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This is one of my favorite meals, I don't make it very often but it is super good.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Roasted Chicken, you can get it already cooked at most grocery stores or Costco
  • 1 cup frozen or wilted fresh chopped spinach (thawed and squeeze water out so it is dry)
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped chives
  • 1 cup of grated Monterrey jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup cream of chicken soup

Instructions:
  • Take the chicken apart, and cube 3 cups in 1/4 size cubes, set aside
  • Mix all of the above ingredients together
  • Purchase Pepperidge Farm Patty Shells (2 Pkgs) and let thaw to room temp
  • Roll out with a little flour to approx. a 5" circle size
  • Place the mixture on the lower half of the circle approx 2 tablespoons,
  • Fold over top half and crimp with a fork to look like a turnover.
  • Brush the tops with a mixture of beaten egg and 1teaspoon water
  • Bake in over temp. of 425 for 18 minutes or until golden brown.



I've been thinking a lot about Survival lately, what with the 8th season of Walking Dead starting up and our impending nuclear war with North Korea. In my day job as a networking nerd I deal with communication on a daily basis, but as a society our world is becoming much to dependent on Digital communication.  In a survival scenario ain't no one got time to troubleshoot packet loss!

This has got me thinking about radio and the role they might play in self sufficient communications.

I've been telling myself I am going to take the HAM radio test, but haven't got around to it yet. So I started researching the GMRS and FRS radio systems and was surprised just how capable the GMRS systems are and how easy it is to get an FCC license.

GMRS, FRS and MURS radios are excellent for local communications, but are much more capable then just those 19 dollar radio shack hand held units. FRS and MURS do not require an FCC license, they’re cheap, and easy to use. They’ve pretty much replaced CB radios for a lot of families. In fact they share a lot of the same limitation on power and range. There is something to be said for their availability though, and in a disaster scenario you could probably scrounge up a number of these radios from anywhere.

If you have a true GMRS radio, you have a much more capable radio.

GMRS radios have the ability to tap into a repeater, which expands the radio's range to possibly hundreds of miles — meaning your local family radio can be transformed into a life saving communication device. GMRS radios are also allowed to operate at higher power than a lot of other radios, this will expand their local communication even without a repeater. You do need an FCC license to operate the GMRS radios, but they are easy to get, with no test required (a big bonus considering how hard the HAM test is), and they cost around $70 dollars. Also, you only have to renew the license every 5 years and one license covers your entire family.

So here's the rub!  Getting your License for GMRS is a no brainer, and playing around to build a repeater sounds pretty fun. But in a true emergency you should give your self every advantage. So buying a GMRS radio might not be the way to go. In a true life threatening emergency you can communicate on HAM radio frequencies as a last resort. So what should I get?

Well, it's not illegal for a non-HAM licensed individual to own a HAM radio...its just illegal for a non-licensed individual to transmit on the designated amateur radio frequencies.  That being said, many of the HAM radios can be programmed to transmit on the same GMRS FRS channels your store bought hand held radios transmit on. In addition to leveraging the thousands of GMRS and FRS radios, you can program channels/bookmarks for GMRS and HAM radio repeaters in your area, NOAA weather channels, frequencies used by emergency personnel and groups, as well as maritime radio frequencies.  Having these frequencies pre-programed and documented can truly make the difference in a stressful emergency situation. The best part is you can get some of these radios for pretty cheap.

Hardware:
To start exploring the world of radio you probably don't want to go drop hundreds of dollars on radio equipment so my suggestion (and the radio I have been exploring) is the BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio (Black). This radio can be programmed as a HAM radio as well as FRS and GMS frequencies. I know a lot of hardcore peppers are going to disagree with this radio and I agree the quality and reliability will be less than more expensive radios. But if you want to get your feet wet $30 dollars is an acceptable amount for most people to experiment with to see if this solution works for them. The radio is small and has an operating Frequency Range of 65-108 MHz (only commercial FM radio reception) VHF: 136-174 MHz(Rx/Tx). UHF: 400-520 MHz(Rx/Tx).  You will probably want to purchase the USB programming cable as well, this makes uploading and downloading the frequencies a way easier. Baofeng Programming Cable for BAOFENG UV-5R/5RA/5R Plus/5RE, UV3R Plus, BF-888S

      


Radio Configuration:
There are a ton of people out there with great articles on how to program this radio specifically, so I have put together a list I used to set up mine:

Programing the Radio:
Both guides were straight forward the only issue I ran into was downloading the correct driver for my radio programming cable.
Survival Channels for the Baofeng Radio (this is step by step guide on how to config your radio)
Manually Programming the Baofeng Radio (the same thing but a really good youtube resource)
CHIRP (Radio programing software)

GMRS Radio License:
Getting your GMRS License (This is a guide to getting your GMRS license put out by the AGRC)
FCC Website (The FCC Website discussing the GMRS license regulations)

General Survival Radio Sites:
Graywolf Survival (Their post discusses survival radio options as well as emergency frequencies)


At the end of the day HAM radio is still the defacto survival communication standard, and is an important institution that needs to survive. I just wanted to pose an option that seems practical and more attainable to those who may not feel they are capable to getting a HAM radio license.











