Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jaime Escalante dies at 79; math teacher who challenged East L.A. students to 'Stand and Deliver' -

Jaime Escalante dies at 79; math teacher who challenged East L.A. students to 'Stand and Deliver' - "Jaime Escalante, the charismatic former East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master subjects as demanding as calculus, died Tuesday. He was 79."

An inspiring teacher, too bad the schools couldn't handle him.

Asian Ocean Carriers Slashed Fleets | Journal of Commerce

Asian Ocean Carriers Slashed Fleets | Journal of Commerce: "A number of Asian carriers significantly trimmed the number of containerships they own over the last 15 months as they sought to reduce exposure to the fragile liner shipping markets, according to Alphaliner."

I would say that they don't see an economic recovery happening anytime soon, it takes a long time to build a ship. Not a good sign. - Weather News | Rain Still Threatening Flooding, Records in Northeast - Weather News | Rain Still Threatening Flooding, Records in Northeast: "Rivers across the region will remain in flood stage for days despite a return of dry weather at the end of the week. The Pawtuxet River at Cranston, R.I., southwest of Providence, has actually risen past record flood stage. Numerous homes have taken on floodwaters, and more could be threatened over the next few days. Road closures due to flooding will continue to be a problem as well."

A lot of rain can be a big problem. That causes flooding which causes a lot of damage.
One of the biggest problems with flooding is you'll surround you home with sandbags but the basement still floods because the water comes in through the sewers. You need a check value on your sewer line to make sure your home isn't flooded from the inside.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BBC - BBC World Service Programmes - Discovery, Feeding The World, Episode 2

BBC - BBC World Service Programmes - Discovery, Feeding The World, Episode 2: "A drought resistant maize is needed urgently. Sue Broom travels to Kenya and Mozambique to investigate a new research project that is combining conventional crop breeding with genetically modified crops."

From what I have been reading and listening to about permaculture things need to change to really boost food production.
The problem isn't the maize or the water or even the land but how the land is shaped. From the pictures I bet the water they do get runs off pretty quickly. That is what really needs to stop or rather slow down.

City ramps up subway firepower over suicide bombings on Moscow trains -

City ramps up subway firepower over suicide bombings on Moscow trains - "Bleary-eyed New Yorkers began their work weeks with a morning rush hour that featured city cops in full military gear, including helmets, goggles, body armor, sidearms and M16 assault rifles."

I remember going thru the terminals in Europe and they also had and still have security with auto rifles. Did it work? It seems to have.

If you're there you best think of places to find cover, the floor isn't cover but you are smaller and harder to hit. A concrete wall would be good.

Buried for 27 days: Haiti earthquake survivor's amazing story - Telegraph

Buried for 27 days: Haiti earthquake survivor's amazing story - Telegraph: "Severely malnourished, dehydrated, deeply traumatised and with festering wounds, the frail slum-dweller's survival was hailed a miracle when he emerged after an extraordinary 27 days trapped in the ruins of Haiti's earthquake, confounding doctors and defying medical logic. It is believed to be the longest anyone has endured such an ordeal."

Always remember where there is life there is hope. Never, ever give up.

Free Printable Sketching, Wireframing and Note-Taking PDF Templates - Smashing Magazine

Free Printable Sketching, Wireframing and Note-Taking PDF Templates - Smashing Magazine: "Below you will find a concise collection of ready to print sketching, wireframing and note-taking templates. Most, as expected, are geared towards the design community, but there are also templates that could be used within any industry and for any purpose."

A couple of weeks ago I recommended a site for graph paper for sketching out your home shadow paths, this site has links to many sites with all kinds of graph papers, note-taking paper and many other specialized papers you can print out.

Go have fun.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Health Reform Implementation Timeline - Kaiser Family Foundation

Health Reform Implementation Timeline - Kaiser Family Foundation: "With the enactment of comprehensive health reform, the Kaiser Family Foundation has prepared a timeline detailing when specific provisions of the legislation are scheduled to take effect.

The implementation timeline reflects the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed on March 23, 2010, as well as provisions in the Health Care & Education Reconciliation Act passed by the House and Senate."

Worth knowing.

The Volokh Conspiracy � Blog Archive � President Makes Fifteen Recess Appointments

The Volokh Conspiracy � Blog Archive � President Makes Fifteen Recess Appointments: "During part of the Bush Administration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would avoid taking full recesses in the Senate to prevent recess appointments from being made.� Not anymore. Back then, Senator Reid maintained that recess appointments were “an end run around the Constitution,” even though the Constitution provides for recess appointments."

Weekend New Roundup

Double suicide bombings kill 38 on Moscow subway

It’s over: MPs say the special relationship with US is dead

CNN on Size of Searchlight Tea Party Rally: “Hundreds of People, At Least Dozens” plus more

Friday, March 26, 2010

Education is Freedom Too

"Don't let your schooling interfere with your education." -Mark Twain

When you learn for yourself it becomes part of you and it is something that cannot be taken from you.

Slashdot is pretty fun but it is often more noise then signal, but there are gems that make it worthwhile. They link to a story on PsychologyToday that references an old study done in 1929 New York. Where they were adding so much to the curriculum that they had to drop something to make room, and they chose math. The results were interesting, but not surprising, back in the Renaissance multiplication was a Ph.d level endeavor.

