360 Degrees

Ever find yourself viewing investigation footage and wondering just what the heck was going on behind the camera? I have, and once in awhile it drives me bananas. Even though my lens might pick up a 180 degree field of view, in many cases that’s only part of the space.

One such investigation included a fascinating purple and black mist which only appeared on video. It moved around the room, reacted to still camera flashes, changed color, varied in size, and then disappeared somewhere behind the camera. I thought I was doing the right thing by placing my device about a foot in front of the door and adjacent closet. So where did the mist go? Could it have disappeared into the closet or out the door? Your guess is as good as mine. It might have formed into a red-eyed devil, standing out of camera range giving us all a bunch of invisible demonic obscene gestures. Well, probably not, but if it did, I missed it.

I want to see everything in the room – all four corners, the floor, the ceiling… I want to see it all, dammit! But I can’t afford enough cameras to double up in every room or active area. It’s just not fair, is it? (Slight pause for righteous indignation.) But there is a solution. A 360 degree camera sees everything. You can put that bad boy in the middle of the room and nothing escapes it. If it was gonna show up on video; if it wanted to be seen, a 360 will happily oblige.

We’ve all seen the results of a 360. They’re used for virtual reality films. On computer or tablet, you can place your cursor in the middle of the screen and move throughout the frame taking in all areas and angles. When viewing 360 results in editing software, you find a panoramic-shaped video that reveals every last inch of the area in question. You don’t need a VR headset or cursor – it’s all right there in front of you. If Mr. Mist wants to run into the closet, you’ve got him. If he flies through the kitchen wall into the bedroom, you might also capture him from the bedroom cam, but either way, you’ve got the shot. That’s pretty cool beans, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, extremely high quality full spectrum 360 cams are fairly expensive, and you still have the problem of providing an infrared or full spectrum light source – possibly more than one depending on the size of the room. We’re paranormal investigators, not hedge fund managers, so investing in extremely expensive 360’s might deplete little Bobbie’s college fund. But there’s a solution to this as well. Turn on some light! By now you should know investigating does not require complete darkness. Lots of paranormal shenanigans occur in broad daylight, and a low light level has never stopped a spirit from talking or appearing.

There are several brands of 360 cameras available for $150 or less. Now, you gotta be careful because we’re not talking about baby cams or the dashboard variety – we’re talking about good quality cameras with a high enough resolution to do the job properly. I can’t resist offering a couple of names – fly360 and Samsung each have a small variety of models that record excellent video in low light. There are others. A little experimenting with light placement might be in order, but even so, the right video editing software will allow you to further lighten the room after the fact. You should be viewing your evidence with “real” software anyway, and the costs are not great for an adequate product. After all, you’re not making the great American film, you’re reviewing evidence.

“So great! How much stuff have you captured so far?” Well… Good paranormal video evidence is not an every day occurrence, but I’ve had surprising results on every camera I’ve ever used and in all kinds of lighting situations. My confidence level is high. So high, I’ve invested in three 360 cameras, just in case there’s a situation where visible light is in order. Until now, I’ve only actually used two at the same time during an investigation, but keep in mind, any deployment of a 360 cam will not remove the need for other methods. I still use an array of wide angle full spectrum cams, as well as trail cameras, thermal attachments, still cameras, and monoculars that record. But adding 360 degree capability to the arsenal of any investigation seems like a no-brainer to me. Plus, it improves your opportunity to be creative and thorough. I recommend it.

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“There Is No Silence” by Randall Keller. On Amazon. http://t.co/lKo9kyuHOF

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Is Bigger Better?

During one of those three story investigations, I discovered myself huffing and puffing, grabbing my chest, blowing my nose, and desperately searching for a place to collapse and locate my little bottle of nitro. I was running the cables from home base to many positioned IR cameras – up and down three flights no less than 22 times (you may remember, I’m a counter), and I still had to check the DVR to set the camera angles. After a few moments of rest, I returned to normal, but lamenting the prospect of repeating the process when the investigation was finished. Ugh. There had to be a better way.

