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28 February, 2013

February Non-Fiction Writing Contest Winners

Below are the winners of the February Non-Fiction Writing Contest.  I will be contacting the winners shortly to arrange for getting their prizes to them.

First Prize: A Katadyn VARIO Microfilter, courtesy of Ready Made Resources goes to Matt M. for his piece "Bug-Out While You Can."


Second Prize: A WaterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage kit, courtesy of Camping Survival goes to Sgt. Prepper for his piece "Three Things I've Learned About Prepping."


Third Prize: A hardcopy of the book "The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency" by Anna Hess.  goes to Harold D. for his piece "Prepping and Survival."


Thanks so much to those who participated!


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Some Prepper / Survivalist Thoughts Gleaned From A Popular TV Drama

I'm not sure if anyone else has been watching "The Americans" on FX.  It's set in the early 1980s and the main characters are KGB deep-cover spies living what appear outwardly to be simple, everyday lives as American citizens.  Overall, it's a pretty decent hour of television, created by a former CIA officer who has now become a screenwriter.

The reason I'm bringing it up here on the site is that a recent episode featured two plot elements that pertain to our Prepper / Survivalist subculture.

1.) This first one is a subject, which comes-up quite a bit in our circles, but, unfortunately, the show's delivery was somewhat off.  Activated by their handler to prepare for a possible insurgent operation in the wake of fears that the U.S. might blame the U.S.S.R. for the attempt on President Reagan's life, we see the characters retrieve a cache of supplies buried out in the woods.  The cache includes a scoped rifle and various explosives and was wired to explode if opened by anyone who wasn't aware of the bomb and how to disarm it.  Unfortunately for those of us who prefer realism, the cache appears to be a chest of some kind, which probably wouldn't work.  Wood would rot and metal would rust.  I suppose it might have been treated with rust-proof paint, but it certainly wasn't airtight -- the contents would have rusted even if the box didn't.  Also, the rifle wasn't greased or oiled or even covered inside a case as far as I could see.  A bit disappointing from the perspective of realism.

There is a possibility I'm wrong and just missed something.  When I was watching it, I was looking at a small screen and wasn't in a position to be able to pause or rewind, so, if I'm off somehow, please let me know in the Comments;

And,

2.) They used a technique of communication that could be useful for us to take note of as Preppers / Survivalists.  Those within our subculture have long understood the value of shortwave radio as a mode of both long-range communication as well as news gathering.  The biggest issue has always been the possibility of having one's location tracked if the mic is keyed, which is why many have planned to use their rigs almost exclusively to listen, rather than transmit, in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.  In the show, when they need to send messages to Moscow without having their location zeroed-in upon, they simply used a portable transmitter and antennae array.  They would go out into the woods to a random, isolated location; set-up and send their messages; then return home.  Because they never key the mic from home, they remain impossible to track.

Who says popular fiction doesn't have it's uses for us Preppers?  The realism of the first plot element listed above leaves something be desired, but the basic idea is something we talk about quite a bit.  As for the second, it seems like a really good idea to me, though I am, admittedly, not an expert on amateur shortwave communication, so anyone who knows better should feel free to weigh-in in the Comments section.

"The Americans" airs Wednesday nights on FX and has recently been renewed for a second 13-episode season.

27 February, 2013

Keep Prepping -- If Wall Street Goes, It Could Take The Whole House Of Cards Down With It

I don't know how many of this site's readers follow the stock market.  If you're anything like me, you've likely long ago made the decision to steer well clear of that particularly shaky house of cards.  Of course, I'm sure many of you still have 401ks and such that are heavily-intertwined with the grand casino of Wall Street, so I would advise you to pay attention.  Actually, we all need to be keeping an eye-out, as issues on Wall Street have a disturbingly-direct correlation to how things fare on Main Street as well.

First off, everyone has been very excited recently about the really very decent numbers that the stock market has been reporting.  An old school friend of mine whom I've reconnected with on Facebook posted a few days ago about the growth of her retirement accounts, joking about taking an early retirement if things keep going so well.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that most of the growth is the result of money-printing by the Federal Reserve.  It is a false bubble, fueled by a huge influx of Monopoly money, and gives, basically, zero indication of what is really happening with the economy. 

Meanwhile, here in the real world, 40% of American workers earn $20,000/year or less and, during President Obama's administration, the numbers of those with jobs at all has fallen.  In fact, the damage done to America's once strong retail sector (which employs *A LOT* of people) has been damn near apocalyptic.  Things are getting demonstrably bad out there, yet, the talking heads in the media and in Washington would love for you and I to believe things are somehow getting much better: it's simply not true, unless you happen to be a member of the class that our leaders truly care about -- if you're a Wall Street banker or a politician whose busy cashing the checks of Wall Street bankers, you're likely as happy as a big in slop.

It is true, of course, that some of us regular folks benefit from Bull Markets as well.  My friend's 401k is making her very happy these days.  Most of that benefit, though, only helps the already very rich.  In fact, 82% of all privately-held stock is owned by the wealthiest 5% of Americans.  Feel free to ride that wave with them as long as you can; but the difference between you and them is that, not only do they possess the resources to more easily swallow big losses when gambling but, when things take a bad turn in the future, they can opt out, dumping their holdings (if 82% of all stock was suddenly sold, it would crash the market worse than in 1929) and hiding whatever profits they've gleaned in off-shore accounts.  You?  Not so much.

And, what's troubling is that there are already chinks appearing in the armor.  Corporate insiders are selling their own shares in their own companies with increased vigor these days, which could spell trouble as these same insiders have previously demonstrated a lot of skill at knowing when to get in and when to get out of the market.  In fact, they're selling at a rate of 12 times that of what they're buying.  Maybe that oughta tell us a little something?