These gems help you end up in places like A Mathematician's Lament, his comparison of how it would look if painting were taught like math is, is priceless.

There is also Towards a Post-Scarcity New York State of Mind (through homeschooling) which is long but insightful.

And finally Why Educational Technology Has Failed Schools. If it isn't working, we must do more of it. Government in general has this problem. I used to think this was stupidity, I was wrong about that.

Technology is failing everywhere. I went to the store to pick up some fresh bananas and apples and stuff. It was only a couple of things so I decided to go through the self-serve lanes. I was reminded again why I avoid those things. The bananas have a bar code on the stickers so I scanned them and they rung up fine, then for the apples (which also have bar coded stickers and have had for some time) "Price Not Found" the computer announces. The lady with the vest and the PDA comes over and says, "it must have scanned on you by mistake" and punches in the number by hand. We can barely use a technology that has been around since the 80s, maybe in another 20 years we can get barcodes to work on apples and bananas at the same time.

 Dark Ages
A dark age is defined not as when we have forgotten how to do something, but have forgotten that we ever could do it. A 6th Century French farmer getting 3 bushels to the acre never for a moment dreamed that on the same land a Roman farmer had, not 300 years before, got yields of 12 bushels. A first grade teacher in the United States in 2009 congratulating herself that 80% of the children in her class are able to read "at first grade level" never dreams that in 1930 to 1940 96% of all children who got through 4th grade were able to read at any level you choose and the concept of "grade level" didn't apply anyway: 90% of all first graders left first grade with their reading vocabulary better than their speaking vocabulary and able to read "big words" like polymorphic that they might not understand but could certainly read and ask the meaning of.
I.E. we already live in an educational Dark Age, and it's getting worse, as we forget that we once could do things in schools that we now believe are impossible.
A really large solar flare would have a significant chance of bringing about a much more widespread Dark Age. What would serve as the equivalent of the monasteries that kept records of crop yields, and the libraries that kept copies of the Classics? If electronics became unavailable, what might revive civilization? Or would electronics make a quick comeback?
I wrote that some time ago, and was reminded of it today when it came up again in another conference. A solar flare could produce a dark age -- but we are already creating dark ages, this in the era when information is freely available.
We have an educational dark age, and I suspect others.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Haiti, 70 days later - The Big Picture -

Haiti, 70 days later - The Big Picture - "In Haiti, the survivors of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck about two and a half months ago continue to struggle, with a few signs of hope as international assistance is beginning to make measurable progress, some international debt is being forgiven, and some businesses and institutions start to come back to life."

Slowly rebuilding.

Financial Freedom

What is financial freedom? For my purposes I am going to define financial freedom as being debt free. A simple but useful definition. If you are debt free you are a lot harder to control. You don't need to work more to pay the bills because the rates adjusted or reset. 
A lot of people call financial freedom having a enough passive income to cover all their expenses indefinitely. Passive income generally means things like interest from savings, dividends from investments and rental incomes. Let's call that financial independence, which is a good thing to shoot for.
But what about that in-between state? Where you may have paid off all your bills but that is about it. You want to get to financial independence but what do you do in the meantime. 

You probably need to beef up your emergency fund. If it has $500-$1000 in it that is good but probably not enough for a major job loss. As a rule-of-thumb you can expect a job search to take 1 month per $10,000 per year in salary. So If you are making $50,000/yr you can expect your job search to take about 5 months, then a fully funded emergency fund would be $21,000. I got that rule-of-thumb from an employment specialist before the current recession, but it is makes a reasonable size for an emergency fund. Keep an eye on your industry, if it looks like it is in trouble then you may want to beef it up. Once you have your emergency fund fully funded you can and should start looking into investing the surplus wisely. You don't have to wait until you have all your debts paid off either. Once you have the credit cards paid off you can put a part (a tenth, a quarter or a third) of the savings into the emergency fund until it is fully funded. 

Something not to forget is insurance, not that we can in the age of healthcare reform. Just like an emergency fund will help you get through the small bumps in the road of life, insurance will help you get through the big bumps in the road. Health, life, car, and home/renters insurance are all good and useful things. However, they are still an expense, and you don't want to overpay, so fine tune your coverage by reviewing it very year or two and especially with a major life change like a new baby or job change.
You may need some supplemental insurance. Homeowner's/renter's insurance usually covers only a limited amount of computers and electronics, review your policy or talk to your agent for details. Amateur radio enthusiasts run into this problem a lot, while it is easy to get started in Ham radio with an investment of $120, it is not hard to spend thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars on a collection of radios, cables, antennas and test equipment. The average policy doesn't just won't cover all that. Jewelry, guns and plenty of other things have the same problem. Talk to your agent about what limits and exclusions your policy has. It is also a good idea to inventory your house occasionally. A digital camera makes it cheap, fast and easy. Take a draw at a time spread it out on the bed or floor and take a picture. Save it onto you computer, save it as a group and burn it to a set of disks and save those in separate locations, like a safety deposit box or in your desk at work. If you want to keep a copy safe at home put it in a media safe not a fire safe. A fire safe keeps the interior below 451°F for a rated amount of time but that is too hot for most other forms of media like a CD-R which will melt if left in the sun too long in the summer. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cascading Meals

Cascading meals or using leftovers from one meal to the next for an extended period of time is a great way to save time and effort. 