My DVR had been acting bananas for a couple of months; I owned a mile of cable; unpacking the car at 3:00 am took til 4:00 am… never let it be said I am not dedicated. And I knew all of it might actually, literally kill me. Seriously! That’s how bad it was; that’s how bad I felt.

But finally, after that three story job I mentioned, late the following morning, I noticed my GoPro’s come hither look from the side pocket of one of those equipment bags. A cartoon light bulb turned on over my head. If I could replace all my cameras with GoPro-style equipment, I was certain that every uncomfortable, unhealthy moment could be avoided. Plus, the results would logically improve through clearer footage, and cleaner processes. Even my stressed-out heart gave a sigh of relief at the possibilities. There would be problems, of course – extended battery life, portable lighting for full spectrum cameras, tiny tripods; a whole slew of minor stuff. I knew that if this grand experiment was going to work, all of these hurdles had to be cleanly jumped.

Bigger is not always better, and I made it a personal quest to prove just that. So what happened? Not only did my pre-investigation setup become easier, I could bring everything in and out of the location with one simple trip. Gone were the days of potential heart attacks and collapsed lungs; of several metal suitcases; of heavy stuff that required other heavy stuff to function. My knees were actually praising God out loud. The throbbing in my temples had disappeared, and there was more time available for actual investigating. Sounds like a win/win, right?

Of course, different ideas are always a work in progress, but the end results have been noticeable. Video quality is better, the lenses are wide angle and therefore more area is included in the shots. Analysis can be done on an iPad whenever I want; wherever I am. Almost every aspect of my participation in the investigation has drastically improved. I’m already spoiled because I am taking so much of it for granted. I might even go so far as to suggest that smaller is better.

I’ve since incorporated a second GoPro, 3 good quality full spectrum GoPro knockoffs, a 360fly cam, 2 Samsung 360 cams (or 180), a Trail Cam, a Seek thermal attachment, a FLIR attachment, a Bushnell night vision monocular that records, and a ridiculous amount of support stuff including portable IR lighting and various ways of mounting the small cameras practically anywhere. Is bigger better? I think not.

I’ve got a lot of micro SDs to keep track of, but I can literally walk out the door with all my evidence in my front left pocket. Please keep in mind that none of this is a criticism of the old ways. Those ways have just stopped working for me personally. So for me, bigger is definitely not better. But what’s the point in telling you all of this? Beside the notion that I’m entitled to my opinion, it occurs to me our field is actually going in this direction anyway. The kind of equipment we use in this field is getting better and better, as well as smaller and smaller. Good quality equipment is actually getting more affordable, and new capabilities are becoming more easily available. But then, to be honest, it’s unfair and wrong to suggest that this is the only way to go. However, for those of you who are beginning to feel that infernal full-body burn during and after every investigation, I think it’s worth consideration.

[Over the next few months, from time to time, I’ll focus in on a specific area of this “small” experiment.]

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“There Is No Silence” by Randall Keller. On Amazon. http://t.co/lKo9kyuHOF

Conscience

This will not be a rant against Trump, although I am no supporter. I do hope he succeeds in helping the country, but I see no evidence of that. Besides, others are more eloquent than I on such matters. Likewise, I won’t bash Congressional Republicans or party leaders, or conservatives, or alt-righters, or conspiracy theorists, or fascists, Nazis, NRA supporters, or racists, male supremacists, homophobes, xenophobes, or any other “phobes.” To my friends who will vehemently disagree with me, try to understand that I can no more quiet my thoughts than you can your own. And what I say is no less valid. In this country, that’s the way it is.

But clearly, something is bothering me. This is a paranormal blog for the most part, and I’ve been inactive for some months. What could possibly have awakened me enough to comment? Well, I am restarting the blog. It never went away, you know, it just got ridiculously boring what with the lack of new entries and such. But it’s back, baby. And it will remain a paranormal blog for the most part, but man does not live by ectoplasm alone, so I’m mixing in some personal thoughts along the way. This entry is one of those.

