Friday, May 28, 2010

You really, really don’t want to live under martial law…or do you?

I STILL can’t figure out why anyone deems celebrities to be authorities about anything except acting like someone they aren’t, but Woody Allen’s comments last week are as far beyond stupid as I’ve heard from the Left Coast:
Woody Allen, the actor and director who’s been no stranger to controversy over the years, has done it again.
This time, Allen told a Spanish language newspaper that President Barack Obama should be given dictatorial powers, Fox News reported.
According to Fox, Allen said it “would be good if [Obama] could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.”
Allen, 75, told La Vanguardia newspaper that he’s “pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him.”
Allen’s latest remarks come on the heels of last week’s reiteration of his support for filmmaker Roman Polanski, who remains under fire for a 1978 sex scandal.
Anyone who EVEN FOR A MOMENT thinks that quelling dissent by force of law is going to solve problems has absolutely no idea what martial law involves — and they’re just asking for even more dissent. You don’t stop a pot from boiling over by sealing it up tightly — you change the conditions that are creating the heat in the first place. Here’s some good reading:

If bullying the other side into submission is the only way to get your views to prevail, then you’ve already lost the argument. I’ll take unrest and dissent any day over the quasi-permanent theft of the rights that our early countrymen fought to give us, and that millions of people around the world are still fighting to obtain. And if you’d rather have “peace” than vigorous debate, discussion and dissent, then maybe you should just plug your ears to what our Founding Fathers said:

“If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your council or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”
- Samuel Adams

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How NOT to prepare for TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It)

I cringed when I saw the story Doomsday safe-haven offered under Mojave Desert on the AP wire last week, partly because this sort of slick marketing ignores the fact that most disasters, including but not limited to nuclear war, probably won’t happen when we expect it — not that anyone among us usually sits around taking bets on when nuclear war will happen. But what dismayed me even more is the huge disservice that this slick marketing job is doing for those of us who are trying to take common-sense preparations for hard times (and encouraging others to do the same) while not acting like TEOTWAWKI is imminent — it MIGHT BE imminent, but most of us who are prepping are doing so while going on with LAWKI — life as we know it.

Under the slick slogan “You can’t predict, but you can prepare,” entrepreneur Robert Vicino promises that for a scant $50,000, people can ride out the Apocalypse in a fancified bunker under the Mojave Desert. Take a look at some of the over-the-top accommodations:

At first glance, I can’t help but think of the show “The Simple Life” — how the heck are the kind of people who have more money than common sense (assuming as I am that most people willing to drop $50K think they can just buy their way out of nuclear war or other such scenarios) going to do the grunt work needed to rebuild after TSHTF if they aren’t willing or equipped to deal with what’s going on above ground in the first place?

And you gotta love the rhetorical question “Where would you go with 3 days’ notice?”

Think back to how most travel in general and all air traffic and commerce in particular ground to a halt on 9/11. If we have a major — REALLY major — SHTF situation like, oh, maybe nuclear war, it’s going to make 9/11 look like a Sunday School picnic. And I’m guessing that at that point, all bets are off that anyone will get anywhere on anything even remotely resembling a “normal” schedule.

But the REAL problem with putting all your eggs in one bunker is that it gives yet-unprepared or still-asleep sheeple a false idea or seven about what SHOULD be done to prepare for uncertain times. Most of us who are prepping aren’t digging elaborate bunkers in our backyards (for one thing, it might violate zoning regulations — see this article), but we are stocking up on food, water, medication and other necessities of life while preparing for uncertain times.

For those of you who are already prepping, keep on doing what you’re doing and don’t lose your common sense. For those of you who haven’t yet started prepping, start taking steps right where you’re at to prepare your people and your preps, and bug out only if and when TEOTWAWKI comes to your hometown. And don’t worry about the Mojave. People looking for safety in a bunker under the desert just have their heads in the sand.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't wipe out your toilet paper supply!

The idea of stocking up — REALLY stocking up — on toilet paper probably seems ridiculous past a certain level of inventory. After all, storage space is valuable, so how much do we need to stock of just one product? Well, that’s all fine and dandy when it comes to substituting one product for another nearly equal product, but the one thing you really can’t live without is toilet paper. And as anyone realizes when they sit down on the toilet only to find that there’s no paper, if you don’t have it, you-know-what can really hit the fan.

