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28 February, 2015

Building My Own DIY Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit: A Step-By-Step Journey, Part 7

Completely putting aside modern day conventions, cleanliness really is a very good idea. What's the old saying about it being next to godliness? There's a reason ancient cultures embedded the idea into their very religious teachings: being clean (or, more accurately, the opposite) can have a real impact on health concerns. One of the major reasons, in fact, given for Europe finally pulling itself out of the depths of the Black Plague era is often attributed to the teachings of the man most of us know as Nostradamus and think of only as someone who gave prophecies. The story goes that he went around and tried to teach people how being clean would help stop the spread of the disease, including burning bodies of the infected, rather than either following the typical Christian practice of burial or simply closing the person's home up and leaving them to rot inside (also known to be a font of sickness). Anyway, my point is that being clean has real practical value, rather than simply being a bow to modern sensibilities.

In that spirit, you can look at the picture above and see the items I've added to my Everyday Carry (EDC) kit for the sake of cleanliness. That's a small bottle of hand sanitizer as well as some toothpaste, both of which are in tiny travel sizes. The toothpaste I will, of course, take out of the box; just forgot to do that before taking the picture. Luckily, the hand sanitizer is going to work out well for me with my space limitations; as you can see, it's got a nifty little tail attached to a plastic casing that holds the bottle and allows you to clip it to a zipper. So, I can include this in my EDC kit without worrying about the internal space it's going to take up (which is beginning to become a problem I may have to deal with soon).

My hopes were to also acquire a small travel size toothbrush, but I've been to several stores and haven't been able to locate one (I don't really relish the idea of buying one online and paying shipping charges for something so tiny). I'm still going to keep looking to try to get one, but the truth is that having it really is only a convenience. One can just as easily use the toothpaste with a finger or small twig to get the same job done, perhaps not quite as well but better than nothing. Even just squirting some of the toothpaste in your mouth and swishing it around would be better than not having it at all. And, as far as using a twig or something like that goes, that was pretty standard fare for those who bothered taking care of their teeth in the Old World. Even before there was any such thing as toothpaste, people used the stems of certain aromatic plants to scrape gunk off of their teeth and give their mouth a more fresh scent and flavor, so there are numerous options available, even in the event that I'm not able to locate a suitably small toothbrush for my EDC kit.


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The Good Folks at PrepperZine Asked, and I Answered – The ONE Thing Most Overlooked By Preppers

Actually, eight different preparedness experts weighed-in with their thoughts on the question, but: 1) I was flattered to be asked my opinion as one of the experts mentioned in the title; and 2) My answer is going to make you think about going to the bathroom. Lol.

All joking aside, please take a moment and check out the article at the link below. I was very proud and humbled to have my opinion given weight on this issue alongside some other recognized experts in our little subculture, whose water I'm not sure I'm fit to carry. Please follow the link and give them your readership, and the article actually brings up some very good points.


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27 February, 2015

Bill Gates Thinks It Would Be a Great Idea to Have a One World Government, and I Think Bill Gates Is An Out of Touch Lunatic

Bill Gates is a smart guy. He built a company and a computer operating system that literally brought us out of the age where technology typically looked like a big box with glowing, blinking buttons on it. And never doubt that the Microsoft model rules the world. There has been and always will be debate between people who use PCs versus those who favor Apple products, but – as heated as it can get at times – there's really no question. Apple makes wonderful products and they, more or less, single-handedly revolutionized the smartphone industry to the point that all of us (well, almost all of us) basically walk around every day, carrying a pocket-sized computer that's probably 100 times more powerful than the first one I received as a gift as a young teenager and spent a lot of time playing games on when I was supposed to be doing homework. Apple doesn't necessarily have the best product in the smartphone arena now either (again, up for debate), but they have to be credited with more or less grandfathering that part of our culture into existence. Apples simply don't win over PCs when it comes to computers, though; most of the world runs on PCs, even though they aren't nearly as sleek as Apple products tend to be.

All that being said, Bill Gates' take on political issues marks him clearly as a globalist fatcat lunatic, in my book.

There was a time when talking about the future threat of a push toward a one world government would get you laughed at by most people as a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists. Yet, here is a very wealthy and influential individual (he basically gave up his responsibilities for running the day-to-day activities of his company, specifically so that he could spend time working on global projects) openly advocating a surrender of national sovereignty across the board. Funny how it doesn't take that long for what was once considered conspiracy theory nonsense to make its way right into the typical mainstream, isn't it? Also funny how that seems to happen quite often these days, yet none of those who jeered before seem to remember laughing at those ideas as being so impossible.

Don't get me wrong, I have supported some of the things he has done. He's given a lot of money to charities that have improved the lives of people all over the globe, bringing fresh water to communities, etc. He was also a big advocate of the Arctic seed vault, which any sensible person with a mind bent toward preparedness must understand is a vital idea. Without such a resource, what would we do in the event of a true global disaster? Besides for starving, I mean. And, I've always found it interesting to note his seeming willingness to think about issues like the seed vault, which are so clearly products of a preparedness-minded train of thought, whereas most mainstream people seem intent on considering us Preppers and survivalists to be kooks.