“Okay, dude, but you’re all over the place here. What has you stoked enough to get back to poetic waxing… or whatever?” Glad you asked – man’s inhumanity to man, of course. ”Oh. That again.” I know, it’s a hackneyed subject; been done before, ad nausea; nothing to see here folks, move along. But in the last couple of years, those trampling all over their fellow human’s lives have obviously received Ph.D.’s in the subject – doctors of nastiness; experts in unholiness; assholiness, if you will. Lately, Americans have taken their mental defectiveness to levels heretofore unimaginable in a civilized society. As John Lennon once said – “One thing you can’t hide, is when you’re crippled inside.” I think the secret is out.

“Okay, but what is specifically chapping your thighs? Get on with it!” It started when this government, we the people, this proud nation began separating children from parents at the southern border. People fell prey to an American juggernaut and found themselves in cages waiting to be deported while their children were being placed in foster homes or worse – no doubt one day to face their own deportation. And this is what is bothering me. Not big enough of a deal for you? Got kids?

I don’t really care whether they are unqualified to receive asylum. Fine, say no and send them packing. I don’t care if they’re brown people and you don’t like brown people, you can’t steal their children. Those days are long gone, Massah. In fact, there are very few situations that allows anyone that right. Besides, they’re not US citizens – you can’t do that to “others” just because you want to. Or, maybe you can.

Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves? I am. Aren’t you amazed at how morally bankrupt you have proven us all to truly be? Doesn’t it occur to you that there will be history books which will devote entire chapters to this in very unflattering terms? Is this what Jesus would do? Or any god anywhere? And please don’t suggest you have to be strong with “these people,” because these actions are indicative of an immense weakness of character – not strength. And please don’t tell me you’re protecting the rule of law, because we all know how you really feel about that. In fact, don’t say a word. Nothing you could say will ever serve to justify this abhorrent behavior, and somewhere, way deep inside of your cold heart, you know it. What’s next, by the way? Death? Gas chambers? Can an immoral action lay claim to a moral end? I’d love to hear of a single example. Or maybe our definitions of morality are vastly different.

Let’s face it, folks. We’re not the people we thought we were. We’re certainly not who we say we are or claim to be. This is who we have become. This is who we are now. This is a choice.

To paraphrase, Jesus said, “how you treat the least of these is how you treat me.” I won’t explain that. If you don’t get it, then the shoe fits and ya gotta wear it. But it actually doesn’t matter because if our country exercises such brutal injustice, so do all of its citizenry. We stand together and we fall together. We are all, therefore, “good Germans.” We are responsible. Say that out loud until it sinks in. We are all party and complicit in this grotesque display of inhuman behavior. We are responsible for removing innocent children from innocent families to… what? Make a point? That kind of makes us monsters and we seem to be okay with it.

And some of you will strongly disagree and show just how deeply in denial you have fallen. And others will cry and moan and wring your hands. “What are we to do?” Sniff sniff. And still others will refuse to accept their personal culpability, but in a democracy, that’s how it goes. Shouldn’t we try at least to do something about this? Shouldn’t we do something? “What you do to the least of these you do to me.” Shouldn’t we ask for forgiveness at least – shouldn’t we just stop this? Like NOW? Stop obfuscating, stop lying, stop concealing – stop doing this. The damage already done to America will echo back at us over and over for decades, and we’ll figure out how to deal with it. But how do we deal with the damage caused to one innocent child? Damage directly caused by us. How many damaged children will it take before we all agree? Because that day will come. We won’t just agree, we’ll know.

[ Next entry will focus on the paranormal. ]

Ever Since…

Ever since my stroke (yes, it was a real, bonafide stroke), I’ve developed a slight, but highly annoying inability to write. The resulting brain damage occurred exclusively in the speech area of the brain, so finding the right word is sometimes a challenge, but I cover it well, and no one notices. Still, putting pen on paper (even metaphorically) is also a problem, and this has only served to lengthen my streak of zero current blog entries. Likewise, too much confusion around me seems to create a sensory overload of some kind and usually results in a quick exit from the building.

Ever since my mother broke her hip, I’ve been visiting her in the rehab facility every day. Watching so many elderly people struggle to regain control of their own bodies has given me a strong and renewed respect for the “state of age.” For the most part, these folks are doggedly steady in their pursuit of returning to normalcy, and even though I’m not chronologically too far away from them, I know I would have given up long before the Wednesday cold lunch with pickled beets ever arrived on the tray. Old people rock, and if you don’t know that yet, get ready to be impressed.

