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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Operations Security

Note:  I'm going to be mentioning the militia group in Michigan that was recently arrested by the FBI.  I'm not going to discuss the pros or cons of their group beliefs.  This is a preparedness blog, not a political blog.

The news is loaded with stories about the 9-member militia group primarily based in Michigan.  It is alleged they were planning the murder of a police officer, and the subsequent murders of the police officers that would have attended the funeral.

How did the FBI learn they were planning these murders?  Somewhere along the line, there was a break-down in the Operations Security (OpSec) of the group.

What's OpSec?
Operations security (OPSEC) is a process that identifies critical information to determine if friendly actions can be observed by adversary intelligence systems, determines if information obtained by adversaries could be interpreted to be useful to them, and then executes selected measures that eliminate or reduce adversary exploitation of friendly critical information.
As they used to say in World War II, "Loose Lips Sink Ships."  The message being, if you discussed where your ship was sailing, the enemy might be able to use that information to destroy your ship.

OpSec isn't a concept that should be limited to the military/militia.

Think about your preparedness plans and resources.  Why are you prepping?  You're doing it because you believe that there is a reasonable expectation that something bad will happen in the near future.  It might be some sort of natural or man-made disaster.  It might be as mild as a slowly growing rate of inflation, to as severe as a full-blown economic and societal collapse.

Let's say you have stored away 2 years worth of food and water.  You have dozens of guns and tens of thousands of rounds of ammo.  You have stored fuel, PV cells and generators.  Communications, medical supplies, gold, silver and miscellaneous equipment.

In short, you are fully self-sufficient if things go badly.

Let's say you have also told everyone that will listen to your perceived "survivalist rants" exactly how much stuff you have stored, and how clever you've been in also supplying a second "Bug Out" property at your family hunting cabin in the mountains.

If one of the worse-case scenarios happens, who do you think is going to be the target of a great number of non-preppers that are starving because the stores have no more food?  Sure, you might be able to repel the first few interlopers that attempt to raid your storage, but when hundreds of very motivated people are swarming you, you WILL eventually succumb to their attempts.

Even in "normal" times, knowledge of you having supplies of guns, ammo, precious metals and other valuable equipment can make you a target.  A casual comment from a friend that, "Bob is a BIG gun nut with all kinds of gold and silver," can result in a visit from intruders intent on "liberating" your very valuable items.

It will be interesting to hear how the FBI learned of the plans of the group in Michigan.  These were primarily family members and very good friends.  Supposedly, these guys had posted YouTube videos of some of their training, so they may have shined a spotlight on themselves.  Apparently, they never became acquainted with the phrase, "Stay off the ridge-line."

Regardless of the source, these people had a break-down in their OpSec.  They will most likely pay very dearly for that oversight.

Accept The Challenge

Generally speaking, you gain no benefit by disclosing your supplies, methods or plans to other people.  Preppers are generally a small segment of society, so in an attempt to explain to people why they should be prepping, we may give away information that makes us vulnerable.

By all means, discuss prepping with others who might want to become self-sufficient, but never disclose the amount of food and equipment you store, nor where you store them.  With regards to guns, ammo and precious metals, only your most trusted family and closest associates should know that you even store these items.

People like to get "pats on the back" when they have worked hard on a project.  It's human nature.  After putting a great deal of time, effort and expense into prepping, we might want to get some recognition for our hard work.

If you feel the need for this kind of adulation, go volunteer at a homeless shelter, and tell everyone about THAT!  Don't disclose the specifics of your plans.  Period.
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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, March 29, 2010


trip·wire  (trpwr)

1. A wire stretched near ground level to trip or ensnare an enemy.
2. A wire or line that activates a weapon, trap, or camera, for example, when pulled.
3. A small military force whose involvement in hostilities will trigger the use of a larger force.
In most prepper circles, the word tripwire is used to indicate an event which has occurred, which then results in some sort of response by the prepper.   A very simple example would be you losing your job (the event) results in you cutting back on your expenses (the response).

If you're really "on your game," you establish tripwires well enough in advance of an event having a negative impact on your life.  Using the example above, you might have set a tripwire whereby you watch your company's financial health.  If they were to post losses two quarters in a row, you might start looking for another job in anticipation of being laid off in the future.

The data sources being used are all-important.  The acronym GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out - says it all.  If your information is bad, your decisions will be bad.

Your interpretation of that data is key as well.  If you mis-interpret the information, your actions may be for naught.  The more time you put into interpreting the data, the more likely you are to come up with positive results.  Again using the earlier example, your company might be posting losses because they are making significant investments in equipment and personnel as they prepare for a major expansion.

So, what do you set up tripwires to watch?  Whatever you're concerned with. 

For some people, it might be personal financial.  For others, it might be broad economic trends.  Gun laws, government expansion, food prices, crop failures, international tensions - the topics are limitless.

What you want to do is identify events which might affect your various goals.

Let's say you want to store 1 year's worth of dried food away - corn, wheat, oats, beans and rice.  You don't know if you should buy it all now in one big purchase, of if you should buy it slowly over the next year.

On what kinds of things should you gather data?

Price/Availability:  What is the current price per pound of each item?  Are they likely to rise, stay flat or drop in the next year?  Let's say your research (crop yield forecasts and expected demand forecasts) indicate prices will remain flat, so there is no rush to buy right now.  You could set up a tripwire that if the futures price of any of these commodities increases by more than 5%, you will immediately buy all of your planned volumes of that commodity.

International:  What other countries currently consume large volumes of any of the items you want to purchase?  You could set up a tripwire for any crop failures or natural disasters which might wipe out any of these country's production.

Government policy:  Could any level of government enact legislation that would affect your ability to purchase your products?  Most of us remember the unintended consequence from the federal government's decision to subsidize ethanol.  It was more profitable for the farmers to sell their corn to ethanol producers than to ranchers or food production facilities, and we saw spikes in the price of corn-fed meat, and riots due to food shortages in Mexico.

Other influences:  Since you're interested in crops, you need to be concerned about droughts, insect infestations, blights, etc.  Also, does any entity - a large company, a cartel or a government - have any reason to influence or falsify information?  For instance, the federal government might very well inflate USDA production estimates to help forestall panic buying by the public.

Accept The Challenge

Being able to anticipate trends and changes is a great skill to develop.  It takes time and knowledge to do it right.

I can't stress enough how important the quality of the data you are using for your analysis can be.  You should have multiple sources for every piece of information.

"Trust your gut" regarding the validity of the data.  Does it make sense?

Try and rely on your own analysis of the raw data.  Professional analysts and forecasters usually will have some sort of an agenda.  "The world is ending, so buy gold...from my company,"  for instance.

Use technology whenever possible to enhance your data gathering.  We've written about Google Alerts in the past - they are free to set up, and can provide you with a wide variety of information.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sweet Success?

I'm doing a fairly large scale test today to produce a sweetener from corn.

The test will involve all natural processes.  Currently, when you buy a commercially-made corn syrup, they use a process where they add acid to corn starch.  Definately not something I want to get into.

I'm going to be following an old corn mash or moonshine recipe where malted grains (barley in this case) are added to ground corn.

Malting is the process where you wet your grains, and allow them to sprout to a certain extent.  This sprouting starts a natural process of converting the starches stored in the grain into sugars (that the plant would use to feed itself while it grows).  It also naturally produces enzymes which can be used to help un-malted grains (corn, in this case) to convert their starches into sugar.

I know the correct corn-to-barley ratio.  The problem I'm having is finding the correct ratio of water-to-grains.  From my all-grain brewing experience, I know that malted barley absorbs about 0.13 gallons of water per pound of grain.  I'll start with the assumption that corn is the same.

Also, from my beer brewing experience, I know that corn has to be gelatinized - pre-cooked - so that their starches are available to be converted to sugars.  A lot of the old moonshine recipes talk about boiling the corn.  That will gelatinze the corn just fine.  If that is done with the malted barley, the beneficial enzymes needed for starch-to-sugar conversion will be killed (above 170F). 

We homebrewers actually do a step called the Mash Out where we raise the temperature of our mash to that temperature to stop the further conversion of starches so that we can meet the (eventual) alcohol levels of a particular style of beer.  So the timing of the addition for malt will be important.

If this test is even moderately successful, I'm going to try doing this by malting my own corn.

I'll try and keep detailed notes on how to produce the sweet corn liquid, then how the liquid is turned into syrup, and do posts on the whole process.

Accept The Challenge

Skill building is an important part of prepping.  It behooves us to learn these skills BEFORE we need to use them in a real-life situation or emergency.

Use your weekends or other free time to practice skills - foraging, long-term food preservation, brewing - whatever things or skills you will need that might not be readily available during an emergency situation.

Many of these skills also teach you how to make things that are much better or more healthy than things you can buy in the store.  I rarely buy beer any more - in fact, I only buy it when I'm giving it to someone else!

Home baked bread is so much better than the stuff you can get from the store, and it is much less expensive per loaf.  It just takes a bit of time and planning.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Financial Maneuvering

I want to "connect the dots" with some financial maneuvering that is going on.  There are a number of things happening domestically and internationally that should be considered for our individual financial security.

I saw this article titled, "Social Security Will Begin Going Broke This Year, Congress Warned". In it, they state the obvious: Social Security is now paying out more than it's taking in.

When we started the SSI system, there was a huge multiple of people paying into the system, versus people drawing from the system.  It's now something like 2 people make payments for every one person that is drawing from the system.
This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, said that although the CBO projection would probably be borne out, the change would have no effect on benefits in 2010 and retirees would keep receiving their checks as usual.

The problem, he said, is that payments have risen more than expected during the downturn, because jobs disappeared and people applied for benefits sooner than they had planned.
Alright.  Big shock.  The federal government can't manage our money.  What will they need to do to pay all of the Baby Boomers that are coming online over the next 15 years or so?  They'll have to borrow the funds.  Big time.

Again, no big shock.

I followed that article up with another one where Fed Chairman (Uncle Ben) Bernanke is telling us that we need to keep rates artificially low to help "continue" the "recovery" [please note the purposeful use of quotes on those two words - they're fantasy].
Record-low interest rates are still needed to rev up the economic recovery, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress on Thursday.
So.  On one hand, with things as they are right now, we have an unprecedented need to borrow funds.  On the other hand, we need to artificially keep rates low.

The world is saying, "Pass!," to the low rates we're paying on our Treasury debt.  I wrote about this in February ("US Treasuries?  No Thanks!"), and the trend is continuing.

Partly because of the low rates, buyers of debt just don't think the risk/reward calculation makes sense.  They also seeing us adding to a system that is increasing the need for debt.  According to the article, "Experts: Investors Avoid U.S. Bonds, Sensing Pricey Obamacare Disaster," the world is recognizing we're out of control with our borrowing, and no one with two brain cells to rub together believes that the health care plan is going to reduce our deficit.

Quite the opposite.
David Zervos, head of fixed-income strategy at Jeffries, told CNBC that the dismal results [of recent Treasury auctions - .ed] may be an indication of how uneasy investors are feeling about the fiscal soundness of the United States, amid big government spending for healthcare and other expensive programs.

“It’s the healthcare-realization trade,” Zervos told CNBC. “We’re coming to grips with the fact that we have a Congress that’s ready to go, and spend.”

Zervos called the Obama White House’s recent initiatives a “fiscal train wreck,” reflecting a lack of restraint.
We see this mind-boggling need for cash by our government.  No one will lend us the money.  At least in the short-term, we will need to monetize our own debt - the Federal Reserve will buy the debt of the Treasury Department - to keep the cash a-flowin'.

In short, that will mean the Fed will create money out of thin air, devaluing the dollar and increasing inflation in its wake.  The Fed keeps poo-pooing this, but the world doesn't believe the tripe any more.

World governments are moving - in a significant way - into precious metals.  As "Central Banks Stashing Away Gold at Brisk Pace," notes -
Central banks around the world added 425.4 metric tons of gold to their reserves last year, the biggest increase since 1964, according to the World Gold Council.
I can't even conceive of such a large amount of gold, yet that is the addition they made to their reserves in the past year.  At $1,000+ per ounce, that is just  a staggering amount of money.

Why would they do this?  Obviously, they have little confidence in the world economy in general, and the US economy specifically.

So what's a prepper to do? 

Accept The Challenge

Do your own financial maneuvering.  Firstly, don't pay attention to what the talking heads are saying, pay attention to what they're doing.

If you've taken care of your other tangible needs - food, water, equipment, medical - then consider buying some precious metals as an inflation hedge.

Regardless of the shape of your personal finances, it IS going to get worse before it gets better.  Whatever you can do NOW will help you in the future.

Pre-pay major expenses where possible.  Get your dental work done.  Get a physical and fix what ails you.  Reduce your debt.  Employ your cash in ways that will benefit you in the future.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Skills Links

I've recently come across a number of sources of information on skills we all need to develop.  Thought I'd share...

First aid for gunshot wounds to the chest (video)  This site has lots of other first aid-related videos as well.

Sharpening a knife (btw, Wolf Tracks has just been added to our Daily Read list).

Our own video on Long-Term food storage in buckets and mylar bags.

My wife and I were watching, "Law Abiding Citizen" this weekend, and decided it would be good to know how to get out of zip tie restraints (instruction and 6 short videos).

A great primer on survival/emergency communications.  It discusses the common tools we use - land lines and cell phone - but gets into great detail about radio communications, visual communications (lights and flags, for instance)  and has tons of information on the various radio frequencies and what they're used for.  Definitely going into the Survival Bible.

Some great information - from 1989 - on how to protect your equipment from EMP damage.  Faraday Cages are NOT your only option.

In a recent post over at TSLRF, The Other Ryan had a post about bringing skills "to the table" in an emergency event where the people might suddenly be brought together.  "It" might hit the fan, and you might want to join a group.  You're going to need to bring something to the party - food, water or some skill that is valuable.

I had noted in the comment section that I'm doing a skill-swap with a friend of one of my son's.  I'm teaching him how to shoot, he's teaching me how to weld.

We'll both be more valuable as a result.

Accept The Challenge

Aside from the basic, "learning for learning's sake", it is a great idea to learn or teach skills that might be in high demand in any gradiation of an emergency.  Anything from the power being out for a few days, to a total societal collapse.

Some skills to consider:  Medical/first aid, welding, brewing/distilling, radio operation, small engine repair, plumbing, electrical, building construction, firearms training, farming, raising animals for food, foraging, sewing, tanning leather, food preservation, gun smithing, butcher an animal...

Obviously, there are a million things out there to learn.  Play through some different scenarios of differing intensity, and consider what skills, goods or services might be in high demand.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Smooth Trigger Pull

In most of my introductory classes, I tell my students that one of the biggest faults I see with my Intermediate and Advanced students is with the trigger pull.  If someone has a problem consistently putting lead on the target, their trigger pull is the place I start with first.

Most people jerk the trigger.  Depending upon where their finger is placed on the trigger (it should be centered on the middle of the pad of the trigger finger), this jerking could result in a left of-, right of- or below-center shot.

First off, I tell them they don't want to pull the trigger, they want to squeeze it - gentle as can be.  Be surprised when the gun fires, as the NRA teaches.  Think about bringing the trigger straight back to the rear of the trigger guard.

If the problem persists, I'll do Snap Cap drills where I put a fake cartridge in their magazine (or cylinder).  When they come to that round and they jerk down on the trigger, they are usually able to easily see how much it moves the muzzle.  Since they won't know which round will fire, I tell them they have no reason to flinch.  I'll usually put them through the drill a few times, and the problem will be fixed.

It all comes down to practice, though.  If they only get to the range once each month, they often forget these little tips.  I always will give them "homework" for whatever flaw they're trying to address.  One of the very best drills I recommend is to buy an airsoft gun, and practice on an indoor home "range".  You can get replicas for most common manufacturers for under $20 for a spring-loaded model, and about triple that for a gas-fed model.  [ALWAYS be sure you're wearing eye protection, as the little plastic BBs will often find their way back toward your face!]

I instruct them to "zero in" their gun using the benchrest position at 7 yards.  Generally speaking, the sights are not quite as accurate for these plastic replicas - but they're close enough.

I will then have them do trigger squeeze drills using the little plastic BBs.  Trigger squeeze flaws are very apparent!  You can get in a lot of practice for very little money.

Using the airsoft guns allows you to do almost any close-distance shooting drill, other than rapid shooting (since you don't get any recoil with the airsoft guns, you can't get a true representation of your technique).   Trigger squeeze, gun presentation, weak-hand shooting, one-hand shooting, aiming, rapid target acquisition, and with some of the better models, drawing from your holster.

I have a little range set up in my garage that I use quite often.  Without a doubt, it has improved my rapid target acquisition skills, and my aim in general.  My wife would likely say I use the range TOO often, as I never seem to be able to find all of the missing BBs when I clean up!

Accept The Challenge

Trigger Control and Aim are the two most common reasons for inaccurate shots (followed by over-gripping).  Of the two, trigger control can be much more easily corrected with some practice. 

For an instructor, it's also much more quickly diagnosed, as we can't see the sight picture from inside the head of the student!  If it's an aiming issue, we have to go through all of the physical flaws first!

Practice doing a painfully slow trigger squeezes, just to exaggerate the, "surprise me" aspect of the gun firing.  Give an inexpensive airsoft gun a try.  You WILL see improved results on the range and in self-defense situations.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Poll

I've posted a new poll, which is a continuation of the last one.  What skillzzzzz do you want to develop?

The old polls will be housed at the bottom of the left-side of the page.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

They Have Everything To Lose

The events that transpired yesterday, I think, will be the final, defining "shove" towards what will become a very violent and perhaps bloody summer.

I was watching the Talking Heads going over this this morning.  The liberals were crowing, the conservatives were morose.  While I watched this, two thing struck me.

The first was that our country has not seen Americans getting off their butts, and going to either the local headquarters of their representatives, or actually down to the halls of congress and raising hell, in a very long time.  People were going nuts this weekend!

And they were roundly ignored.

In fact, I can say I can never recall in my entire adult life any occasion - with one exception - where people went down and told our representatives to vote against something, and the elected officials went against the wishes of the people.

That one exception has been for anti-war protests. 

If any readers want to understand how important this issue is to many Americans, think about that.  This law will make formerly apolitical people become VERY political.

The other thing that struck me was the impact that the passing of this legislation will have on most average American families, and how they'll react.

Think about the last really large, mass protests this country had:  The civil rights protests of the 1960's.  These protests were primarily attended by people who had, in general, not been treated as equals in our society.

They correctly figured that our Constitution said that everyone in America was equal, they were Americans, and they demanded their rights be upheld.  They had been at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder for so long, they figured that by protesting and risking beat-downs and jail they had nothing else to lose.

What we have today is the other side of that economic coin.  The people now out protesting have everything to lose.  They are seeing all that they have worked to achieve and obtain, is gradually being taken from them by laws written by people who are supposed to protect their interests.

This isn't some theoretical exercise.  It is now very real.  One-sixth of our economy will now be directly run from Washington, D.C.

They see a law in which the government will tell them how they must spend their personal, after-tax dollars.  They see a law with a provision for the hiring of over 16,000 new IRS employees whose entire job will be to ensure these personal funds are spent appropriately.  They see a law that is perhaps the most blatant, grotesque transfer of personal wealth in the history of our country.

And they're not pleased.

There WILL be violence this summer.  Too many middle-of-the-road, never-get-involved Americans see they are going to be significantly, negatively impacted by what is going on.  Many of these people are either out of work, know one or more people that are out of work, or have had their take-home pay seriously reduced.  They are already feeling the pinch, and this law is going to take more of their already limited funds.

They're not buying what's being sold.  The Tea Party protests of last summer are going to seem like quaint and quiet walks in the park compared to what will happen this summer.  Government officials know this as well, as do anti-Tea Party folks.

I've read a number of recent news articles and blog posts on The Crossing of the Rubicon.  I think most of these are correct.  A line has been crossed and unpleasant events will result.

Moody's, the debt rating service, once again has stated there is a likelihood of civil unrest as well (they first said this back in January) -
"Growth alone will not resolve an increasingly complicated debt equation. Preserving debt affordability at levels consistent with AAA ratings will invariably require fiscal adjustments of a magnitude that, in some cases, will test social cohesion," said Pierre Cailleteau, the chief author.

"We are not talking about revolution, but the severity of the crisis will force governments to make painful choices that expose weaknesses in society," he said.
The students that have held protests regarding tuition increases and service cuts, are ramping up for more protests, including one today that is planned to be non-violent -
One way to protest education cuts is to block classroom doors, shut down campuses and hurl torches at a chancellor's house. All have been tried recently by students angry at rising tuition and declining quality of California's higher education.

Then there's the approach thousands of community college and California State University students plan to take today in Sacramento.

"We will be respectful, not disrupt class, and work with our administration," said Lee Fuller, a delegate to the Student Senate of the California Community Colleges, which is sponsoring what they've dubbed the "March on March."
I wish them luck.  Honestly.  I think it helps to bring to light the obscene growth we've seen at all levels of government which are simply unsustainable.  Something has to give, and I think we're just seeing the first cracks in the levee.

Accept The Challenge

So how do we take this likely outcome and move it to our personal preparedness plans?  Of the 12 Impacts that can result from an emergency, these, I think, will be the most heavily impacted -

Personal Safety:  The safe suggestion would be to tell everyone to stay home and watch what happens on TV.  I'm not going to suggest that, NOR am I going to suggest you join in the protests.  This site is all about personal responsibilty - make the decision yourself.

If you're going to participate in any of these protests, understand that violence can be projected from fellow protesters, provocateurs or by government security forces.   Be prepared to defend yourself, while ALWAYS having a number of avenues of escape.  There is little you can do from a jail cell or intensive care unit.

Assume that, for at least short periods of time, you won't be able to be "out and about" - 

Financial:  Short-term - have at least a few days of expenses readily available in cash.  Assume your credit and debit cards will be useless.  Long-term - work to reduce your tax profile.  'Nuff said.

Food and Water:  Most protests will most likely not affect water delivery, but stores might be looted.  In the LA Riots in the 1990's, it took 6 days for order to be restored, and much longer before any stores would have been re-stocked.  Have two or three weeks of food, at the very minimum.

Medical:  Assume hospitals and emergency services will be strained and you will need to provide for yourself.  You may need to be self-sufficient with regards to prescription medications, medical equipment and routine medical procedures (which may be required to sustain your life, such as kidney dialysis).

Transportation:  Early in an emergency, assume that there will be limited access to gasoline for your car.  If you absolutely must drive your car, be sure you have sufficient emergency supplies safely stored at your residence.  Public transportation may be reduced or eliminated for periods of time.

Mental Health/Spirituality:  There is always the possibility of some sort of martial law, or more likely, a curfew.  You may be forced to spend long periods of time inside your home.  Plan to provide your own entertainment and spiritual ministrations during these periods.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Emergency Preps and Personal Safety

This is a re-print of our weekly Personal Safety newsletter.  Click here, and you too can get a copy each and every week!  You can see all of the articles in our Newsletter Archive as well.
When most people think of Emergency Preparedness, they think of storing food and water, maybe some camping gear and perhaps an emergency phone list.  If it is even considered, Personal Safety is well down on the "to do" list.

This can be a very big mistake.

In our Emergency Preparedness classes, we talk about the 12 Impacts that can affect you during any type of emergency.  It doesn't matter what's the cause of the disaster:  If it's a natural disaster - such as an earthquake - or a terrorist attack, there are 12 things that can impact your life.   One of those 12 Impacts is a Lack of Safety.

Consider what has happened during the past few natural disasters that have made the news.

During hurricane Katrina, there was wide-spread violence - even in the supposedly safe, government-controlled Astrodome.

After the earthquake in Haiti, the beatings, rape and looting started the next day.  With the most recent earthquake in Chile, the looting and violence started literally as soon as the ground stopped shaking!

Three very different countries.  Three virtually identical results.

In an interesting study titled, "Katrina, Natural Disasters and Sexual Violence", they delve into why this type of thing happens during disasters.  Their very first point hits right on the mark -

"The collapse of traditional societal support mechanisms (social sanctions, norms for proper behavior, etc.) when refugees are forced to flee or to live in camp surroundings. In particular, the communal support systems for the protection of vulnerable individuals may no longer be present."

Translation:  You're on your own.
In most emergency preparedness or personal safety courses, the motto is, "Hope for the best;  Prepare for the worst."  This is a good motto to follow.
Remember:  You never know where you'll be when an emergency strikes.  You may be at work, at home or on the road.  You just can't know for sure for many emergencies.  At the very minimum, you should have a Get Home Bag (GHB) in your car that has enough supplies to allow you to "hold out" for 3 days.  
A part of that should be some sort of defensive tool.  Here in California - where it is very difficult for an average citizen to possess a handgun outside of their home - at a minimum, you should have a pepper spray, stun gun or Taser in your GHB.
Also keeping one of these defensive tools in your purse, backpack, or briefcase is a very inexpensive way to ensure you have some means of defending yourself if an emergency strikes while you are at work (or school).  Obviously, read and understand the laws regarding where you are allowed to possess these defensive tools - there ARE some prohibitions.
At home, you are generally allowed to possess firearms for self-defense (again:  read and understand these laws).  If you don't have the funds or the inclination to have a firearm at your home, safely secured pepper spray, stun guns or Tasers will provide you with a reasonable amount of personal protection.
Bottom line:  Do something.  Assuming an emergency will never "visit" you is foolhardy.  Assuming your safety will be ensured by someone else could cost you your life.
Next Issue:  Defensive Tactics

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Survival Bible Help

A "Survival Bible" is the term commonly given to a book an individual puts together that contains information that person finds helpful or instructive.  It may be information on fire-starting, how to build a survival structure in the snow, how to field strip one of your weapons, or how to cook with wheat.  It contains information you may not have intimate knowledge with, but is something you need to know if TSHTF.

There are many times you will find an article or post online that you want to print out, but because of the coding of the site, the printing may not come out as you had hoped.

Help is at hand!

A free website called, "Web2PDF" is a great tool to use.  As the name implies, it will convert any web page into a PDF document.  You can then print out that PDF file, or save it to an electronic Survival Bible. 

You simply copy the web URL of the page you want to covert to a PDF file, paste it onto the Web2PDF site, and it produces a PDF file of the page you want.

So that you don't end up printing ALL of the articles on a blog site, if you first click the post's title - Survival Bible Help, in this instance  - you will get just the information from the post you want (plus all side-bar information).

They also have a PDF-By-Email function that will send the PDF to your email account (I have not used this function personally).  You can also add a link to your website so that your readers will only need to click the link, and the PDF file will be produced (I'm still trying to figure out how that would work in Blogger).

Accept The Challenge

We simply cannot be an expert in every facet of prepping.  There's just too much to know!

By having a Survival Bible - in printed and electronic form - you are able to store this information for yourself, or others in your group that may be less knowledgeable.  It is also a great way to keep old skills and knowledge "alive".

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Homemade MREs

For quite a while now, I've wanted to make up my own "MREs"  for my Get Home Bag (GHB).  I was recently out scouting some properties, and realized that my GHB only had some packs of tuna and some candy in them.  I had broken my own Cardinal Rule - If you use it, replace it immediately.

So, I went about making up some MRE packages.  Now, these are not true MREs, in that their shelf life is less than half of the 5 years of a commercial MRE, but I figured they were WAY less expensive (remember this later on in the post...).

I assembled my "ingredients" based on "Best By" date, calories and protein content.  The Best By date had to be at least 12 months into the future - I figured any of the foods would last at least twice that amount of time.  They may not taste quite as good, and might have lost some of their nutrients, but for the most part, they would get the job done.

The idea was to put long-life food together and vacuum seal it in a FoodSaver bag.

For my first MRE, here's what I included -

It includes:  One individual serving of Beef-a-roni, 2 ounces (by weight - about 1/2 cup) of dry roasted peanuts, one pack of Land-o-Lakes French Vanilla cappuccio, one Promax energy bar, 4 pieces of Jolly Rancher hard candy, and utensiles (plastic spoon, knife and 2 napkins).

Since the peanuts were loose, I wanted to separate them in the pouch.  I took my FoodSaver bag  - both ends still open - and did a seal about 3 inches from one end, to make a pouch (click the image - the seal is on the left hand side) -

I then filled that with the peanuts and sealed it.  I was unable to get a vacuum seal, as there wasn't enough "lip" for the machine.

I then filled the bag with the rest of the goodies, and vacuum sealed the whole thing -

It was a bit unwieldy, especially with the extra peanut compartment.  It was releatively flat, except for the Beef-a-roni, and was basically un-foldable because of the other contents.

Here are the stats -

Other than it being a bit unwieldy, I was pleased.  It has a good amount of calories and protein.  Two of these a day would give you plenty of calories, and around 170% of your daily protein requirements.  And for around four bucks a meal, it seems pretty cost effective.

I decided to tweak it a bit, and went with another configuration -

 For this package, I swapped out the Beef-a-Roni for two cans of kippered fish (I love this stuff!).  I exchanged the napkin for two Wet Wipes, and I put the peanuts into a Ziplock "snack" bag (these are smaller than the regular sandwich-sized bags).

Here's the result -

It was much more compact (I was able to fold under part of the bag flap) and still had great nutrition numbers.  The cost numbers increased a bit because of the extra cost of the fish and the Wet Wipes -

 Again, very good nutritional numbers, with the protein now at 268% when eating two of them!  The cost was a bit more, but it seemed like there was an offsetting benefit.

Out of curiosity, I decided to compare these numbers to real MREs.  In my mind, they were about $7.50 each, with around 800 calories.  My homemade MREs would kill them in terms of cost-per 100 calories.

Times have changed!

If you buy at least a dozen meals, your cost per meal is now around $6.25 each (about $75 per case, delivered).  They have also increased the calorie content.  As this site notes, MREs manufactured since 2005 are of equal quality and caloric value as military MREs.  They now average about 1,222 calories per meal.

That brings the cost-per 100 calories in at $0.51, which puts it right between my two MREs.  Plus, the real MREs last up to five years AND come with a food warmer.

While they do take up a bit more space, the cost/benefit calculation leans pretty heavily in their favor.

BTW, I repackaged the first MRE using the snack bags for the peanuts, and swapping the napkin for the Wet Wipes.  It is much less unwieldy this way.

Also, I had intended on using the single-serving Crackers And Cheese packs in the MREs, but they have horrible shelf lives.  Generally, 3 to 6 months was all I could find.  The Promax energy bars were the only bars with Best By dates of greater than a year.

Accept The Challenge

Homemade MREs are very easily done, but the cost/benefit calculation indicates it might make more economic sense to purchase commercial MREs.

If you have certain food allergies or other dietary requirements, it would make more sense to make your own.  With the homemade versions, you do get the benefit of having a re-usable bag, which can be used for carrying water, or being used to boil other foods.

The Just Add Water foods I've put together are significantly more cost effective than their commercial counterparts, so they will continue to be a part of my GHBs.  The homemade MREs will likely be replaced with commercial versions.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Poll

Up top, you'll notice a new weekly poll.  I'm going to try and post a new one each week on Tuesday.  I'll use the results to help focus the content of this site so that readers are getting the information they're hoping for.

Please vote - your voice will be heard!

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Open To Suggestion

I love students like this.  They take your instruction, apply it, and immediately reap the rewards.

I had one of my students today that is attending a federal peace officer academy.  She recently passed her handgun qualification (woo hoo!) but was having some difficulty with the shotgun.  She couldn't consistently get her shots inside the silhouette at 25 yards.

I did some diagnostics of her stance and it looked like she was standing a bit too erect.  For a single shot, that's not too much of an issue, but for multiple, timed shots - which is part of her qualification process - it can be a real problem, as re-acquiring the target becomes problematic.  The force of the first shot simply moves the muzzle too much to re-acquire in a timely basis.

I should also mention that she is slight of build, so the heavy recoil of a slug being shot is even more pronounced.  Unlike someone like me, with, uhm, sufficient mass, she really needs to use every ounce of her body to help absorb the recoil.

We focused on two primary points:  Upper body "lean" and foot/leg positioning.  We had her almost exaggerate her forward lean, especially for the second shot.  For her legs, we discussed "staking" her right leg, stiff-as-a board to the rear, and her left leg with a pronounced bend towards the target.  This knee bend also helped to bring her upper body forward.

All of this put together allowed her upper body to take brunt of the recoil, and transfer a lot of that thrust to her rear leg.

After a few drills she we went live and she started tearing up the target!  The large outer target was 16 inches round, and we placed a smaller 8 inch target dead center.  From 25 yards, she put 19 of 20 shots into the 16 inch target (well within her qualification parameters), and 8 or so were inside the 8 inch target.  A good 1/2 of the shots that didn't hit the center target were within 3 inches or so.  Half of the 20 shots were timed (two shots on target in 10 seconds, starting with two in the tube).

Accept The Challenge

If you need help with a skill, seek professional assistance.  Many people do this. 

What many then do is not listen to the instruction!  It amazes me when a student I have says something to the effect of, "Well, I was taught to do it in such-and-such a way and really like it."

Great.  If it's working so well, why are you here?

At least be open to honestly giving a technique a fair shot (pun intended).  Not all instruction or tips work for all people.  We don't know everything about everything, but most decent instructors will have multiple solutions to a problem.  One of them will generally fix the flaw, or improve the desired outcome.

Open your mind to the possibilities!

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Increasingly Violent Protesting

People, all over the world, are turning violent against their governments.  It is kind of amazing to see.  In the past, these types of violent demonstrations tended to be localized - limited to a single country or state.

Now, it seems, everyone is getting into the act.

As I noted in Civil Unrest, people all over the world are not pleased, to say the least.  The "gravy train" has pulled out of the station - big social programs - and the recipients of those programs are showing their displeasure.

We've seen it here in America with our Day Of Action riots.  Europe has been having these riots since 2005!  The European press understands the cause-and-effects going on here and how these government "band aids" won't fix these problems:
It won't stop Greeks from rioting, however. Just as in the UK, US and everywhere else, ordinary workers can't see why they have to swallow pay cuts, tax rises and cuts in services as a result of incompetent politicians and mendacious bankers.
What has been somewhat alarming, though, is that the demonstrations have begun to morph from large groups demonstrating in unison, to individuals targeting specific government departments or officials.  Here are just a few of them:
March 2010 Man Opens fire on Pentagon
February 2010 Plane flown into IRS building
January 2010 Man opens fire on Federal building in Las Vegas
January 2010  Ohio police officer ambushed
December 2009 Pope attacked on Christmas Eve
December 2009 Two Washington State officers ambushed
December 2009 Italian Prime Minister Assaulted
November 2009 Four police officers killed at Washington State diner
October 2009 Two Police officers in Seattle shot in their car
May 2009 LA City council Attack
And these don't include the Islamic terrorist attacks at the recruiting depot in Arkansas, the mass murder at Fort Hood, and the Panty Bomber from Nigeria. These types of things used to happen very rarely.  Now, it's (almost, but not quite) becoming commonplace.  I would not want to be a government official right now. 

Another thing to consider is that the large-scale demonstrations tend to be more frequent and boisterous in the summer.  If you think about the things our government has told us they will be doing in the very near term - raising interest rates, for one - and combine that with things they most certainly will have to continue - cut more services, especially at the state level - it could be a very violent summer.

Accept The Challenge

Expect trouble.  If nothing violent happens, you're no worse off.  If you go in without a plan, you could be in some serious trouble.

I will be attending as many "Tea Party" events as I possibly can this year.  I will not allow these violent protesters take away my right to speak my mind.

I also hope to attend some Open Carry protests in my area.  Again, simply because the exercise of my Constitutional rights might make someone "uneasy" is not a valid reason for me to give them up.  I simply won't do that.

Still, I won't be foolish.  At every event I attend, I will pre-plan at least two, but more likely three escape routes.  I will make sure that the number of people that are behind me and at my sides is as limited as possible - I won't be front row, center, at the rallies!

At the Tea Party rallies, I will have multiple pepper spray canisters with me.  This is the best I can legally do in this state - at this time.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Competing For Dollars

I've done a number of posts on how to creatively save or earn money.  Last weekend, I did a post on  how to use online sites to your benefit ("Efficient Use Of The Online Marketplace").  In it, one of the areas that was glaringly omitted was eBay.

There was a reason for that.  It leaves a paper trail.  More accurately, it leaves an electronic trail.

Just like the example from the weekend, let's say you're looking to buy a little gold or silver for your preps.  If you go to eBay and win an auction, there is now a record that you bought those precious metals.

Even though your user name is most likely not your real name, your payment method IS tied to your real name - whether you use a credit card or Paypal.  Tying your user name and purchase  to your real name and account information is quite easily accomplished.

So what?, you say.

Let's go back to 1933.  Executive Order 6102 required everyone to turn in their gold.  You were considered a "hoarder" for not doing so, and could be fined up to the equivalent of (in today's dollars) roughly $165,000 and be sent to prison for 10 years if you disobeyed the order.  They paid you just under $21 an ounce.

Then, as a "Thank You" for your compliance, in 1934, the government devalued those dollars they forced you to take, by making the value of gold $35 an ounce.  For example, if you had been forced to sell 100 ounces for $2100, it would now cost you $3500 to buy them back.  Nice.

Call me paranoid, but when our government has shown that they are willing to confiscate something in the past, I see no reason they won't do the same thing in the future.  Governments have a way of doing that!

When you consider the dire straights our government is in at this time - very similar to the late 1920's and early 1930's - you'd be prudent to make it as difficult as possible for them to take your personal assets.

If you were considering using eBay to sell goods to make a few dollars, you might want to reconsider that as well.  It seems that there is a new IRS form that is being required by processors of electronic payments - credit cards, debit cards, Paypal, etc. - to report the sales transactions of online vendors.
Internet sellers who don't report their sales will no longer be under the radar. Starting next year, any bank or other payment settlement company that processes credit cards, debit cards, and electronic payments such as PayPal will have to issue information returns telling the IRS what merchants receive. The new returns are Form 1099-K, Merchant Card and Third-Party Payments.
Yes, their are some thresholds that must be met for the reporting to occur.  But as we have seen with recent politicians telling us, "Only the rich will see their taxes increase", the threshold for being considered "rich" seems to be moving downwards very quickly.

If you're the government, and tax receipts are shrinking, you get desperate, and start turning over every rock to find a buck.  Got any rocks to be turned over?

Accept The Challenge

Many people have the outlook that we all need to pay our fair share of taxes.  I absolutely agree with that, to a certain extent.  It seems, though, that taxes keep increasing, but the benefits keep decreasing.  They are no longer the benign entity looking out for my well being.

I have a different outlook.  I see the government as my competitor on many levels.  The most basic being, we are both competing for the dollars that I earn.  Why would I make it easier for my competitor to earn more money?

No, I'm not suggesting you break the law.  I AM suggesting that you don't make it any easier on the government to take your assets if THEY change the law.

H/T John B for the heads-up

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ultimate Prepper?

I'm not sure if this is along the lines of "thinking outside of the box", or if this guy is a bit twisted.  At the very least, it is showing that atypical resources can be re-tasked to meet the current needs.

This guy owns a restaurant in New York has found a new source for the milk in his homemade cheese.
"Mommy's Milk Cheese" is exactly what it sounds like: cheese made from the breast milk of a nursing mother.

In Angerer's case, that mother is his longtime fiancee, Lori Mason, who was producing more milk than she knew what to do with while nursing their now 10-week-old daughter, Arabella.
Yeah.  Breast milk.
Being just as curious, I also gave it a try, and while I found it to be slightly softer, a little more gelatin-like, than a standard slice of deli cheese, if anyone had told me it was a piece of provolone, I easily would have believed them.

Angerer said that's exactly what he was going for with this batch.

"The one you tried was more like a cheddar or provolone cheese," he said enthusiastically.
I don't know - it just doesn't seem right to me.  It is interesting, though, that like most other mammal milk, it can be processed into other forms.

Of course, the government has to get all hyper-ventilated and tell us about all the dangers of human milk.
"Consumption of breast milk could unknowingly expose consumers to infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV," Managing Health Editor, Dr. Manny Alvarez wrote in the Fox News Health Blog.
Yeah, as opposed to drinking cow's milk that is all "juiced up" on antibiotics and hormones.

I won't be trying Mommy Cheese any time soon.  For some reason, I think my wife would slap me!

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pre-Identifying The Victims

I did a post yesterday over at the California Preppers Network ("Hard Financial Choices For California").  I was discussing the sorry financial state that California finds itself.  Our legislators have spent us into a corner, and some very tough decisions are going to have to be made to get us back under control.

I ended the post by stating that we're all going to have some favorite department that MUST go away.  If it doesn't have to do with the core responsibilities of the state, it must be cut.

In my opinion, state Emergency Preparedness planning is one of those core functions.  I wanted to find out some information on my own county, and I found a page on the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that had to do with preparedness.  In particular, a section called SNAPS
SNAPS provides local-level community profile information nationwide. It can be browsed by county and state and searched by zip code. SNAPS serves as a valuable tool when responding to public health emergency events at the state, Tribal, and local levels. It provides a "snap shot" of key variables for consideration in guiding and tailoring health education and communication efforts to ensure diverse audiences receive critical public health messages that are accessible, understandable, and timely.
What initially looked like some boring data actually had some nuggets of information to help me as an individual judge the potential impact a large scale emergency would have on public emergency resources.

My county - Contra Costa - has about 950,000 people.  From the CDC data, I find that about 28% of our residents have some sort of disability:

What I found most interesting is that only about 55,000 are able to go "outside of home".  That means that over 200,000 of these folks are non-ambulatory.  That is a very large number of people that are dependent upon a family member or the county to move them in the event of a mandatory evacuation.

Like one that might be called if the levees that protect us just happened to break.  Hmmm.  Anything like that ever happened before?

Also, only 20,000 of these people are able to care for themselves.  92.5% of them need assistance - 240,000+ people.  That's lots of people.

Another section that caught my attention had to do with how people heat their homes.

What this is saying is that there are about 345,000 households in our county.  Of those homes, 335,000 - 97% - are dependent upon public utilities for their heating.  There are no statistics, but inferring from these numbers, I'd guess that about the same number of folks are fully dependent upon utilities for cooking and water heating.

It's not a surprising number given we're primarily a suburban residential area.  But how many of these households even have the basic ability to heat water and cook food for longer than the propane tank for their bar-b-que lasts?  Most people that live in an apartment or public housing will be in a very bad way.

In checking this source, I see that roughly 68% of our housing units are single-family homes or mobile homes.  So 32% are in multi-family housing.  Even if we only take the people that live in large complexes - 10 or more units - that is over 12% of the housing.  That represents roughly 120,000 people who likely don't have any sort of cooking or water heating ability in the event of a prolonged loss of utility power.

So what does this information tell me, as an individual, and can I use this to help in my own preparedness planning?

It tells me that county emergency resources are going to be VERY stressed.  240,000+ disabled people will need help from someone else.  That's fully one-quarter of the total population of our county!  If an emergency occurs at midnight, the impact would likely be minimized, as I'm sure a good number of the dependent folks live in a residence with other family members.

But what if it happens on a Wednesday at 2 in the afternoon?  The 1994 Southern California 6.7 Northridge quake hit at 4:30am.  Our last big earthquake in Northern California - the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake - hit on a Friday afternoon right at the start of the rush hour. 

Many of these caregivers/family members are going to be off at work.  If we have a major earthquake or levee break that takes out bridges, these caregivers/family members may not be able to return home.  What then?

The information also tells me that at least 120,000 people won't be able to cook food or heat water if they lose utility power.  Some of those will also fall into the disabled persons category, but at the very minimum, we will have hundreds of thousands of people that have no way of caring for themselves in the event of a major disaster.

We're going to have LOTS of refugees - people that have no ability to care for themselves at any level.  People that are fully dependent on county, state or federal assistance.  It will not be pretty.

Assistance resources will have to be rationed.  That's not a situation I ever plan on finding myself.

Accept The Challenge

If you read this blog and others like it, you're most likely somewhere in the process of doing your own preps.  You may just be starting, or you may be fully prepped.

All of us, though, have friends and family that just don't want to recognize the risk or prepare.  It's too much of a bother.  They figure someone else will take care of them - FEMA To The Rescue! - if TSHTF.

Bring them a dose of reality.  Show them the numbers from the area where they live.  Demonstrate that they will just be one more mouth to feed in the eyes of the government rescue workers.

Have them place themselves in the photo at the top of this post, and ask them what kind of a bother THAT would be on their lives.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Useful Links

I've been doing a ton of research on a number of topics, and I thought I'd share some of the sources with you.  I've got posts in the pipeline for most of these, but if you want to dig a bit deeper, jump right in!

Home Distillation

Home Distiller - go to the forums in particular.  There is information on virtually every topic associated with home distillation (which is illegal in the US without a permit from the government).  From malting your own grains to building stills.  Great stuff.

DIY Solar

The great Instructables site has an entire section on DIY solar, from whole-house systems to small portable units.  They also have quite a few entries for building systems to track the movement of the sun to optimize the performance of the system.

Small Shelters

I've noted that I'm looking for a large piece of property to move to.  It will most likely be an unimproved piece of land that will be upgraded slowly (like on weekends).  While we're doing the preparation and building, living in a tent will get very old, very quickly!

This is a very cool Plainsman Cabin that supposedly can be built in a day.  It looks to be well within my skill-set.  Here's another inexpensive log cabin.

What is nice about these types of structures is that after we've got our main building finished, these can act as over-flow housing for family and friends that come to visit.

Homemade Butter

I've been working on a post on storing long-term fats.  I stumbled on this, and have got to give it a try.  Who knew it was so easy to make your own butter.... well, at least it reads like it's easy!


This is actually a link to a page full of links, but it has some very good stuff.  From caching guns and money, to safe rooms, and "hiding in plain site" ideas.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Efficient Use of The Online Marketplace

Let's say you are tired of paying retail prices for everything you buy.  It may be because you are a bit low on funds.  It could be because you like getting deals regardless of how much money you have.  It could be because you want to choke off the flow of tax dollars to the free-spending politicians in your state capital.

They are all good reasons.

But how do you do it so you're not spending hour after hour clicking through online ads that have little to do with what you're looking for?  There are a number of ways to focus your search for just what you want, and allowing you to quickly search a number of sites.

First, you have to decide where you're going to look.  For me, I have 4 sites I check:,, and

Let's start with the big-dog, Craigslist.  It clearly offers the most options.

Let's say you're in the market to buy some Silver Rounds - one ounce silver bullion coins.  Most people will go to their local Craigslist (CL), click the "for sale" section and key in Silver Rounds.  You're going to get every single ad in the "for sale' area that have the word Silver or Round in it.

I just did this on the SF Bay CL and got 25 hits.  It included golf, airsoft guns, fabric, DVD and computer listings.

When I put the search as "silver rounds" - the phrase enclosed in quotes - it dropped it down to 9 hits, all of which were related to my desired purchase.

What if I hit a dry hole, and didn't get any items?  If you notice, in the lower right-hand corner, there is an RSS feed icon.  If you click the icon, as soon as an items that meets your search criteria comes up, the ad is posted to your news reader!  It does the search so you don't have to.

What do you do if the person with the item mis-posts it in the wrong category?  Or what if they are offering something in the Gigs, Community or Jobs sections and you don't want to have to search in every single category?

Google to the rescue!

By keying in a simple search string, you can find what you need anywhere on the site.

In our example, I could key in:  "silver rounds"

It would give me every posting in the SF Bay edition of CL that had the phrase "silver rounds".  If I wanted to narrow my search to just the East Bay area, I would put in the string:

"silver rounds"

Note that there is a space between "silver rounds" and the word "site:".

This same technique can be used for Penny Saver and Recycler as well.  It won't work with Freecycle, as they require a Yahoo Group account to access the information.

As a side benefit, you can post for free on all of them for goods or services you offer (although Freecycle you must give your stuff away).  You can make some bucks as well as saving some!

Accept The Challenge

Whenever possible, when you must make a purchase, give one of the listed sites a look-see first.  You can find virtually anything you want to buy (except for guns and ammo), usually at significantly reduced prices.

This IS an unregulated market place.  Caveat emptor (Buyer beware) is the rule. 

NEVER send money in any form through the mail - you'll likely get burned.  ALWAYS try to consummate the deal in a public area, especially if you are carrying any sizable amounts of cash.  This is not always possible or feasible, so when you must go to someone's home, bring someone else with you.  Don't risk your life or health to save a couple of bucks.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Begging For Dollars

I'll bet you didn't know that you are participating in a lottery.  You probably also didn't know that you're paying for the prize pool, as well.
New York, Florida and Pennsylvania are among the 16 first-round finalists in the federal grant competition known as Race to the Top, in which states compete for a share of $4 billion in school improvement funds, the federal Department of Education said Thursday.
We've got these states, begging for treats like trained seals at the amusement park.  And just like the amusement park, you and I are paying for those treats through a part of one of the stimulus plans.  Sadly, because of the wording of the Sixteenth Amendment, we won't necessarily get any benefits for those payments.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
The highlighted section means that they don't have to spend the money in the states in proportion to the amount they took.

Now, if the federal government was actually restrained by the Constitution, that might not be an issue.  There would be little, if any, money that was laundered through the Treasury that went directly to any state for any purpose.

It would be spent only on Constitutionally mandated functions, such as the military, or promoting and protecting commerce, or running the federal court system.  I have yet to be able to find the article or amendment in the Constitution that authorizes the federal government to dabble in education.

In fact, it seems as though the Tenth Amendment pretty much prohibits such things.  If a state chooses to fund public education, that is their right to do so - so long as they can afford the cost.

Yet, here we are.  Four billion of our tax dollars (which we don't have) are going to be awarded to a handful of states.  Goodness - how did we get to this point?

I probably shouldn't have characterized this as a lottery.  That implies random chance - all entries have an equal probability of winning.  What we have here is a popularity contest.  The decision on which states are deemed worthy of the treats rests in the hands of one, single man.
According to those nonbinding federal guidelines, Florida and New York could win $350 million to $700 million. Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania could win $200 million to $400 million. Indiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee could win $150 million to $250 million.

In addition, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, and South Carolina might win $60 million to 75 million, and Delaware, the District of Columbia and Rhode Island might win $20 million to $75 million

But since those rules are nonbinding, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, has the power to apportion winnings any way he wishes.
Hmm.  There's that pesky 'apportion' word again.  Click here (PDF) to see Section 14006(b) granting him unilateral power to decide how our money is spent.

So the Secretary has the ability to pick and choose who will be apportioned bigger (or any) treats.  Does anyone else see the opportunity for influence peddling and corruption? 

I do.  When you hand someone a checkbook with $4 billion waiting to be spent - and no inconvenient rules or structure for how that money is going to be allocated - you're begging for corruption.

Accept The Challenge

Being upset with how our federal government runs, or how it doles out our money, will do nothing.  The fact is, the government is broken, and will likely be that way for the remaining lifespan of anyone reading this post.

What options do we have to limit the negative impact of our system on our individual lives?

You can vote in candidates that say they will stop all spending that is contrary to the Constitution.  Good luck with that.  I'll be doing this, but I don't think it will do anything.  Call me jaded.  It seems like when people go to Washington, their ethics and principles and promises get sucked out of their soul.

You can quietly continue paying, "your fair share" of taxes - as determined by the people spending your money.  The risk of that is you'll go broke!

You can flat-out stop paying taxes.  Just be forewarned that you will go to jail.  Guaranteed.  Still, it might be an option for some.

Or, you can reduce your exposure to taxation.  Work jobs "under the table".  Buy as many goods and services as you can on places like Craigslist.  Barter your skills and goods for things you need.  Grow much of your own food.  Hunt, fish, trap game (although you will pay a license fee for the privalege of doing so).

Again, be forewarned:  If you do many of these things, you'll be breaking the law, and the penalties can be harsh. 

It's all about choices, which all come down to money.  Do you Californians (or people from Illinois, Massachusetts, ...) want to continue paying for the schooling of kids in Alaska or Hawaii?  Or do you want to risk ending up in jail, unable to earn or pay for anything?

None of the choices are really good ones.  They all contain an element of unacceptable risk, in my opinion.  But choices will be made, either by you or for you.  The choice is yours.

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