But the idea of a one world government is essentially the worst thing I've ever heard of. In his mind, it would give us a better level of preparedness when it came to dealing with global issues, such as the often debated global warming/climate change and worldwide pandemics. What he fails to recognize, however, is that the United Nations is one of the most poorly administered organizations to have ever existed and is wrought with corruption and incompetence. A one world government would do exactly the opposite of what is needed, which is to build a world with far *LESS* government intrusion into people's lives. Not to mention and I don't know about you, but I wouldn't relish the idea of decisions being handed down on the other side of the planet that could create consequences right in my backyard.

What do you think?


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PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Coleman 10" diameter Cast Iron Skillet

As a Prepper, it is my opinion that few pieces of so-called survival gear are more important to own than a good, sturdy cast iron skillet. With that in mind, I recently purchased this Coleman 10" diameter Cast Iron Skillet from Amazon and thought I should take a moment to talk about the benefits of owning one. First and foremost, I can honestly say that there pretty much isn't anything I wouldn't rather eat prepared in cast iron versus any other cooking implement. Cast iron utensils, quite honestly, make some of the best tasting food you will ever enjoy. Hands down.

Secondly, you're not going to find anything in the world more durable. This one was obviously a Coleman product manufactured in recent times, but there are folks right now using cast iron skillets, griddles, Dutch ovens, etc. that were made over a century ago and passed down from generation to generation. They are truly that sturdy as long as you maintain them properly and don't allow them to rust away.

Features two different pouring spouts for your convenience.

In addition, the durability of these kinds of utensils is probably only rivaled by their versatility, and this is one of the main reasons they are important tools for those of us who consider ourselves Preppers / Survivalists. What I mean by that is that these will allow you to cook a meal, whether you're doing it on the electric range in your kitchen right now during everyday life, on a wood stove, flat-topped kerosene heater, rocket stove, or even over the open flame of a campfire during an extended emergency. Don't think for a moment that those pots and pans you bought at the department store will allow the same kind of usage without soon destroying them. They simply aren't made for that, but cast iron – on the other hand – is truly suited to whatever use you need it to fulfill. And, the material will even provide better heat dispersal, so you won't end up with hotspots and uneven cooking. You will do equally well with a utensil such as my Coleman 10" diameter Cast Iron Skillet, whether you're using it to fry up eggs or bake biscuits. It really is that useful.

Another thing to consider is the fact that a properly maintained cast iron cooking utensil will leach just a bit of a iron into the food being prepared with it. To be clear, we aren't talking about enough here to put you in danger of any kind of heavy metals poisoning. Rather, iron is something needed by the human body and something it's possible you and your family might not be getting enough of in an emergency situation where you are forced to subsist on a limited diet. This could be very important, especially for someone who is anemic. Just something additional to think about.

I'm definitely loving my new Coleman 10" diameter Cast Iron Skillet, and I'm planning on adding more cast-iron utensils to my kitchenware (and, thereby, also my emergency preparedness gear) as soon as I am possibly able.


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26 February, 2015

My Kind of War

Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast article linked to below.
You might recall that recently I shared some of my thoughts on the issue of the United States stepping up militarily in order to quell the threat represented by the Islamic militant terrorist organization known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). As you might also recall, I'm rather torn on the subject from a philosophical standpoint. I typically share the Libertarian viewpoint that we have no business "policing the world" and imposing our control over the affairs of other sovereign nations, but you have to be a fool not to see that we share some of the blame in this conflict. The so-called Islamic State is currently murdering people and committing atrocities, largely with the benefit of equipment that we provided to Iraqi forces that they then captured, giving them an unfair advantage in the conflict. An unfair advantage the fault for which lies at our doorstep. And that's not even considering the additional fact that these people are true evildoers in any sensible person's measure of the word. They, quite simply, need to be stopped. Wiped out even. They are a blot that needs to be erased.

With that in mind, I'd like to take a few moments today (and as a follow-up to that earlier article on the subject) and salute the small number of American fighters who have volunteered to go over there and take the fight to them. These men sometimes face criminal charges for what they're doing, though they can usually elicit promises that they won't be prosecuted upon returning home as long as they agree not to talk about what they are doing on social media. Some will, no doubt, see them as mercenaries, but most claim they aren't being compensated at all and, honestly, I wouldn't care either way if they were. Someone with previous military training, who has fulfilled his commitment of enrollment to our Armed Forces and chooses to make a living afterward using those skills that he learned is doing nothing wrong in my book. Rather, I place much more importance in what cause the fight is attempting to further than whether or not the individual is being paid for his/her work. Some fight alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, guarding Kurdish dignitaries and militant prisoners; while others have joined Christian militias, like the British former nightclub bouncer and business owner who sold his home and possessions and now fights alongside the Christian militia Dwekh Nawsha against militant ISIS forces in the loosely-defined region of Kurdish influence.