It is one thing to cook a large amount of food specifically for the leftovers, but it is something else to plan a series of cascading meals built around the idea of using leftovers from one meal to build another very different meal.

Look at the effort to use up turkey leftovers. You have the turkey, then turkey sandwiches, then turkey hash, and finally turkey soup. There may be even more steps in there, but you get the idea.

We are trying to see how long it can go on for. We used a large flatiron steak for fajitas, and used it again for steak sandwiches. We also made Broccoli Beef from it and plain rice, then used the extra rice in Fried Rice and some teriyaki Chicken, which is going into potstickers with the fried rice as a side dish.

This certainly makes the most sense for things that take a lot of energy to make in the first place, but that also store well when cooked. Up here in Denver rice takes about 23 minutes to cook, which isn't too bad, but I can make extra and refrigerate it for a few days and do all kinds of things with it. Rice also freezes very well.

Beans take much longer then rice and if you are careful not to break them up too much they store in the fridge and freezer quite well. And if it didn't store too well you can always make refried beans out of it.

It allows you to spend more time on the main dish with less worry about the side dish.

You can do it the other way too, like with the turkey. Once you have a main dish ready to go you can spend your time on an extra special side dish. Kinda like putting an okay piece of art in a really nice frame.

Then there are things like Italian sausage. I really like hot Italian sausage in spaghetti sauce , and lasagna and in a few other applications.  And we always use it cooked and crumbled. So rather then keeping the raw form frozen in a big lump, which needs to be defrosted. It is easier to cook and drain a big bulk package of it and then bag, tag and freeze and just pull out a handful as needed.

Share your ideas on how your cascade your leftovers to different meals.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peace of Mind By Being Prepared

I am watching it rain, the temperature is dropping so it will be turning to snow pretty soon, with a nice layer of ice on the roads. This is bad weather to be out in. Got some last minute errands done during lunch so no need to go out for a while.

Now there is thunder too.

It is best to be home drinking some hot chocolate, but knowing that car has chains if we have to, is calming.

The fridge is full of food, the pantry is well stocked. School may be cancelled tomorrow and it is no big deal. That is worth a lot, isn't it?

Goshen News, Goshen, IN - Health care reform and the Amish: What will it all mean?

Goshen News, Goshen, IN - Health care reform and the Amish: What will it all mean?: "Yoder serves as the Indiana state liaison for the Old Order Amish Steering Committee. The three-member national committee works with government officials to develop policies that are acceptable to all the Amish churches in the United States."

Even the Amish are against Healthcare.

Monday, March 22, 2010

� Princess Salerno - Big Journalism

� Princess Salerno - Big Journalism: "It’s also easy to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Taliban have no rules of engagement (ROE) and they certainly have no regard for life, no matter how young, innocent or precious. The young girl above (approximately 8 years old) and the young boy below (approximately 6 years old) were playing near coalition soldiers that were dismounted in a local village just outside FOB Shank, Logar Province. Someone in the village tossed a grenade over the mud wall sending grenade fragments into these young children. (note: no-one knows their age in rural Afghanistan – they guesstimate based on the crop cycles)"


So what do we do now?

Hope is not dead
Faith is not dead
Charity is not dead

Freedom is not dead

However since those who are willing to try to take away freedom are in control at the moment it is time to prepare for ourselves and our families our own lifeboats. 

Many of us have come to realize that debt is very bad and to owe to no one is to be financially free. And that is very good indeed.

But is that the only kind of freedom? No.

Over the weekend water was used as a bribe for some Congresspeople, because you remember they cut off the water last year for a smelt. So now those districts got some (note: not all) water back. 
A well is an obvious source of water freedom, but there are others. Our roofs are great water collection devices, and right now most homes are landscaped to rush the water off the property as fast as possible. Finally in Denver we can have rain barrels to cache some water, which is great but we can do more. By redirecting the rain from our roofs to rain gardens and swales we can move the water all over our property and maximize our use of it. Go on and make a moisture farmer joke now, but water has been the start of feuds and wars before and may be again. If we can harvest lots of water then we can become water free. Now if you have plenty of water you can also grow your own food.

One major piece of legislation that usually gets no coverage is the Food Bill, but it really controls how much things cost at the supermarket. If you can produce as much food as you need in a year then you have achieved food freedom. 

You can do the same with energy, by using solar, wind or micro-hydro you can produce your own electricity. 

I am going to have to work this out in my mind a bit more but there is always hope. There is so much to do, we have some time but not all that much. Don't panic but move with deliberate speed. Become free in as many ways as you can. 

Where are we now?

With healthcare legislation passing we have a government ownership of:
  • Health insurance
  • Home loans
  • Student loans
  • Car loans
  • Car insurance
  • Car production
  • Banks

And if you happen to remember that the feds turned off the water to California's Central Valley last year for the smelt, well that farmland is now being turned into a solar power farm instead, that is much better then turning desert into a solar power farm isn't it. Food for fuel redux, anyone?

Lots of people think these are really good things, Europe has been doing this for a while now haven't they. Well, yes and they are trying to move away from them. Isn't that interesting?

We came to America to get away from the european way of doing things. 

America has been defending Europe for the past 50 years, so instead of spending on defense they could spend on social programs and see what good it did them?

