Thursday, March 25, 2010

Plan To Survive

I received this link in an email from a Canadian friend. It's some of the best advice on surviving everyday disasters (boat sinkings, aircraft crashes, fires) that I've ever seen.

I like the way the video automatically reloads itself as it goes through about eight segments. Also, pay particular attention to the last part (about the time they show the helicopter escape training) because (while you're unlikely to ever have to escape from a sinking helicopter)that's when they start telling you to have a plan and how to plan to have a plan. (You may have to scroll down a bit to click on the video.)

Plan to Survive

When disaster strikes who lives and who dies is not purely a matter of luck. In every disaster, from those people face once in a lifetime, to those they face every day, there are things that can be done to increase the chances of getting out alive. Horizon has gathered a team of leading experts to produce the ultimate guide to disaster survival. Through controversial Watch now...

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Double UP Double Down

If our future holds more of the same, only worse, the question becomes not how to fend off the hungry hordes attacking our bunker in the bush after TEOTWAWKI, but how to survive in our bungalow in the burbs on an average day.

In his book and on his blog FerFAL makes a convincing argument that increasing taxes and decreasing value of currency combined with crime and corruption will more likely result in a death spiral for our way of life than a dramatic revolution or civil war.

The more I study the problems that confront us, as a people and as a nation, the more convinced I become that FerFAL is right and those self proclaimed survival gurus predicting imminent internecine armed struggle are living in a fantasy world. Mutiny, it seems to me, just isn't in the cards.

So let's get real with our preparations. Buying a "ranch" in a "Survival Community"?

Eh, I'll pass!

Stocking up on food?

You bet!

A few gold coins and a lot of pre-1965 US silver dimes & quarters?

Of course!

Guns & Ammo?

You Betcha!

But what about the more mundane aspects of survival in devolving economy?

Got soap?

Nonperishable supplies can be stockpiled in large but reasonable amounts so that in times of chaos A) you don't have to endanger yourself going out to get them and B) you don't have to do without them. Also, not having to spend whatever money you have on hand at the moment on everyday essentials gives you other options for the deployment of that resource that could pay dividends as you adapt to the ever changing situation.

If you're a member of Costco, Sam's Club or one of the other big box stores that offer lower prices by selling in bulk you're already doubling up most of your purchases by virtue of the sizes available. Instead of the petite bottle of dishwashing liquid you're offered the jumbo size, often two of them taped together.

It makes sense to buy a 24 can case of the Campbell's soup you enjoy rather than a few cans at a time at the local supermarket. But if the grocery has a super sale don't hesitate to clear their shelves and load up yours.

TP or not TP that is the (30 roll) question, whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (with old magazine pages) or take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them with 180 or so rolls in the closet?

It may not seem like much of a survival strategy; a pantry full of food and dishwashing liquid, a laundry room with an extra extra-large box of laundry detergent and a hall closet bulging with TP and hand soap; but the time and money you save by not having to go out searching for such things is time and money you'll have available to deploy in other areas.

Before you pooh-pooh the savings to be had consider that after an economic collapse the reemerging reality will be full of constantly moving parts that won't always provide necessities at prices you can afford or maybe not at any price.

Little Things Mean a Lot
Don't discount medicine and health aids. An infected splinter can kill you just as dead as a bullet. It just takes longer and is more painful. A decayed tooth can kill you too.

Eye drops, aspirin, Mole Skin (to prevent/treat blisters), New Skin (for cuts & splinters), toothpaste and all those over the counter pills you routinely take for this that and the other ailment may not be available (or may be prohibitively expensive) so you have to ask yourself: "If I buy an extra bottle of pills and have to throw it away in a few years do I count it as a loss or insurance?"

Oh sure (if you're lucky) eventually you'll run out of these things, but hopefully by then the emergency will have stabilized. If not, you'll be no worse off then the guy ahead of you in line as you try to buy a Big Mac with one of the new $1,000,000 dollar bills.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

What the Left Hand Didn't know

Suddenly the screen was filling up with little error message windows. In a flash I'd lost my connection to the World Wide Web. My computer was still functioning because of the uninterruptible power supply (backup battery) and I didn't notice that the room lights were out because they weren't on. It took a moment to realize this wasn't a computer problem or an Internet problem. It was a power problem.

