Saturday, February 27, 2010

Huge quake hits Chile; tsunami threatens Pacific - Yahoo! News

Huge quake hits Chile; tsunami threatens Pacific - Yahoo! News: "A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Storm rakes East; more than 1 million in the dark

Storm rakes East; more than 1 million in the dark: "More than a million people have lost power from Maine to Pennsylvania"

Nasty weather, hopefully they prepared enough to get through a a few days of this.

You have to give big kudos to the power crews going out in that stuff making it better.

Though I have to say it would be a good idea to have some independent power generating capability for just such occasions.

Choosing between CFL and LED lightbulbs

All lightbulbs have limitations. Incandescent bulbs are cheap but wasteful of energy. CFL bulbs are energy efficient but are loaded with toxic mercury, and LEDs are very energy efficient but are more directional.

When we moved into this apartment about 2 and a half years ago, I put in mostly CFLs to try and save some on the electric bills. The ones in the bathroom are all dead now. The ones in lamps did not last long at all due to being knocked over by an active child. The ones in the ceiling fan are still going strong, but it is dry there and not much shock. CFL bulbs also don't work so well outside in the cold. They start off dim and it takes minutes for them to reach full brightness.

So I've learned that CFLs don't like wet or cold or shock.

LED bulbs are still pretty expensive but since they are a semiconductor Moore's Law applies and they should become cheaper pretty quickly. They also use way less power then even CFLs and are shock resistant, that is why lots of flashlights have gone over to LEDs. Also LCD TV's and monitors are going to LED backlights for less energy and longer life.
LEDs are directional light sources, that makes them great for flashlights, spotlights, recessed can fixtures and gooseneck style lamps. Unfortunately, that makes them not so good for general illumination. There are some LED bulbs that put lots of LEDs pointing in lots of different directions to pull off general illumination but they are pretty expensive because of all those LEDs. I've also seen some with diffusers to try to do the same thing but I haven't tried one of those yet.

In conclusion, CFL bulbs are good for general illumination but LEDs are better for outdoors, moist and directional lighting situations.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Building a List of Backup Plans.

Making Ripples: post-corporate adventures in Floyd County Virginia: Our search for firewood in Floyd County: "Even the best laid plans can go awry and this year gives us a painful example of that. We had laid in a larger supply of firewood this year than ever before but the continuing cold weather has caused us to burn it all with more freezing weather ahead of us."

That is the issue. How much do you prepare for?

There are all kinds of constraints on how much you can prepare for: money, space, time, and so on. That is just real life.

But one of the most important things is to go through the process of planning what to do; implement you can do and keep the other plans around so you can go back to them and implement them if necessary.

Keep a disaster plan notebook.
If you are watching the news or one of those disaster documentaries spend a second to write down what the disaster was and how it might impact your home, work, school and city. Jot down a couple of notes about how you would respond. And if you believe you need a key piece of equipment or knowledge write that down too and add it to your shopping list.

You'll want to go through that notebook from time to time and flesh out those response plans. Usually the first thing that pops into your mind for a disaster response is the same thing that everyone else is going to think of too. Spend a little time thinking of a different, less obvious way to survive.

For example, when a big storm is coming most people run to the supermarkets and they end up stripped of bottled water, milk, bread, batteries, &etc. I've noticed that my local home improvement stores tend to have pallets of water and energy drinks. My local office stores tend to have bulk boxes of snack foods, not great but better then nothing. So there are options out there, if you take the time to notice them.

Creating your own disaster response plan notebook allows you the time to notice useful things before things get bad.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

100 Video Sites Every Educator Should Bookmark |

100 Video Sites Every Educator Should Bookmark | "It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran teacher or a newbie just now taking college courses — finding new ways to get students engaged in the classroom is always a great thing."

Cool video site.

The Layered Approach to Readiness

One of the big problems of getting ready is just how overwhelming it can be to get all that stuff together. 

And that's true, trying to buy this stuff in a lump sum would be extraordinarily expensive. But you have some level of most of these things in your home already. A quick home inventory will tell you where you are. 

And these are only suggestions and should be modified or at least evaluated on your circumstances.
For me right now in an apartment, the best I can do on the subject of water is what I call Better in the chart. We've just added a backpacking water purifier that will last for about 500 liters. It is really good since it is small and lightweight. That is the best we can do right now. But we can dream big for later.

3-14 days stored
15-30 days stored + small purifier
Long term water purification system
Utility independent water source: spring, well, river, lake, rainwater cachement
3-14 days stored
3-12 months stored
Small garden  + canning supplies + hunting supplies
Permaculture garden or farm
House or apartment
Tent or camper
RV or family’s house
Secondary residence
Candles, Flashlights, Batteries, UPS, Outdoor Grill
Camp stove, Oil lamps, Car inverter 
Generator and fuel.
grid independent alternative energy system (wind, solar, microhydro, &etc.)
Emergency fund
No Credit Card Debt
No debt but Mortgage
Debt Free
AM/FM Radio
Weather radio + FRS/GPRS/MURS 2-ways radios
shortwave radio + CB or Amateur 2-way handheld radios
Amateur Radio with alternative power
Medical Training
Basic First Aid
Advanced First Aid
EMT, Nurse

There are other things that I haven't included. Defense is a big one. For some people a baseball bat, mase or Taser might be best given the limitations of their jurisdictions. Other people think a handgun is best and others still an arsenal of one of every calibre rifle with 10,000 rounds of ammunition is best. So you'll have to use your best judgement on that subject.

Then there is a lot of other skills and equipment like car repair, woodworking, metalworking, and so on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Know what's happening

EveryBlock — A news feed for your block

Knowing what is happening is really important sometimes and this site looks like it could be really useful if you city is on it. Mine isn't so I use the local news sites to do the same thing.

Increase Your DIY Knowledge for Free - DIY Week - Lifehacker

Increase Your DIY Knowledge for Free - DIY Week - Lifehacker: "Knowing how to do things yourself is a great way to save money—and it means you're less reliant on repairmen and buying expensive replacements. Increase your DIY knowledge for free with these handy resources."

For me it is not always about saving money, because occasionally it costs less to have someone else do it for me. Sometimes I just want to learn the skill.

I used a Hayes manual to change the pads on my disk brakes a couple of weeks ago. Which wasn't so bad, it only took me 4 hours. The rear brakes took a lot longer and a extra trip to the parts shop. A brake shop would take about 2 hrs and I could do something productive at the same time.

But there may be times when I'll have to do it on my own and having some rudimentary skills to fall back on would be very handy.

What skills would you find useful and could leverage for other things.

Is Your Home Ready For Your Future?

With the way the economy is it, do you think it is likely you are going to be staying in your home for the long term?
Is your house ready for you to get old?

We were talking to my Dad recently and he told us about his next door neighbor. They live in a regular two story home with all the bedrooms upstairs. She had a hip replacement last year and it went very well, but with all the going up and down the stairs the knee on the opposite side is worn out and now she needs that replaced.

When my parents bought their house it was their retirement home so they went with a main floor living model and that came in real handy when Mom had her stroke. Not having to go up and down stairs allowed her to stay home. Some friends even build a ramp so she could make it in and out the front door.

It doesn't have to be a stroke. In our case we were in a car crash and with multiple leg fractures we weren't able to climb the stairs to our second story apartment. So we ended up living in my parents living room for a few months until we healed up enough to walk around again.

On a side note, make sure all the main level doors at 36 inches or wider, especially the ones to the toilet. Setting up a potty station in the living room is not pleasant, and having to hop-slide sideways thru the toilet doorway is not fun.

I am studying permaculture on the side and I think it is really great, once it is setup it is not a lot of work, I like that. But it sees the home as just a source of water, compost material and a backdrop for the plants.

That is all well and good but I want more. We have done and can do way more.

Passive solar design makes a huge difference. If you take what Frank Lloyd Wright did with Falling Water and some of his other designs and what has been learned since then you can make homes that need very little in the way of supplemental heating and cooling. What does that mean? It means much lower energy bills. I get the benefit of less money leaving my pocket. As a beneficial side effect we would be less of a burden on the planet for those who care deeply about that.

And if a home is good at passive solar it will also be good at active solar, generating electricity and hot water are things you can do and after the initial startup cost we are sending way less to the utilities. There is a lot more that needs to go into this but this is enough for now.

Self-reliance is not just about when you are in good physical shape but even when life catches up and your body begins to run down. Plan out something for that time, it will comes sooner or later.

The Atlantic Online | March 2010 | How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America | Don Peck

The Atlantic Online | March 2010 | How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America | Don Peck: "After nearly two brutal years, the Great Recession appears to be over, at least technically. Yet a return to normalcy seems far off. By some measures, each recession since the 1980s has retreated more slowly than the one before it. In one sense, we never fully recovered from the last one, in 2001: the share of the civilian population with a job never returned to its previous peak before this downturn began, and incomes were stagnant throughout the decade."

I think people are starting to catch on.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Real Life Survivalism

One thing I hate about most of the survivalist blogs is that they are so focused on "The End Of The World As We Know It" (TEOTWAWKI) which doesn't exactly happen very often, but they never talk about the important things.

What about the end of the world as you know it? Not some societal collapse scenario where everyone has to go all Rambo out in the woods.

What about losing your job and finding out nothing you know is valuable any more? And even if you can go back to school, you notice that all the companies want 5+ years of experience.

What about being a small business owner and you and your spouse being in a car crash and spending a month in the hospital and a year in physical therapy with medical bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars?

How about something even more likely; your car or a major appliance breaks down and needs replacement. We all know that home appliances only last about 10 years before they are designed to die, planned obsolescence you know.

These are the kind of things to get ready for, replacing an appliance, fixing the car, getting by when a job is lost.

And how do you prepare for these real life things? Pay off your debts, have insurance, save up an emergency fund, store some food, plant a garden, learn some new skills, find your passion.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Boulder Struggles With Energy Conservation -

Boulder Struggles With Energy Conservation - "Even if residents implement every possible efficiency, it will take Boulder only part of the way toward its goal of slashing emissions of the pollutants linked to global warming."

And that is the whole problem. The solutions offered won't give the results desired and they know it. While doing things that would make huge differences they won't do.

Pres. Obama announced loan guarantees for a couple of nuclear power plants. I would count that as not exactly enthusiastic support. If he would rescind some of those other Presidential blockages and then I would believe him.

I live not far from Boulder and they are "14 square miles surrounded by reality."

Stop trying to bribe me with own money! Free from the government money which comes from me and my friends' tax money.

Leave me enough money to do it myself if I WANT to.

CFLs suck. I put in some and after 2 years half of them are dead. They needed to last 14 years to give me some ROI. I noticed that LED bulbs are starting to show up and next time I am going to try some of them. I've never seen an LED fail from normal use. They might last 14 years.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Preparedness Pamphlet Family Reserves

There are a number of family reserves we have been counseled to setup. They are usually talked about separately but I am going to consolidate them for us here.
Family Reserves:
  1. Food Storage
  2. Financial
  3. Spiritual
  4. Emotional
  5. Intellectual
Food Storage Reserve
Food Storage is the one everyone thinks of first. A year's supply of food, water and where possible fuel is the standard line given. We ought not to forget household commodities like toilet paper, soap, shampoo and the like. Every day we use things up that need to be replaced often. It is very inconvenient when you don't have any toilet paper. Disasters can come without prior warning and having food in your house is better then having food in a warehouse somewhere in the state. A year's supply for one person is 1095 meals for that 1 person, or a 9 month supply for a family of 4, or 1 meal for 1095 people. One of the major things sent to disaster area by the Church are hygiene kits: Soap & small towel, toothbrush & toothpaste, razor and other small but very useful things. 
Financial Reserve
We have been told many times to get out of debt and to build up a reserve. This reserve can start out being $100, can be built up to $1000, the standard size of emergency fund in many books. At this point, you should throw all your effort into getting out of debt. Pay off the smallest debt first then move to then next largest and in just a few short years you can be debt free. 
Then you can built your reserve to where it should be able to sustain your family if you become unemployed. The LDS Employment Center has found it takes on average 1 month per $10,000 per year of salary/wages to find another comparable job. 
While keeping this reserve in the bank is fine most of the time, a major disaster will shut down banks for a while. Having a small cash reserve on hand at home is important too. Pay the Lord first with a full tithe and generous offerings, pay yourself second, minimize your expenses, eliminate debt and maximize your income.
Spiritual Reserve
The Parable of the Ten Virgins is about the members of the Church. We have been warned that we must have testimonies of our own as we cannot survive what is to come on borrowed light. 
As individuals and as families we can build these reserves by:
  • Daily Prayer
  • Daily Scripture Study
  • Weekly Family Home Evening
  • Weekly Church Meeting Attendance
  • Regular Temple Attendance
Emotional Reserves
Paul taught that without charity we are nothing. Charity helps us as we help others. As we help others our own hurts are healed. Charity begins at home.When was the last time you spent some good quantity time with your spouse or just one of your children? Do you really know them? Do they really know you? Hopes, dreams, goals, progress? When it comes to relationships love is spelled T-I-M-E. Time spent in the same room watching the same thing doesn't count. This is not about face time this is about knee to knee time. Talk time counts, particularly if they are doing most of the talking.
Intellectual Reserves
The brethren have taught mainly the sisters that they should get all the education they can. Just because you have left school doesn't mean you can stop learning. Yet 77% of college graduates never read another book from beginning to end the rest of their lives. The way the employment market goes you need to constantly improve yourself just to stay in place, much less advance. Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker, has studied successful people for many years and has found that they spend at least 3% of their income on their own continuing education. Have you spent anything on your own education? And what about your spouse, have you encouraged them or helped them to learn something new? If they are a stay-at-home parent they need it more then you do. Even teaching your children at home will allow your brain to go to flab if you don't do something to challenge it from time to time.

PHOTOBLOG: From mud cakes to earthquakes, Haiti faces rising malnutrition | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters

PHOTOBLOG: From mud cakes to earthquakes, Haiti faces rising malnutrition | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters: "Hungry quake survivors – particularly pregnant women and children – may have little choice but to turn to mud cakes to stave off hunger and boost their calcium intake. But experts say the dirt-based food has no real nutritional value."

This is rough. They have some very big long term problems. If the world economy collapses like it is threatening to do they'll be in even bigger trouble, because few others will be able to help them.

Food forests and permaculture make more and more sense. I hardly expect you to grow all your own food but even just some food would help carry you through a major disaster.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Haiti's quake survivors don't wait for gov't plan - Yahoo! News

Haiti's quake survivors don't wait for gov't plan - Yahoo! News: "Haiti's government and aid groups have been wrangling for five weeks over a plan for housing earthquake survivors, but the people haven't waited."

Well, that tells you how useful most governments are at disaster reconstruction.

Picking a building site is rather important particularly in a disaster zone. Staying away from landslide and flood zones are important.

It is also important to setup an outhouse that will not pollute the neighborhood. That means 50 feet or more from any water sources and also that far from the kitchen.

Fouled water can sicken and kill a lot of people. After medical care it is the loss of basic hygiene that ends up killing a lot of people after a disaster. Salvaging soap, detergent and sanitizers like bleach is going to be really important afterwards.

A tent or tarp might be fine for the few few days, but after that you need to look at building something semi-permanent until your can get a permanent structure up. Sure, most of the time in the US, there'll be hotels and trailers for temporary housing but just in case.

There may be plenty of salvageable materials after a disaster. A typical house is made up of 2x4s, plywood and more useful items.

So what tools do you need? Hammers would be useful, and you should be able to salvage some nails from the debris. Watch your fingers.
You can also put wires from the walls, if the power is out, and use that to tie things together.
With a wrench you can transform the pipes into useful structural members.
You could pull the seats from cars to make a bed that isn't on the floor.

Look deeply at what is around you and there are an amazing number of alternate uses for everything around you. You're smart.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The stupidest question about solar energy

"What's your ROI on that?"
Solar panels are not about Return On Investment, they are an insurance and freedom policy. 
What's the ROI on your car insurance policy? Of course you have no idea, that's not what its about.
People like to say there are no stupid questions, it might not be a stupid question but it is nonsensical. It's a lot like The Homeschooling Question, "What about their socialization?" As if socialization is the most important part of school. 

Our power tends to go out a couple of times a year. What about yours? The electric grid is probably the least robust utility we rely on. What's you return on investment if the power goes out for 3 days? By that time the food in your frig is spoiling. What about if it is a really big disaster and power is out for 2+weeks? What's your ROI now? 

What do your really need to power? Your refrigerator, furnace, some lights, a computer, what's most important to your and your family for survival?

Buying  generator is not seen as crazy, it is prudent, power tends to go out and it is a good to have a back up, as long as it is run outside with the exhaust pointed away from the house. Your generator will run as long as you have fuel. How much fuel can you store? A few days maybe. What about your cities regulations about home fuel storage. In my city we are only allowed to store a few gallons at home. If there is a major snowstorm or, even worse, an ice storm how will you get more if the gas station can't get refilled, because the roads are impassible?

You can dramatically extend your fuel supplies by hooking your generator to some deep cycle batteries. You'll need a charge controller that will turn off the generator once the batteries are full, and turn it on again when the batteries run low. Since your appliances run 120Vac and the batteries are 12VDC you'll need an inverter for the conversion. 

By now you might we wondering how you can extend your run time. The sun is an obvious choice since it is always there. The generator will still be good for when the sun isn't shining. You can even add wind or microhydro, if you have enough wind or a stream on your property.

Is this the only or best way to do it? Of course not. This is just one way, and just a quick overview. 

Being able to generate even some of your own power is a big step toward self-reliance. Pres. Obama has said, "That under my plan electricity prices will necessarily skyrocket."
I think that would be a bad thing, though that would do great things for your ROI, now wouldn't it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Organizing The Home First Aid Kit

I've talked about Home First Aid Kits before, but yesterday I cleaned out the hall closet and figured that I needed to reorganize our Home First Aid Kit. It was spilling out of the two boxes we kept it, onto the shelf around it. I also found an old first aid kit we got from the store long enough ago that everything inside was expired except the scissors. And a couple of days ago we dragged out the boxes to find something and we still didn't find it. It was time to reorganize and make it much easier to use.

I decided to split the kit into three boxes.

The first thing to do was to realize the most important things should be the most accessible. So into the first box, the old commercial box with the nice label, went the bandaids & neosporin, thermometer, safety scissors and an ACE bandage. These are the things we use 99% of the time. It is now sitting in the middle of the closet where it is easy to reach and ready to roll.

The second kit got all the medicines, except the expired ones, those went out to the trash and their names on a list to buy replacements. And that got put on the top shelf, out of Princess Pea Pod's reach.

The third box got a bigger tote style box and into it went everything else: The knee brace, the heating pad, the hot water bottle, the splints, the gauze, the triangle bandages, and everything else that wasn't a poison hazard to our child.

There is even some room to spare which is good since we tend to but things to expand on the list as we learn about them and how to use them.

IT, D�veloppement et opinions: The tale of an Android phone in the earthquake in Haiti

IT, D�veloppement et opinions: The tale of an Android phone in the earthquake in Haiti: "We talked extensively about why Android is better than some other smartphone OSes, its openness, its multitasking characteristics, but have you ever thought that its customization features could actually save lives? Well read on."

Some of the behind the scenes of how people used their phones to get help during the Haiti quake. We need more of this.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How To Deal With Unintended Acceleration - Tech Dept. - Auto Reviews - Car and Driver

How To Deal With Unintended Acceleration - Tech Dept. - Auto Reviews - Car and Driver

Just stepping on the brakes should stop the car. They will stop the car faster then I thought it would but good to know.

Galileo Galilei - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Galileo Galilei - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Galileo was born today in 1564.

Friday, February 12, 2010

End-of-Winter Sales

Next winter is coming no matter what. Maybe it will get so hot that winter'll come early. All I know is that it should be cold next November and it is best to be ready for it.

A lot of companies are running sales to clear out their winter stock to make room for their spring goods. 

Now is a good time to nab some deals for next winter. Maybe some long underwear, or cold weather tents or just long sleeved clothes.

Thing wear out with use and I've noticed a few of our things have gotten worn and so it is a good time to keep an eye out in the stores for any good deals. 

Sen. Feinstein Steps Into Calif.'s Farmers vs. Fish Fight With Jobs Bill Rider -

Sen. Feinstein Steps Into Calif.'s Farmers vs. Fish Fight With Jobs Bill Rider - "Feinstein's office yesterday announced plans to attach a rider to the jobs bill, calling it the 'Emergency Temporary Water Supply' amendment. It would seek to ensure that farmers and water districts get between 38 percent and 40 percent of their normal allocations. A final draft of the amendment is yet to be written, her office said."

This is interesting, though I am not sure how this will help right now.

Lasers for big threats and small

Airborne Laser test destroys ballistic missile. Coming at the same time as Iran declaring itself a nuclear power is rather nice. We could use some of these near North Korea as well.

Then on the other end of the scale but also a threat is the Mosquito Laser. It's funny last year Bill Gates released mosquitos to showcase the threat of malaria and this year they can shoot them down with lasers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Setting up a good food prep station in your kitchen

A knife is a fantastic kitchen tool. It has been doing kitchen prep work for thousands of years and have evolved all kinds of specialized shapes in the last few hundred years. It has been the mainstay of the kitchen even since the invention of the food processor, which is just a powered knife. 

You need just 3 knives to start with a chef's knife, a paring knife and a serrated bread knife. There are a lot of other knife styles out there but these are a great starter set. 

The chef's knife is the workhorse for cutting large things like carrots, onions and meats. The paring knife is for small foods you are cutting off of the cutting board like apples. The serrated bread knife is good for bread and also things with tough outer skins like tomatoes.

Like almost all tools it needs certain accessories to reach its full potential. In the kitchen you need a cutting board of wood for vegetables and polypropylene for meats. You want two cutting boards to prevent cross contamination. A lot of people spend a lot of time sick because of poor kitchen sanitation procedures.

Keep your good knives away from surfaces like granite, composite countertops and especially glass. I was at my parents and they had gotten a glass cutting board, because it would be easy to clean. Good idea but I was cutting a tomato and after cutting the top off I couldn't get through the skin any more. The glass had completely dulled the knife. Steeling the knife after each cut gets old real fast.

Another accessory is a steel, this is often called a sharpening steel but it doesn't sharpen it hones or realigns the edge that got bent through normal use. You want to steel your knife at the start of a cutting session, if you're just cutting a grapefruit in half then you can skip this step, but if you are going to cut up a bag of onions don't skip this step. 

Someplace to store the knives. This is usually a knife block or magnetic strip. Don't just toss them into a drawer, they might cut you and your knives will get dull rattling around in there.

Is your kitchen set up to making knife work easy and safe?

Your main food preparation area needs to be near:
The knife block so you don't have to walk across the kitchen holding a knife. 
The cutting board storage area.
A big open space that can hold the food to be cut, the cutting board and food being cut and the food that has been cut and the discard items. 
The sink so you can clean the knife without having to walk across the kitchen with the knife.

Have you ever thought about how food flows through your kitchen? 

I have noticed when I have stuff to cut up I need some things in place. I'm right handed so I like having a workflow that runs from left to right. I usually wash the food first then put it to the left of the cutting board. Space is kind of tight in our apartment, so I have the sink to hold the discard items to the right of my cutting board, but you can use a bowl, and then take them to the trash or compost pile later, as appropriate. 

Look at where you cut food in your kitchen, is there a way to make things flow easier and faster. Easier and faster is often safer and a safer kitchen is a very good thing. And getting food on the table faster using less energy is always a good thing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Is Iran Planning for Thursday?

Faster, Please! > What Is Iran Planning for Thursday?

While I have no idea what they might do tomorrow it is best to do your fresh food shopping sooner then later. Just in case.
Having some extra fresh food on hand is no big deal and even if nothing happens you will use it anyway.

Snow Removal Tips - How to Shovel Snow - Popular Mechanics

Snow Removal Tips - How to Shovel Snow - Popular Mechanics

Good tips.

To go on a riff on this idea. Have you thought about where the snow should go before you buy a house. I saw a guy shoveling his sidewalk and having to throw it into the street because the fence went all the way to the edge of the sidewalk. Thinking ahead is something worth doing.

Also being able to throw the snow someplace so the melt can be channeled into your grass and garden is going to be worthwhile.

Blogging the Snowpocalypse - Megan McArdle

Blogging the Snowpocalypse - Megan McArdle: "That's because sometime before 8 am, I decided that I should get to the grocery store and pick up my lung medicine in the hiatus between snows.

Four hours later, I returned with a trunk full of whatever could be scavenged from the grocery store shelves. You have never seen a city as completely incompetent at dealing with snow as Washington DC."

A good on the ground report of how things are going in our nations capital.

Boeing Flies Its Biggest Plane to Date - BloggingStocks

Boeing Flies Its Biggest Plane to Date - BloggingStocks: "It was a big day for aerospace giant The Boeing Company (BA), which celebrated the inaugural flight of the biggest plane the company has ever built."

I really like the 747. My dad worked for PanAm and so did I. I've always thought the 747 is the most beautiful airliner in the world. It has an elegance that belies it sheer size.
I remember once when they brought in a Concorde into the hanger were we kept the 747s. The Concorde looked like one of those anorexic skinny models totally out classed by a real woman.

Earthquake Shakes Chicagoland | NBC Chicago

Earthquake Shakes Chicagoland |
NBC Chicago
: "A 4.3 magnitude earthquake woke up Chicago-area residents early Wednesday.
The tremor centered near west suburban Geneva, about five miles east of Sycamore, struck at 3:59 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey."

Actually, that could be a nasty combination. A snowstorm and an earthquake.

The East is looking at Snowpocalypse 2 another 2 feet of snow. People doing last minute preps for the first snowstorm cleaned out all the stores, which was to be expected. Now they are doing it again as they are finally getting out and stores are getting restocked, only to be emptied again because of another coming storm.

Now, throw an earthquake at the situation. A Haiti style 8.0 rather then a 3.8. Now things changes drastically.
Living under the stars in tropical Haiti for a few weeks is annoying but won't be a problem until hurricane season starts up.

Outdoor living in subfreezing temperatures is another thing entirely. Iffy buildings would have to be shored up and occupied. Collapsed building could be scavenged for wood products for fuel. People would be scrambling for clothes more then food and water at first.

Keeping a heavy duty 72hr kit in your car and the car away from things that can fall on it is a lifestyle change that will bring big peace of mind to you.

Getting Ready for Gardening

The last average frost date for Denver is May 3, that is 12 weeks from now. Now is a good time to start seeds so they'll be ready for planting then.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What If? Winter gets really bad.

Making Ripples: post-corporate adventures in Floyd County Virginia: Is this a preview of the climate change to come?: "We have been very fortunate this year, but I am beginning to wonder what will happen when the winters are significantly longer and colder. Are we going to be able to handle months and months of deep snow drifts and 10 degree weather?"

He is wondering about a possible global cooling. Whether it is happening or not is not the important part. It has happened and can happen again, just look at the Little Ice Age.

For some parts of the country this is a really bad winter. What happens if spring is a little late and we have another July 4th snow storm?
What about your heating bills?
What about the farmers how are they going to grow food if it is still snowing?
What would happen to food prices?
How would life in your city change?
What do you think the government would do?
What would you do?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Readiness Checklist: Water

You know, sometimes you just want something easy and the easiest thing in the world is having a checklist to follow.

Not having water can kill you in just a matter of days and contaminated water can kill you faster.