One question to the supporters, when (note: not if) the Republicans get back into power how are you going to feel when they use these same tactics?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Red Menace: Stop the Ug99 Fungus Before Its Spores Bring Starvation | Magazine

Red Menace: Stop the Ug99 Fungus Before Its Spores Bring Starvation | Magazine: "The enemy is Ug99, a fungus that causes stem rust, a calamitous disease of wheat. Its spores alight on a wheat leaf, then work their way into the flesh of the plant and hijack its metabolism, siphoning off nutrients that would otherwise fatten the grains. The pathogen makes its presence known to humans through crimson pustules on the plant’s stems and leaves. When those pustules burst, millions of spores flare out in search of fresh hosts. The ravaged plant then withers and dies, its grains shriveled into useless pebbles."


Mapping Solar Energy Around Your Home

The Spring Equinox is happening tomorrow. That is one of four important days for mapping the shadows around your home and yard.

One of the biggest energy inputs into your property is the Sun, and if you want to maximize your utility of it you have to know where it goes and doesn't go.

Draw Your Property
To make it easy, here is a link to a grid paper creation site.
It is easy to see where shadows lie on you property so you draw a map of your property, including your house, trees and large  bushes.
Don't forget to include anything of your neighbors that casts a shadow on your property.

When to Draw
Now that Daylight Savings Time is in effect solar noon (the sun is at its highest point) as actually at 1:00 PM, it will rise at about 7 AM and set about 7 PM. You'll want to take about 3 readings: about an hour after sunrise, at solar noon and about an hour before sunset.
Other days to do this would be the Summer Solstice (June 21) where the shadows will be shorter and the Winter Solstice (Dec 21) where the shadows will be longer; the Fall Equinox is the same as the Spring so if you do it now that is not necessary to do it again.

What the Shadows Mean
Areas that are shaded all the time, like the North side of the house and dense bushes, are full shade areas.
Areas that shaded only part of the day, like the East or West side of your house, get part or half sun.
Areas that get sun all day, like the South side of your house, are obviously full sun.

Plants are all rated as to what level of sun they can handle so now you know where they can go.
Full sun areas are also good for the placement of solar panels and greenhouses.

Other Things to Map
While your at it adding major wind directions to your map would be helpful. That is an energy source as well. You can use this to plan wind breaks or even a windmill.

Where your downspouts are and how the water flows on your property is useful. Most landscaping tries to get water away from the house as fast as possible but water is a very useful resource and you'll want to find ways to keep it on your property, this would be a very good year to create a few rain gardens to capture water.

Utility hookups and where they run under your property would be a good if you happen to know where they are. Most cities will map them for you for free. You really don't want to plant a tree right on top of a water or sewer line. We once had a tree grow into a sewer line and it took six guys in three trucks from the rooter company to clear it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Phone Numbers, Shortcuts & Customer Service Tips - Companies Worldwide -

Phone Numbers, Shortcuts & Customer Service Tips - Companies Worldwide -

Very Useful.

Marginal Revolution: See the Tragedy of the Commons

Marginal Revolution: See the Tragedy of the Commons: "In 2000 Zimbabwe began to forcibly redistribute land from private but predominantly white-owned commercial farms to much poorer black farmers who toiled on communal lands. Stunning pictures from Google Earth collected by Craig Richardson show the result."

Socialism just works so well doesn't it.

Marx said Germany was one of the best places to convert to communism because they would be tired of capitalism, well we had a really great experiment for 50 year East and West Germany competed.
I still remember seeing the bombed out buildings, never repair or razed in East Germany when we visited family there.
Do you really think what is happening now will be any more successful?

Visualizing The National Debt - Infographic - Kiplinger

Visualizing The National Debt - Infographic - Kiplinger

An infographic that puts it in perspective.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hacker Disables More Than 100 Cars Remotely | Threat Level |

Hacker Disables More Than 100 Cars Remotely | Threat Level | "More than 100 drivers in Austin, Texas found their cars disabled or the horns honking out of control, after an intruder ran amok in a web-based vehicle-immobilization system normally used to get the attention of consumers delinquent in their auto payments."


Backyard Bunnies Are the New Urban Chickens - GOOD Blog - GOOD

Backyard Bunnies Are the New Urban Chickens - GOOD Blog - GOOD: "There are many reasons for this. Mark Pasternak of the famed Devil’s Gulch Ranch explains, “The biggest reason that rabbits are a sustainable meat choice is that they eat forage, which is not useful for humans. This means that rabbits don’t compete with us for food calories.' Rabbits are also, as Meatpaper editor and co-founder Sasha Wizansky points out, an ideal choice for urban farmers."

Well, there are a lot of wild rabbits hopping around Denver so it must be good land for rabbits in general. This is certainly worth looking into some more.
My grandparents kept rabbits for food during the war year in Germany. Oma and Mom would go for a long walk when it was time for Opa to prepare a rabbit. If he didn't kill it with the first blow the sound it would make would it hard for them to eat it so that was why they went on the walk.

This certainly is worth more research.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Get Home Kit

We spend a third or more of our days at work or school. Disasters come in their own time, they don't come on a schedule that allows us to be at home with all our lovely supplies to deal with them. 

So what would you do if your place of business was evacuated for some reason? Say a fire, HazMat spill or someone going postal? It doesn't matter where you are, you'll still be exposed to all the natural and man-made disasters common to your city. 

Manhattan has been evacuated a few times since 9/11. Virtually everyone had to walk home or to a place where transit services were working again. Having some good walking shoes and a water bottle made things a lot easier for them. Seeing women painfully hobbling across the Brooklyn Bridge in their high heeled shoes was a stark reminder of how important footwear is in a disaster. Another thing I saw reported was that shop-owners were giving away bottled water to the evacuees, but that the evacuees were also throwing them away when they were empty. It would have been wiser to keep the empty in case they found someplace to refill but didn't have bottles. 

For this kit we'll assume that you ride the bus or carpool and don't have a car available. This would also apply to a school setting. We'll also assume you only have a very small space to store things, like a drawer or locker. 
If you do have a car, great, you can store all this in there and more, you should anyway. Just make sure to carry your keys at all times so you can get to it. It would be embarrassing to have a perfectly good emergency kit but no way to get to it, because the keys are on your desk while your workplace is burning down.

The basic idea behind this is to get you back home or to your secondary evacuation point.
I have had jobs where I had to commute 50+  miles, so walking home wasn't much of an option. So what could I do? In one case the job was pretty close to my sister's house so I could bug in to her house. 
In another case I was far away from pretty much everyone I knew but there was a hotel just down the street. Having cash on hand for a couple of nights was worthwhile. 
While I had a car in these cases as well, it would be wise to consider how you might get home if the car broke down at work. Do you know where the nearest bus stop is? How much bus fare is? What routes you need to get home? So you have a taxi company phone number programming into your cellphone or in your wallet? How about a family member or friend willing to come get you?

You still need the same basics: Food, water, shelter and medical supplies. 

Food isn't too bad, most people have a small stash of snack food at their desk. A couple of backup meals in case you forget your lunch at home or you are in crunch time and can't head out to a restaurant for lunch. A large cookie jar of GORP or trail mix would be unremarkable and better for you then a candy dish and oddly few people want to snack on that.
One way I found to expand my office food storage is to use the tuna and salmon in retort pouches, they stand up in hanging folders and take up much less space then canned goods. If you have a file cabinet there is usually room in the space under the bottom drawer. It may only be a couple of inches high but it is space you may be able to take advantage of. Just don't forget that it is there. 

Water can be more challenging because it is big, bulky and heavy. I've seen plenty of office workers with 12 packs of soda under their desks so a case of water should be fine. While having 3 gallon of water for 72 hours is recommended, you could get by with just 3 liters if you keep you activity level and hygiene level on the low side. At the very least a water bottle with a jar of water purification tablets would make a huge difference if things go really bad. 

Shelter is much harder. If the building is fine you have it, if not you've got bigger problems. Most of the time emergency services will be able to help get you home if the building burns down or something. If there is a city-wide or regional disaster you may be on your own. 
Shelter doesn't have to mean a tent or house. Many places I've worked were near hotels, so having cash on hand for a few nights stay is important. The homeless have made shelter out of a parkbench (off of the ground) and some discarded newspaper (insulation). 
A emergency blanket can be helpful, particularly since it is so small. But the clothes you have on you may be the most important. If you have the space to store an extra jacket, do so. Get one with lots of pockets and fill them with everything you think you need. Also get one that is long for extra coverage and bigger then you need, which will allow you to wear more layers or stuff paper or other material in for more insulation. You can stuff food, water bottles, extra clothes, socks and good walking shoes into the arms and all it will look like is an extra jacket. An umbrella is shelter too.

Most workplaces have a first aid kit, and you should too. It doesn't have to be a big trauma kit to help out in a mass causality incident with, remember this is to get you home. A few bandages, a small bottle of pain reliever, cold and allergy medications, some gauze and an elastic bandage would be enough to treat some cuts and a sprain. If you think you can walk home, some moleskin for blisters would be a good idea too. 

Survival is staying alive and getting back with your family to help them survive. think about all the different ways you could take to get back home and what knowledge and equipment you would need to do each one successfully. Actually try it to see if it does work the way you think and how long it would take. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

� ‘Schoolhouse Barack’ - Big Government

� ‘Schoolhouse Barack’ - Big Government

Now that's funny.

News: U.S., U.K. Move Closer to Losing Rating, Moody’s Says (Update1) -

U.S., U.K. Move Closer to Losing Rating, Moody’s Says (Update1) - "“We expect the situation to further deteriorate in terms of the key ratings metrics before they start stabilizing,” Cailleteau said. “This story is not going to stop at the end of the year. There is inertia in the deterioration of credit metrics.”"

Fear and Hungry: The Freedom Garden

If Glenn beck is right that people are willing to give up fundamental liberties if they are living in Fear and Hunger, then there are two things you need to do to prevent that.

To prevent fear you need to be prepared. A disaster downgrades to an emergency or even an annoyance if you are ready for it. There is a reason the Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, if you know what to do before something happens you have no reason to panic, just because something bad happened.

It's panic that kills not the incident itself. When you panic you make stupid even detrimental decisions. Most people will go with whatever pops first into their mind and that is usually whatever they normally do which is called normalcy bias and will often get you killed because you may need to make a different decision.

The simplest solution to the problem of hunger is to store food now for the future. Having 3 days is just not enough no matter what the government says, that is just long enough for the criminals to figure out that they outgun the police, that is not a good time to start wandering around looking for food. 2 weeks to a month is good, 1-3 months is better and up to 1 year is best.

But if you want to be really free you need to be able to produce most of your own food. Lots of people talk about financial freedom but few ever talk about food freedom. Once you can produce most of your own food you are a much more free family.

The Freedom Garden
The power of compound interest is immense and it applies to more then money. When most people think of a garden they think of a annual garden that they have to plant every year. But there are perennial plants, trees and shrubs that will pay you back year after year.

One of the big downsides of a typical garden is that it is a lot of work to keep it free of weeds and pests. That best part about the permaculture garden style is that after the initial setup it takes a lot of care of itself.

You should look permaculture up yourself on Google there is even a college course available in iTunesU.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Harsanyi: Beware the Amazon - The Denver Post

Harsanyi: Beware the Amazon - The Denver Post: "One only wishes that citizens could boycott irascible and intrusive state legislators — with their knee-jerk, ill-informed, anti-capitalist sentiment — who are willing to risk the jobs of thousands of citizens for a couple million bucks in the state's coffers."

Actually there is a boycott, it's called voting with your feet aka moving out of state.
I thought Colorado was pretty smart with TABOR, so much for that.

States may hold onto tax refunds for months -

States may hold onto tax refunds for months - "Residents eager to get their state tax refunds may have a long wait this year: The recession has tied up cash and caused officials in half a dozen states to consider freezing refunds, in one case for as long as five months."

That'll work once, then everyone adjusts their withholding and all that goes away. Smart move that, oh, wait, it isn't.

Greek riots: Up to 60,000 people take to streets to protest against government | Mail Online

Greek riots: Up to 60,000 people take to streets to protest against government
| Mail Online
: "Street clashes broke out between rioting youths and police in central Athens today as tens of thousands demonstrated during a nationwide strike against the cash-strapped government.

Hundreds of masked and hooded youths punched and kicked motorcycle police, knocking several off their bikes, as police responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades."

Texas BOE Removes Jefferson From History Standard : Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Texas BOE Removes Jefferson From History Standard : Dispatches from the Culture Wars: "The Texas Freedom Network continues to live blog the Texas State Board of Education hearings where the collection of ignorant dolts on that board debate and amend the social studies standards. And it's getting downright surreal. They actually removed Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment from the history standards. Seriously."

Scratch TX off the list.

Too Good for the Comments: Ebeling on Mises the Applied Economist - Coordination Problem

Too Good for the Comments: Ebeling on Mises the Applied Economist - Coordination Problem: "But Mises made did not make his living as a grand theorist. For almost a quarter of a century, from 1909 to 1934 (except for most the years of the Great War), Mises worked as economic policy analyst and advisor to the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. From the age of 28 to 53 (at which time he moved to Geneva, Switzerland to accept his first full-time academic position as the Graduate Institute of International Studies) he spent his working day as a “policy wonk.” And I mean a “policy wonk” – someone immersed in the factual details and economic policy specifics of, first, the old Austro-Hungarian government and, then, the Austrian Republic between the two World Wars. His statistical knowledge of “the facts” of fiscal policy, regulatory legislation, and Austrian monetary institutions and policy was precise and minute."

Mises has some very interesting ideas I want to see more of.

Thefts of catalytic converters becoming brazen - The Denver Post

Thefts of catalytic converters becoming brazen - The Denver Post: "A thief armed with a battery-powered hacksaw can roll under a car, particularly a four-wheel drive with high ground clearance, and cut off a converter in two minutes.

On the black market, the converters will bring anywhere from $30 to $200 cash, as is, depending on the size and make of the unit."

I-70 reopened through Glenwood Canyon - The Denver Post

I-70 reopened through Glenwood Canyon - The Denver Post: "It forced truckers and other travelers onto a 200-mile detour that added hours to their trips and ratcheted up costs, including for fuel."

Update your survival kits

I've made a quick pdf and uploaded it to Scribd for everyone to see.

Protesting the Colorado Amazon Tax

This action by the Colorado Legislature annoys my so I am turning on monetization on this blog I might not make much on it but something has to happen.

Free Colorado: Stop the 'Amazon Tax!'

Free Colorado: Stop the 'Amazon Tax!': "The Colorado legislature and governor recently imposed a new law saddling online retailers and their customers with severe tax liabilities and red tape. But the only way Colorado can try to tax an out-of-state company (such as Amazon) is if that company has a business presence in Colorado. As a consequence, Amazon cut off its Associates program for Colorado residents who advertise for Amazon online. The legislature was warned in advance that the tax policy could cost Colorado businesses and possibly end the Associates program."

I am so tired of getting screwed by my governments. They can't have been this ignorant of what has happened in other states.

The only reason they want more revenue is so they can spend more on their pet social projects, which they hope will get them reelected.

Well, this golden goose is cooked. The phones may be jammed but they won't stay that way forever and there are other ways to get their attention.

All they really have to do is stop spending, but they can't do that. I wonder if they are brain damaged. Oh, wait that is an insult to the brain damaged.

Daylight Savings Time Home and Survival Kit Update Checklist

On March 14th at 2 am (That's this Sunday) it is the Daylight Saving Time change time (one hour forward) and now is a very good time to check some things that you haven't thought about in a while. That is certainly a good thing to do, but is that the only thing you should do this time of year? Grab a pen and paper and let's look around your home.

Safety Equipment
I'm sure you heard the Public Service Announcements to change the batteries in your smoke alarm and to test them. If you have a carbon monoxide detector you may have to replace the detector portion as well. 
Fire extinguishers need to have their pressure checked. Are their locations noted on your home fire evacuation map?

Batteries and Battery Powered Equipment
Since you're changing some batteries already, this is also a great time to check the batteries in your flashlights, radios, and other battery powered equipment around your home and cars. Turn them on and see if they still work and if you still know how to use them.

Food and Water
Replace and stored food that has reached its expiration date. While water doesn't go bad long term storage does take its toll on taste. commercial bottled water should be fine indefinitely but water you have stored yourself in water jugs or barrels should be checked and replaced, if needed.

How well has your house and property weathered the winter? You might want to start another page and call it the Honey Do list.
Check under sinks and around outside faucets for water leaks. Drain your hot water heater. Not only will this clear the buildup of mineral deposits and silt, it will make the hot water heater more efficient and give you more available hot water and faster too, but also more drinking water in case of an emergency.
Look around the foundation, driveway and sidewalks for cracks in the concrete.
Check your foundation, deck and fence for damage or rotting with a pocket knife, particularly around the base of posts. Small piles of sawdust indicate signs of vermin or insect intrusion.
Grab your binoculars and inspect your roof for missing shingles and flashing.
Test your lawn mower, generator and other gas powered equipment and their fuel.

You probably use your car every day but have you taken the time to really look at it recently?
Check your tire's pressure and look for signs of wear, and don't forget the spare. Use a penny to check your tread depth, if you can see the top of Lincoln's head you need new tires. Look in the wheelwells for signs of rust.
Pop the hood and check the fluid levels and not just the oil and windshield washer but brake, steering and radiator. Look for leaks and worn belts. 
Get a helper and make sure all the lights work. 

First Aid Kit
Hopefully your first aid kit didn't see much use, but you need to check it for expired food and medications, put what needs replacement on your shopping list. If things have migrated to all parts of your home, bring them all back together into one central location. Update any contact information, medication changes or allergies in your document kit.

Emergency Kits
Do the clothes in your emergency kits still fit?
Does your document kit need updates to contact information or new serial numbers and pictures added? 
Is your resume/CV up to date?

Oh, and don't forget to set you clocks the night before. Spring forward, Fall back.

Garden planting dates Last spring frosts

Last spring frosts: "For example, in Denver the last spring frost date at a 50 percent confidence level is May 2nd. This computes to a growing season of 157 days. If you want to be 80 percent confident frosts are past, it's May 12th. If you're not a risk taker and want to be 90 percent confident, wait until May 18th to plant. All dates are based on 47 years of data. The latest frost date in Denver was June 2nd in 1951."

Knowing when the frost dates are is very important. Some plants can' take the cold. But there is still a chance of frost, so some kind of backup plan is important.

If there is a possible frost you can cover your plants with something to help keep them warm.
An aquarium works really well as a mini greenhouse, but even a flowerpot or paperbag will due in a pinch overnight until it warms up again.
You are just trying to capture the ground warmth and keep it around the plant until the sun comes up and warms things again.The paperbag trick is used by growers to blanch growing plants like celery.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dairy Farming in Iceland

Shellfish could supplant tree-ring climate data : Nature News: "For example, in early Norse Iceland — part of the 2,000-year era spanned by the study — farmers were dependent on dairy farming and agriculture. 'For a dairy culture, summer is by far the most important,' he says. 'A one-degree decrease in summer temperatures in Iceland results in a 15% decrease in agricultural yield. If that happens two years in a row, your family's wiped out.'"

Very interesting. Sure, climate changes but I never hear them talking about this. - Inside Norway's 'Doomsday Vault' - Inside Norway's 'Doomsday Vault': "In a remote mountainside on the Norwegian tundra sits the 'doomsday vault,' a backup against disaster -- manmade or otherwise. Inside lives the last hope should the unthinkable occur: a global seedbank that could be used to replant the world."

I am glad they did this, having some kind of backup is important.

I would love to do something like this on my own on a much smaller scale. Just some seeds that I like to use and pop them in the freezer. It isn't the same but from all my experience, more backups are better.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marginal Revolution: Multiple equilibria Potemkin village economic stimulus of the day

Marginal Revolution: Multiple equilibria Potemkin village economic stimulus of the day: "Fake businesses are to be used to lessen the impact of the recession on high streets in North Tyneside.

With 140 empty shops in the borough, council bosses think they have come up with a unique way of ensuring shopping areas remain as vibrant as possible."

Oh, this is just peachy. That'll work just as well as last time.