That meant no cable TV and no radio unless I dug the hand crank radio out of the garage.

Realizing the power was out in the whole house I immediately grabbed a flashlight and went to the windows to see if I'd just experienced the opening EMP salvo of WWIII or some drunk hitting a power pole. Seeing lights to the South, North and West convinced me we weren't under attack that plus the fact that the bars close at two AM and this power outage had occurred at 2:25 AM.

Since my neighbors were likely all asleep and hadn't noticed the power outage I couldn't count on them to call it in so I did it myself. Turns out that list of emergency phone numbers on the refrigerator doesn't include the electric company's trouble reporting line. Fortunately I've been compiling a list of emergency phone numbers for our neighborhood association. I'd been meaning to test the numbers to be sure they were all functional anyway so one of them got tested early.

Two things to note here:

One, I was able to call the electric company because I've ignored the fervent pleas of the cable company which wants me to use them for my phone service as well as cable TV and Internet. By keeping our home phone a land line to AT&T we kept the ability to phone when the power went down.

Sure if we'd had cell phones they may have worked if charged and nearby cell towers were still working.

Two, if the phone company or electric company's power had gone out that call wouldn't have been possible. Overstating the obvious or underlining our dependency on electricity?

Once the electric company's automated system had assured me they were going to get right on the problem I started thinking about other things that needed doing. The furnace wouldn't work without power to run the blowers so I put out two candles for light and a microscopic amount of heat. Of course I made sure they were well away from anything flammable and not directly under anything.

Cooking on our gas stove would have been possible on the top burners but without the spark starters would have required matches to ignite the gas. The oven wouldn't have worked because it turns itself on and off to maintain a set temperature and requires electricity to spark the gas flame somewhere down in the back.

Convinced everything that needed to be done had been done I went to bed. Sometime later the power came back on. When I got up the displays on my two Bose Wave clock radios (which had gone dark when the power went out but kept track of the time via their internal batteries) displayed the correct time once power was restored as did my computer. The three battery powered analog clocks still had the correct time but the stove and microwave oven clocks needed to be reset as did my alarm clock. No wonder hardly anybody wears watches anymore, we're awash in clocks.

But my Internet and cable TV were still down. Oh well, I'd take my morning walk and see if they'd finished fixing the problem by the time I got back. About three quarters of the way through the course I ran across two repairmen from the cable company opening up one of their roadside boxes. I went over to ask how long it would be until I could get back to my Internet addiction. When I mentioned last night's power outage a light bulb appeared over the guy's head. Mumbling something about backup generators that sometimes got stuck he promised service would soon be restored as he hopped in truck and literally roared off. Within the hour I had FOXNews and the Internet again.

Perhaps by now you're wondering why a puny little temporary power outage in a far off town has become fodder for a survival blog. Aside from pointing out the benefits of having flashlights, fresh batteries, candles and an old fashioned phone there is that paragraph above.

Hours after the one event was over another part of the infrastructure was still struggling to get back online with no knowledge of what had happened to the first system. Power outages are not uncommon occurrences and yet those workmen I talked to were completely in the dark as to what had happened. Once I gave them the clue they knew what to do.

Think about it. The infrastructure's left hand hadn't known what the right hand had done. Ramped up to a larger scale and more important utilities the situation could have been much worse.

Additionally people who'd succumbed to the cable company's siren call of low rates for phone, TV and Internet had gone for extra hours unable to call fire, ambulance or police.

Bottom Line
As much as possible try to have your own backup systems in place for emergencies be they major or minor.

jC adds:

"There is more to be considered than available power.

The connection you choose is also important,

A wired phone line has a priority. And a back-up.

An owner powered satellite connection is up to your resources.

DSL, Broadband is up to the carrier, not your power sources.

Cell phones are another subject, the cell carrier has to maintain the towers.

Choose wisely."