As of right now, every indication is that, not only are things not getting any better in any real-world sense, but they are actually about to get a lot worse in the coming months: "... what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened.  Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality.  When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly.  Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008..."

As always, my advice is to get yourself out of shaky, pie-in-the-sky casino-like investments and get your wealth (what little hasn't already been robbed from you by the secret tax of inflation) into more concrete things.  If you have the means, purchasing physical silver and gold is your best bet to sure-up your disposable wealth and to guarantee that it retains its worth in a fragile economy.  For the majority of us who don't necessarily have the means to go that rout, however, our money is best invested in arable land and durable goods like, weapons and ammunition, long-term storage foods, water filters, sturdy tools, survival gear, basic medicines, and knowledge.

Keep you heads down and keep Prepping.  If Wall Street goes (like it nearly went in 2008), it could take the whole house of cards down with it.

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DIY Berkey Water Filter Using Food-Grade Plastic Buckets

If you decide to save money by doing something similar to what is shown in this video, please purchase your filter elements from our sponsors LPC Survival or Ready Made Resources.  Your patronage of our loyal sponsors is what pays the bills and keeps this site online.  Thanks!

26 February, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: "Knowing" (2009)

This week's regular Tuesday afternoon Doomer Fiction film review centers on "Knowing" (2009) [Blu-ray] (DVD version).

It follows a Professor of Astrophysics at MIT (played by Nicolas Cage), struggling to try to raise his son alone, having lost his wife in a freak accident a year or so prior.  Then, one day, he finds himself presented with a number sequence-based puzzle that emerged from a fifty-year-old time capsule and, inexplicably, seems to predict the exact date, location, and number of victims killed in every major global disaster going back to when the numbers were written.  As a scientist, he is a natural skeptic (in fact, he's estranged from his Preacher father as part of his issues with Faith); so, needless to say, the whole concept throws his already shaky world into an even worse state of disarray.

Meanwhile, the sun is in a period of increased activity, causing unusually high temperatures and record-setting droughts as solar flare activity ramps-up.  Needless to say, this will play a larger role in the narrative as the movie goes on.

This is an interesting film, because it defies typical Doomer Fiction stereotypes.  It could, obviously, be considered a disaster movie as well as apocalyptic -- but it also strays into themes that could represent science-fiction and/or Christianity and other forms of spirituality, depending on how the viewer chooses to interpret what they see.  Without giving away too much, expect to see allusions to what may or may not be Angels, Extraterrestrials, the Tree of Life, and Adam and Eve; as well as the vision seen by Ezekiel in 1:4-6 of the Old Testament, which some have interpreted as a description of an encounter with an alien spacecraft as seen through the eyes of a Bronze Age prophet with no frame of reference to help him explain what he was seeing.  Best of all, I think, the film makes no hamfisted attempts to tell you what you're seeing; the viewer is free to interpret it however they see fit, and the film's final moments speak a great deal about Faith, forgiveness, new beginnings, and letting go.

Critics hated this movie, but, then again, half of the movies I've ever loved were ones that the critics hated.  To be honest with you, I feel like this is a film that will be appreciated more by intelligent people and those who have a leaning toward being spiritual, in a general sense -- critics called it cliche, but I was rather moved by it.  At the price this film is going for in both Bluray and DVD formats, I'd feel confident recommending it to any fan of the Doomer Fiction genre.  If you haven't yet given it a chance, do so.  It isn't the best, or even one of the best films you'll ever see, but the odds are you'll come to the finish feeling as though you more than got your money's worth.

Guest Post: Building a DIY Crystal Radio Receiver

Crystal radios were first introduced during the early World Wars by tech-savvy soldiers, who built them behind enemy lines with whatever materials they could scavenge.  It is merely a primitive receiver that requires no battery power, because it counts on the power of the radio waves themselves.  As a radio receiver, it is a crude solution only built from materials you can find and scavenge.  It is not extremely effective, so don't expect wonders.  It is an emergency tool, rather, that you can build when there is no other choice.

The most difficult component to obtain is an earphone efficient enough to be capable of converting the tiny electrical signals carried by radio waves into sound that your ears can hear.  Regular headphones simply won't do as they are designed to be driven by a powerful signal capable of working a speaker.  A very sensitive earphone like the one we're looking for needs a very high impedance to have the necessary qualities for what we intend to do.  A piezoelectric earphone is a perfect solution to that problem, however they are usually difficult to find.  Sound powered headphones were used years ago, but now they are becoming difficult to come across as well.  Keep in mind that military earphones, such as the ones used on navy ships, were essentially sound powered as well and required no energy source.  They are excellent if you can find them – if you get your hands on a pair of these make sure you keep them, as they are becoming a true treasure these days.  Alternately, you can find these on various websites that sell versions at relatively affordable prices.  Radio Shack or their equivalent brands are simply not a source for these, unfortunately, since they work with electronics that don't cover such outdated tech anymore.

The next thing you'll need is a Germanium diode detector.  It is essentially what you'll be using to pick up the radio transmission so they can be heard.  At first, you can buy one at an electronics store, since it will be easier to find that way.  You can also make a DIY version at home using pencils, razor blades, and other household items; though, if you buy one, you won't have to worry about that.  The Germanium diode you can use in this setup is a 1N34A.  Its main advantage is the fact that it works at lower voltage levels than your average diode.  You'll want this particular type as the radio waves you'll be picking up are very weak.  Once again, this will take some shopping online since Radio Shack or similar stores no longer have them in their catalogs.  With this and the piezoelectric earphone, you're ready to build your very own primitive radio receiver.

The first thing you have to keep in mind is that this radio only works with a strong radio signal.  Its main advantage its lack of a power source, making it durable and flexible.  No batteries means being independent from the local power grid and that is a very nice asset, however, it is essentially very weak as a receiver.  It can be used as an emergency radio receiver when you have no other choice, but don't expect miracles out of it.