And the lack of toilet paper can, um, wipe out public health as we know it.

There are any number of jokes that could be made about toilet paper or the lack thereof, but suffice to say that not having it becomes an emergency to the person who doesn’t have it. Multiply that times, oh, 6.5 billion people and you have a public health emergency. Even if you have a working sewer system after TSHTF, pretty soon the lack of paper can be pretty dicey. Multiply that personal SHTF situation by millions of people and you have a public health emergency.

“But stores NEVER run out of toilet paper…do they??”

Many of you who are old enough probably remember the bogus toilet paper shortage that Johnny Carson joked about in 1973. The next day, according to reports, stores across the country were stripped clean of toilet paper amid worries of an impending shortage. A few nights later Carson retracted his statement, but it still took weeks for the supply of toilet paper to return to normal on store shelves.

At this moment I have about 120 rolls of toilet paper on hand — probably more than a year’s worth for the average person under normal circumstances — and by “normal circumstances,” I mean a lack of extra toilet paper usage that comes about through, let’s say, intestinal distress. Or long-term guests. Or just plain forgetting to buy more. Or the cat learned how to paw open the cabinet where the toilet paper was stored and turned the paper into confetti. (All of these scenarios have happened to me; don’t think they can’t happen to you.) All it takes for things to hit the crapper is for the so-called “just in time” inventory supply lines to be interrupted to bring about problems keeping grocery items on the shelves. I can (maybe) do without coffee for a day or two if something catastrophic has occurred and there’s no chance of my being able to buy coffee. (But I’ve planned ahead and stocked up, just in case.) But I really can’t imagine what would happen if I run out of toilet paper. The health problems that can arise from contact with fecal matter are even worse than the contact with fecal matter itself.

(If you like being around fecal matter in the first place, you have much bigger problems than just a lack of toilet paper. And almost as much common sense as public-health expert and singer Sheryl Crow, who said people should be restricted in how much toilet paper they are allowed to use.)

To badly mangle a quote by the great patriot Thomas Jefferson, who had his share of SHTF situations, we hold these truths to be self-evident that not all toilet paper is created equal. Just because you have two equal-size packages of toilet paper doesn’t at all mean that you’ll get equal benefit from them. Let me illustrate:

Exhibit No. 1 is the POM 40-roll case of Quality Bath Tissue from Sam’s Club:

Exhibit No. 2 is the Member’s Mark 36-roll package (well, technically it’s 4 9-roll packages in a larger outer-wrapped package) of Ultra Premium Bath Tissue, also from Sam’s Club:

Can you tell which brand is which?

A case of POM as of this writing is 18.88 for 40 rolls, or 47.2 cents per roll; a multipack of the Member’s Mark TP is 14.98 for 36 rolls, or 41.6 cents per roll. So you should get the Member’s Mark TP, right?

Not so fast there, pilgrim. Look at the small print:

Each roll of POM has 450 2-ply 4-by-4.5-inch sheets:

But each roll of the Member’s Mark has less than half of that — a mere 200 sheets per roll!!

Technically, you’re saving 5.6 cents per roll when you buy the Member’s Mark TP. But your savings goes down the crapper because you get less than half of the TP surface area from the Member’s Mark than from the POM. But even more unsettling than the higher per-sheet cost of the Member’s Mark TP is that you use it up more quickly and can deplete your toilet paper supply much faster than you might expect.

And that would be a very, very bad thing.

Plan ahead. Stock up. Pronto. Because your life depends on it.

Three cases of POM toilet paper take up less space than that big-screen TV you made room for. And I don’t think you’ll care about the TV when nature calls and you’re out of paper. And as you sit there at some point looking at the last empty cardboard tube on the roll with no paper left in the house, I’m pretty sure nothing else will matter. Anyone who says you can have too much toilet paper is just full of crap.

A couple notable comments on this post from my old site:

One reader wrote:

If truly without toilet paper, one can wash instead, using a plastic bottle with a top that allows you to pop it up and expel the water by squeezing the plastic bottle. Many women will understand what I am talking about, as they are widely used in hospitals after childbirth for using comforting warm water on the perineal area as well as washing. You could then dry with the flannel cloths–at least then washing them wouldn’t be so gross. Kind of a simple version of the European bidet.

I replied: 
Blogger Kellene Bishop posted a great article a couple months ago about the necessity of toilet paper and the inadequacy of anything else for the task. It’s excellent reading:

And from a purely practical standpoint, it's very, very foolish to think of using potable water for something such as a bidet if you're in a prolonged grid-down situation. I'd rather have hundreds of rolls of toilet paper that I'd have to burn as I used them than to use my only drinkable water for toilet-related cleansing and then suffer from chronic thirst. Prolonged dehydration poses its own set of problems. You don't want to make things any worse than they have to be.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don’t skimp on your food storage equipment — your life depends on it

I came across a thread in one survival-prep forum recently where someone posted the suggestion that instead of buying allegedly more-expensive oxygen absorbers, why not buy iron oxide hand warmers, they said, since the hand warmers were cheaper and readily available in sporting goods stores and, they said, had the same active ingredients as food-grade oxygen absorbers? Well, that’s all fine and good if the hand warmers are cheaper and if they’re food-grade, but is cheaper necessarily what you want when it comes to food storage?

I’ve tried probably eight or nine different brands of food dehydrators over the years, and the only one I’ve tried that I would recommend to other people (disclaimer: I haven’t tried an Excalibur) is the one manufactured by Nesco, which has an internal fan for air circulation and helps food dry in half the time compared to dehydrators without fans. I like the Nescos so much that I’ve bought a dozen of them over the past several years just so I’ll have plenty of extra food preparation tools if I need them. (Shameless plug: You can usually get a Nesco on eBay for around $30 (plus shipping) if you pick your auctions smartly.)

Now, I could buy a Ronco or other model without an internal fan that would in fact use less electricity during the drying process…but if it takes the dehydrator twice as long to adequately dry food, am I really saving any money? I think it’s more than worth a few extra pennies of electricity to have dehydrators with fans so that I know my food will dry quickly and uniformly…and in the end, I have the security of knowing that I have plenty of food if I need it. (If you’re so worried about a dehydrator with a fan using more electricity than a dehydrator without a fan, maybe you should unplug the appliance in your house that uses the most electricity — your refrigerator!)

Which brings me back to the point about getting what you pay for.

In 1996, I bought my very first car, a 1984 Toyota Corolla. (Yes, a Toyota. The brakes worked on this particular vehicle…but nothing else did.) The car had about 162,000 miles on it, and the dealer was asking only $850 for it. The only warranty it came with was for me not to let the door hit me on the way out of the so-called dealership. More than $1,000 and 1,300 miles later, the car wouldn’t budge out of my mom’s driveway. Well, that’s not quite true…I could drive it three or four miles before the engine would overheat and I’d have to put more (and more…and more…and more) water in the radiator after it cooled down…and watch the water go right through the radiator to the pavement because the bottom of the radiator was rusted out.

I’d spent close to $2,000 and now had nothing to show for it. I was not a happy camper. But at least I could catch a ride on good days and hope I didn’t have to walk very far the rest of the time.

Which brings me back to my first point.

It’s one thing to shell out a couple thousand bucks on a piece-o’-junk car and have the thing eventually stop running altogether and then chalk up the experience to a lesson learned the hard way. But it’s a whole different story when your life depends on something.

And you can’t live without food.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that hand warmers technically do have the same oxygen-absorbing properties as, well, oxygen absorbers. I haven’t been able to try to vacuum-seal a jar yet with hand warmers because (at least according to the sporting goods clerk at Wally World) they are a seasonal camping-accessory item and won’t be available until later in the year. But do I really want something to heat up my food items as they are undergoing vacuum-sealing, and risk denaturing the vitamin content of the food that my life could depend on if TSHTF? Or would you rather use tried-and-true methods and materials that have been proven time and time again to work, so you don’t have to worry?

I’m not telling you not to buy that 1984 Toyota. I’m just asking you if it will get you where you need to go when you need it to get you there. If you’re buying cheaper food storage tools that you can’t be sure will do what you need them to do — keep your food fresh and safe until you eat it — are you willing to risk your health and maybe your life just to save a few bucks?