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010, the Road Trip

I'll be recounting a more detailed version of my road trip adventure on archival quality paper for the historians and archaeologists of future centuries, but for now here's a brief recap of my escape from the demons of doldrums.

Louis & Clark took the easy route across the continent: sideways. I climbed up from the bottom to the top of our country from the Mexican border to Vancouver, BC on a trip that lasted 12 days, covered 4931.7 miles, using 387.9 gallons of regular unleaded while averaging 12.7 MPG with an average speed of 57 MPH which may be the average counting all the time spent in city traffic but I was driving at 75 + MPH most of the time I was on the freeways.

Before hitting the road I checked the Weather Channel online and was informed at that time 70% of our nation was covered with snow so, like any normal American male, I geared up. I bought a bag of cat litter to help power my HUMMER out of snow banks, made sure the radiator and windshield wiper reservoirs were filled with fluids guaranteed to not freeze down to minus 20 degrees, packed my cold weather gear (OK, not much by northerner's standards), made sure my E-tool was in the vehicle's emergency gear box and went down to the local car parts place for snow chains and a windshield ice scrapper.

There wasn't an ice scraper in town. I hadn't expected to find snow chains, but you'd think self respecting auto parts stores would carry windshield ice scrappers in the wintertime. I stopped asking for an ice scraper somewhere in northern Colorado when, in response to my request, the woman at the truck stop counter replied: "Just turn on the windshield defogger."

For the record, I didn't see a single snow covered highway during my entire trip. I did however see lots of cars and pickups parked just inside the gates of roads leading to farms and ranches. Seems folks would rather wade a mile through waist deep snow from the bunkhouse to the gate then drive into town than shovel the entire mile long driveway.

When I mentioned my windshield ice scrapper deficiency to my sister she promptly gave me a two foot Godzilla scrapper with a snow brush on the other end. Now if we have another blizzard like the one we had in 1987 I'll be the only guy in town with an ice scrapper.

The trip up was uneventful but I did spot a herd of 25 deer feeding at the edge of the freeway one evening. Seems they'd figured out the hunting season was over. (On the way back I spotted another dozen or so grazing on a hillside so steep you & I would have had to hold onto the bushes to keep from sliding down.) I can also confirm that major chain (Taco Bell, McDonald's etc.) fast food restaurants still have the best/cleanest restrooms along our highways and byways. Speaking of fast food, my weight when I left was 206 and upon my return (after 12 days without my daily one mile walks) was 208 so take that CSPI!

I arrived at my sister's home with a bit of a sniffle. In an hour my nose was running like a hose. I don't know what kind of plague I brought into her house, but she was prepared (and forgiving). I think she doubled the daily dose of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements for the kids and doctored me with Echinacea, vitamin C and garlic. Those, plus healthy home cooked meals pulled me back from the brink. I think there may be something to that Echinacea stuff, it worked for me! Thanks Sis!

Never having had kids of my own I was sort of at a loss when confronted with her platoon of children. I was just starting to connect names with faces when they showed me their Wii which gives each player an icon (that kind'a sort'a looks like the player) and a nickname. Wii is fun but I gave up trying to connect names to faces and icons to nicknames.

All those kids were a handful for me but my sister runs a well oiled machine. Like a philharmonic orchestra conductor she coordinates in the midst of chaos turning bedlam into dinner with dessert and getting the horses, donkeys, dog, cat and frogs fed all before bedtime.

If I seem in awe of my little sister it's because I am. I hadn't seen her in many years and while I wasn't looking she'd built a house, a home and a family that's the epitome of the American dream. If more families turned out kids like hers our nation would have a lot fewer problems.

The trouble with good examples is they're contagious. The next day I was ordering up the usual when a little voice in the back of my head piped up: "Where's the leafy green vegetables in a triple cheeseburger with fries?"

I replied to my self: "Hey, it's got lettuce and tomato."

Self: "Not enough vegetables!"

"And onion and mustard."

"Not enough vegetables!"

"Pickles are a vegetable."

"Not enough vegetables!"

Feeling guilty while you're eating takes all the fun out of fast food.

