Archive | February, 2014

My Philosophy Of Prepping: Have A Plan, What If ? (Part 6)

18 Feb

For those who haven’t read the previous posts, let’s recap: Being a prepper involves a certain mindset. You want to understand the physical world around you. That could mean knowing how to repair your roof or it could mean knowing how to dress a deer. It involves believing you have a right to protect and defend your family against the malicious actions of others. It means you understand you can’t save the whole world. That’s not realistic. You focus on protecting your family.

Part 6 is something I’ve seen in every prepper I’ve ever known. Preppers have a plan. They have backup plans. They always ask: “What if…?” Preppers are planners. Preppers like options. The don’t like being boxed in. They don’t like being limited.

Asking “What if…?” leads you to prepare and plan.

* What if your running water became unavailable for a week? What would you do?

* What if two violent criminals smashed through your front door? How would you respond?

* What if your vehicle broke down while on a deserted road? What course of action would you pursue?

* What if social unrest lead to groceries being unavailable in the stores? How would you feed your family?

Some plans are simple. More complex plans fail. A famous quote goes something like this: “Plans mean nothing. The process of planning means everything.” As you plan, you confront scenarios. Having thought about those scenarios give you a leg up on people who haven’t given any thought to the issue.

Some people mock preppers because of this advanced “What if” thinking. We see this on the Doomsday Preppers TV show. The show asks each featured prepper to tell them one doomsday event they’re prepping for. One prepper preps for economic collapse. Another for a solar flare that knocks out the power grid. A third for a genetic mutation that turns turtles into mutant Ninja killers that seek to destroy the human race. The more extreme scenario the show finds, the more it likes it.

Then an expert smugly comes on at the end and tells people the chances of the event happening is one in a billion. The implicit message: Preppers are idiots worrying about exceptionally unlikely events. The media profits from this negative stereotyping.

Here’s the thing: These preppers are prepared for a whole host of other possibilities. The guy “worried” about mutant turtles is completely prepared for his power going out because of a winter ice storm. If that guy looks at the short list above, he’s prepared for any of those unpleasant scenarios. If I made a list of twenty bad situations, he’s prepared for them. The only thing he has left to work on his is mutant turtle defense.

It’s difficult for the mind of a prepper not to plan and prepare. He wants something to prep for, even if he’s already prepared for nearly anything life can throw at him.

Some people just don’t think this way. Some people will hop in their car and drive across a desert without giving the journey a second thought. It usually turns out fine. Not always.

The prepper asks: “What if the car gets a flat tire along the journey?”

Non-Prepper: I’ll call AAA for help.

Prepper: What if you can’t get a cell phone signal?

Non-Prepper: Ah, I’ll change the tire myself!

Prepper: Is your spare tire in the trunk inflated?

Non-Prepper: It should be. Why wouldn’t it be?

Prepper: Because many spares are very low on air or flat. Do you know how to use your jack?

Non-Prepper: Ah, aren’t there instructions on it?

Prepper: Have you looked at them?

Non-Prepper: No.

Prepper: OK. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt. You have a good tire. You have a jack. You get your tire repaired. You continue the journey. Wonderful. What if your radiator hose bursts instead of a flat tire? What do you do then? Cell phone still doesn’t work.

Non-Prepper: I’d wait for another vehicle! HA! I’d catch a ride with them.

Prepper: What if it doesn’t come? Ever. You took a road rarely used. You don’t see another car for three days.

Non-Prepper: I’d wait.

Prepper: Do you have water in your car? You do know you’ll be pretty weak in three days, right?

Going through “What if” scenarios not only helps you prepare, it helps you make better decisions. After the conversation, the non-prepper could keep a map in his car and stick to the better known roads. He can check his spare tire. He’ll have a better sense of when he’s putting himself in risky situations. He’ll know it’s risky to drive across a desert without keeping some water in the car.

Armageddon XP Rant (& A Tale of Two Hardware Stores)

15 Feb

Let me start by saying I’m not an old fuddy duddy who can’t stand change. I like good change. I like positive change. I like real innovation. The Internet rocks. What I don’t like is arbitrary, pointless, counterproductive, time-wasting change. When those things are at play, I’ll take the conservative option every day.

I don’t want my refrigerator connected to the Internet. I don’t want to worry it’s sending out spam to your cell phone. Do I need to monitor its online usage to be sure its not paying undue attention to the new Maytag models?

I don’t want start-stop vehicle technology. I had that back in the 1970s; it’s called stalling. I don’t want electronic throttle control. Drive-by-wire, die in a fire. I don’t want a computer controlling my dryer.