What matters is that these men are fighting a good fight, a war that I would personally be proud to say I fought in. In fact, I would go myself, but that isn't possible for medical reasons, which is why I never served my country in that fashion in the mainstream military as well. It's very easy to look at this issue, ignoring the fact that these murderers are taking advantage of force multiplying gear that they only have because we placed it in the hands of a weaker force they could take it from, and say that no American has any business being involved. The problem I have with that stance is that Americans said the same thing all through the 1930s as the Nazis came to power, grew in strength, and ravaged all of Europe. It wasn't our problem, until one day it was. We stepped up only after being attacked here on our own soil, which is exactly the kind of thing I fear happening again if we allow a group like ISIS to become stronger.


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PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Mountain House Beef Stew Freeze-Dried Meal

I'll tell you straight-up that I had seriously high hopes for this one the moment I looked at the label and decided to buy it. Mountain House brand freeze-dried foods are typically my favorite with few exceptions. It's the premier brand in the field, and there's definitely a reason for that. In addition, I've always really enjoyed beef stew. Ever since I was a kid, it's been one of my favorites, and I even have the typical store-bought Dinty Moore brand cans of it in my emergency food storage that I rotate every 3-5 years. And I'm pretty happy to report that I wasn't at all disappointed by this product. It's really good!

This particular entree required the addition of 2 cups (16 ounces) of boiling water in its preparation, and it immediately began to thicken up the way you would want beef stew as soon as I began stirring. Following a few minutes of stirring, it just needed to stand for 8-9 minutes to set up correctly and get everything rehydrated the way it needed to be. I've included a picture of the nutritional information, but – as seems to always be true with such things – don't buy into the idea that you are actually going to get 2 1/2 servings out of this mylar pouch meal. I ate the entire thing myself for dinner one night, and it basically just came to one heaping bowl (a standard-sized bowl, by the way) full. Basically, a healthy meal if you're having it by itself. The only way you'll get more servings than that is if you serve something else with it.

Immediately after pouring the contents of the pouch into the water, before it had a chance to thicken. Lots of goodies, including tiny diced potatoes and pieces of beef.

Needless to say, *MUCH* better after allowing it to stand for 9 minutes. The broth thickened up quite nicely and it made for a very satisfying meal.


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25 February, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Cyalume 6" 12-Hour SnapLight ChemLight Light Stick

If you are a regular reader here at Backwoods Survival Blog, you will no doubt recall that I similarly spotlighted the 4" 6-hour variety of these chemical light sticks a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, my experience with those was a bit lackluster, no doubt because of the fact that they were technically expired. Not that I didn't know that before purchasing them. In fact, I'm aware that many military units still use these long past their listed expiration dates, but the ones I had put off very little light. Not a big deal, honestly. They were priced down, due to being expired, and I got them for next to nothing, so I have no qualms whatsoever about simply labeling them in my gear as needing to pop two or three of them at a time to get the desired light.

I did want to get my hands on a better batch of them, however, and I must say that the 6" 12-hour variety that I purchased on Amazon did seem to work immeasurably better. The lighting still kept me from getting a decent photo to share with you here, but rest assured that popping only one of these chemical light sticks resulted in immediate illumination (I barely even needed to shake it), and it lit my entire bathroom well enough that I never even needed to turn on the light in there throughout the evening. Purchasing them new this way, you'll end up paying just over $1 per unit, but I would definitely advise having a supply of these socked away with the rest of your survival and emergency preparedness gear. There are many instances where lighting could become a serious issue, and having some of these put aside would go a long way toward helping with that as well as being able to mark routes for friends/family following you, etc.


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24 February, 2015

"Bad Men Need Nothing More to Compass Their Ends, Than That Good Men Should Look On and Do Nothing." -- John Stuart Mill

I must admit to being torn with respect to the ISIS situation that currently dominates a good deal of the mainstream media airwaves. I don't intend to spend a lot of time on the debate as to whether or not Islam is to blame from a religious standpoint; I think that fundamentalist extremism is more accurately the issue we are facing (reading through sections of the Old Testament quickly shows that other faiths include some fairly extreme views as well). That question aside, however, I think we can all agree that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria organization is one bent on violence to the point that it almost qualifies as an all-out Old World death cult. And, with that in mind, I also don't believe it is overly extreme to draw comparisons between their activities and that of the Nazis in past decades.

The reason I am terribly conflicted on this issue, however, is that – along with being a Libertarian – I usually am of the mind that we should keep our nose (as a nation, I mean) out of other people's business. I don't usually see much of a difference between imposing our will on other nations than I do the Federal government imposing its will on citizens here in the United States. I won't go so far as to call myself a geopolitical isolationist, but I'm definitely almost universally opposed to the idea that the United States should "police the world" through the use of our military power, interfering in the affairs of other nations that don't truly have bearing on us. That being said, there are exceptions: I never really fully agreed with us going into Iraq post-9/11 to topple that regime, but I could read between the lines well enough to understand that we were essentially playing chess on the world stage and making sure we had a seat at the table in one of the few regions still rich in petroleum but not immediately within reach our military and geopolitical grasp. Also, the threat of allowing someone like Saddam Hussein to possess weapons of mass destruction helped to ease me into an uncomfortable acceptance of that situation. Of course, they still managed to shit the bed by completely dismantling any semblance of Iraqi military infrastructure, basically just giving people their walking papers and creating droves and droves of brand new angry and militarily-trained recruits for terrorists organizations.