The next morning at the hotel's breakfast bar I asked the server: "Bacon's a vegetable, right?"

Turns out, if you tip enough, bacon is anything you want it to be.

On my way up to Canada I passed through Vancouver (not BC) Washington (not DC) and shortly thereafter visited my nephew who has bought a house while attending college and is renting parts of it out to others so his mortgage payments are made with a little to spare each month. I expect this kid to become a land baron in the Northwest in a few more years.

In view of the way our politicians are debasing the American dollar I wanted to open a bank account, in Canada, in Canadian dollars, as a hedge against hyper inflation of the US buck. (Yes, the Canuck buck (along with most other world currencies) will be dragged down too, but not so much.) So I headed up to the other Vancouver, eh.

Either I'm on a watch list or your beloved author looks very suspicious because both Canadian and American customs searched my HUMMER as I entered their respective countries. Maybe our guys had heard "I do declare it's good to be back in the USA again!" joke too many times?

The rest of the trip home was uneventful except for a van on its roof in the median (black ice) and, at 75 MPH, I passed one of those little roller-skate sized envirocars chugging up a 6% grade mountainside with its emergency flashers on and white smoke coming out the tailpipe. For the next fifty miles I was on the lookout for a state trooper 'cause it didn't look like Ed Begley Jr. was gunn'a make it to the next town.

The next day, and state, (while doing four MPH over the posted speed limit) I slowly came up behind a state trooper doing exactly the speed limit in the middle of nowhere. Naturally nobody passed him. After a few miles of follow the leader he pulled off onto a farm road. Everybody else sped up but I wanted to check my map so I followed him up the off ramp. (My policy is never to stop on the freeway unless I absolutely have to and then only if I can get the right two wheels off pavement. So map checks and cell phone (I bought one just for this trip) calls are done at the top of off ramps when I'm driving in the wilderness.) Seeing me behind him the trooper came around to check me out and, among other things, I learned there'd been a fatality on that very stretch of freeway the night before (more black ice) and that I was 45 miles from the next town with a McDonald's. Getting back on the freeway I found another state trooper radar-ing beside the road. I guess those guys that sped up got ticketed, pretty tricky of those two troopers. For the record, I stayed within ten (usually five) MPH of the posted speed limits for the entire trip.

If all these meanderings have put the wanderlust into your heart I heartily recommend Fairfield Inns and the Hyatt Place hotels (5% discount when you pay with American express) and filling up your gas tank at Costco stores (more discounts) wherever possible.

Having slain the demons of doldrums with my little adventure, I returned to my loving wife Sunday afternoon giving her hugs and kisses and two bags of dirty laundry.

Desert (turns out Twinkies are vegetables too) Dave

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Aftermath World Without Oil

On Thursday March 11th, 2010 the National Geographic channel premiered Aftermath World Without Oil a show which, unfortunately, you'll probably be seeing in reruns for years. I say unfortunately because it's filled with omissions (sometimes glaring omissions) and downright incorrect assertions.

I realize that even if the Earth is one huge balloon filled with petroleum eventually we're gunn'a suck it all out and turn it into asphalt, plastic and pollution. So it makes sense to take a look at what'll happen.

Over a period of decades petroleum will becomes harder to find and more expensive to pull from the ground. The phenomenon may have already started so I want some ideas from experts on what to expect. Hence my interest in what the show's producers had found during their research for the program. Unfortunately it appears their "research" was limited to confirming their preconceived notions.

Yes, I knew the "Peak Oil" process would take decades and the program planed to portray all underground oil disappearing overnight. OK, as someone pointed out, they needed dramatic effect to garner eyeballs for the ratings race. I was willing to grant them a "willing suspension of disbelief" on that one. And when they opened the show with animation of empty 'oil caves' I chalked it up to the difficulty of showing empty porous rock on television.

I began watching the show with an open mind hoping to gain useful information so it wasn't until about half way through it that I realized a show about mankind's supposed future desperate search for energy hadn't mentioned nuclear power plants, hydroelectric or natural gas as it portrayed America struggling through a freezing winter without heating oil.