If the earphone you're using has a jack on the end, you'll need to cut it off to expose the two wires.  Don't worry if the wires are twisted around each other; you only need them to be separate at their very ends.  Remove the insulation from the end of the wires and expose them at about an inch.  Use a wire stripper or, alternately, your fingernails if you don't have one on hand at the moment.  Next, you need to wrap one of the bare wires around one end of the diode.  You can use some tape to keep it in place, though it would work better if you solder it given the chance.

What you need to do next is to ground the other end of the diode wire.  The easiest way to do this is tying that end to a cold water faucet or pipe.  It will give you a good connection to the ground and besides you can find it in most places.  Hold the remaining free wire of your earphone in your hand.  You are now this radio's antenna.  Put the earphone in your ear and, if you're lucky, you'll be able to pick in the closest AM radio station within range.  The sound will be faint so you will need to concentrate.  It is possible you may hear different radio stations overlapping their signals on top of each other.  If you can't hear a thing, this may imply you need a bigger antenna.  You can tape the wire you're holding to something big and metal in a good position such as a roof.  You can use a TV antenna as a boost – if you have a decent antenna you might even omit the part of grounding your radio to a static surface, using your body instead by holding the diode wire.

Author Bio:
Greg is a passionate writer who enjoys sharing useful tips and tricks on surviving and sustainable living. He also works on a behalf of West Kensington moving company that can help you handle your N16 house removal.

Welcome New Advertiser: PurifiCup

PurifiCup is a patented portable water purifier, capable of providing safe, clean drinking water anywhere!  It is perfect for survival kits and bug-out bags as well as for use by international travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, such as hunters, hikers, campers, boaters and anglers.  The model meant for natural water purification (they also sell one for use with tap water) eliminates more than 600 kinds of bacteria, providing you safe and clean drinking water worry-free.

PurifiCup’s world-patented design uses a silver membrane filter to eliminates up to 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, and pathogens such as E.coli, giardia, crypto sporidium, etc.  Utilizing the natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of silver, bacteria are removed from water as it is filtered through PurifiCup’s exclusive silver membrane.  There’s no need for boiling water after it is filtered and each filter provides up to 12 gallons (100-150 cups) of pure water -- and replacement filters for additional use beyond the 12 gallons are only $13.99 as of this writing.  The PurifiCup’s absolute 1 micron filter will more consistently remove bacteria such as Crypto than a nominal filter.

Please join me in welcoming PurifiCup!

NOTE: The 3rd video down and those below it are honest user reviews as opposed to a sales pitch by the company.







This last guy below calls it a fail, but I think it's user error.  My reasoning is that these filters are meant to clean water that looks fine but is from a natural source that could contain bacteria, parasites, etc. -- not dirty, dirty compost tea from a year-old garden.  If you're in the bush and that's the best water you can find, then strain, boil, and drink it; the diseases you might get from it pale in comparison to the threat of dehydration, but no backpack filter on Earth is ever going to make it "clean" to look at or taste.  It's simply too big a job for the equipment.  And, the truth is, it's probably still OK to drink, even though it looks greenish.  Looks and taste do not necessarily have anything to do with whether or not it is full of bacteria and parasites.

25 February, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "1984" by George Orwell

Our book review for this week will focus on "1984" by George Orwell (Kindle edition).  This is, of course, a classic that is still taught in schools, and it should hold special relevance to those of us who can read the writing on the wall with respect to the rising Surveillance/Police State of which we're stuck in the middle.

Beginning after 9/11 and worsening with each passing day, we are devolving into a society strikingly similar to the one depicted in Orwell's 1948 classic.  Granted, we aren't there yet; failing to point that out would be dishonest and sensationalistic.  The basic outline now exists, however, for a society not unlike the one in the novel: ruled by an elite class and where privacy and other individual rights are a thing of the past.  At this point, if you fail to see that, then I fear there's little hope left for you -- the Kool-aid has brainwashed you far too well.

Overall, I found the novel to be decent, but very slow and boring at times.  I typically read before bed and this one took me far longer to get through than would be normal for a book of this length, because it kept putting me to sleep.  I don't mean to say that the story isn't engaging, only that you spend the entire time inside the thoughts of one protagonist, a Socialist automaton who has suddenly awoken in his middle-age to the fact that something is very wrong with his society -- a "negative utopia" of Collectivism -- though he isn't quite sure what it is or why he feels this way.  It's also a rather depressing read, which is fine, but it's also something I feel I should point out to any potential readers.

The novel's true strength is in the vivid picture that it paints.  Orwell succeeds, brilliantly, in touching on virtually every aspect of the lives led by the people in a future where London remains a major city in one of three world-spanning Superstates that are always at war with one another in some combination or another; history is rewritten (literally) on a daily-basis with the people convincing themselves that the previous truths never existed, in the interest of self-preservation (disagreeing with the Party is Thought Crime); and children are indoctrinated in a Scout-like youth group called the Spies to denounce and report on their own parents.  And that's only part of it.

In short, it is a sobering read.

REVIEW: The Walking Dead: Season 3 - Episode 11 "I Ain't A Judas"

A number of plot points will inevitably be revealed in the course of these writings.  My intent is to review this program from the perspective of the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community, but, to do that effectively, some things have to be explained in greater detail than I might normally prefer in a review.  As a result, spoilers will follow.  You have been warned.  In truth, you might more accurately describe these posts as in-depth discussions of certain aspects of each episode with an emphasis on how the character's actions might be applicable in a real-life societal collapse.  I hope you enjoy.
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Once again, this week we explore themes of leadership and how to decide what's best for a small group in a survival situation.  When in possession of a stronghold under threat from a stronger, hostile outside source, is the greater wisdom represented by depending on your strong walls to protect you or by bugging-out and staying mobile?  What if those threatening you simply take up position on the high-ground around your stronghold, keeping you hemmed-in by suppressing fire and starving you into submission?