Anyway, my point is that I would usually be on the side staunchly against any kind of an extensive military response on our part to deal with an organization like ISIS. Lately, however, I've been experiencing that conflicted train of thought I spoke of earlier. The things these people are doing are abominations. They are obviously a source of true evil in the world that goes far beyond the threat of terrorism. As a result, I find myself more and more lately in the mind of hoping our leaders will finally remove their heads from their posteriors and make some effort to put a true end to these heinous monsters. From a purely moral, human rights standpoint, I can't help but to think back to my embarrassment and disgust when we sat back and watched the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur unfold, doing nothing whatsoever to set things right in favor of those being victimized. We preach freedom and human rights, but we don't always backup our words with actions, and it sickens me at times.

It could even be argued (rather convincingly, in my opinion) that we actually have not only a moral imperative but a responsibility to act. My reasoning for thinking that way is that a great many of the weapons they are using against people, which stretch far beyond rifles and other small arms into extremes such as armored personnel vehicles, are only in their hands because we introduced them to that theater of war in the first place. We gave equipment to Iraqi police forces, and some of it made its way into the hands of these evil men both because some of those Iraqi police turned out to be fanatics themselves and also because ISIS has sometimes attacked those units and simply taken the equipment from them.

The fact remains, though, that it's possible we had a part in helping to arm such evildoers, who have now turned those arms against innocent people. Is it illogical to believe that it might be our responsibility on both a moral and a practical level to – at minimum – take part in efforts to clean up the mess we had a part in making? Shouldn't we at least make an effort to return things to an even keel, so that we can say we at least didn't make the situation worse?

What do you think?


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BOOK REVIEW: "Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End" by Manel Loureiro

As zombie fiction is kind of the proverbial "Belle of the Ball" these days, I'm reviewing the novel "Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End" by Manel Loureiro (Kindle edition). hhh

The narrative of the story is told from the point of view of a corporate attorney, living in what seems to be a fairly affluent housing development (his neighbors are a doctor and his wife and the owner of a small pharmaceutical company) in a small urban area in northern Spain – Galicia, I believe. He lives alone besides for a cat that was given to him by his sister to keep him company and help him cope after the death of his wife two years prior to the events we witness firsthand as readers. The novel takes the form of entries he is making in a blog that he was advised to start by the mental health practitioner he has been seeing since his wife passed away as a means of expressing his thoughts and emotions. During the collapse and the inevitable loss of the Internet, we see him transition these entries into a written journal, so the actual format of the writing doesn't change a great deal.

One thing that I thought was a bit contrived about the story was the fact that he acquires a few solar panels and a modest battery bank early in the novel, simply as a result of the fact that he is frustrated with the power company. Apparently, there are a lot of outages in the small subdivision where his villa is located. It's apparently a fairly new construction or something and isn't serviced well, resulting in frequent power outages of a few hours in the evenings, etc. Anyway, I suppose that is a small gripe to have. Him running out and procuring the means to have off grid power just weeks before the failure of the power grid is not entirely impossible and it is, at least, explained fairly well. It just seemed a bit convenient to me. Like I said, it is a small criticism, I suppose, but it would have been better for the story – in my opinion – if the character had attained this capability at some point in the past, rather than literally right before society collapses around his ears.

On the flipside from criticizing this entry in the zombie survival Doomer Fiction arena, I really like to the fact that the writer described the small subdivision of villas as having been built with a 10-foot tall brick wall around the property, secured by a wrought iron gate. This protects his small front garden and backyard and separates him from both the street as well as neighbors on both sides and rear. It also serves as a nice saving grace when one finds themselves knee-deep in a zombie apocalypse in an urban area. Walls are always a good line of defense, less so when dealing with crazed scavengers (unless guarded by people wielding rifles) but eminently useful against zombies that lack the motor control needed to climb a wall. Again, this is something that was very convenient, which aided the character in his bid to survive, but it didn't feel nearly as contrived. He explains early on that the reason he and his wife bought the place before she died was that she liked the idea of the 10-foot brick wall allowing them a modicum of privacy, even while living in an urban area.

Another big plus for this novel, in my opinion, was the fact that it allows the reader a glimpse into the mind of a typical suburbanite when they find themselves suddenly in the midst of an apocalyptic situation with which they are completely unprepared to deal effectively. So much of survival and Doomer Fiction is predicated around the Prepper subculture that I find it rather refreshing when a piece of fiction comes along that shows how the typical person might deal with a societal collapse. That being said, prepare yourself to be a bit annoyed, both by such typical suburbanite views as well as the actual language of the narrative, though I believe that most of the latter is due to the fact that the original novel was written in Spanish and later translated into English. Translations never really have the same kind of flow that you expect from reading the work of people who share your language as their primary dialect, but it isn't that hard to get through. I just think that it probably would have seemed far better written to someone who was actually reading it in the original Spanish.