Most places natural gas is the cheapest way to heat buildings. Some areas (particularly in the Northeast) use heating oil, but given no heating oil and a lack of infrastructure to deliver natural gas wouldn't nuclear power plants producing electricity for space heaters provide at least a partial answer? And what about hydroelectricity from them dams in Canada? True Canada would (in this scenario) be without oil too, but they might have a few Megawatts, or maybe even a Gigawatt or two to spare. Especially if the price was right.

And we all recall that Washington and Oregon State helped California through its electricity crisis in 2000 – 2001 with their hydroelectricity.

Also, Hoover Dam already provides electricity to Nevada, Arizona and 12 cites in California. Who knows how much more juice they could pump through the lines if the casinos turned off their outdoor lighting.

The resulting super high electricity prices caused by the oil shortage would ensure people used only what electricity they absolutely had to have.

Would hydroelectricity solve all the problems put forth by the producers of Aftermath World Without Oil? No, but it should have been mentioned as one of the alleviating factors.

Another alleviating factor is natural gas. Utilities use natural gas to produce electricity now and many are constructing more natural gas plants all over the country. "Forgetting them as a source of electricity is a major fumble.

However nuclear energy is also undocumented in this documentary and that turns it from "documentary" to propaganda. Entire cities are now powered by nuclear power. Even more cities would and could be powered by existing nuclear power plants if the use of electricity was rationed via high price (a natural economic consequence) so that more cities could muddle through until alternatives are ramped up. Sorry guys, your failure to highlight the huge role nuclear energy would play in a scenario such as yours destroys your credibility.

One point the show did make was that it takes a football sized plot of land to grow enough food for a person for one year. While few families would have enough front and back yards to put to the plow to produce that much produce every carrot would help.

While the voiceover talks about food shortages and starvation the screen shows a man on a bicycle, with a small sack of groceries, riding past plants that might be dandelions, Purslane, Burdock" or Miner's Lettuce. Would Polk salad and Lambsquarter solve the hunger problem after an oil shortage disrupted big agriculture (no fuel for farm machinery) and national transportation? No. But it would help. A factor not factored into the Aftermath World Without Oil's storyline.

While acknowledging the United States of America is built to use cars and trucks (true) it talks about cattle dying on farms for want of feed (they show pictures of a feedlot") ignoring or maybe ignorant of the fact that most cattle spend most of their lives on ranches and are only shipped to feedlots for final fattening, selling and eventual butchering. True those cattle trapped in feedlots at the time of this fictitious event could starve, but being close to cities and hungry people probably wouldn't last that long.

So how would cows on ranches get to hungry people in cities? Cattle drives!

Yes a sudden end to oil would lead to tremendous social and economic disruptions in first world countries, but it would also lead to new careers as things settled down.

Unfortunately the producers of Aftermath World Without Oil are intent on showing us a possible future that doesn’t include nuclear power or hydroelectric power and those omissions tip the scales from reliable information to questionable presentation for me.

The only useful to me information here was the line in an online promo for the show about recycled aluminum cans saving enough energy to run a TV for three hours.

And the claim that it takes a football sized plot of land to grow enough food for a person for one year.

But given the myopic tunnel vision of the shows producer's I'm not even sure of those factoids.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Surviving Economic Collapse

Many moons ago I bought (and promised to review for you) a copy of The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse by Fernando (FerFAL) Aguirre whose blog SURVIVING IN ARGENTINA I visit often.

Well I've been reading the book in fits and spurts (hence the delay in fulfilling my promise to you) and find that FerFAL and I agree on important issues almost all the time.

In December of 2001 Argentina's currency collapsed banks closed and stores stopped accepting credit cards. Cash was hard to come by.

FerFAL says "Cash is definitely king during the first stages of a collapse." (pg. 13) Order was restored, he says, first in the capital, then in large cities and then in high-end surrounding suburbs. He says there are still areas where the police don't go except in large groups and with armored backup.