Ever since my daughter’s softball coach started to mess with her swing, she’s become a very average hitter. Until recently, that is. I always told her not pay any attention to him; do what she’s always done, and continue tearing up opposing pitchers. “If I don’t do what he wants, dad, he’ll bench me. I want to play.” Okay, I understand. However, it’s her senior year, and she’s finally decided to return to the days of yore and ignore his unsuccessful tinkering. After all, what could he do now? She has once again been tearing up opposing pitchers and receiving high praise for it. Praise such as “you’ve finally decided to listen to me” and “that’s what I’ve been telling you all along!” It’s nonsense, of course, but who cares – we know the truth. Go Wolverines!

Ever since I decided to go out of my way to be polite to everyone, I’ve been happier. Not much else to say about that, and sometimes I still revert to my old rude self, but I truly feel better about everything. It has given purpose to all sorts of mundane daily events, and makes me a better driver as well. There’s a very long list of noticeable improvements. I do sometimes miss the act of practicing unsolicited nastiness, and the occasional personal insult can be invigorating and provide it’s own rewards, but for the most part, the dark force doesn’t linger very long and leaves a bad aftertaste. Being polite tends to last longer and sometimes changes my entire day for the better. The force is strong with this one. “Thank you,” he politely answers… with a winsome smile.

Ever since I started eavesdropping to help occupy my time in doctor’s offices, waiting rooms, parking lots, cafeteria lines, elevator queues, and other such venues tailor made for violating personal space, I’ve decided that human beings are stupid. Not all of us, of course – you and I are just fine, but “they” are certifiable idiots. I never used to eavesdrop – I was always able to drown them out with my own thoughts. But I guess I ran out of those and now eavesdropping is my sport of preference. Lately, I’ve heard all about how Irving was caught with the neighbor lady in his car, how Jennifer’s mother claims that watering her plants with urine makes them grow better, that Marge believes her “pastor over some scientist any day,” and that someone down in room 218 of the nursing home has bedded three different widows this month alone. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Digital cameras have ruined the art of photography; the Japanese have an army of Samurai and ninjas; nylon comes from llama fur (I swear), and finally, that “the human body wasn’t made to be seen naked.” You see? People are stupid. And it seems to take a lifetime to rise above it, or so one can hope. But eventually we all get there, I think, and ever since I arrived at that opinion I find it a little easier to forgive. Myself, of course. The rest of the world is still unworthy, and besides – a whole army of Samurai and ninjas sounds pretty cool.
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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon

There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.  

So… Hush!

I haven’t written in this space for quite some time, but it wasn’t for lack of anything to say – I always have something to say. There just wasn’t any time. And you know that happens – one’s time often fills up quickly with important life issues, and before you know it, there’s none left. However, and I shudder to say it, maybe this has been a good thing.

I remember the mother of a childhood friend once saying, “no one cares what you think, Keller.” I was immediately slandered – who wouldn’t be, right? But it remained with me even to this day, and she actually wasn’t wrong. Who cares what I think about Donald Trump, for example? If you’re a supporter, contentious thoughts from me won’t convince you otherwise – more than likely, you’ll become even more entrenched. If I tell you about my belief in God, I’m sure your atheism will continue to flourish just the same. Do we really think our mediocre, everyday banter contains the stuff of greatness; with enough wisdom to move the masses? How many Delhi Llamas can there be, for God’s sake? 

It’s difficult to suggest that there’s a lesson to learn from this, but maybe we need to just keep our mouths shut more often. We seem almost consumed with the notion that there should be more and more people to agree with us – a constantly increasing, all-encompassing inter-galactic consensus. It’s become some kind of an imperative! As though the world itself will cease to exist if “the others” get their hands on it, and possibly that will one day be the case, but history is full of good and bad alike while “the others” were in charge, and we’re still here. There are some life issues that transcend simple opinion, of course – we need to take better care of the planet, one shouldn’t be cruel to animals, murder is bad… Hard to disagree with those, and we can all think of items to add to the list, but these never seem to be the burning passions of the day.

