Monthly Archives: February 2012

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Whenever I’m asked which event I dread most, I invariably say “Earthquake.” Setting aside the inevitable economic collapse for a moment, let’s take a look at how we can prepare for this most disruptive sort of natural disaster.

I lived in California for a few years and in Hawaii for nearly a decade. I have been all around the Pacific “Ring Of Fire”. But I had never experienced a major earthquake until August 23, 2011. It wasn’t particularly destructive and didn’t take any lives but it certainly changed how I think about earthquakes.

Two things have stuck with me from that sunny Tuesday afternoon in August: cell phones are totally worthless in a widespread disaster; and nobody on the East Coast is prepared for an earthquake. The 5.8 magnitude “2011 Virginia Earthquake” didn’t knock out the power or water but it did completely shut down cell service. My 5-mile drive home from work that afternoon took over an hour, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on the disaster and my own preparedness. As soon as I got home, I filled both bathtubs in case the quake was just a fore-shock of a bigger one. I also examined the pantry and everything fragile that was stored on shelves. If the quake had been just a tad bigger, I might’ve had some clean up to do. I moved all the glass containers back to the rear of the shelves and large glass storage jars went back into the cardboard boxes they came in.

The important thing to know about earthquakes is that they are happening continually around the planet and that no place is immune.

If you watched “Doomsday Preppers” on NatGeo last week, you know that some preppers are concerned about quakes but not all. I find that misguided in the extreme. Quakes are what we should all be prepared for.

Awareness is key. Since earthquakes tend to occur in clusters, knowing where the earth is currently active is half the battle. The US Geological Survey has a great website that can keep you up to date on recent quakes. I check it (and NOAA’s awesome “Space Weather” site) every morning before I head out the door.

So other than keeping your head up, rearranging your pantry, and filling your bathtub, what else can be done? Well, if you’re a prepper you’ve probably got the rest covered: alternate sources of cooking fuel and heat, hand-cranked flashlights and radios, a week or two of non-perishable food, lots of water, and temporary home repair items like plywood sheeting and the ubiquitous blue tarp. Let me add one you might not have thought of: a set of FRS/GMRS radios.

Most folks simply couldn’t function without their mobile phone. Rather than mock them, I shall offer a cheap and cheerful prepper’s alternative. For less than $40, you can yack it up with anybody in a 22-mile radius on a “Family Radio Service” (FRS) radio. Sure, you’ll need a case of batteries if there’s a blabbermouth in your family. But, if you set up a small portable solar panel and a spare car battery, you can keep your radios charged even in a grid-down scenario.

The only downside? There’s no texting capability. Oh, and no “Angry Birds” either.


The Collapse Will Set You Free

(Author’s note: Thanks for being patient while I got those first few experimental posts out of my system. Now it is time to get on with my original promise of pointing out the upside of the coming collapse.)

Let’s start with an examination of debt slavery. Assuming you are a typical middle-class American consumer, your standard of living is totally dependent on debt. Personal after-taxes income has actually decreased slightly over the past 30 years for all but the top 20% of wage earners. That means, in order to have a better life than our parents, we must borrow. Life as we know it simply would not exist without mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit cards. The problem is that these “tools” have been forced on us by our economic overlords to the point that we have become their slaves.

In fact, doing anything that defies this mandatory program of debt-based consumerism will likely get you labeled a terrorist. You think I’m joking? Try making a major purchase with cash (or even a check). If you were to walk into a car dealership with $25k in small bills, the sales staff would alert law enforcement and you would have a few questions to answer down at the station.

I would advise anyone reading this to pay off their debt as soon as possible. Of course, getting completely out of debt is impractical and highly unlikely for most of us but that’s no reason to not make an effort. Paying off debt will put you in the correct frame of mind: “I must now pay for the stuff I thought I needed last week/month/year.” It’s responsible and it’s emancipating.

Better yet, use cash whenever feasible. This has two hugely emancipating effects: you “steal” the banksters’ cut of the action for yourself which, in turn, increases your buying power.

After the collapse, we will proceed to the final step in our emancipation: we will barter for goods and services. Federal Reserve Notes (aka FRN’s, often mistakenly referred to as “money”) will lose their last remaining scraps of value with the collapse. Then, only small portable objects with real value such as gold and silver coins, ammunition, batteries, cigarettes, coffee, etc. will serve as “money”.

Being a slave of modest means, I have chosen to stockpile ammunition as an investment “hedge” against a post-collapse barter economy. The reasons are simple: 1) gold and silver are far too inflated right now for the average peasant to get into; 2) everybody will need bullets; and 3) coins are really hard to fire out of a gun. Also, all those other high value barterables like tobacco, coffee, and sugar have a limited shelf life. Modern ammunition, when stored correctly, will last as long as you or I.