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23 February, 2015

You and I Are Once Again Apparently in Danger of Being Considered Future Threats as Likely "Domestic Terrorists"

And here I had it in my head that you and I were simply Americans who believe in freedom and that it's the government who is supposed to be run by The People, and not by fascist, globalist corporations and unelected bankers with sniveling lapdog politicians as their Middle Managers and a highly-militarized and thuggish police forces as the front line.

Apparently, I was wrong, however, as the Federal government is yet again pursuing a tract that makes it exceedingly simple for Preppers and so-called Survivalists to end up lumped in with the violence-prone extreme wing of the Sovereign Citizen Movement. This being despite the fact that the similarities are shaky at best. Somehow, knowing you rights and standing up for yourself is now considered extremism in this country. Sad. Truly sad and worrisome for the future.

To be clear, my motivation for writing this is not to express anti-government sentiment, but rather to point out that the criteria apparently being used to identify possible threats is sufficiently vague as to perhaps include virtually the entire readership of websites like this one, despite the gross stupidity of thinking all of us are potential threats that need watching. I'm a firm believer that being a Patriot is about loving your country, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to love the government currently in office. The current Administration in power in Washington has a proven track record of operating in a manner that is definitely unfair to folks like us: this isn't the first time that people who express a strict belief in Constitutional rights have been targeted as being somehow suspicious over just the past few years. I, for one, can tell you right now that my background lies in criminal justice, and I've never been arrested or even detained once in my entire life.

On the other hand, other terror threats such as ISIS clearly wish to destroy us, rather than sharing the traits of most of us who simply want to be left in peace to live our lives the way we want to live under our Constitutional rights. Groups like ISIS are extremely violent and ruthless and are clearly a true threat. In fact, I'll agree that even those in the *EXTREME* minority of the Sovereign Citizen Movement who are quick to violence pose a threat, but I fear the typical Prepper may soon find themselves... ourselves... wrongly associated with them. 

Hold the line, brothers and sisters.


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MOVIE REVIEW: "Terminator: Salvation" (2009)

"Terminator: Salvation" (2009) Blu-ray (DVD version) stands out from the other films in this series with respect to its setting. Rather than a story set in current times, involving time travel that brings futuristic assassins and protectors back in time to our era, this film features an adult John Connor fighting the war against the machines. Unfortunately, the film didn't do overly well either with critics or at the box office, but that's a shame, in my opinion. Not that it is the best film of the franchise or anything (far from it), but it does take the story in a very interesting new direction.

The year is 2018. John Connor is not yet the leader of the Resistance, but rather simply a soldier with a nominal leadership position. I find this much more realistic than the idea of him stepping out of the nuclear bunker at Crystal Peak, where we left the character at the end of the third film, and people simply following him based only on the fact that he has a crazy story about people and Terminators from the future telling his mom and him that he was going to be the savior of mankind. We know from dialogue in the third film that his wife Kate is important, because it is through her that he is able to make contacts within what remains of the United States military (her father being a high-ranking officer prior to his death). The fact is this: whatever was left of military leadership would have simply told him to close his mouth and get in line if he wanted to join. He would have had to work his way into leadership, which is sort of exactly where we first meet up with him in this film. That being said, he has still told people his story, and the result has been that there are some who believe in his destiny as mankind's savior and look to him for answers, while others are more skeptical.

The one thing I do admit, however, is that the change in plot and setting eliminates a lot of the factors that made the Terminator franchise of films qualify as Doomer Fiction for Preppers. Gone are the hunted characters, living off the grid and as apart from the rest of normal society as possible, and storing caches of weapons and supplies against the day when their hunters return again to try to murder them. In place of that, we have instead what boils down to a futuristic war movie, but I still found it very entertaining and a worthy continuation of the story carried through the first three films. Also, one minor spoiler that I will include, because it doesn't really affect the story (but you can skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled at all) is that the Resistance leadership has their headquarters based on board a submarine. That just struck me as awesome and a really great idea. Any land-based headquarters would immediately be a target for an assault by the machines, up to and including nuclear obliteration, but a submarine can spend most of its time hidden away under the depths, thus guaranteeing a greater likelihood that the command structure of the Resistance survives.

Unfortunately, we won't be seeing a direct sequel to this film with Christian Bale as John Connor and depicting more of the war against the machines ("Salvation" was supposed to be the first film of a new trilogy, but that idea got scrapped). The company that held the rights to the franchise went bankrupt, and the rights ended up being auctioned off. Instead, we will be getting a fifth Terminator film later in 2015 that returns to the previous plot formulas and features Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few younger actors as tentpoles, including a younger Sarah Connor played by Amilia Clark from "Game of Thrones."


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22 February, 2015

REVIEW: The Walking Dead (AMC Network TV Series): Season 5 - Episode 11 "The Distance"

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.

This episode was interesting and somewhat unique as it seemed to take what has been an increasingly dark time for the characters involved and give them a brief glimpse of what could perhaps turn out to be a proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" for their harrowing journey. As is typically par for the course with this show, however, there's a much bigger and more important question being asked through the thread of the narrative. Honestly, that very fact is the reason this program is among my very favorite things being offered by the entertainment world these days; despite all of the shambling and moaning window dressing walking through the world, this isn't really a show about zombies, but rather the focus is almost always on human nature when survival is at stake – for better or worse.

So, with the possibility of a sanctuary being offered to them yet again, the question is are these characters either capable or willing to trust in the intentions of those attempting to welcome them in? So far, they have personal experience with a town that appeared to be a safe and happy place, only to discover it was being administered by a psychopath. Then, we watched as they desperately followed signs toward another promised safe zone in Terminus after being run out of their own stronghold at the prison, only to find that the outward veneer of welcoming behavior was hiding a lair full of cannibals. We must ask ourselves if trust is possible in such a world or even strictly advisable? Being safe rather than sorry would seem to dictate that the answer would be in the negative, but then we must also consider the unlikelihood that this group can continue to survive the way they have been struggling up to now. There is even a baby to worry about. Honestly, trying to put myself in their shoes, I'm not sure what I would do, and truthfully neither is Rick right up until the final moment of this episode.

If you and I were to suddenly find ourselves in the midst of an apocalyptic societal collapse scenario like the one in which these characters are living, we can definitely expect that and intense distrust of strangers will be the new normal and rightly so. You simply can never be sure of another person's intentions until you know them better, so operating in any other way would be very likely to get you and likely those depending on you killed. Exhibiting sensible caution and proper operational security or OPSEC would need to become more of a way of life, rather than just something people like me advise in books and on Internet sites. Extreme caution will need to come into play, and that will likely mean training oneself to always be eyes up and weapons ready, just in case.

There's an interesting exchange early on in the episode when Glenn is advising that anyone they meet coming from the perceived direction of danger is a threat. Other characters are surprised by his seeming intention to shoot first and ask questions later, and it is argued that a person they come across might be someone just like them. His reply is important, despite perhaps being lost in the tempo of the narrative: he answers with something along the lines of "If they're like us, then we should be afraid of them." He is clearly able to see what being on the road and living the way they have had to live is doing to them as people, and he desperately wants a better life. This is something I would advise all of us to keep in mind in a concerted effort to hold on to our humanity. While caution and distrust are definitely the height of wisdom in a world like the one portrayed in the show, it would be important to keep from adopting a policy of shooting first and asking questions later. It is also important to note that, in this kind of TEOTWAWKI societal collapse scenario where pretty much everybody is walking around with PTSD symptoms, maintaining that kind of discipline might be increasingly difficult and would require that we train ourselves now, while the world still resembles something with which we can find some comfort.

There's also another point in the story that resonated for me to the point that I wanted to share it here. During the early part of the episode when they are interrogating the bound newcomer, he's attempting to let them know that – if he had wanted to do them any harm – he could have simply set fire to the barn as they slept and picked them off one-by-one as they ran out of the building. This struck a chord with me, because what he is describing is a method known as Hall Burning that was often used by Scandinavian warriors in centuries past (often erroneously referred to as Vikings). A Lord would sleep together in his Hall with his entire family and most, if not all, of the warriors sworn to his service. So, if another Lord had a feud against them, this method of attack was utilized as an efficient way of wiping all of them out in one swift stroke. Needless to say, it wasn't considered a particularly honorable way to fight. In fact, the perpetrator would usually deny responsibility for such a cowardly action, despite benefiting from it. I thought that worth mentioning, however, because if you or I were to find ourselves faced by the future threat of an actual societal collapse, you had better believe the world we would be living in would resemble those times far more than it does the current times we all know now. These kinds of attacks would, no doubt, occur once again in that type of setting, so I would definitely advise setting up some kind of a guard rotation as part of all of our future plans.

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

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

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

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

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

"Under The Dome" on CBS Is Unexpected Doomer Fiction That Deserves a Spotlight

Approaching it purely with a surface-level understanding, it might surprise you to see me endorsing such a program as bonafide Doomer Fiction, but trust me when I say that it is exactly that. The premise is simple enough (and, yet, dripping with fantasy). A small town in Maine is suddenly enclosed within an invisible and impenetrable dome of an unknown material and origin, trapping the inhabitants inside and cutting them off completely from the outside world. Families are separated with no idea as to when (or if) they might be reunited, the majority of the town's police force and the entire fire department as well as most of the civic leaders are trapped outside because of attending an annual parade, and the townspeople are left completely on their own as far as their survival is concerned.

Just a cursory examination of a few of the episodes in Season One will quickly introduce you to a host of issues that will quickly resonate with those of us who consider ourselves to be Preppers / Survivalists and make you understand why I consider this program to qualify as Doomer Television:

- Needless to say, the potential for public panic remains an issue throughout the series. Early on, we are quickly introduced to the havoc that can result from a fire burning out of control when there is no fire department coming to put it out. In the show, this is because the fire department have all been trapped outside The Dome, but the result is identical to what can be expected in a societal collapse scenario when such social infrastructure becomes no longer available. Likewise, the issue of a criminal manhunt within the dome is explored as well as the issue of having an individual within your community who is mentally unbalanced in a setting where there are little or no social controls to keep their behavior in line.

- The Dome, being its own microclimate, creates somewhat of an incubator that results in a disease outbreak that leaves those in charge scrambling to attempt to keep the illness from spreading. The issue of a medical quarantine is explored as well as one character giving us a glimpse as to the future threat that might be represented by an unstable individual who becomes a bit of a fanatic with respect to their religion when faced with a hardship they might perceive to be similar to an "End Times" scenario.

- And, it doesn't take long before waning resources within The Dome begin to represent a true threat that results in the thin veneer of polite society being torn asunder. An accident that results in a severe water shortage breeds panic, looting, rioting, and violence. People who were once neighbors turn on one another.

The above represent just a few of the issues delved into through the plot of this show in the first season alone. Honestly, there are actually more, but it's hard to give any more detail than I already have without giving away Spoilers that might ruin the your viewing experience. Being as how we are talking about a story, the basic elements of which arrived courtesy of the mind of Stephen King, though, the presence of some supernatural elements should be of little surprise to any viewer. In fact, the second season goes a bit further down that particular road then does the first. Still, even with those elements present, it is still a very entertaining program that contains a lot of action as well as some things that will – no doubt – make you think; and, even in Season Two when the supernatural becomes more of a factor, it still only encompasses a minor layer of the deeper storytelling, and a savvy Prepper / Survivalist will still be able to find plenty to like. I marathon'd my way through the first two seasons in barely as many days (Season Three will air this coming summer), and I'm sure you will enjoy it as well.


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21 February, 2015

How the "Big Brother" Control Freaks Would Really Like to Make Us All Live

First off, you can automatically discount much of the partisan political hackery that is endemic to the type of broadcast portrayed in the video below. The plans being discussed have far less to do with the current Administration in the White House and far more to do with the broad overreaching future plans (future threat, in my opinion), which the Obama Administration supports. It isn't their baby, however, and such ideas will far outlive any of them or their proverbial moment in the sun where they wield any type of real power. These are ideas supported by those who espouse support for Agenda 21-type measures to combat climate change/global warming as a means of attempting to protect the environment for the future. The problem, of course, is that climate change – while a very real problem – is largely a result of cyclical patterns and there is much undecided debate as to whether or not human activity is truly a significantly important contributor. Never doubt, though, that these people will continue to attempt to push their agenda under the guise of environmental protection, while the true goal is nothing more than ironfisted control of the population.

Resist the urge to allow yourself to fall into either a deep conspiracy mindset (no jackbooted thugs are coming to your house anytime soon to drag you away) or one in which you allow yourself to be confused by political ideology. This isn't about politics. It's about control.

What that sounds like reminds me quite a bit of "The Hunger Games." As you recall, those stories depicted a world in which people were herded together into approved district settlements akin to small cities, while the surrounding countryside was off-limits and activities such as hunting, etc. were punishable crimes. The sad truth is that these control freaks would love to see something like that enacted in the real world. There have even been thought exercises wherein the entire population of nations would be herded into a single mega-city the size of Texas (which, admittedly, could be done with the entire population of the world if you were willing to have that city be as congested as New York City), powered by a solar array the size of the Arizona desert, and allowing the entire remaining territory of the nation to return to nature. That is an environmentalist's wet dream, to put it frankly, but it's exactly the kind of reality those in power would love to enforce over all of us if they thought they could get away with it.


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A Handful of Possible Homestead/Survival Retreat Properties on EBay 2-21-15

10 acres in Latimer County in Eastern Oklahoma: Apparently, this property is fairly secluded, being that we did mountain land that is described as being covered in timber and approximately 30 miles from conveniences such as Walmart and McDonald's. Located in a county of less than 11,000 people, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, about 15 people per square mile, so not terrible in that respect. Electric utilities are nearby, but alternative energy we actually probably end up being cheaper rather than pay to have the power company hook the site up to the grid. Unfortunately, the property is also listed as needing septic and a well. Keep that in mind. That being said, bidding on this property is bidding on the down payment you will pay. There wanting just under $17,000 for the property in total, which is pretty good for 10 acres, and their offering payments of $140 per month with no credit check.

Smaller 4 acre lot, also in Latimer County in eastern Oklahoma: this one is going for only $8900 or payments of $85 per month after winning the bid that counts as the winners down payment. This one also looks like a decent property, though not as secluded. It actually has a maintained County Road bordering one end of the property with hookups for water service originating there. An adjoining property holder has electricity on their property, so expanding service onto this lot also wouldn't be that difficult, but it still might be cheaper and more wise to go with alternative energy. The price of solar has come down quite a bit, in case you haven't noticed. The property also has a dirt road bordering the side opposite the maintained County Road, and a seasonal creek runs through the property, which could be a valuable survival asset, but due diligence would be required regarding water rights, etc.

11.94 acres in the mild climate of Northeast Texas: The property is located in Red River County, near Clarksville, Texas. This property looks really nice, whether you envision your homestead or retreat as simply a little cabin with a garden or if you are looking to raise livestock and have a small farm. Needless to say, a more extensive financial commitment is required for this one with a minimum down payment of $99 translating into monthly payments of $575 per month. Higher down payments, of course, effectively lower the monthly payment price, but this one definitely doesn't fall under the classification of cheap or "junk" land, despite being undeveloped. You're paying extra for a better climate with this one, meaning you'll have a longer growing season as well as an easier time raising livestock.