We follow all kinds of temporary mantras instead. Who gets a tax break, should we spend more money to feed the poor, bikinis are sinful, etc. etc. etc. And I’m willing to confess, I want everyone to get a tax break, most of my friends are poor, and bikinis are a clear public service. More and more, I’m leaving these kinds of issues alone. Maybe it’s old age, or a rapid and unexpected loss of electricity in my brain’s microtubules, but I like to think it has something to do with my friend’s mother – “no one cares what you think, Keller.”

I mean, do you? Do you really give a rat’s appendix what I pontificate about? Is your life so wanting that you hang on my every word? I’d be shocked if you did. Will your opinion be changing should I suddenly suggest that cannibalism is an accepted dietary alternative, or if I campaign on the virtues of war with Canada? I think not. You’re so much more intelligent than that! Perhaps you’ll listen with interest if I wax poetic about a subject in which I am proficient – EVP, for instance, but if you’re really smart, even then you’ll listen objectively and with a very large grain of salt.

So what am I saying, then? That we should all walk through life close-mouthed with nothing to say for ourselves, the state of the world, or the human condition? Of course not. I guess what I’m saying is when we do open those gaping caverns of verbal ambiguity, we might want to know going in that what we have to say isn’t so damn important. The compulsion to communicate our thoughts seems to have a greater potential for doing harm than anything else, and unless we relish embracing the dark side of The Force, we should be careful. If we don’t have something good to say, then… Oh geez – you know the rest of that sentence. Do I have to say it – it’s such an overused cliche! But isn’t it also quite true? So… Hush!

Returning to Sensibility

Sometimes, there can be a real problem separating actual life from one’s paranormal activities. When every day centers around pouring over evidence, before you know it the floors are filthy, and the bathroom has become a giant science experiment. Instead of taking care of business, huge chunks of precious time revolve around this cat and mouse game we have with the afterlife, and reality gets lost. It really has to stop.

Returning to sensibility isn’t always as easy as we might hope. It’s really boring staring at the infrared video of a chair for 8 hours, but it does beat the heck out of grocery shopping or paying the bills. Who cares if the dog hasn’t been out in a week, he’s smart – he’ll figure something out. Besides, there’s several hours of thermal footage to go over! One has to keep his priorities in order, right?

But at the end of the day, what do you really know about the afterlife anyway? I’ve always tried to learn something new each day, but if your entire consciousness is tied up in the evidence analysis of some tedious old house by the river outside of town, there’s a good chance the only thing you’ll learn is how quickly you can become sick and tired. I’ve tried to remedy that in any way possible, and even if the extent of my learning consists of nothing more than useless, non-paranormal facts, at least that’s something. For instance, did you know that Americans spend an average of two weeks a year on the toilet? Or that King Farouk of Egypt was a kleptomaniac who once stole Winston Churchill’s watch. I didn’t, but I do now, and I’m sure it’s useful information, no?

Human nature fascinates me more than most subjects, so I couldn’t resist a quick break from the monitor to watch a Science Channel special on the topic. Good thing too, because I didn’t learn a thing from my research, but I did learn that unbroken eye contact is not a sign of honesty, but a good clue that someone is lying instead. That’s kinda useful info, but how many of you knew that? Plus, people are more likely to lie when they’re in a hurry. Fascinating! Believe it or not, eight percent of Americans even lie on their resumes. You know who you are, but “holy honesty, Batman.” I thought more people were trustworthy than that.

Speaking of lying, it turns out that Olympic medalist Stella Walsh was considered one of the fastest female athletes of her time, until upon her death, she was discovered to have a penis. A penis! Not too much stock in Apple, or an infatuation with other people’s toes… She had (dare I say it again) a penis. And speaking of “those,” it seems that the CIA trades Viagra to aging Afghan warlords in exchange for information. I thought gentlemen weren’t supposed to tell.

