Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cash is King

We recently had some power outages in my area and I ran to the local auto parts store to pick up some starting fluid to try to get my generator going. Yes, total fail there- both not having my generator in good and not having starting fluid on hand.
But anyway, the power was out at the auto parts store and they had a sign displayed:

They were writing tickets by hand and couldn't take credit cards because their computers were down. Well, not all their computers, they had one register up, running off a big truck battery, to look up prices. They could sell you anything in the store providing you had the cash for it. No cash, no sale.

In a localized power outage it's not a big deal, you drive to the next locality or town. But in a more global power outage, like a EMP strike, a power grid hack or failure, a big earthquake that knocks out infrastructure or civil unrest the area affected could be widespread. That's when you really need to have cash on hand if you want to purchase any goods or services. Waiting until there is a power outage is too late.  If it's a serious financial collapse, perhaps having some silver coins on hand would be a good idea as well. If people lose faith in paper money they'll likely still place value on hard currency like silver coins. For a few days anyway.  If it's something that will affect currency stability for years, people will quickly lose their faith in paper currency, then precious metals.  An item is only worth what someone is willing to offer for it, and a man with no food or water is unlikely to want anything but.

Stay safe out there!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Being Nice to People

Many of my friends who have the mentality of being prepared for anything would really resist leaving their homes. If a disaster or emergency forces you to leave your home you're relegated to refuge status. That's not a position that anyone wants to be in. If you have your home stocked to thrive in a disaster scenario it's certainly the most comfortable way to go.

The great downside to this plan is your neighbors probably aren't that prepared and they don't want to leave their house any more than you do. If the electricity is out for the 3rd or 5th or 10th day and you're the only house on the block with lights at night, your neighbors may become jealous. If they lack food and you're bar-b-queing steaks they are probably going to want what you have. History has shown that hungry people tend to do things and act in ways they wouldn't in normal conditions.  They may even begin to act less civil towards their neighbors.

How can a person prepare for a situation like that? Getting to know your neighbors is one way. Talk up the idea of keeping some canned goods on hand in case of a power outage or snow storm. Buy them crank operated flashlights as gifts. Get their kids interested in camping since a lot of camping equipment works double duty as prep items.

Another option is to keep low cost extra supplies on hand. What does a case or ramen cost, $5? The family in the condo next door will be grateful for any food if they have none. The single mother across the street would love to have that crank lantern you have that barely holds a charge anymore. Rather than toss out old item like that keep them in a box for situations like that. You may not have the patience to crank that old lantern every 3 minutes, but to someone with no light it's a totally worth it. You may not be interested in eating a bunch or ramen, but to a man with no food it's a feast.

If the power is out and you are running a generator to keep your food cold or your house warm, offer it to your neighbors to use. Maybe tell them you don't have extra gas, so they'd have to provide their own, but it's a great way to keep people civil by helping to provide first world living conditions. And if you need some expertise or some labor or some goods they'll be more likely to offer it up if you've been helpful.

Power Outage

Being prepared for a serious disaster also means you're prepared for trivial inconveniences.  Earlier this week we has some storms roll through that knocked out the power.  Since I'm crazy that way, I've got a half dozen flashlights I can find in the dark, including the one I always have in my pocket.  I fired up our old Coleman lantern and we had plenty of light for reading and doing dishes.

Since we were the only house with an obvious light a neighbor who I haven't met came by and asked if we had a flashlight she could borrow.  She said her kids were not very pleased with being in the dark.  I lend her a good flashlight and a (rather crappy) crank-up LED lantern.  I figured that way her kids could be part of the solution, cranking that lantern to keep the light going.  Seriously, it lasts like 3 minutes before you have to crank it up again.  But as far as something to lend out it's totally worth keeping around. 

I also recently put together a solar recharging station, so I pulled the battery pack out and plugged in our phones.  It'll be nice to have a fully charged phone in case our electricity isn't restored very quickly.

It did make me realize that I need to get or make a adapter to plug my ham radio into my charging station.  My ham radio will run a long time in listen mode, which is great to listen to the storm reports, but if I need to transmit much it would be nice to be able to recharge it.  I'll have to make that a priority.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Yesterday I went to the range with a friend.  It was a warm sunny day and great to be outside.  We traveled a bit to get to an unsupervised range, at the supervised ranges in our area you can't shoot prone.  I've been trying to shoot prone more often rather than from a bench.  There are no benches in nature!

So it was nice to get in some shooting practice, but was was really heartening was the people next to us.  It was a father with his daughter.  Now, that in itself isn't uncommon, I see a lot of families at the range.  What was more unusual was the girl looked like she was 6 or 8 years old.  She was sitting cross legged on the bench and shooting a rimfire rifle that had a bipod attached to hold up the front.  She was using her off hand to hold the stock up and using two fingers to pull back the trigger.  Not ideal form for an adult, but it worked great for a little kid.  She was safe, safer than some of the other adults I witnessed that day.

Oh, and she was hitting golf balls at 25 yards more than she was missing.  She'd pop a golf ball to make it bounce then hit it again when it stopped.  It was an impressive feat for a kid under 10.  Most of the adults I know can't do that consistently.  It was pretty awesome to see.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I recently attended a festival where a common greeting was "Welcome Home".  It was a festival I was at last year as well, and despite my familiarity with the location and some of the attendees I can't say it felt like home.  But to many of the people who attend, it did feel like home.  Or at least they were quite vociferous in asserting so.

