29 December 2012

Thoughts: To the Baby Boomers

I'd like to address this one to the Baby Boomers. Don't get all riled up just because I said that, my parents are Boomers and I love them dearly. It's just that I get tired of being called a part of the "Gimme Generation" by people who have no idea what they're talking about.

Ignore birth control girl, and everything you've seen on the news about Occupy. The news media likes to stick a camera in the face of the person who's going to provide a lucrative soundbite for a sensational story. They have no interest in reporting the truth.

The truth is that I've been paying into Social Security since I joined the workforce, knowing full well that I'll never see a dime of it back.

The truth is that Medicare will not be there for me when I retire.

The truth is that I'm not voting for your political candidates because they suck, and when I try to get involved in the political process you blow me off.

The truth is that I didn't want to fight in your stupid war, but I needed a job and it was the only one I could get with no experience and no college.

The truth is that I don't care about your "War on terror" because I'm pretty sure you made it up, and we can't afford to pay for it.

The truth is I can't believe you're so willfully ignorant of anything that isn't broadcast on the news, and that you blindly believe everything you see on TV. I'm a product of public schooling and even I know more about research and critical thinking than that.

The truth is that I don't care about your "protection of marriage" crap, because I saw the ER staff bar my gay friend from seeing her partner after she was in a car accident because she wasn't family, and I thought that was B.S.

The truth is that I don't care about your "war on drugs", because I know it's not working and it's costing me money. Besides, you smoked weed in the 60s. Don't be a hypocrite.

The truth is that your fiscal cliff sucks, and I can't afford to pay any more taxes.

The truth is that my mortgage is underwater, I'm drowning in student debt, my grocery bill is eating up my paycheck, my medical bills go unpaid because my employer cut benefits after Obamacare passed, I haven't gotten a raise in years and I can't ask for one because I'll be laid off and my job outsourced if I do. By the way, I'm declaring bankruptcy.

The truth is that you can't have my guns, even if it's "for the children" because if I give them up I have no way of addressing a group of tyrants who don't represent me using force to take what little I have.

I don't want you to "Gimme" anything. The only thing I want from you is to be left alone. Leave my paycheck alone. Leave my healthcare (or lack thereof) alone. Leave my Constitution alone. Leave everyone else alone. Quit meddling with things, you're just making it worse.

Don't push me. I will push back.

28 December 2012

Thoughts: Support Our Troops

I've been told by several well meaning people "Thank you for your service". (Yeah, I'm a vet.) I never know quite what to say to that, though. You're welcome? Wake up, we've been lied to?

I hear people everywhere saying "Support our troops." What the heck does that mean? Nothing. It's a meaningless phrase. If you really wanted to support the troops, you'd quit electing people who send us off to die in undeclared and unconstitutional wars.

I hear so-called conservatives rant about "Boots on the ground", mostly secure in the fact that it won't be their boots. This is the part that gets ignored- people come back broken, mentally and physically, and can't get it together. Consider the fact that it was only two years ago that the VA admitted that Agent Orange may have been bad for people. They still deny that exposure to depleted uranium is causing health problems. Don't even get me started on PTSD.

The growing number of homeless vets is just one of the symptoms.

Propaganda-driven wars for profit are the problem. Support the troops, bring them home.

photo credit

26 December 2012

Finances: Cash, gold, & digital money

With all this talk of the coming financial crises I see people largely taking one of two viewpoints.

The first is to be stubbornly, pitifully oblivious. "Economics? Financial news? Who reads that? There's a post-holiday sale at the mall, let's go stand in line. I want a new iPhone, and pity the fool who gets in my way."

credit for photo
If that's your take on it, then I really have nothing to say to you. Sorry.

The second is to be aware, but overwhelmed by the problem. "What can I do? This is so much bigger than me. It's on a national, even global scale. Maybe I should buy some gold."

If this is you, I may have some words of advice. This is just my two cents, so use your own discretion, but there are some things to consider. First, look at history.

During the Great Depression, banks started closing at the first sign of trouble. Banks exist to protect themselves and their investors. The fact that they have your money is secondary. If all you have is money in the bank when they lock you out and limit your ATM deposits, you have nothing.

Argentina bank after collapse
Ask the people who lived in Argentina during their financial collapse in 2001. The banks closed and limited ATM transactions, the government seized private assets, and all sorts of other ugliness happened. Read what Ferfal of Surviving in Argentina wrote about the "corralito" and living in a country that went to hell almost overnight.