See! It’s an interesting world, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised at the amount of functional insanity that’s loose within it. Maybe that’s what drove me to paranormal studies in the first place – a little peace and quiet from all this exciting normalcy, though admittedly, I’d like to be able to say that all the hours spent scrutinizing paranormal evidence has taught me something more significant than mindless trivia. But alas, the living are every bit as intriguing as the dead. In 2013, a woman from Jonesboro, Arkansas, suspected of DUI, was arrested when she tried to flee police on a battery-powered toy truck after crashing her car. I challenge you to top that one with something paranormal. Ghosts are entertaining, but they can’t hold a candle to that poor soul.

Well, intriguing as mankind is, the one thing we don’t know anything about when it comes to the human experience is the afterlife. We guess and theorize, and we use our imaginations at every stop along the way but it’s been a very long journey, and we don’t actually know for sure where we’re going, much less which path to take. South Carolina police were once able to track a convenience store burglar right to his house by following a trail of Doritos. Too bad spirits don’t eat Doritos – we could sure use a break like that. Ah well, back to the video.

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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon

There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon

Naive?

I’ve done my share of paranormal investigating, but I consider myself a simple EVP guy. Arguably, Electronic Voice Phenomena represent the best paranormal evidence we have so far – certainly the most prolific, and I don’t know an investigator who hasn’t captured at least one. This means I’ve got some company – there are more than a few EVP guys out there, and a lot of them are really good.

If there is competition among us, I’m not aware of it. Of course there are always those on the fringe who spend more time criticizing than they do gathering evidence, but serious EVP researchers would rather learn from one another. It’s generally understood that there are pioneers in the field who will always be set apart and held in high esteem – Sarah Estep and Constantine Raudive just to name two. Latter day masters such as Mark and Debbie Constantino deserve special recognition as well. There are others, but to a man (or woman), they would find competition among us to be a distasteful waste of effort and resources.

Debbie Constantino and I once spent ten minutes discussing the possibility of alien communication through EVP. She wasn’t entirely certain whether some of her results were from across the veil or across the galaxy. A controversial concept to be sure, but we were colleagues (of sorts), so the sharing of ideas was beneficial and desired. It was fun too! Debbie is no longer with us, sadly, but I cherished the few moments we shared. She and Mark are EVP heroes of mine, and I was blessed to have met them, but even more significantly, they treated me as an equal. I wasn’t, but they were encouraging and accepting just the same.

This is how it oughta be, right? After all, aren’t we all brothers and sisters-in-arms, sharing the same impossible quest? I was taught from the beginning that the most important thing about any investigation was to take care of my teammates. That was the prime directive, and there were occasions I needed to absolutely know I wasn’t alone. Evidence was a team matter as well. There was no place for individual accomplishments; never time for posturing; no expert opinions or unarguable ideas – the team spoke with one voice. It didn’t matter who captured the best EVP, or whose photo was the more convincing – it was a group thing and we were each “all in.”

Some of what I do now is outside the structure of that comforting team environment, but I often seek the input, opinions, and advice of those I trust. They are my safety net, and without them I think most of the joy in what I do would be gone. I need their candor and generosity, and I need to access the wealth of their knowledge and understanding. From time to time, they require the same of me.

Everything I have ever done in this field was inspired by others in some way. Not to recognize the value of keeping many counsels would be arrogant and foolish, but for some, these are utopian ideas. Naive. Instead, they withhold their most dynamic investigation evidence for their own edification; never share ideas or new methodologies. Being part of a team isn’t enough, and all too often, their rising stature in the field and aspirations of fame are far more important. There’s no room in the field for this, nor is the field so shallow as to allow self-aggrandizing and narrow-minded people to prosper for very long.

I mentioned some pretty lofty names a few paragraphs ago – folks who are held in the highest regard when it comes to EVP. People who kept no secrets; who shared every detail of their life’s work with anyone who wanted to know. People who understood the greatest value of paranormal research could be found in the hopeful benefit to all of mankind. They were inspirational, and their work powerfully broadened our ideas about the human condition; work for which they deserve great recognition and respect. Instead of basking in the glory, they persevered and they made us all feel that we too could contribute. And then they actually showed us how. Naive? I don’t think so.

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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon

There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon