remember me.”  I remember Gonzalo, and his story how his mother, a pregnant teenager from southern Mexico had crossed Mexico that she could give birth in El Paso, getting him birthright US citizenship before she was sent back south by la migra.

My dentist, whose office had once been occupied by Bat Masterson, a half-block away from a saloon that was once damaged by Cary Nation’s hatchet in a temperance rally.  A few miles to the north, Ludlow, bloody Ludlow, where the striking miners fought back as their tents were targeted by the machine guns of Colorado’s National Guard. 

Perhaps the memories are no more out of focus than the photograph.


My Species Evolved with Climate Change

The chart below does a pretty good job of showing the climate changes that occurred as my species moved from being a general purpose biped to Homo sapiens.  It covers the last half-million years and gives the global mean temperature.  A text I read  a half-century back referred to Homo sapiens as “interglacial.”  The rises and drops in the  chart demonstrate that.  Modern man developed during climate change.  The frosts and snows didn’t support developing agriculture 100,000 years ago (as the chart below shows).

This next chart deals with the last 8,000 years – the time when agriculture was developed.  Looking at the two charts shows that there were few warming windows for hunters and gatherers to make the shift to horticulture and agriculture.  Climate change is no stranger to my species.

The charts illustrate why “Climate Change” doesn’t seem much of a theory, while “Anthropic Global Warming” can be tested.  500 million years of glaciations and interglacials may be better served by physicists and geologists than political activists. 

From my handful of somewhat related studies, I can only conclude that the warming climate came along at the right time for my species to develop agriculture . . .. and that is definitely a good thing for me.


Heller- More Than a Single Court Decision

Much of the law on firearms accessibility is listed in dates and names.  Miller commemorates a bad man, whose poor marksmanship led to his need for a sawed off shotgun, and a court decision that short-barreled shotguns weren’t suitable for military use.  On the other hand, Heller’s name is immortalized in the court case that restored the second amendment after Miller took it away.  “The court ruled that the District of Columbia must give Heller a license to possess a handgun inside his home. In the process, the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms and that the district’s handgun ban and trigger lock requirement violated the Second Amendment.” 

The National Review simplified the decision starting with “Here’s a quick (and, given its 64 pages, necessarily highly selective) summary of Justice Scalia’s opinion for a 5-member majority in District of Columbia v. Heller, invalidating D.C.’s handgun ban on Second Amendment grounds:

1.  The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense at home.  (2-54)

      (a) In the Second Amendment’s operative clause (“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”), the phrase “the right of the people” creates “a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”  ( 5-7)

In the phrase “to keep and bear Arms”, the word “Arms” “extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”  (8)  The phrase “keep … Arms” means “have weapons.”  (Slip op. at 8-9).  The phrase “bear Arms” means to “carry weapons” and was understood as part of “the natural right of defense ‘of one’s person or house”.  (9-18)  It “in no way connotes participation in a structured military organization.”  Justice Stevens’s claim that “bear Arms” “connotes the actual carrying of arms … but only in the service of an organized militia” incoherently gives “Arms” two different meanings at once:  

It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.”  Grotesque.  [13]

      The operative clause thus guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.  This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment.”  (19-22)

 (b) The relevant question for the prefatory clause (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”) is whether it is consistent with our reading of the operative clause.  (4-5, 22.)  The phrase “well regulated Militia” means “all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”  (22-24)  The phrase “security of a free state” meant “security of a free polity,” not security of each of the several States.  (24) [This point would seem to defeat one of the strongest arguments against incorporating the Second Amendment against the States.]

            The prefatory clause “fits perfectly” with the operative clause, as the founding generation knew that “the way tyrants had eliminated a militia … was not by banning the militia but simply by taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or standing army to suppress political opponents.”  (25)  But the prefatory clause “does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting.”  (26)

 (c) Our interpretation is confirmed by analogous provisions in state constitutions (27-30), is not undercut by the drafting history of the Second Amendment (30-32), is consistent with how virtually all interpreters of the Second Amendment interpreted it in the century after its enactment (32-47), and is not foreclosed by any of our precedents (47-54), including United States v. Miller (49-53).

The whole article is available at and worth reading

 You can hear Scalia’s opinion here:

Still, Dick Heller has gone far past a single Supreme Court decision – his foundation goes on to list ( ) 3 more completed court cases, and a fourth undescribed but upcoming.  His most recent – Heller 4 – dealt with keeping the ability to build your own gun in DC.


4th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Community Hall

This year, a traditional sit-down meal will be possible (though it isn’t the only option). The dinner is taking place at both the community hall and the Trego Pub on Thanksgiving Day. The meal (and delivery) are free- though donations (of any kind) are welcome. If previous experience is any indication- the food will be excellent. Food includes mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, ham, green bean casserole, corn, rolls and sweet potatoes. And pie (apple or pumpkin). Folks who can’t get out are welcome to call ahead and order until the 24th.

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Many thanks to all of the volunteers who make this possible!


To Cook a Wild Turkey

Things are not always as they appear.  I’m used to domestic turkeys, purchased from a grocery store, stuffed and baked.  Frankly, it’s easy to do a passable job cooking a domestic turkey, and that experience doesn’t transfer readily to a wild turkey.