I like simplicity. I like tossing underwear in the dryer, turning a dial for time, pushing a button, and woahla. I’ve never wanted a dryer that could twitter the world about the status of my underwear.

In the day, we were more civilized. This article would be called an editorial or an opinion piece. In the day, we were less truthful. Today, we call it a rant. It’s a rant.

I’m already in a bad mood because of the closing of 7 Corners Hardware. They were Saint Paul’s premier hardware store for 80 years. If you needed special bolts for a project, you could find them. They were the Midwest’s largest tool distributor. If you needed a Milwaukee right angle drill with a 36″ snout, they had one. It’s in their catalog. I have a Milwaukee right angle drill, but can’t imagine why I’d need 3 feet of reach with it. Somewhere out there is a guy who needs it for something. Where will he go? I’d be surprised if any big-box retailers carry it.

Hardware stores that carry odd hardware are disappearing. Hardware stores that carry quality bolts are disappearing. The guys who understood tools are disappearing. I went into a Harbor Freight looking for a brush. It was on their website. The kids there were clueless. They thought they might have seen it, somewhere, sometime, in the past. Sorry, no help today. They were nice enough kids. But they weren’t “tool” guys.

This is reflective of today. As Americans, we just don’t fix stuff anymore. We toss it out and buy new. If we must fix it, we call in a professional.

Another prepper-blogger posted a similar observation asking “We’ve all got skills, redundant skills, but what do you do with all that ‘unusual’ knowledge in a throw away world that doesn’t care about the old ways?”

The answer is obvious. We annoy our wives by bringing home a lot of stuff we can fix, which she calls useless crap. Because it makes more financial sense to buy a new dryer than replace the computer module in the old one, an otherwise serviceable machine is tossed.

As citizens and consumers, we’re told spending more money to buy new stuff is good. Tossing the old is good. It’s beneficial. Planned obsolescence makes sense.

An example of this was the “Cash for Clunkers” program. In 30 days, over $3 billion of taxpayer money was spent overpaying for used vehicles to “take them off the road.” Car murder, more like it. They literally poisoned the poor cars till they died, just to be sure nobody would salvage the engines.

This is bad news if you’re in the market for a used car today. Far less supply and prices are at record highs. The program benefited some, but like all government programs, it came at a cost to others.

The hope is that the “maker culture” with their interest in electronics and 3D plastic printing will revive the interest in tinkering, repairing, and rebuilding things.

The best example showing how helpless citizens are becoming is our reliance on software. If it goes buggy, the best we can usually do is restart our PC, and soon, our toaster. We have no practical capability to ferret out the problem ourselves. We’re at the mercy of Microsoft.

In two months, we’ll face XP Armageddon. That’s when Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP. They’ll no longer offer patches for bugs or security vulnerabilities. This is a hacker’s dream come true.

Nearly 1/3 of all PCs still run Windows XP. It’s used by hospitals, law firms, small businesses, governments, ATMs, and individuals. These people will all be put at risk.

The Target hacking debacle occurred because an HVAC vendor was compromised.

How many small business vendors will be targeted and what will the consequences be?
Agree with his motives or disagree, Edward Snowden, was a contractor who had access to the NSA’s computers. How many mission-critical systems will be compromised because of outsourcing to vendors still using XP?

I understand Microsoft’s position. They want to sell us Windows 8. Without being compelled to purchase it, nobody would. If you must upgrade, look into Windows 7.

Microsoft isn’t offering Windows 7 anymore. But there are a ton of copies at the retailers, so it should be available for a while. My understanding is that it will be supported until 2020. Be sure your older system can run it and that you purchase the correct 32 bit or 64 bit version. Those with more computer skills are migrating to Linux.

If you want to continue using XP, backup your full system. Run a firewall program. Maybe do your web browsing in Linux and install a dual-boot system. You’ll have XP if needed for older programs.

Just because Microsoft won’t be supporting me and you, doesn’t mean everybody’s in the same boat. The dirty secret is that Microsoft will continue to support some big clients. England’s National Health Service, for example. Microsoft will patch their systems and keep their patient data safe. Sharing the patches with us, not so much.

How many remember the fear over Y2K which drew many new converts to prepping? We were prepared for Y2K. Because of that, the transition was seamless. Are we prepared for the end of XP? In two months, we’ll find out.