According to the description, the picture above isn't the actual property, but rather taken in the same area. Not sure why they don't picture the property itself, but I wouldn't consider buying it without seeing more.
10 acres in southern Oregon, located only feet from Lake Malhuer and about 10 miles from the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge: Apparently, fairly secluded and being described as not being able to see anything else for miles. Near the small town of Burns, Oregon in Harney County. Lots of wildlife around. Unlike the others, this auction is actually for the full price of purchasing the property, rather than bidding on a down payment and then assuming monthly payments. If interested, you can just bypass all of the bidding and purchase this acreage for $7500, but you'll probably get it quite a bit cheaper if you take the bidding route. I didn't see anything about a reserve price that was required to be met, so keep that in mind and just be sure to do your due diligence before purchasing this property or any other.


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20 February, 2015

Building My Own DIY Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit: A Step-By-Step Journey, Part 6

One thing that will remain true pretty much universally, no matter what survival expert is giving you advice, is the understanding that very few things are more useful in an emergency than cordage (i.e. rope, bungee cable, utility cord, paracord, etc.). As a result, no self-respecting Everyday Carry (EDC) kit should be without this versatile resource.

This is what a 50' roll of utility cord looks like. No way in Hell I'm getting all of this into my already-stuffed EDC, so I'll have no choice but to get crafty.

Unfortunately (and as I've stated before), my choice to repurpose an old, otherwise useless day planner in order to serve as a case for my Everyday Carry (EDC) kit has resulted in a bit of a space issue that I'm currently having to work around when deciding what I can and cannot include in my kit. It sucks, but such things are the way of the world. Worst-case scenario, if I feel as though I'm being too restricted by this issue, I may eventually go ahead and purchase a satchel or backpack within which this small case can reside as well as providing more room for additional items. That's a ways down the road, however, and our subject today is talking about getting as much of this cordage as possible into my kit.

In order to achieve this, I worked it out to be able to fit somewhere around 20' (somewhat of a rough estimate) into my EDC kit as well as several strips of duct tape, which also has myriad uses and could come in very handy in any type of emergency situation. As you can see from looking at the photos, I simply unspooled the roll of utility cord and secured it with duct tape in rows that are meant both to 1) Fit within the confines of my EDC case as well as 2) Lie as flat as possible to help with the issue I'm having of stretching the old day planner.

The rows you see are roughly 6" long, arranged as 20 rows to equal around 10'. Then the process is repeated a second time, resulting in what you see in the photo above. And, lastly, one section is simply closed over the top of the other in the same way that a door swings on its hinge, resulting in roughly 20' of cordage as well as a bunch of very useful strips of duct tape packed into a fairly small space as pictured below:


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19 February, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Backpacker's Pantry Jamaican Style Jerk Rice with Chicken Freeze-Dried Meal

As regular readers of Backwoods Survival Blog can attest, I'm always on the lookout for the opportunity to try out new products meant for Preppers and give my honest opinion about them here on the site. And that often includes freeze-dried long-term storage foods, helped along by the fact that you can buy them in these convenient little 1-2 serving mylar pouches marketed toward hikers and campers. It gives me a chance to try out new varieties to see what I like as well as to share my views with my readers, and constantly enriches my experience by allowing me to stock up on larger purchases in #10 cans of only those varieties which I (and my family) actually enjoy. With all of that said, let's move forward with another such review today, spotlighting the Jamaican Style Jerk Rice with Chicken produced under the Backpacker's Pantry brand.

You might recall that my opinions of this brand have been somewhat hit-and-miss. I've reviewed two of their meals here on the site already, thoroughly enjoying the Colorado Omelette while being a bit disappointed with the Huevos Rancheros. I can honestly say, though, that the Jamaican Style Jerk Rice with Chicken meal should be classified alongside the former rather than the latter. I very much enjoyed it as did the others in my home. Basically, you're looking at a meal consisting of rice, black beans, and chicken, dressed-up with Jamaican style seasoning. Prior to tasting it, a fear of mine was that it was going to be overly spicy, but that turned out only to be due to my perception of Jamaican spicing being such. It really wasn't hot at all, having only a small kick to give it a slightly spicy flavor. In the end, the dish reminded me a great deal of refried rice, if you have ever had that before.

The pouch is listed as containing two servings, which is probably fair, especially if it isn't the only part of your meal. I ended up eating it all myself (other than getting folks around here to taste a few bites), but I had a hard time with it. In fact, I couldn't finish it in one sitting, having to come back to it later on in the night. I could easily have split it into two meals and fed myself dinner for two days. If you decide to eat the entire pouch all yourself, just know that it is a very healthy-sized meal. All that was required in order to prepare it was adding two full cups of water and stirring it a few times as it steeped for 13 minutes in order to rehydrate the beans. After that, it was only a matter of putting it on the stove and allowing it to warm and cook-off some of the excess water.

Dry mix, right out of the pouch

Just started on the stove

Finished product, ready-to-eat. Look how well it darkened and how plump those black beans are. A very solid and satisfying meal.


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