  • You need 1 gallon per person per day for drinking, and another gallon for bathing, hygiene and washing dishes.
  • For a 72 hour kit I suggest 12 liters of bottled water per person, I like liter bottles as they are small enough to hang off your belt, and redistribute to carry comfortably in a pack but big enough to be a useful size. A case of bottle water is cheap and easy to get.
  • If you know there is a disruption coming filling the bathtub, any pitchers and bowls, and all but one sink. Leave the kitchen sink open for culinary and sanitary uses.
  • Your home has some hidden water storage in it. If the municipal water system is fine then you can get water from the toilet reservoir (not the bowl), the  hot water heater and pipes (you'll need to open the highest faucet in your house first, and you will need a hoses to connect to the bottom of the heater so it doesn't spill, the first bit will be full of silt)
  • The rescue workers may create water distribution points, if the disaster is big enough. Having some 5 gallon water jugs and a way to carry them when they are full of 40 pounds of water. A shopping cart, bicycle, skateboard or rolling suitcase would help getting that water back home.

If you have rivers, lakes, rain and unknown wells nearby, you'll want to purify the water first.

  • Water purification tablets: follow the manufacturers instructions.
  • Unscented chlorine bleach: 1 quart = 2 drops for clear and 4 drops for cloudy water, 1 gallon = 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) for clear and 16 drops for cloudy water, 5 gallons = 1/2 teaspoon for clear and 1 teaspoon for cloudy
  • Boiling: You'll need a heat source like a fire or gas grill and a pot to hold the water, bring to a boil for 3-5 minutes and then cool and store. Make sure the containers you put it in are clean.
  • Water filter: There are many options here. Choose one that filters below 0.1 micron to capture spores and bacteria and below 0.015 micron to capture viruses. Add a well used bandana or handkerchief and a rubber band to act as a pre-filter on the front end of the hose.
  • Solar still: These can be bought in camping stores or you can make one from some plastic sheeting or bags, a cup and some tubing. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Earth Impact Effect Program

Now this is an interesting tool. It calculates the effect of an asteroid or comet impact on the earth.

You can enter the data for the dinosaur killer a 15 km (9.3 mile) wide dense rock asteroid and see what happens if you drop it on the city nearest you.
This creates a massive 113 mile diameter crater, a magnitude 10.2 earthquake, and 66 mph winds. Then the ejecta starts to fall.

You could also try to see what happens if you drop the 20m iron asteroid that created Meteor Crater in Arizona, something that is much more likely. That would go off like a 1 Megaton nuke and create a 20 mph wind. This would make a big mess but is survivable outside of the blast radius.

If you think that governments of the world are doing something. Well, they are but not very much. The US only spends about $4 million a year on the search for near earth objects (NEO) with a goal of finding 90% of object 1000 m or larger by 2020. Assuming we can get a satellite or two up there to do more looking.

A 1000 m object could create a 15 mile diameter crater, a fireball 10 miles across, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake, drop 26 inches of ejecta (rock and ash) and winds of 586 mph 100 km away. That would doom any major metropolitan area but most of the earth would be fine. Think of it as a randomly appearing volcano.

But that is just lot of numbers. For something more visual here is a video I found on YouTube.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Haiti three weeks later - The Big Picture -

Haiti three weeks later - The Big Picture - "Tomorrow will mark three weeks since the massive January 12th earthquake in Haiti, and tent cities remain full, even as some businesses and factories are beginning to reopen in Port-au-Prince. Now that massive amounts of aid have arrived, distribution problems have cropped up and are being addressed."

Amazing pictures, and a long way to go.

What If You Are Taken To the Hospital Unconscious

Do you have a preexisting medical conditions or take medications regularly?

Who should the hospital contact? You may want to include someone other then your spouse, a parent maybe. My wife and I were in a major car accident together and luckily I was conscious in the ER and could give them my father's telephone number.

With a word processor and some two-sided business card paper you can make nice little cards with your picture, emergency contact information, medical conditions, medications, blood type, allergies and insurance info. Make one for each of your family members and have everyone carry a copy of everyones card.

Do you have an allergy that may not warrant a medalert bracelet but people need to know about?

Allerglobal: "Allerglobal is a free service for people travelling to a foreign country. It allows you to create a ready-to-print card listing your food allergies in the language of your choice, so you can show it at restaurants or medical facilities of the country you are visiting."

Now this could be really useful and not just in foreign countries. This would be a great little card for your wallet. If you are taken to the hospital they really need to know what allergies you have.

Even if you aren't planning to leave the country making one in English, Spanish and Chinese would cover over 90% of restaurants.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What would you do if your gas pedal got stuck to the floor?

How To Stop A Runaway Car || | WXYZ-TV / Detroit | Detroit News, Weather, Sports and More: "Toyota now admits the gas pedals have led to more than 100 cases of Toyota cars running out of control with their accelerators stuck wide open.

California Highway Patrolman/ from 911 tape:

'Our accelerator is stuck, we're in trouble, no brakes.'

The driver of this car made this frantic 911 call seconds before he, his wife, his daughter and his brother-in-law lost control of their car on a California highway and were killed in San Diego.

From 911 tape: 'We're approaching an intersection, hold on pray.'"

What would you do if your gas pedal got stuck to the floor?

The most important thing to do is to not panic and the best way not to panic is to think about this problem when you aren't hurtling down the street. The driver above was a highway patrol officer, trained in high speed driving, yet somehow he didn't do something that seems very obvious:

Put the car in Neutral and coast to a stop. The engine will race and overheat but once you stop you can just turn it off.

Just thinking about a solution to the problem before it happens radically increases your chances of survival.

What else could you do to slow down and stop your speeding car? At this point saving the lives of you and your passengers is more important then saving the car. Sacrificing the car for your life is a good deal.

You can just turn the car off. You'll lose power steering and brakes but you can still steer and brake it will just be harder.  Don't turn the key so far that you lock the steering wheel, that would be bad.

We were driving over the Rocky Mountains and I put the car in neutral to coast down a mountain and I accidently put it in reverse, that didn't lock everything up or break the transmission though it did stall the car. After restarting it was fine.

Many mountain highways have escape ramps, these are filled with loose gravel and go uphill to slow down and stop runaway trucks. If there is one handy use it.

Is there is a concrete barrier or rock face next to you? You can scrape the side of the car on it and that will slow you down. Don't hit it head on that could be bad.

Can you think of any other was to slow and stop and out of control car?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Get Home Kit

If you are a typical American you'll spend nearly half your time away from home. A third or more of your day is at work and then there is the time you spend running errands and being with friends.

And you know what that, is perfectly fine. You have a life that is worth living. We are social animals and we aren't meant to be bunkered down at home all the time.

That just means you need to realize that you need to have an alternative way home in case something goes wrong.

The most common problem is not your car dying but someone else having an accident and you regular way home is all clogged up with a traffic jam.
Have you tried using some alternate routes to and from work?
How did that work will the last traffic jam you avoided? The first time I tried an alternative route during a traffic jam, I found I had picked the same one everyone else had. So it was slow going as well. I then scouted out yet another route that worked better the next time.

Some of you bike to work, having an alternate is great if the weather goes really bad quickly.  I was folding laundry while watching a BYU-Utah football game it was a nice day lots of people in shorts when a snowstorm blew in. It went from sunny and 72°F to freezing with snow in half an hour.

The simplest Get Home kit is calling your family or a friend to get a ride home.

It could also involve carrying enough cash for cab or bus fare home and programming a taxi and mass transit phone numbers into your cell phone.

If your home is not too far away; keeping a spare pair of walking shoes and socks and a bottle of water at work is useful too. A walk is much more pleasant if you have something to drink. New York City has been evacuated a few times this decade and a lot of people did it on foot. Many store owners were wonderful and gave away bottles of water to the evacuees, but one of the mistakes a lot of them made was throwing the bottle away when it was empty. Hang on it so you can refill it, often for free. A few energy bars would have been helpful too.

I had a co-worker that bicycled to work, who kept a spare bike tire and some other small parts in his desk in case of emergency. Another one got a cheap used bike and kept it locked up at work as an alternative ride home. He painted it flat brown and nobody tried stealing it.

Finally, there was the guy who had all the stuff in the back of his truck to rebuild the engine in his truck. He was always tinkering with his truck so it convenient for him to do. He'd even take a spare differential when he went off-roading. While I carry some old belts and a partial bottle of windshield wiper fluid, I wouldn't go nuts like that.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Scott Adams Blog: Earthquake Insurance 02/01/2010

Scott Adams Blog: Earthquake Insurance 02/01/2010: "Where I live, about an hour from San Francisco, you have to think about getting earthquake insurance. I've always had it. But I looked into it again for our new house because the insurance is absurdly pricey. I learned, to my surprise, that most people in earthquake territory don't buy earthquake insurance. This made me wonder who the bigger fools were."

I'm actually a little surprised that you can get earthquake insurance. I won't be surprised if it is as heavily regulated as flood insurance.
I made it a point to get out of earthquake territory. I grew up in hurricane country and those weren't bad since you usually had plenty of warning.

Earthquakes don't give nice warnings. Even tornados give better warnings then earthquakes. You may or may not get smaller earthquakes before a big one. It may even get quiet before one too. Noticing something that isn't there is often very hard.

Also worst case earthquakes are terrible: buildings collapsing, road and rail damage, multiple utility failures, fire without much hope for first responders coming in a timely fashion and if you are on the coast tsunamis.

Tornados are nicer since they are almost an either/or disaster. Either your home is spread all over the landscape or it isn't.

It's not that you can't prepare for an earthquake, you can and should. You need to reinforce your home and attach it to the foundation, secure heavy furniture and water heaters, spread you preps out, a shed in the backyard is easier to dig out, park your car away from things that can fall on it.