This made me think a bit- what was I missing?  Why did some people look forward to this all year long?  Did they feel like home at home?  Or did they feel like a visitor in their normal life and a couple times a year they could spend time with a group of people where they feel they really fit in?  I can't say I arrived at any answers, but I pondered over the possibilities quite a bit.

Because life is funny, I was listening to a podcast the next week, the Michael Bane podcast, and he spoke about being home at the NRA convention.  So here was another person who felt at home in a large gathering of like minded people.  I've attended a number of events with very like minded people and I can't say I've ever really gotten that feeling.  Heck, I've been a volunteer for 5 or 6 years with an organization that has a lot of like minded people and I can't say at any event did I feel at home.  It was just a bunch of people doing stuff.

I have had the opportunity to attend the NRA convention on two occasions and I will say that at the first one at least, I felt a warm fuzzy similar to feeling at home.  I'm not often around people who have similar viewpoints as my own, the people I associate with the most range from communist leaning socialists to hardcore Democrats to people who are apathetic politically to flaming libertarians to hardcore Republicans and all the flavors in between.  Some of my very good friends own their own companies and do quite well, others struggle to find rent money and don't own their own car.

But at the NRA show, I found people of a similar makeup as myself.  People with good jobs who vote pro gun.  People who work hard and are passionate about civil rights.  People who can look at a gun and see beauty in the craftsmanship.  It was nice.

But in general I feel at home when I'm at home.  I guess that's good since I spend a lot of time here.  But other places where I know people feel at home have never struck me as that way.  Perhaps I'm just not the sort to get attached.  I could move next week and my new home would feel like home, I'm not attached to the location or layout of my current home.

I don't have a point, I guess, just rambling.  I hope that you have a place where you feel at home and get to visit it frequently.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Science vs Ideologies

I like science.  A lot.  I find scientific study very interesting and I'm completely enthralled by data.  I love looking over data, discussing the ramifications and pondering the meaning from it.  I try to make decisions and develop opinions based on data.  I sometimes have a hard time relating to people who don't.

I associate with a lot of people who also believe in science.  And yes, that's what I mean- they believe in science.  They believe in it as a principle from with to make rational decisions.  They observe the world around them, absorb the data and make decisions based on that.  They research a topic, putting weight in proven facts over opinions.  The alternative is making decisions based on emotion or ideology.  People who do that don't see science as a guiding principle whether they think they do or not.  People who make decisions and form opinions based on unproven ideologies are quite prevalent in this world.  And that's OK, in a free and open society people are welcome to make decisions based on whatever criteria they so choose.  But I've found in my journey through life many people think they believe in science, but when it comes to many subjects are actually ideologues.  Today I'm going to discuss my thoughts on one of those groups that I come into contact with rather frequently.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Life is Too Short to Drive Boring Cars

Although admittedly, I'm doing that now.  I've recently had a chance to drive a couple cars and came away entirely unimpressed.  I must not be a typical driver, because how these cars are tuned is pretty much entirely unsuitable to me, and these cars are mainstream cars that get pretty good reviews.

Now, admittedly until last summer my ride for almost 7 years was a Subaru Impreza WRX STI.  Yes, they need more acronyms in that name.  But that car kicked ass.  The handling was great, the power was sufficient (300hp and 300 ft-lbs) and the traction made the car unstoppable.  It was just as much at home jumping railroad tracks, blasting through traffic or making really good time in the snow.  I actually got a ticket in that car, in the snow, for "Excessive Acceleration".  I'm rather proud of that one!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When Police Dress for War, Every Call is Treated Like a Battle

I post frequently on the militarization of police, something that continues to scale up despite crime going down year by year.  This morning some news on the radio caught my ear.  LAPD got a call about noise from a college party and responded with 79 officers in riot gear with helicopter support.  There was no violence, no fighting no kids with guns, just a typical college party and the cops show up ready to bust skulls.

The entire basis of them rolling in cops in armor at this college party?  Well, lots of the kids there were black.  Oh, and the DJ played the music too loud.  That's it.  This is what happens when you have a disparity in power between a government and a populace, the government officials can harass and discriminate against whoever they choose.

This is the problem with having so many standing SWAT teams, departments look for any excuse to roll out paramilitary troops.  Police should be de-escalating situations, especially peaceful ones.  Showing up with a chopper, body armor and machine guns is the opposite of that.

The Dangers of Transporting Fuel

More than a year ago I offered my thoughts on the Keystone XL pipeline project.  Of course it's still in the news as the president waffles on whether or not to build it in the US or not.  It's a great political issue, one that energizes certain groups and allows the parties to grandstand and even push their agendas in certain cases.

One of the reasons I suggested building the pipeline makes sense is safety.  That oil is less likely to be spilled if it is transported by pipeline rather than by tanker truck.  As well, moving the fuel via pipeline is a more environmentally friendly way to move it than via truck.  Oh, and sometimes the trucks explode and kill two dozen people.  That's bad too. 

We need to start evaluating decisions like this based on rational thought and science instead of emotion.  Making decisions based on emotion put people at risk.