After tasting every drink at our local Tiki bar my wife and I wanted to reproduce our favorite The Macadamia Nut Chi Chi. This drink is easy to make, but the most important part of the drink is a good quality Macadamia Nut liqueur. We cheeped out the first time and the drink tasted horrible, after finding the Trader Vics Macadamia Nut liqueur we reproduced the drink exactly.

Ingredients:
- 2 ounce Vodka
- 1 ounce Macadamia Nut liqueur
- 1 ounce Creme of Coconut
- 4 ounces Pineapple Juice

...
Instructions:
Fill a shaker with crushed ice
Add ingredients to the shaker and shake like crazy
(Longer you shake frothier it gets)
Poor into your favorite tiki mug

Aloha!!!!!

Enjoying Disneyland is different for everyone.  There are different ride preferences and different priorities whether you're old, young, or have kids; whether you flew around the world for a one-time experience or if you go to Disneyland frequently.

For my wife and I, enjoying the park when we were younger meant going hard for 16 hours to ride every ride as many times as we could.  Back then we'd only go once every 5-10 years. Now that we are a little bit older and were lucky enough to justify an annual pass this year we turned from young-go-hards to Disney pros. I am not saying we are the best at Disneyland — as if that's even a thing — but we have found time to enjoy the intricacies Imagineers and cast members put into the park.


Everyone one does Disneyland differently but we have found a system that works for us and lets us ride all the rides we want to normally by noon. So this is how we do it.

First key is to plan a trip on days that aren't expected to get too busy.  We like to use isitpacked.com and undercovertourist.com crowd prediction calendars.  The next key is to get to the park early.  I don't mean when its still dark, and at opening is already getting busy, so somewhere in-between.

Since about 2015 Disney instituted a security check point to ensure everyone enjoys a safe visit.  That will be your first line.  And it makes the day a lot brighter to be extra nice to the security officers as well as having any bags open and clear of contraband.  Nowadays we don't bring bags into the park at all, even my wife leaves the purse at home.  Only items that we can carry in our pockets, which is usually credit cards/Disneyland ticket in a wallet, a phone, sunglasses, and sometimes an expandable shopping bag that clips onto a belt loop if we know we're going to buy souvenirs.  Again, no kids. And on that note, find a line with the least strollers and backpacks and you'll breeze through security.

A rare time when there was no security line first thing in the morning.

Normally the park opens at 8am and we will arrive around 7am (although always check because times vary day-to-day, including Extra Magic Hour and Magic Mornings). That gets us through security and a good place in the line without waiting for hours. Also, the majority of families with kids aren't at the gate that early. We feel you families - its hard enough to get our adult-selves ready.


Then you'll get in line to enter the park.  We normally pick a line in the middle of the gates because they tend to move slightly faster. Strollers slow the line down as do first-day visitors because they get a picture taken.

Disneyland actually opens its front gates about 15 minutes prior to the actual opening time everyday. This allows them to start moving people through to the back of the park without stopping at Main Street shops.  They keep the park roped off either at the end of Main Street stores on a normal day, or around the entrances to the lands in the Plaza if you're enjoying an early morning such as Magic Morning (3 or more-day park hopper) or Extra Magic Hour (Disneyland Resort guests).  If you're at the park for an early morning, only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are open.  People will queue up at the rope in anticipation of a magical morning!



Now to the meat of the morning.  The majority of visitors will sprint to the castle to get in line for Peter Pan (please walk in the park!).  Who voted Peter Pan the "Best Ride Ever", I don't know.  I mean I love it, but I love every ride.  If you want to ride Peter Pan without waiting 45+ minutes then do head that way and watch for the line that usually forms out towards the drawbridge on the right. It will seem long but the cast members "release" the line in stages as it fills.  If you don't go to Peter Pan first thing, another option is to hit Peter Pan right after fireworks in the evening.