The government forcefully converted in-country U.S. Dollar (USD) bank accounts into Argentinean peso accounts and then allowed withdrawal of only 300 pesos a week.

FerFAL and his family escaped the government's confiscation of their USD accounts by closing their USD accounts (taking the USD's out in US Dollar bills) a few days before the collapse. They had to go downtown to the central bank to get their money because the branch banks either didn't have or wouldn't give them their USD's back.

FerFAL survived Argentina's economic collapse since 2001 and has documented his survival tactics and strategies both in the book and on his blog. I'm going to try to stick to a few points from the book in this review.

However, sometimes it's hard to remember whether I read it in his blog or book. Also, since our views so closely match some of my opinions may leak through into this piece disguised as FerFAL's so if you're about to bet your life on something I say here thinking FerFAL said it; better check his book before you pull the trigger. For FerFAL's more up to date comments you can visit his blog.

Like me, FerFAL believes we are far more likely to face a stay at home economic crisis than the much ballyhooed mad dash for the bunker in the boonies, rebuilding civilization from the ground up, end of the world as we know it calamities found in most fiction books (and some blogs and survival web sites) on the subject.

Yes, the odds are that planet Earth will once again be hit by a giant asteroid the size of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. No, the chance of that happening in our lifetimes isn't very high.

Yes, the odds are that planet Earth will once again be hit by a great depression the size of the one that wiped out much of the planet's wealth in 1929 - 1939. Yes, the chance of that happening in our lifetimes is very high. (Just my editorializing there I don't recall FerFAL saying that anywhere in his book.)

So instead of writing a how to fend off a UN invasion manual thinly disguised as a novel FerFAL wrote of his day to day activities: what worked when money didn't; how to fend off robbers; preserving your capital when your nation's currency is circling the drain. You know, boring real life stuff that isn't nearly as exciting as dreaming of building bunkers or fleeing the city to try your hand at applying your window box green thumb on 40 acres.

So, if Americans more or less stay home and strive like the Argentineans did in 2001 instead of emptying the cities what will happen?

For one thing crime will go up. Unemployment plus less money for cops, courts and correctional facilities will see to that.

Does your house look a lot harder to break into than the others on the block? Is it? Why haven't you made it so?

Do you drive to work each day in an ostentatious car that makes you look rich? Do you keep your eyes open for unusual activities along the roadside instead of concentrating on the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead?

Are you prepared physically (and mentally) to defend yourself and your family? Even if it means killing an attacker or two? Having a weapon, having the ability/ know-how to use the weapon and having the willingness to use that weapon are three different things.

FerFAL talks about common sense things we might not think about right away when the currency suddenly isn't worth the paper it's printed on. For one thing those with goods were far more willing to part with them for precious metal than the official currency. Black markets sprang up. Black markets are dangerous places to be trying to sell a one ounce gold coin, but selling A silver coin or A gold ring in a black market doesn't mark you as a rich guy with a hoard of gold worth kidnapping for ransom or following home and robbing.

Having precious metals gives you the ability to sell a little bit at the then current value of the hyper inflated currency to buy groceries or gas today. As the value of the inflated currency goes down the exchange value of your precious metal goes up. In theory, at least, your precious metal hoard will keep pace with the hyper inflation.

One of FerFAL's tactics, which I like, was to use a Leatherman multi-tool to cut off links from gold necklaces, bracelets or chains to sell, a few links at a time, to buy groceries, lunch or whatever.

True, today in the USA coin dealers and pawn shops would think you were crazy for trying to sell a link or two from a bracelet marked 14k (58% gold content) or 18k (75% gold content) but in a hyper inflated scenario bits of gold and silver coins became instruments of value just like paper bills and were more welcome too according to FerFAL. Naturally you'd want to sell the part with the karat mark last.

This is one of those tips you file away in your head because it's difficult to act on it now. Yes, some pawn & coin shops and some jewelry stores may be willing to buy your gold chain a few links at a time as "scrap gold" at "melt prices" but why would you want to? If you're that hard up for cash now you'd do better getting offers for the whole necklace from a few of them and then selling it at a flea market, to someone who wants a necklace, for more than the melt price yet less than the pawn shop/jewelry store price.

For now, if you think a currency collapse is in our near future you could prepare by buying pre-1965 silver US dimes, quarters and halves and maybe grab some scrap gold necklaces, bracelets and chains at pawn & coin shops when the price of gold is down.

I think FerFAL and I disagree about just what form your precious metal should take. On page 188 he talks about buying "precious metal bars and coins of reputable origin" but then goes on to tell us about the gold chain/ Leatherman trick for everyday purchases.

This dichotomy is compounded by his advice to keep "Krugerrands, gold Pandas and Mint American Eagles in envelopes or cases so they don't get scratched or nicked, something that people dealing with gold are very picky about."

I guess having a few one ounce gold coins for large purchases couldn't hurt but personally I think rolls of pre-1965 US 90% silver dimes and quarters would be safer to spend and more convenient to cash in for everyday uses.

On page 192 FerFAL talks about the difference between working and making money. He says people ask the wrong question. "What jobs are in high demand after an economic collapse?" is the wrong question. He says the question they should be asking is: How do I make money after an economic collapse?"

He lists Security Guard and Telemarketer as examples of low paying (then as now) jobs available to the unskilled as businesses try to survive. Of course the more skills you have the better chances you have of getting a better job.

As to making money after an economic collapse FerFAL says "Exploit your potential." He points out that when TSHTF in Argentina many of the people who lost their jobs started up their own businesses, working from home, using the same knowledge and skills they'd used when employed or exploiting their expertise learned from a hobby.

FerFAL also talks about exploiting abandoned market sectors. When government or corporations withdraw from an area, product or service there is an opportunity for small businesses to step in and fill the need.

A large portion of the book deals with identifying and dealing with threats. Both FerFAL and I heartily recommend going beyond book learning. Want'a learn hand to hand fighting? Go to a dojo and practice under a master. Want'a know how to shoot (and more importantly when)? Go to a recognized shooting range or join a shooting club.

Yes the Kung fu master on TV or CD or DVD can show you how it's done, but unless you practice with a NONcooperative partner you'll likely do poorly in a real confrontation.

(This is me talking here ) EXAMPLE
During my college days I partially supported myself as a semipro photographer. Part of that scheme involved going to crime scenes with the aid of a Radio Shack police scanner. One night some guy tried to hold up a small BBQ takeout only restaurant with an old WWII break-top revolver. After taking the evenings proceeds from the clerk at the cash register he proceeded to try to rob all of the men in line, one at a time, as he worked his way back towards the front door. When he turned his back one of the men he'd just robbed jumped him giving him a "Karate chop" just like they do in the movies.

Only this wasn't a movie so no scriptwriters had told the crook to fall down when hit, and there was no director to yell "Cut!" when he didn't.

Important point:
Too many people's emergency defense plans consist of a hazy "He'll do THIS and then I'll do THAT!" image in their mind without thinking what would happen if THAT! doesn't get the job done. Without a NONcooperative partner to practice on (many many times) you're likely to end up like the hero I helped get to the hospital that night.

In the resulting melee both the crook and the overaged Karate Kid got shot. I took a picture of a cop wheeling the wounded hero out on a gurney then put aside my camera to help him lift the overweight, overaged Karate Kid into the back of the ambulance. I don't remember for sure, but I think the crook was killed.

If you plan to incorporate Jujutsu into your defensive reactions go to the dojo and learn from someone who knows what he's doing, not an actor on a movie screen. If you think those guys on TV holding their pistols sideways and over their heads while shooting know what they're doing for God's sake go take a shooting class before you embarrass yourself in front of your robber.

There are literally hundreds of other tips in the book from FerFAL's recommendations for BOB bags and EDC items to bartering advice. Too many to go into here so I'll end with this note:

All through FerFAL's book I could see how people's actions and activities revolved around getting enough food to eat, water to drink and protecting what they had from criminals. If hyper inflations hits the United States Of America I doubt our actions and activities will be all that much different.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

OMG the ATM is DN!

[This article is about WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) events and the early stages of a TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) events.]