One must never forget that the siege was a staple of medieval warfare; popular fiction would lead one to believe that enemies stormed each other's castles left-and-right, but most of them fell to sieges.  When does that which was once a castle become a tomb?  That is the question being debated by Rick's group at the prison.  Also, when is it best for a leader whose having issues handling stress to step aside and let others carry the burden?

With respect to the Governor's leadership in Woodbury and Andrea's position, what do you do when a leader you've previously trusted and admired allows a personal vendetta to guide their leadership of your group?  In a survival situation, danger will be a part of everyday life, but, when your Leader's actions have the potential of needlessly endangering lives -- especially those of women and children -- how far would you be willing to go to see things put right?  Would you commit betrayal in the interests of the greater good?

And now Andrea has a tough decision to make.  Her divided loyalties are either destined to get her killed or she's going to have to make a choice.  She is terribly torn, because she seems to desperately want to see things go well for everyone she cares about, but that simply isn't gonna happen.  In the end, someone is going to have to die, and, despite her not taking advantage of a stellar opportunity this week to clear the situation up, I still stand by my previous prediction that Andrea will be the one to eventually kill the Governor.

Also, we see the Governor recruiting soldiers, including those who are thirteen years old and older, which opens-up an interesting debate.  He rightfully makes the point that the idea of adolescence is purely a 20th Century concept.  In my own family, I can tell you that one of my Great-Grandmothers was so young when she got married that used to wait for her husband to go to work so she could sneak and play with her dolls.  Hearing that from a modern point-of-view sounds terrible, but that was the reality of the world; puberty equaled adulthood -- boys went to work and girls got married and started having babies.  Will things go back to that WTSHTF?

Another point of interest for this episode was that Merle's military training has already had a nice impact on the group at the prison.  For the first time, they were seen to move in overlapping bounds with one group covering while the other moved, then the second covering as the first moved.  Very good tactics.

The jury is still out as to whether Merle is on his way toward a redemptive character arc.  As for my opinion, I don't think he'll ever be completely redeemed.  In fact, I would find it a bit cheesy if the writers chose to take his character in that direction.  I see Merle as simply an opportunistic survivor -- when he was with the Governor, he acted in accordance with how the Governor wanted things done; now that he has no place in Woodbury, however, he'll do what he can not to make waves and get himself exiled from Rick's group.  Even if he cleans up his act, it won't be because he's a better person; it'll just be to keep the peace.

We were also introduced to a possible danger of allowing strangers inside your stronghold and a good reason to practice proper OPSEC (Operational Security).  Tyreese's group, ousted from the prison two weeks ago when Rick had one of his episodes, turned-up looking for sanctuary in Woodbury.  Needless to say, it didn't take long before the bright idea entered someone's head to use their knowledge of the layout inside the prison as reconnaissance when the time comes to attack Rick's group.  I do believe the back entrance that Tyreese's people used to enter the prison initially (which is, basically, a breach in the wall that can't really be secured) may end up being the Achilles Heel for what would otherwise be a nearly impregnable fortress.  There's a reason why rulers in the ancient world would sometimes executed those who had built their castles -- they wanted no one alive who knew the secrets but themselves.


The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]

The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]

My previous reviews for this series can be accessed by clicking the links below:



Carrots, Eggs, Or Coffee?

The following may seem rather out of place with regard to our normal subject-matter, but I thought it was a great message and wanted to share.
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Photo courtesy of Free From The Dark on Facebook
A young woman went to her Grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.  She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.  She was tired of fighting and struggling.

Her Grandmother took her to the kitchen.  She filled three pots with water.  In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them sit and boil without saying a word.  In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners.  She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl.  She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her Granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me, what do you see?" 

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft and mushy.  She then asked her to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hardened egg.  Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled as she tasted its deep flavor and inhaled its rich aroma.  The daughter then asked, "What's the point, Grandma?"

Her Grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity - boiling water - but each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it became weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin, outer shell had protected its liquid interior.  But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her Granddaughter.  "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I?  Am I the carrot that seems strong?  But with pain and adversity, do I wilt and lose my strength?  Am I the egg that starts with a fluid spirit but, after death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, I become hardened and stiff?  Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?  Or am I like the coffee bean?  The bean actually changes the hot water - the very circumstance that brings the adversity, the pain, the hardship – into something quite wonderful.  When the water gets hot, it releases it's fragrance and flavor.  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better, and change the situation around you for the better. 

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?  How do you handle adversity?

ARE YOU A CARROT, AN EGG, OR A COFFEE BEAN?

~ Author Unknown

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24 February, 2013

Cyberthreats: New Dangers in a (Rapidly) Changing World

Photo courtesy of Yahoo! News
As nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives becomes more and more intertwined with advancing technologies, so too increases the future threats posed by individuals and groups with the know-how to exploit weaknesses in those technologies.  People are beginning to wake-up to the dangers posed by these cyberthreats, but there still isn't nearly enough attention being paid by those whose responsibilities it is to safeguard our critical infrastructure from technology-based attacks.

A pronounced weak-point in this infrastructure is our antiquated electrical power grid, comprised of thousands of interconnected transformers and generators, literally millions of miles of combined distribution wires, and over 160,000 miles of combined miles of high-voltage lines.  If an enemy -- whether it be another nation or terrorists -- wanted to truly harm the U.S., this could be accomplished without landing a single boot on the ground or exploding a single physical bomb.