The lesson here is not to stuff all your money in the mattress and pray for the best. It's to have cash on hand. You know, that paper stuff we all used to pay our bills with before the invention of debit cards? "Digital" money can be created or deleted in an instant, but immediately following a crises the kind of money you can fold and put in your pocket can be priceless. Not a lot, just an emergency fund- maybe a month of expenses for you and your family.

My second suggestion is to invest in goods. This includes gold, but I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it. You want things that can be used for barter, or used by yourself in an emergency. Food, potable water, blankets, toilet paper, simple tools, medical supplies, etc. You may also want to invest in luxury items such as tobacco, alcohol and candy. Even if you don't use them yourself, they may come in handy for trade. . .or bribes, if it comes to that.

Just my thoughts.

25 December 2012

Safety & security: Gun registration

If you missed it on the news, a newspaper in New York has taken it upon themselves to publish an interactive map showing the names and addresses of all persons who legally own a gun in several New York counties.

This is wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to start, but let me use it to illustrate one point: gun registration only seems harmless. I mentioned it briefly in my post about open carry. If you register your gun you have created a record. That record may be used by clever criminals, by government agents acting under color of law, or (as in this case) by idiot media hounds out to create a sensational news story and violate your privacy.

Gun registration was one of the first steps undertaken in the UK during their bid for gun control. After law abiding gun owners registered their guns, the British government used those same records to confiscate guns throughout the country.

Don't fall for it.

22 December 2012

Health: Cold & flu remedies

The whole family isn't feeling too hot due to some nasty viral upper respiratory infection, and I have two kids too small for the usual OTC remedies. I've broken out the NSAIDs, the steam vaporizer, the chest rub, the saline spray, and the plug-in-the-wall "waterless" vaporizer - which is basically an aromatherapy diffuser and can be refreshed by dampening the pads with this instead of the pricey refills:


You can use eucalyptus by itself or make your own blend with menthol, lavender, what-have-you. Most of these things do their best work when used at night, in a closed bedroom. Not keeping themselves awake all night coughing makes for happier babies, but I still wish there was something more I could do for them.

Does anyone know of something that works that I haven't tried?

19 December 2012

Homeschooling: Good citizenship

Texas is one of the best places to live if you want to homeschool your children. Homeschooling families are considered private schools under Texas law, and the state does not regulate private schools so the requirements are minimal. As for curriculum, Texas homeschoolers are required to study reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.

That last one usually gives people pause. Good citizenship? What do they mean by that?

Well, specifically they mean you should study how our government works, and how a good citizen participates in it. It's part of teaching your kids to grow up to be responsible adults. It's about instilling a sense of civic duty and a greater understanding of the part they play in a representative government. Even if you don't live in Texas it's not a bad idea to cover this in your homeschool.

Now my kids are still a little young for a in-depth class on government, but there's no reason not to start teaching them the basic principles of being a good citizen and a decent person. I was looking for something age-appropriate and I found these cute flashcards:


They've got adorable illustrations, and cover a number of topics that fall under the broader definition of good citizenship, such as:

Take responsibility.
Help people in trouble.
Know the rules and follow them.
Fix problems instead of ignoring them.
Show respect and consideration for others.
Keep your promises.
Clean up your messes.
Make others feel comfortable and welcome.
Don't be wasteful.
Cooperate with others and use teamwork.
Do the right thing, even if no one is watching.
Don't be greedy.
Compliment others on good work.
Don't cheat.
Don't call people names or use rude words.
Listen when people are talking.
Be kind to animals.
Don't stand for injustice.
Talk out your differences.

The same people also make a set of Good Manners flashcards, and in my experience little kids really like the "polite piggies".

17 December 2012

Thoughts: Pray for them all.

I pray for the families who lost a child to this tragedy. I pray for the victims who were taken when their lives had just begun. I pray for the brave teachers and staff who faced death empty-handed to protect their students. I pray for the survivors who will be forever changed by experiencing this. I also pray for the first responders. It's almost cliche in the law enforcement world, but it's still true- Kids are the hardest.

14 December 2012

Save money: Pine cleaner

Am I the only one who thinks "clean" should smell like pine? My mother was a fan of Pine-Sol, and the military was big on it too. Pine oil based cleaners are one of the few scented products that don't kill my allergies. Aside from smelling nice, pine oil has disinfectant properties, cuts through grease, and is safe to use on just about every non-food surface you can put water on.

What some folks don't realize is that most pine cleaners are only 5% pine oil. Most of the rest of that bottle is just water. I don't like paying for water, so I get the concentrated stuff. Pine-o-Pine is sold at my local hispanic grocery, and it's 30% pine oil:
The bottle isn't very big, but when you only have to use it by the half-teaspoon it lasts a long time. One of these typically lasts me a year or more. Always read the label before you buy. There are some pine cleaners *coughSuperPinecough* that misleadingly label themselves as "90% pure pine oil and surfactants", to make you believe they have more pine oil in them than they do.

11 December 2012

Bear with me

I try to post something at least every other day, but I haven't been feeling well lately. Bear with me a little while and I'll get back to work, I promise.

08 December 2012

Safety & security: Burglar alarms

I have mixed feelings about monitored burglar alarm systems.

On one hand, if you have an alarm the odds of your home being successfully burglarized when you're not at home is incredibly low. As long as you remember to turn it on every time you leave. I responded to a few houses where I swear they just broke an out of the way window to see if the cops showed up, or did a quick smash-and-grab if they could see something worthwhile in easy reach. Make sure your alarm panel isn't visible from outside your home, but most importantly don't forget to set it every time.

On the other hand (and what the alarm companies don't tell you) is that the police don't come running code when your residential alarm goes off. If your police force has a reasonable response time for most calls, then they'll probably get there in a reasonable amount of time if your alarm goes off under normal circumstances. After a storm when there are twenty other burglar alarms in the city going off, plus downed trees, traffic signals out, several car crashes and such you may end up at the bottom of the priorities list. That's after a storm. Imagine if the power was out for any length of time, or the phone lines were down, or what might happen in the case of civil unrest. What will you do then? The cops are going to be busy.
Another consideration is the home invasion robbery. This differs from burglaries in that there are usually several people working together, they're well armed and organized, and not afraid to use force to get you to comply. Not to mention the bad guy now has a person who can turn the alarm off for them. Ask your alarm company if your system has a hostage code.  This makes it look as if the alarm has been turned off, but sends a silent alarm letting the alarm company know that it was under duress. It's better still to exercise situational awareness every time you enter or exit your home, and not get taken hostage to begin with.
In short, while alarm systems can be a useful addition to your home security, they shouldn't be the largest part of your plan to keep your home safe. If you believe otherwise, you're naive.

Thoughts: Urban Apartments

You may have noticed the title of my blog says "Suburban". There's a reason for that. I've been to a number of cities, both overseas and in the States, and I didn't like any of them. My impression was that they were noisy, dirty, crowded, the people were rude, and nobody knew how to drive. That was during the good times. I don't want to be anywhere near one in an emergency.

However, some of my relatives choose to live in or on the outskirts of large cities. Don't ask me why.

This guy has put a lot of thought into prepping in a big city, and I think he has some good points to make, especially on avoiding detection and the danger of fire:

Selco over at SHTF school writes about the subject, too. He was trapped in one of the cities in the Balkans. I can't read too much of what he writes in one sitting, because I saw some of it too. There are some stories that don't improve with retelling.

07 December 2012

Safety & security: Open carry

I've seen a number of videos posted depicting people walking down the street with an openly carried firearm. As far as I can tell, the point is to cause a scene and pick a fight with the cops. This is foolishness.

First, I am a huge supporter of the right to keep and bear arms- but some of these people were walking around with an unloaded firearm just to prove a point. You are, in essence, walking down a street waving several hundred dollars and daring someone to take it from you. While we still have some semblance of order in the streets, there are probably fewer people willing to take you up on that dare. Note that I said "fewer," and not that there were none at all. If things get worse, that expensive piece of equipment is going to look even more tempting to unscrupulous people.

Second, you have just announced to the world that you own a firearm. I hate to fall back on military/prepper jargon, but exercise some OPSEC, folks. I'll talk to you all day about my preps, but I'm going to leave to your imagination what weapons I have to protect those preps. Never advertise what kind of weapons you have, never brag about how many you have, and never EVER register your guns.

Third, situational awareness is the key to deterring violence. Criminal types have a sense of who is paying attention, and who is wandering around in Lala land. Guess who makes an easier target?  Besides, there's always someone bigger and badder than you are. So be alert, and let your concealed firearm be a "situational awareness" fail on the part of the bad guy. If you have to use a weapon to protect yourself, it's always easier to shoot someone with the gun they don't know you have.