It's become a cliché, when a blizzard is forecast people rush to the stores to buy bread and milk, but what do you do when the Earth breaks? The Haitian and Chilean earthquakes point out the need for all of us to have resources at hand not just readily available. An earthquake or other natural disaster can take down a resource we hardly think about; communications.

Without electricity ATM's, banks, gas stations and computers don't work. The grocery stores can get by for awhile if their credit card scanners are down because they can still sell stuff the old fashioned way; exchanging cash for goods. But if the credit card scanners aren't working chances are the ATM's aren't getting their signal either and your purchasing power is limited to the cash you have on hand when the calamity strikes. You may have a million dollars in the bank, but if the bank's computers are down so is your ability to withdraw funds.

Got cash? Yes!
Got electricity? No.
Got gas? Er… no!
Without electricity to run the pumps that pull the gasoline out of the ground your cash can't buy fuel to get your family out of the area.

In a major disaster the phones might be out of order too. Does your family have a place to meet in case of an emergency? And a back up place? And maybe a backup place for that too? Perhaps home is emergency meeting place one. With a nearby neighbor's home being the backup and that big old tree across the street as the backup's backup.

Note that these are all non public places. Planning to meet in front of the McDonald's at the mall isn't such a good idea because public places may be picked by emergency personnel as the location for their headquarters, supply depot or motor pool and therefore off limits to mere civilians. Likewise the mall may be a target for looters. And the McDonald's is a place known to have food which marauders may want.

In addition to knowing where the three places to meet are, each family member should know to stay put once they get there. Doing otherwise might result in a tragic comedy of errors like that at Cooper Creek

If forced to move from the rally point by authorities or circumstances don't make the mistake Burke, Wills and King made by not leaving a note in a prominent place at the assembly point for others to find.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Periscopes and Periscope Rifles

While browsing a survival web site the other day I came across a post (and replies!) that proves paranoia is alive and well. The original poster was worried about getting shot by a sniper while in his own home.

The responses ranged from digging a secret tunnel so as to be able to sneak away (which begs the question; how ya' gunn'a know when the sniper is out there without looking) to moving (er… wouldn't that become the OP's new home?) to cutting holes in the roof to shoot back through.

In the spirit of paranoia I pointed out the problem (of shooting back from a fixed position) was solved during WWI by the Periscope Rifle.

Aside: note what happens when the concept goes from a makeshift contraption cobbled together by a corporal to wiz bang almost Government Issue contraption. (Development of both the Cameron/Yaggi device and the Thompson submachine gun were cut short on "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918 by the end of WWI which also ended immediate government need for such devices.)

But wait, by morphing paranoia and camouflage we get periscopes! Whether we're confronting pesky snipers or observing pesky neighbors a periscope eliminates the problem of human head shape showing when looking over walls and windowsills. Remember the Killroy was here graffiti? A small 4" X 4" square box or round "eye" peeking over the wall would be less likely to be seen or noticed than the top of a human head.

The human eye looks at everything, but the human mind edits incoming information and "sees" mostly what it's looking for. Those flashing/revolving headlights on motorcycles are there (along with the brightly colored clothing) in an attempt to jar the motorist's mind into seeing what their eyes are reporting i.e. there something there besides the cars and trucks they're expecting to see.

Camouflage takes advantage of our mind's attempts to see what we're expecting to see by rounding off corners, turning straight lines wavy and mimicking the color/texture of surroundings.

A small bump on a fence top is less noticeable than the larger bump of the top half of a human head, particularly if the small bump appears against a dark backdrop.

Since making a periscope out of mirrors and milk cartons is cheaper than knocking holes in the roof I decided to look into the subject. A periscope is little more than two aligned mirrors. You'll note that in the pictures of periscopes being used by WWI soldiers there often isn't even a tube around them, just two mirrors attached at angles to pieces of wood.

It occurs to me that constructing homemade periscopes would be a good project for fighting off cabin fever if you choose to remain in place during a world changing event. And, if paranoia proves justified, could come in handy.

How to make your own periscope

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