After screwing up, I realized that it would be more appropriate to research instructions for cooking wild turkeys on the net, and including, emphasizing the word wild.  The first instruction set I found explained that roasting the wild turkey dried it out – baste frequently, or deep fat fry the beast.  Other instructions included crock potting and pressure cooking the creature.

Sam has a grudge against turkeys – they’ve decided to dig up and devour her flower bulbs.  Eating garden predators seems appropriate – and other suggestions I’ve found include adding beer or wine.  One suggested that the purpose of stuffing is to absorb the taste of the wild, and that the stuffing should not be eaten.

So I went to the bass-pro website – 8 Simple Recipes for Wild Turkey.  None of these recipes included baking the whole bird – the general recommendation is shoot in the head, field dress immediately, and grill the breasts.

That seems simple enough – but the next step is slicing the turkey breasts into filets that are about a half-inch thick.  Now when you’re marinating these in a mix of ⅔ cup of soy sauce, a cup of brown sugar, a quarter cup of lemon juice, ⅓ cup of honey, plus minced garlic, tenderizing sauce and Adolph’s meat tenderizer, it would be a good time to open that first beer.  The instructions are to marinate it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Better open that second beer, too – this is obviously not the recipe developed by the Pilgrims 500 years ago.

End by grilling these fileted breasts for about 10 minutes over a fairly hot fire.

I can handle this.  As I write, I think about the story of my father – those who remember him will recall his blindness – so his decision was to get the turkeys accustomed to going into a cage for grain, then going in grabbing a turkey, and wringing its neck.  Age had kind of weakened the old man, and he explained that he didn’t have the strength to wring the bird’s neck – he had to stand his ground choking it as it beat on him with wings and feet.  In the end, the score was Mac 1, turkey 0.  I think it was his last turkey hunt.

Now that I have a better recipe, I might try another wild turkey.  But I have to admit, the Hutterite raised turkeys have spoiled me.


Covid- Looking at the Numbers

We’re starting to see the big numbers showing up on Covid – 46,490,733 total cases to date and 760,551 deaths (  Likewise, I see more cases, and more deaths, among friends and neighbors.  For quick and sloppy math, let’s assume 50 million cases in a population of 330 million – the numbers aren’t exactly right, but it’s a lot easier to figure that 5 out of every 33 Americans have had covid.

We can argue that unreported cases increase the numbers.  We can argue that poor testing inflates the numbers.  Regardless, it’s going to be on the order of 16% – and I recall that, when the Spanish Flu ended, one out of four people had gone through that infection.  Comparing that figure with Covid infections suggest that we’ve reached the end of the beginning and are moving toward the beginning of the end.  Personally, it’s not soon enough – but the hazy numerical trend is visible.   At Trego school, 5 of 27 students have been sick with covid – 18.5%, not significantly different from national statistics.

Is the Corona virus going to be like the flu – changing just enough to be a perpetual seasonal plague?  Will we see an increasing amount of deaths?  Beats me – I’m a demographer, not a virologist.  What I do know is that having several host species has made the flu harder to fight – swine flu, bird flu – and easier to keep developing new variants.  The Corona may be with us regularly – just as Spanish flu was an H1N1 variety, we’ve had other H1N1 returns.  Spanish flu was credited with 675,000 US deaths – out of a 1920 population of 106 million – a rate somewhere around 0.6 percent.  Somewhere on the order of one out of each 160 Americans died of Spanish flu.  Each death was significant to the people who died, to their families and friends – just as the ¾ million listed as dying of covid.

The vaccines we have are fragile – and apparently need boosters not years later, but months.  Still, the Spanish flu showed that most of those infected survive.  It took the better part of a thousand years to develop effective immunization for smallpox.  Totally whipping the coronavirus may take a while.  It may not be in my lifetime.  But as more and more people catch and fight off the virus, as the virus spreads through the population, the resistance to infection increases.

The numbers show that it may be a while before we see the end of the pandemic, we have passed the end of the beginning.  In a normal distribution, when we’re past the first 16%, we’re starting into the portion that is considered normal.


We All Have Dark Skinned Ancestors

Race is a social construct.  The incontrovertible evidence has only been uncovered recently, as DNA analysis became more a mature technology – but the theoretical explanation has been out there at least since I was an undergraduate in the sixties. 

White skin color is pretty much an accident, requiring the correct set of genes, and cereal based agriculture to make my pale skin better for soaking up sunlight in the northern latitudes and producing vitamin D.  Some northern dwellers didn’t turn pale – their food sources were rich in vitamin D.  Somewhere around 7,000 years ago, northern European grain farmers started getting pale.  It appears to have taken about 1.500 years to become a social thing.

The DNA evidence comes from a technology I haven’t mastered.  It’s kind of like fingerprints – we accept the expert’s testimony, largely on faith.  I’ve sat on graduate committees where the work was done with DNA manipulation.  I’ve extracted DNA.  Still I lack the knowledge to replicate the research . . . so I take it on faith.  Faith in the scientists who do have the knowledge.  Faith that it matches the hypothesis I learned half a century ago.  Faith that skin color is such an insignificant difference between humans.  The knowledge that “race” as we know it is the product of a graduate student’s research about 250 years ago. 

This brief video covers the development of white skin color in under ten minutes.

A longer, more complete explanation:

Both are worth watching.