10 Physical Exercises To Avoid

14 Feb

Because many preppers are younger guys big into physical fitness, I thought I’d share my views about some exercises that are best avoided. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should! I want to emphasize I’m not a physical therapist or anything. This is only my personal opinion. Research the pros/cons of each and make your own informed decision.

1) Wrestlers Bridges. These things can really mess up your neck. Ask me how I know. The idea is that the material between your neck vertebrae gets compressed and can’t recover. Neck strengthening is important to wrestlers and other athletes. Finding a safe way to strengthen the neck, not so easy. Some will not be adversely affected by this, but some will. If your neck ever freezes to one side, spinning around like a dog chasing his tail helps alleviate the pain.

2) One armed pull up. OK, few will ever get far enough in their training to attempt it, but even if you do, this is way too much load to put on the connective tissue holding your biceps to bone. If you get this strong, you risk having the connective tissue rip before your muscle fails.

3) The push up equivalent of the one armed pull up is the 90 degree push up. These are extremely impressive. I believe the world record is like 13. Again, way too much physical stress on the body.

4) Upright rowing. This was one of my personal favorite exercises. I miss it. The experts say this has a progressive damaging effect on the shoulders. Imagine wearing away at your nerve tissue with a dull knife. That’s my very simplified understanding of what’s happening. If you must do it, don’t raise the bar too high. Better: Do Shrugs.

5) Behind the back pull ups or military presses. Most physical fitness buffs know you shouldn’t do heavy lifting with your hands behind your back. A shoulder thing.

6) Planches from the ground. These look kinda like a static push up. If you want to do these, make yourself a pair of parallette bars.
The problem with doing them from the ground is that you hyperextend your wrists. You don’t want to hyperextend most of your body parts. Doing so means you’re forcing a connection of your joint to go farther than it’s designed to do.

7) Hyperextension of the knee joint is also bad. Have you ever had the ugly feeling of having your knee joint “buckle” the wrong way? Standing on your feet with your legs locked at bending forward to stretch risks hyperextension. If you want to do this stretch, do it from a sitting position or allow a slight bend in your knees.

8) Everybody knows by now not to do hurdler’s stretches. Twisty knee, no good. Included for completeness.

9) Crossfit anything. Just joking. I don’t want to get beat up by the Crossfit guys. Those guys are scary. Many exercise physiologists don’t like some of their exercises though. Here are a few:

a) Doing powerlifting exercises for reps and time. Nothing better than pushing to exhaustion with 500 pounds above your head!

b) Jumping down from box jumps. Can rupture ankle tendons.

c) Anything that has the word “kipping” in it. Kipping? Isn’t that a fish?

10) Dips with the elbows behind the back. A shoulder thing. Many people do huge numbers of these without any problems, but the experts advise avoidance if you have shoulder issues.

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For the health conscious, this is interesting: People with faster reaction times have less chance of premature death. It’s believed fast reaction times are reflective of a well-functioning central nervous system.

Want to test your own reaction time? Try the sheep dash.

I’d feel a lot better about this article if I wasn’t an old and overweight bobcat who needs to drink more coffee. Has anyone ever achieved “Super-charged cheetah”?

My Philosophy Of Prepping: You Can’t Save Everybody (Part 5)

14 Feb

In Part 4 I wrote about the need to purchase supplies and how difficult it was to build your preparations without money. Thoughtfully Prepping corrected me, adding this doesn’t mean we should drive ourselves into the poorhouse purchasing tons of “prepper” supplies. That’s 100% correct. New preppers shouldn’t mistakenly believe they need to purchase all the “stuff” so many promote as essential. Stick to the basics. Stay within your budget.

There is a paradox when it comes to who prepares. Many affluent people, who have the financial wherewithal to make great preparations fail to prepare at all. Many people with much less money see the need to prepare and work hard to scrimp and save so they can stockpile a few essentials for a rainy day. Why is this?

I call this the lesson of sweat-soldering copper pipe. Watch students learn how to solder copper pipe. You can emphasize safety. They’ll keep their hands away from the flame, that’s pretty scary. They know what a direct torch would do to flesh. You’ll tell them to remember metal is a good conductor and that it gets very hot and could burn them. They won’t touch the soldered joint directly. They get that. Without fail, at least one student, who usually does a great job soldering, will grab the end of a short practice pipe they just soldered. He’ll be excited to admire his wonderful work close up. Clink. The pipe hits the ground and a few curses echo throughout the shop.