We in Prepper / Survivalist circles worry a lot about the possibility of a nuclear EMP knocking-out our power grid; in fact, such a scenario is the centerpiece of great novels such as "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen, "77 Days In September" by Ray Gorham, "Collapse" by Richard Stephenson (which I'll be reviewing soon), and countless others.  The thing is an EMP isn't really necessary to achieve similar effects.  Our power grid, as well as our water delivery and major transportation systems, can be crippled through purely electronic means via cyber warfare.  Virtually all of these real-world systems are now dependent on the digital world.

A terrorist group or rogue nation could turn out the lights for weeks or months (and, in some areas, years) by causing power surges that fry critical and difficult to replace components (basically, just like an EMP does); cut-off municipal water service to large population centers; and, even attack the fail-safes at nuclear power-plants, causing meltdowns that would endanger or kill millions of people.  And they could do it all from behind a computer screen thousands of miles away.

Less dramatic but also an issue is the threat of cyber-espionage, in which China is believed to be heavily involved.  State secrets, many of which that could endanger American lives if outed, can now be stolen with a few keystrokes.

What we need is a secondary backup infrastructure to add resiliency to these critical systems, but that outcome is likely not in the future for a society in the sort of decline we're experiencing.  Instead, it will be up to each of us to prepare as best we can to ensure that we, our families and friends, and hopefully others we can be charitable toward, are able to weather the proverbial storms that litter our future.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton is OK with Indiscriminate Drone Murder With No Due Process Protections & Accuses Libertarians of "Defending the Confederacy" for Disagreeing

Reposted from the Skeptical Libertarian Facebook page:

During the Q&A, Skeptical Libertarian editor Daniel Bier asked Bolton, “If YOU were identified as a threat by some nameless official in the administration, would YOU want due process?”
Bolton retorted that the government was right to kill thousands of Americans during the Civil War without due process, and (after being jeered by the crowd) accused libertarians of "discrediting their movement" by "defending the Confederacy."

In a later interview, Bier responded to Bolton's statement: "It's ludicrous to compare the deliberate assassination of a 16-year-old American citizen, who is not engaged in hostilities against the United States, who has never been charged with a crime, and was in a neutral country, with shooting back at Confederate soldiers on a battlefield... It's a clever rhetorical twist to equate support for due process with support for slavery, but it's a complete non-sequitur.  Mr. Bolton never answered my question, and so it seems he's quite comfortable with the idea of a single man deciding who lives and dies, without any restraint or judicial review.  The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, not God."



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23 February, 2013

Guest Post: Why Books Should be Part of Your Bug-Out Bag

Your bug-out bag -- also known as a G.O.O.D. (Get Out Of Dodge) bag or go-bag -- is an emergency preparedness stand-by; usually a backpack or easily-carried trunk or case that is pre-packed with sufficient food and water to help you survive for up to 72 hours, along with any other lightweight, portable gear that might be required in an emergency or in the event of a disaster.

Water is certain to be the heaviest item in the bug-out bag, and that leaves little leeway for non-essentials.  Many people assume that books, made of weighty and voluminous paper, are one of the last things to be considered for inclusion in a bug-out bag.  This is especially true now that there are so many applications available for smartphones and tablet PCs that can help with survival hints and tips and information that could be necessary in the wake of such a disaster.  What those people do not take into account is the fact that all electronic items can be at risk from events like (EMP) electro-magnetic pulses -- should such a disaster take place, these handy devices might serve no purpose at all!  There is also the possibility of signal towers being impacted by the disaster and mobile-phone coverage being off-line for a time.

There are some books that should be included in every bug out bag for greater security and peace of mind at a trying and traumatic time.

Map books and travel information


Hopefully, in the wake of a disaster, sat-navs and map apps and the Internet will still be operational, allowing survivors to band together in safe locations to begin preparing for recovery.  If electronic infrastructures are not working, however, then an up-to-date set of maps detailing both physical features, like mountains and rivers, and roads, cities and other man-made features, is an absolute must.  This will give survivors helpful information to navigate directly to a pre-decided destination, without having to proceed by trial and error.

Medical Information and First Aid


There are books available that can help survivors treat broken bones, twists and sprains and even perform operations when necessary.  Books detailing human anatomy and basic treatments for common symptoms can relieve the impact of illness.  A well-equipped first-aid kit is a necessity in a bug-out bag, information on when and how to use the contents is just as much so.

Survival books


There are a great range of survival books on the market, probably too many to try to pack them all into the limited space available.  The most important ones to take include those relevant to the climate the bug-out bag is to be used in; temperate, tropical, arctic or desert, each will have their own needs and criteria to consider.  How to prepare tasty and nutritious meals in the wild will also be useful, especially if they include recipes using survival pack food, dehydrated food packs, plenty of rice and pasta and any foodstuffs commonly found in the countryside.

If a comprehensive pocket-size survival guide can be found, containing information on how to build or find shelter in a variety of terrains and giving information on how to track animals to water and so forth, that is the one to choose.  Our needs following an apocalypse are likely to reflect a return to the basic needs of our caveman ancestors: food, warmth, shelter – only after those three are addressed can we begin the process of recovering properly from whatever disaster or situation that has befallen us.


Author bio: Thanks for taking the time to read my article!  I’m Chris, an outdoors enthusiast and a keen survivalist.  I’ve been writing and blogging about the great outdoors for the last two years and you can find more of my articles at http://blog.simplyhike.co.uk/.

Gun Control Comedy

Recently, a Liberal friend of mine made an obviously joking tongue-in-cheek comment on Facebook, basically riffing off the analogy between the gun control debate and drunk driving: why have laws against drunk driving since we all know criminals don't obey laws anyway?... why punish me for drunk driving if I'm a responsible drunk driver and don't hurt anyone?... I should only be punished if I wreck and hurt someone -- don't blame responsible drunk drivers or the alcohol, etc.  You get the picture.

I decided to play along and posted the following satire of my own, based on the details of the Assault Weapons Ban Bill that Sen. Feinstein has been pushing:

It would be a better analogy if you compared it to only being allowed to keep your car because you were grandfathered; can't give it to your kids -- it has to be destroyed after you die.  Ban all sales of that model and others with similar cosmetic features, while not banning others that have identical inner-workings.  Also, all gas tanks shall be limited to 10 gallons or less.  If your current grandfathered assault car has a 15 gallon tank, it must be removed and turned-in at your local police station, and you must purchase a 10 gallon or less tank at your own expense.  This is a common sense measure that you should be perfectly willing to go along with, because nobody needs more than 10 gallons to go driving.


Needless to say, he was not amused... 

22 February, 2013

How Much Longer Can A Failing Empire Afford to Incarcerate So Many People & What That Might Mean for the Rest of Us?

Photo courtesy of DailyTech
As some of you may already know, my educational background and future aspirations lie in the field of Criminal Justice.  I currently hold a Bachelor's degree and I am enrolled as a Graduate student in a Master's degree program with the eventual goal -- if our society manages to hold it together -- of teaching college-level Criminal Justice courses and working as a consultant to law enforcement on the subject of criminal behavioral analysis.  With my background and interest in that field and my interest in emergency preparedness and survivalism, I've been giving a lot of thought lately to just what exactly is going to happen with respect to the droves and droves of incarcerated inmates we have in prisons and jails across this nation, both WTSHTF and/or in the intervening difficult years ahead as the economy continues to crumble and the country goes broke.

Here in the U.S., we have a prison population that is the largest in the entire world and that counts both in real numbers as well as on a per capita population basis.  According to one study, this can be tied directly to the disastrously unsuccessful and misguided War On Drugs that tripled the percentage of inmates incarcerated for non-violent drug-related infractions between 1980-1990, then doubled that number again by the year 2000 and continued to rise through 2010.  Since 2010, individual states -- it seems -- have begun to get the picture and concentrate more on locking-up violent offenders, but the Federal Government is behind the curve: the incarceration of non-violent offenders charged with drug crimes continues to rise in federal prisons.

Photo courtesy of Zombiepedia
And, just how much does it cost to keep all these people locked-up?  Tens of billions of dollars every year!  In 2010, one report listed a per inmate estimate of $31,207/year with that number rising to as high as $60,000/year in areas such as New York, Connecticut, and Washington state.

Just how long can a failing Empire in economic decline afford to house, feed, and provide medical care to the absolutely breathtaking number of people we have locked-up?  My fear: not much longer.  The truth is I don't think a large majority of these folks should have been incarcerated at all, and many and more of them will do fine reintegrating back into society.  Not all will be so easy to get along with, however.  Some of the problems I foresee with letting them go now are thus:

 1.) After being "inside" for a long time, many will have adopted a criminal mindset that they might never have developed otherwise.  Jails are often just places where petty criminals get to be schooled by the truly bad apples on ways to be better criminals.

Photo courtesy of EST/IST
 2.) Many will have joined gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood to get protection, but those ties don't end when they get out.  Now, the guy who went to jail for selling dime bags of marijuana is a hardcore Aryan lunatic who will be coming to your town to set-up a meth lab operation for his gang.

 3.) Many, who never raised a hand in anger to another human being in their lives before being arrested, have now spent years in the company of true predators.  They've been raped, victimized, and some of them have been forced to kill in self-defense during attacks by other inmates.  In the worst case scenarios, we have created killers; at best, we've created a whole crop of PTSD'd folks who are liable to become unhinged at the drop of a hat.

 4.) The future economic outlook of an ex-convict was never a bright one, but, in today's terrible (and worsening) economy, it's even worse.  With fewer and fewer decent jobs available, there will be stiffer competition for even the menial jobs for which ex-cons used to have to settle.  If a guy needs his floors mopped, is he more likely to hire the former bakery-worker who has a wife and kids and no criminal record or an ex-convict?  You do the math.  This will create an environment that leads an even greater percentage of ex-convicts back into criminal behaviors.

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you can get the idea.  The fact is that the government simply isn't going to be able to retain responsibility for these people for much longer, and that does not necessarily bode well for the rest of us.

Guest Post: Innovative Ways to Secure Your Home

With all the technological innovations that are made each day, it’s easy to take things for granted.  Take, for example, the security industry and how it has changed airports; a hurried traveler can opt to walk through a full body scanner instead of being subject to a pat down and thorough wanding.  Or ponder for a moment the concept of turning on or off your home security system remotely with a few simple clicks from a mobile device.

While not all advances in technology turn out to be successful (the wearable PC anyone?), there are many that integrate so well into everyday life that sometimes we need to be reminded of them.  Here are five significant advances in home security technologies you just may have forgotten about:

You Can Be An Eye In The Sky – Thanks to a variety of smart phone apps, the remote monitoring of your house is now possible.  Some companies even offer options packages that give you the ability to view live security feeds from your property no matter where in the world you are.

Have Your Security System Watch Your Back – It used to be that a home security system could only alert you if a door had been forced open or a window smashed in.  These days, however, modern home security systems can tell you if your furnace has failed or if you have any water or gas leaks, and some systems even have an emergency utility shut off function!

These Aren’t Your Parents’ Security Systems – Night vision, laser trip wires that Tweet when triggered, fog blast shields, footstep detectors—sound like the next big sci-fi blockbuster?  Not quite.  These are just some of the different options and features that are available for inclusion in home security systems thanks to technology.

No False Alarms – With the addition of vibration sensors and the ability to program the size of a pet into one’s security system, false alarms can be a thing of the past.  Now you can be sure that the noise you heard was just a tree in the wind, or that the knock at the door was really a fallen branch instead of an intruder.

It’s A Package Deal – Thanks in part to technological advances made in communications, your home security system isn’t just a home security system anymore.  These days the best security plan is a comprehensive one; most home security packages include fire detection, gas detection, leak detection, heat and water sensors, carbon monoxide detectors, even medical emergency notification features.

So whether you need to keep an eye on your home while on a business trip, or you’re looking to fortify your property with the most cutting-edge security technologies, don’t take the small things for granted!


About the Author:
Holly Joubert is a freelance writer and independent researcher for www.securitychoice.com. Her fortes include personal security and mobile technologies and she shares her insights on various mobile technology and home security blogs.

21 February, 2013

Guest Post: Food Storage Tips for Newbie Preppers

Food storage is a practical and rewarding activity.  It saves us time, money, and energy in the long run and makes us prepared for emergencies as well.  What are the things you need to know in storing food?

Shopping for Food


The first step in food storage is buying the food you want to store.  This may seem trivial to some but proper knowledge will make storage more efficient.

1. Make a list of the food items you want to store.  Instead of roaming around and getting confused and disoriented between shelves, you can go straight to the items that you need, buying you more time to examine the products and help you decide which variant to purchase.

2. Add variety.  Instead of buying a few items in bulk (say, 5 whole chickens), buy several different items (a chicken, some tuna, baby carrots, nuts, and so on).  In this way, you will avoid menu fatigue, which is the result of eating the same food over and over again.  In addition, with more variety you will have healthier choices—eating the same type of food for a prolonged period of time will deny you the essential vitamins and minerals that such food lacks.  Wheat, for example, does not have Vitamin C, which is essential for boosting the immune system.

Preparing the Food for Storage


The next step of food storage is preparation for long-term storage.  The causes of food spoilage are bacteria and fungus growth.  These thrive on warmth, moisture and air.  Food storage methods deny these elements to the bacteria.

Here are the most common food storage methods:

1. Freezing.  This method denies heat to the germs present in our food and slows down their activity, thus preventing food from rotting.

2. Canning prevents the introduction of air and moisture in preserved food.

3. Drying removes moisture from our food, making them an inhospitable environment for bacteria to thrive in.

4. Curing.  Salt, sugar, and nitrates remove moisture in food and at the same time prevent bacteria from spoiling our food.

Storing the Food


The longevity of food depends on the quality of our storage; here are some reminders on how to make our food last longer.

1. Use containers that are sterilized and dried.
2. Use clear plastic containers to make identification of the food they contain easier.
3. Make organizing easier by using stackable containers.
4. Keep the containers in cool places and away from sunlight.
5. Check the integrity of air-sealed containers.  Keep them always tight.
6. Keep your stored food away from insects and pests.
7. Take note that food spoils faster in warm, moist, and tropical regions than in dry areas, so adjust your food storage practices accordingly.

For more detailed tips on food storage, click here.


About the author:
Adeline is a homemaker and freelance writer. For more homemaking tips, click here.


References

Chicago Tribune: Food storage do's and don'ts; [http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/chi-food-storage-pg,0,2737659.photogallery]

“Seven Major Mistakes in Food Storage”; Vicki Tate; The Preparedness Journal; Dec., 1995; [https://www.usaemergencysupply.com/information_center/seven_major_mistakes_in_food_storage.htm]

Beprepared: EMERGENCY ESSENTIALS’ 15 TIPS FOR FOOD STORAGE SHOPPING; [http://beprepared.com/article.asp?ai=1256]

“Methods of Food Storage”; Mallory Ferland; Ehow; [http://www.ehow.com/list_7249489_methods-food-storage.html]

I Don't Trust My Government With Flying Killer Robots and Neither Should Any of You

Photo courtesy of Drone Wars UK
I am largely against the use of drones, and I'll try to explain why.  Before I lay-out my reasoning, however, please understand that I'm not against their use entirely.  I think they're a great tool for reconnaissance, and I even recognize their use for bombing in limited scenarios.  Only a fool would argue against their use completely as though it were a purely black-and-white issue.  The fact is that a single drone can do the work of a large contingent of boots-on-the-ground soldiers, while also having the benefit of keeping those same soldiers out of harm's way.  Some will even argue that a single drone being present can quell entire areas, much like an aircraft carrier does a hostile region; in my mind, however, it only serves to drive enemy activity out of the open, rather than quelling it -- otherwise, why is the level of violence still so high in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan where drones are used quite heavily in our day-to-day military operations?

My problem with drone use is that they seem to have a bad habit of ending-up killing, maiming, and otherwise traumatizing large numbers of innocent civilians.  Some level of "collateral damage" is a sad, but accepted factor in modern warfare, but, when you're talking about civilian deaths outnumbering combatants by a factor of 50-to-1, there's a point when you just have to call it what it truly is: a policy of murder.  We are even going so far as to mirror a common tactic of the terrorist bombers themselves: many terrorists will attack an area via bomb, etc. and then have a secondary strike, the target of which is to kill as many First Responders as possible -- we're now doing the same thing with "double-tap" bombings, the victims of which are just normal people who come to see if they can help after we've dropped the first bomb.

Couple all of that with the fact that these callous strikes are being persecuted in the furtherance of illegal wars i.e. where no declaration of war has been approved by Congress as the Constitution demands, and I, quite simply, have a very difficult time understanding how any thinking person could stand in support of such criminal acts.  All we are doing, ultimately, is giving the rest of the world even more reason to despise us.  One of these days, some terrorist is going to successfully detonate a dirty bomb or a suitcase nuke in the middle of Times Square in New York and it's going to turn-out to be some guy who lost his whole family in one of our drone strikes.