Immediately after or instead of Peter Pan, we usually go straight into Tomorrowland.  This land is very popular and will become extremely packed as the day goes on, but in the early morning it's usually fairly empty.  Of course you'll want to take advantage of Fast Passes or Max Pass.  We usually book a fast pass for Space Mountain right away.  With the old fast pass system this means you walk all the way to the entrance in the back to get a fast pass.  Then we'll hop on Star Tours once or twice while the wait is 10-15 minutes and do Astro Blasters (walk on as many times as you want).


Next its on to New Orleans Square on the opposite side of the park.  You really get your steps in at Disneyland!  We always ride Pirates of the Caribbean first and as many times as we can.  Ever since Johnny Depp visited the ride its become a bit more popular.  After Pirates we ride Haunted Mansion. Then Pirates or Haunted again if the wait times are 20 minutes or less. At this point its usually time for Space Mountain (around 9:15 maybe) and that means we can get another fast pass!  We usually get a Big Thunder Railroad fast pass which allows us to walk directly on the ride - no waiting in the 30 minute line.  Nice right?  Then we head back over to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain.  If we can get another reasonable fast pass for Space Mountain or Star Tours (11 or 12 am), we do it.

Ah, the magic of no people in the park yet!

Then we head to Fantasyland to ride the original kiddie rides in the castle area.  Fantasyland is usually pretty empty by this point because the Peter Pan overflow rush is over and visitors are hitting the bigger rides we've already done.  Also, since these rides are older the AC does not work as well in lines and LA is hot.  Riding in the afternoon tends to be a bit warm in line.

After Fantasyland we like to take the path by Red Rose Taverne and head back to Adventureland/New Orleans Square.  Maybe get a fast pass for Indiana Jones at this point.  Watch that ride though as it frequently breaks down throughout the day.  It's usually repaired within the hour. We can ride Big Thunder, Pirates, and Haunted again as these are favorites.  Alternatively you could also ride Jungle Cruise, the Mark Twain Riverboat, or head around to Critter Country.  Splash Mountain is a good ride in the afternoon, cuz you will get wet.  But the line will get long so if you want to ride this one, around noon is a good time or take advantage of single rider.


This is a good time to eat and we like Bengal Barbecue a lot in Adventure Land. There are many eateries in Disneyland to choose from and that's another blog post!

The remainder of the morning/early afternoon we'll wander around and ride maybe The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Autotopia, and other Fantasyland rides we may have skipped if the line was long, like Alice in Wonderland.  We may also visit Toon Town.  Around 3 or 4pm you might want to hop on the Disneyland Railroad and take a lap or two around the park.  It's a good way to give your feet a break and cool down.  The best place to get on (with the shortest line) that we've found is in Tomorrowland.  We also love to ride the Monorail but usually time-it to when we want to go to Downtown Disney or if we're hopping to California Adventure.  Its nice in the evening too and since the Monorail does not have AC, it could be taken out of commission during hot days for safety reasons.


Of course there are a few rides we don't really care to ride (which may shock some readers so please be warned!).  We don't ride the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage...bad experience...and we typically only ride Matterhorn Bobsleds and It's a Small World if we're visiting with others who haven't ridden or really want to ride these.  So these are missing from our tour on purpose.  From experience, Matterhorn line will get a very long during the day/evening and either riding in the morning or getting a fast pass are the ways to go. 


In the afternoon and evening you'll notice the park is much, much busier. Because you had a perfect Disney morning and hit all the rides, this is a good time to slow down and enjoy shops on Main Street, do some shows, read about the park (all in AC - LA is still hot).  We also like to do the Tiki Bar in the evening and get a Dole Whip.  If you're planning a show or parade, you'll usually need to start saving a seat at least an hour ahead of time.  You can always walk up last minute but you're not guaranteed a good spot.


Of course the key to all of this is to use the Disneyland app or any of the other wait time apps available to monitor ride times.  Don't wait if the ride is too long - get a fast pass and ride something else in between.

And think about investing in an annual pass if you are going to visit the park more than six days in the year.  At the end of 2016 we knew we had a couple trips lined up so we did the math on buying several 3-day park hoppers versus the annual pass.  At the price of a 2017 3-day park hopper pass (approximately $315), an annual pass (approximately $600) broke even for us if we went 6 days or more.  To do the math as prices adjust each year, just take the amount of the passes you would normally buy, divide by the total number of days visited in the year.  Then take the current annual pass price and divide by the same number of days to compare which is better.

We've ended up going 20+ days in 2017.  Tons of money saved on tickets....don't ask how much spent in support of the habit!