The thing is, this student will never burn himself again when soldering. The lesson is burned into their brain. There is a big difference between an intellectual knowledge of something and a visceral understanding of it. Everybody knows metal is a good conductor. Ergo, if you heat one end of a short pipe with a torch, you should be careful about grabbing the other end. That’s not the same thing as having experienced it yourself.

Why do people become preppers? For many, they’ve experienced some visceral event indelibly burned into their brain, no different than if they touched a hot copper pipe. Some preppers struggled financially. They physically despise credit cards and not having financial reserves. They know what it’s like not to have food in the pantry. Those who lived through the Great Depression stuff their pantry. They hesitate to throw things out that could be repurposed. This is a visceral response.

The modern family who has always had money might intellectually realize they could suffer a job loss. Maybe later they’ll save something, after they buy a new car.

Many preppers have a military background. Too many have seen things no human should be forced to experience. If you’ve seen the evil that can befall the innocent, it’s difficult to allow yourself to be defenseless in the future. Difficult, but not impossible. Some people can build up walls of denial that what they’ve seen can’t happen to them. Soldiers who served in Somalia shake their heads and say it couldn’t happen in America, ever. People who’ve witnessed a violent assault rationalize they’d never be the target of such pointless violence, ever.

The sad fact is, you can’t save everyone. It doesn’t matter how much you love them, care about them, and want the very best for them. Some people will dismiss good advice and won’t face unpleasant realities. Some people will be paralyzed by fear or inaction or something else and you just can’t help them.

Experts who study survivors of disasters know this. In airplane crashes or boat capsizes, many passengers will freeze. They’ll just shutdown. You can’t lead them to safety as we see in the movies. They won’t respond, and you’ll only perish if you try to save them.

This is a hard thing to come to terms with for many people. Preppers who realize this focus on preparing themselves and their family.

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My Philosophy Of Prepping (Part 4: You Need To Buy Some Stuff)

12 Feb

In this short series about my philosophy about what it means to be a prepper, we looked at learning about the things around you, prepping to live, and the right of self defense. In this post, we’re going to look at what you need to purchase and why.

Getting the right supplies is crucial to survival. For a typical disaster or emergency lasting one month or less, having an adequate stockpile of water, food, sanitation supplies, emergency heating and light, and tools is more important than all the skills I promote learning.

You can hunt, fish, be a great shot, know plumbing, electrical, animal husbandry, wilderness survival, gardening, car repair, HVAC, military tactics, and much more. If you run out of food and water, those skills can only help the urban prepper so much.

In an urban setting, it’s impossible to grow all the food you’ll need. It’s unlikely you’d be able to forage for it or hunt for it. If food is really scarce, there’s little you can really trade for it. To be prepared, you must stockpile some food.

A common prepper question: How to be a prepper with no money? It’s difficult. How can you stockpile food if you’re struggling to put food on the table today? How can you acquire a few emergency supplies when it’s tough to pay the bills? There’s no good answer for this. You must free up some cash. How is the rub.

The problem with most financial advice is that it’s usually aimed at people who already have sufficient livable income. Cut back your cable TV. OK, what if you don’t have cable? Stop eating out at expensive restaurants. OK, you already don’t eat out. Don’t charge things on your credit card and pay high interest. Yeah, right.

The middle class and, especially, the poor are hit by what economists call a “poverty tax.” Said another way, you pay high interest one way or another. Don’t charge and borrow money? What if your electrical bill is overdue and your electricity will be shut off? You don’t have to borrow to keep it on, but when it goes off, you’ll be hit with a huge reconnect fee. One way or another you’ll be *!!%*#.

Many Americans are being bled dry by our financial system. The financial crisis of a few years ago wiped out the savings of many Americans. When they were forced to borrow, the interest paid went to wealthier people. The credit card companies started earning money again and the stock market went up. To some, it looks like America is doing well. Other’s see a different reality. It’s possible in the next ten years we’ll see a second American revolution because of this. There is a great gulf between what’s believed by different Americans. The one thing most Americans agree on is that elected officials of all stripes no longer represent rank-and-file Americans.

The only thing I can say about prepping with no money is that household finances are like a football team: You have offense and you have defense. Your financial offense is your earnings. Your defense is how you spend your money. You need to get strong on both. You must do whatever you can to improve your situation.

If you have the money, what to purchase? I’d start by putting aside food. Try for two or three weeks supply. Keep a week’s worth of drinking water on hand. Purchase one or two reliable firearms for personal defense and a few boxes of ammo. If you have this, you’ll be better prepared than the vast majority of Americans.

Preppers realize things can go wrong and they want to have the supplies to deal with it.