And now, beginning with the Christopher Dorner case, we have drones now being used against U.S. citizens domestically.  Pandora's box has officially been opened.  Let's face it: Chris Dorner was a homicidal maniac; but, the real issue really has nothing to do with him per se -- the real story is the slippery slope we're now on with drone use.  They officially have their legal precedent now, which is all they need.  If you recall, all the Bush administration needed was a memo from a lawyer to get the ball rolling on "enhanced interrogation techniques" and President Obama has apparently taken the same view as to whether or not he can target American citizens for drone strikes.  Legal precedent rules the world, and the Police State Fascists now have a case they can site to make domestic drone use accepted legally whenever they want.

The fact is that drones stand a better chance of completely voiding our Constitutional Right to Privacy if their use is abused than any other possible threat, and no rational person should ever have have complete, unwavering faith in their government to always do the right thing.  Don't believe me?  Ask the folks who were at Ruby Ridge, Wounded Knee, and Waco, or the Apache and Comanche peoples.  They would all set you straight, given the chance.  I simply do not trust the government with killer flying robots that look like something out of a Terminator movie, and neither should any of you.

Drone use greatly expands the power of the state, and they make war seem easy when it isn't supposed to be easy at all.  When it comes to blood, it should be a spy dressed as a waiter delivering two head-shots from a Walther PPK with the tray of coffee in Kabul, not a guy in Arizona at a computer screen like he's playing Modern Warfare on Xbox.  Pressing buttons to kill someone thousands of miles away and watching it blow-up on a screen lacks the visceral component that makes war terrible and causes people to be less likely to engage in it again.  In the past, warfare was terrible, because it was up close and personal; you had to see the look in the other man's eyes when you killed him.  It haunted you in the way that killing someone should haunt you, even if your actions are justifiable.  It's much easier to drop bombs on people when you never have to see their faces.

And lastly, there's the fact that technology doesn't always win wars; sometimes it just forces the foe to adapt.  We've been using drones for a while now, yet the fighting continues.  The forces we're facing have fully embraced the idea that, to beat a technologically-superior foe, the answer is to go medieval.  They don't make a lot of use of cellphones or the Internet; they send runners to carry messages in person, often coded, and they record videos for each other that are physically-delivered on DVDs.  They understand that all they have to do is outlast us, and, when we leave, nothing over there will have changed for the better; thousands upon thousands of people (ours and theirs) will have died in vain; and we will have succeeded only in making Americans even less safe as a result of creating a whole new generation of drone-traumatized, angry zealots to hate us for decades to come.

20 February, 2013

Stranded Cruise Ship Fiasco Gives Us Yet Another Glimpse Behind The Curtain at the Frailty of the False Veneer of Civilized Society and the Chaos that Roils Just Beyond

Photo courtesy of U.S. News
Recently, we in the States had our otherwise consistently high-quality mainstream media news coverage (inject sarcasm) taken-over and dominated by the reports of a Carnival cruise ship stranded, adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for several days.  Just a few days into their cruise, a fire in the engine room resulted in almost a complete loss both of power and propulsion.  They all disembarked after five days of being stranded with horror stories they'll be telling for the rest of their lives.  In fact, some have already filed lawsuits.  What we as Preppers / Survivalists need to take from this incident, however, is that it can represent a microcosm of how a population in distress will comport themselves in a given situation.

Photo courtesy of The Potpourri
Many will, no doubt, view it as the worst five days of their lives.  On the one hand, I can sympathize, seeing as how this was supposed to be a vacation -- for most, probably the only one they'll get to take this year.  On the other hand, considering that half the world lives in squalor with no or only intermittent electricity and no indoor plumbing, it's hard to get all worked-up over a bunch of my fellow spoiled westerners having to rough it for five whole days.  What I find most interesting are the little tidbits that have come to light that make it clear that the thin veneer of society was ripped to shreds aboard that ship.  It leaves one wondering, if so much can devolve in just a few short days, what would have happened if they'd been stranded out there any longer?

As it is, people ran short of medications; busted pipes and clogged toilets created a sewage nightmare that resulted in people creating makeshift beds out of deck chairs (many drug mattresses from their rooms and made tents out of sheets), so they could sleep up-top in the open air, even remaining there in the pouring rain; others slept huddled in hallways; the food aboard reportedly made some sick and one enterprising lady sold Immodium antidiarrheal pills out of her purse; and, perhaps worst of all, none of them had any idea how long they'd be stranded there.

Photo courtesy of Vos Iz Neias
Eventually, they were asked to defecate in bags and urinate in the showers, because there were only five working toilets for over 4000 people.  More telling for those of us in our community, however, is the fact that, as food ran low, people had to wait on line to receive the meager fair of cold onion and cucumber sandwiches, and fights started breaking-out as people the others later referred to as "savages" attacked others over food.

So, what do you imagine might have happened if the onion and cucumber had run-out completely or the sickness had become more widespread, creating a fear of infection for those who were still healthy?  Bedlam, that's what.  Without relief, in another week, that ship would have played host to a reenactment of "Lord of the Flies" with a little "Mad Max" thrown in, ultimately ending-up resembling the Donner Party.

Photo courtesy of NDJ World
Am I being overly dramatic?  Maybe, but, time and time again, it is made obvious to any who care to see that the veneer of polite, ordered society that shields us all from the ugliness and selfishness of human nature is very thin and is easily swept aside.  Times of strife reveal who we really are, and the fact is that most people are just followers spending their whole lives waiting for cues from other, stronger personalities, whether these be good people or bad.  It doesn't take many bad apples in the throng to lead all the others into a panicked frenzy that will kill you if you get caught-up in it.

As Preppers / Survivalists, this is a truth that we must recognize and never forget.  The most dangerous predators we will face will be of the two-legged variety, and -- whether they be truly evil or just scared and acting on instinct -- it won't take much of a disruption in their sedate, comfortable lives to set them at our throats.

My advice: Be ready to see to the safety of you and yours.