On a side note, cops have a saying: "There's always a gun involved in every fight. Yours." If you don't have it in you to shoot somebody you're going to get shot with your own gun. Chew on that for awhile. I'll let you come to your own conclusion.

In closing let me say that it shouldn't be anyone's business what kind of gun you own or how you choose to carry it. I think that open carry and concealed carry should be legal in all 50 states. Anything less is the government sticking their nose where it doesn't belong. However, you won't see mine unless I'm fixing to shoot you with it.

06 December 2012

Save money: Can organizers

Order before 2013 and get 15% off any CanOrganizer 4 Pack

I've ordered from these people in the past, and they just sent me a 15% off coupon. While I don't need any more than I already have, I figured that someone else might like to try them.

They are inexpensive ($12-$16 per set of four), and despite the fact that they're made of cardboard, they've held together remarkably well for me over the last couple years. I will say that putting them together requires patience and some ability to follow directions. It's kind of like cardboard origami.

I like not having to dig around to find things, and not worrying about rotating cans anymore. Please measure the space you intend to put them in before you buy any.

Use offer code: Christmas15. There is no minimum order required to receive the 15% discount. Shipping times vary and are not guaranteed by Christmas. Offer valid only on CanOrganizer 4 packs (cupboard, shelf, pantry, wide). Offer expires December 31st, 2012.

02 December 2012

Health: What to do with trash?

What if your trash pickup doesn't come?

Almost everyone has experienced missing a week, due to accident or oversight. Your trashcan is full to overflowing. It's summertime and it starts to smell in the heat. Maybe you start to notice more flies or other vermin hanging around the house. Gross, isn't it? If you think it can't happen, check this out:

What if your trash isn't picked up for two weeks, or a month? Say the sanitation workers are on strike, or your city goes bankrupt and can't provide the service anymore, or a disaster makes the road impassable?

It's an element of preparedness that isn't often discussed. Maybe it lacks the glamour of solar backups, or the gross-out thrill of human waste disposal, but it's just as important.

I was reading an article on the matter (http://www.prepper-resources.com/trash-disposal-after-the-collapse-burn-it-bury-it/) and was disturbed that they only discussed two options that I consider a last resort. My suggestions, if it comes to it:

Reconsider what you put in the garbage. What can be re-used or re-purposed? Paper or cardboard is kindling for the fireplace or woodstove. Tires are instant raised beds, or stack them up and fill them with dirt for a truly bullet-resistant wall. Metal cans can be washed out and used to contain something else, or strung up as noisemakers to improve security, or flattened out and used to roof the shed.
Glass jars and plastic bottles have 101 uses, don't throw them away.
You can bet that if the S really does HTF, I'm going to find a use for that broken glass, too.

Learn about composting. Just about anything in the yard can go in the compost heap, but a surprising number of household scaps can as well. Onion peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, etc. All good compost stuff. Learn about brown/green ratio to keep it from smelling, and get a sealed composter instead of an open bin if vermin are a problem. Free fertilizer for your garden. A lot of this can also be fed to chickens or rabbits, if you keep them. You can then compost the chicken poo, or spread rabbit droppings directly on your garden.

Meats, fats, bones, leftover food cooked with any of these, dog feces and all that are not candidates for the compost heap. Surefire way to spread pathogens and to get rats and other nasties digging through your garbage. Cut the bottom off a trashcan and bury it partway in the ground to make a digester for that sort of garbage, like this (http://www.instructables.com/id/Backyard-Organic-Waste-Digester/) or this (http://www.instructables.com/id/Big-Dog-Poop-Composter/). When figuring out what size container to use for this, err on the side of big. Make sure it has a tight fitting lid, and locate it away from groundwater and anything else it could contaminate. It's a specialized sort of outhouse, after all.

Finally, if there's no other possible use for it and you don't want to burn it as kindling (like plastic or styrofoam), then and only then might I consider burying it. Again, watch your location and put it away from anything it might contaminate.

01 December 2012

Thoughts: . . .

I logged on today intending to blog about something light, like child-resistant Christmas trees. I got sidetracked and started reading, clicked on a few links, and found something else entirely. Now I just don't feel like it. Maybe tomorrow.

This guy is from the Balkans, and writes extensively about his experiences there.