So cheer up, those crushing payments on your debt will soon be a thing of the past! The collapse might not be a trip to Disneyland for everybody involved but it will erase the shackles of debt. Plan now for a fresh new world where a credit card is just a piece of colored plastic imprinted with the name of a dead financial institution and a dollar is just a piece of paper covered in funny masonic images.

I can hardly wait!

Zombies? Really?

They’re getting to be the most played out pop culture trope of the last 50 years, but we still can’t seem to get enough of zombies. Like vampires and werewolves, kids love ’em, teens (really) love ’em, adults love ’em. Millions of dollars are made every year on zombie movies, books, TV shows, costumes, etc. This hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. What has changed is how zombies are now a valid marketing angle for everything from ammunition to running supplies.

What’s going on here? Is it all just a big joke or are we subconsciously desensitizing ourselves for our grim, violent post-collapse future?

The father of the modern zombie spectacle, George A. Romero, was on to something when he used the zombie as a way of criticizing the social unrest of the 1960s. Later, he tweaked his own formula and had his zombies throw our obsessive consumerism back in our face. Not everybody was hip to the subtle commentary going on here. Even today, there are those blissfully naive consumers who think zombies are just another kind of scary monster. But after a lifetime of consuming zombie books and films, I can tell you this: the zombie message has never been louder or clearer. Zombies are ourselves – our neighbors, family, and friends – in a post-collapse society.

The survivors, who are exceptionally skilled or incredibly lucky (or both), always band together and struggle to avoid contact with the “undead”. The metaphor is obvious: zombies are people who failed to prepare and are now looking for a handout (or more). They grunt and shamble along with nary a thought in their oozing heads. If they get close enough to bite, they have the power to bring you down to their sub-human level.

In just the past decade, prepping has gone from the domain of a certain whacky and secretive subculture to the stuff of totally mainstream prime time “infotainment”. Even our government is getting in on the fad. I see prepping and zombies as two complimentary things; one is used to explain/justify/laugh off the other. We joke about zombies while we secretly stockpile canned food and shotgun shells.

So get used to the flood of zombie stuff. It may be starting to get old but, hey, at least you don’t hear about pirates – or worse: ninjas – anymore!

War. What Is It Good For?

Well here comes the next war, are you ready? It’s been on its way for over 30 years so when it gets here it shouldn’t be a surprise.

We’ve been here before. More than once in fact.

In the lead-up to the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq, we were told that Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction". Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell (who should’ve known better) did their master’s bidding and waved mushroom clouds in our face on national TV. It was all a bunch of choreographed Booga-booga. Iraq had shut down it’s nuke program but got invaded anyways.

High level officials in both this country and Israel have gone on the record stating that Iran does not currently have the bomb or the capability to build one. Even if they did, they’d have to test it first and then mount it on a suitable delivery vehicle. But we’re going to go to war with them anyways.

That’s rhyme number one.

Rhyme number two is slightly more chilling – especially for any veteran of the Sea Services.

The carrier USS Enterprise is the oldest active combatant ship in the Navy’s inventory. It is scheduled for a rather complicated and expensive decommissioning in 2013. Old, worn out nuclear powered ships can’t just be parked and forgotten. Lengthy defueling and decontaminating procedures must be carried out. Sometimes it’s actually cheaper just to keep an old nuke in service until there’s room in the budget for a decommissioning.

So what do we do? We send this old ship to the Persian Gulf. And as if one wasn’t enough, we’re sending another one; the 45+ year old USS Ponce. There was a recent bit of kerfuffle over what the Ponce would be doing in the Persian Gulf. Turns out it’s not a “SEAL Mothership” after all but rather a “lily pad” for minesweeping helicopters. That still doesn’t change the fact that another old ship is going in harm’s way.

The last time a President knowingly sent our oldest ships into harm’s way it resulted in a “sneak attack” that got that President exactly what he wanted: a war the country was doing everything it could to stay out of. Sure, our newest and best ships were never in any danger and later played key roles in our ultimate victory. But the infamy at Pearl Harbor wasn’t perpetuated by the Asians our government wanted us to kill. It was perpetuated by our own government!

Let’s face it – there will not be one good thing about a war with Iran. Our troops are exhausted, their equipment is suffering from a decade of abuse in punishing climates, and our economy is in such bad shape it will only take another $20 or $30 a barrel on the price of oil to push it off the cliff into the yawning abyss of permanent depression.

And we all know what that means. Accelerated collapse. Hope you’re ready!