The Cool, Dry, Dark Place

Just about everything that comes with storage instructions that say something along the lines of "Store in a cool, dry place. Keep out of direct sunlight." Almost everything that is not refrigerated comes with that kind of recommendation.
But when was the last time you saw a floor plan with a cool, dry, dark place on it.
Room temperature is generally considered mid 70's°F. Cool would be in the mid 60's. The main thing is that the temperature remain relatively stable. 
You don't want to store food or batteries in a closet in the southwest corner of the house where the temperature can be in the 50's at night and the 90's during the day. Those kinds of temperature swings are bad for stored things.
A good storage place is a closet that has no walls on the exterior of the house is not adjacent to the utility (furnace and hot water heater) room or the kitchen or laundry. The utility, kitchen and laundry all produce heat and occasionally moisture. 
Storing food above the frig is bad since all the heat the frig expels will rise. Not to say you can't store some food up there but it has to be stable stuff like salt, sugar and honey. My dad used to keep that stuff up in attic since they don't care about temperature swings as much as long as it is well sealed. 
In our apartment we have a hall closet next to the bathroom that we use for medical supplies and batteries.
A better place is down in the basement. Particularly the northeast corner, which should be coolest. It has two walls in the dirt, which means that it will be near 55°F year round, which is great for most foods and batteries. A 8x10 foot room will hold enough food for a family of 4 for a year. Simple wood and cinderblock shelves will work.
The Best/Ultimate place is to line the walls with cedar plywood to repel vermin. Slanted pantry shelves to keep the oldest food in front. Wire rack shelves to promote air circulation and even covered tubs of play sand, run through the self clean cycle of your oven, to hold root vegetables like beets and carrots to keep them fresher longer. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

AFP: Australian researchers say fat is 'sixth taste'

AFP: Australian researchers say fat is 'sixth taste': "'We know that the human tongue can detect five tastes -- sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (a savoury, protein-rich taste contained in foods such as soy sauce and chicken stock),' Russell Keast, from Deakin University, said Monday.
'Through our study we can conclude that humans have a sixth taste -- fat.'"

When I was in school we only had 4 tastes, but that is certainly interesting.

Economic Concerns

One of my big concerns right now is that the economy is in trouble across the whole world. Greece is on fire, and so is California. Iceland is in serious trouble. The US is not exactly a pillar of strength, either.
There is a lot of stress in the systems and there are a huge number of interconnections. The whole world is strongly linked together and it is full of potential energy. It is like the rocks above an Interstate that cuts through a mountain. Now that things are warming up and things melt and freeze there are more avalanches.
The whole thing could unravel. It is one of those things it isn't like a pandemic, no one will die. It won't be like an EMP event as everything will still work. It just money won't be worth anything, stores and banks may be closed for a little while.

This is where having no debt, and some food storage on hand makes things much easier by allowing you to ride out the incident.

Some people ask should they pay off debt first or stock up first. Right now I would say stop by your favorite warehouse club and grab a couple of big bags of rice and beans, few cases of water, a big jug of oil and some salt. This may not be great but it will keep you and your family alive for a month or more and you'll spend less then $50.

Now you can start paying off debt.
You can also keep building your food stocks from things that are on sale at the megamart, these should be things you normally eat.

After you've paid off your smallest debt take a part of that and build an emergency cash fund.  At this point just $500 would be good as you could replace one major home appliance (washer, frig or water heater) or car repair with that.
If you are disciplined enough you could dump all the pay-off-debt money into a saving account and have that exist as an emergency fund until you could lump sum pay off the smallest debt.

Friday, March 5, 2010


UWM Tuition Protest Turns Violent

Violent protests hit Greece as German backing sought

When Hanlon's Razor breaks down

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. -Robert J. Hanlon

Mid-week mandatory reading | And Still I Persist: "In other words, established ‘liberal’ policies actually hurt those whom the liberals would most like to protect."

For all the quacking about Bush being stupid and Obama being brilliant, they just don't matter, because they aren't really in charge. The ones really in charge of what is happening are all those little invisible bureaucrats that individually make tiny changes in the regulations of our country.

No. What I think is: These are the people who go to the wall when the cost of employing someone gets too high. We’ve spent the last seventy years increasing the hidden overhead and downside risks associated with hiring a worker — which meant the minimum revenue-per-employee threshold below which hiring doesn’t make sense has crept up and up and up, gradually. This effect was partly masked by credit and asset bubbles, but those have now popped. Increasingly it’s not just the classic hard-core unemployables (alcoholics, criminal deviants, crazies) that can’t pull enough weight to justify a paycheck; it’s the marginal ones, the mediocre, and the mildly dysfunctional.
I am also sure that almost all of them are well-meaning but since they bear none of the weight of their petty little regulations they don't mind adding just one more little thing to someone else's back. But now it looks like those with malice in their hearts are smelling blood in the water.

I love one commenters "Regulation is a luxury good" quip.

A lot of survivalist talk about TEOTWAWKI or SHTF as if it will be a quick or surprising incident. It might be but I doubt it. Right now it looks like things are like Venice, the tide comes in and floods everything, things continue for the long term with various annoyances. It's just the annoyances may be sewage.

America is a very big machine and there are some people throwing sand into the works. I mean who wants 20% unemployment. Sure, some people will vote for those who kept the government handout checks coming. I think most people would rather vote for someone offering them a job.

A lot of people talk about how the politicians in Washington DC are doing all these things out of a desire for power. Power is ephemeral, the slightest thing can make it evaporate. Look at the Iron Curtain, I was there less then a year before it fell. It looked like it would stand forever, and with one badly written speech, it came tumbling down. A teleprompter can't help you with that one.

Some people don't want to prepare because someone else might take it away. In some potential scenarios just being alive will make you a target, would you kill yourself now to avoid that? Of course not, that would be silly in the extreme.

Life has a lot to offer, it may be hard from time to time but it is worth it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to Solve the iTunes Slow Download Problem

I love my iPod touch, it's an amazing tool. I can surf the web, read email, read ebooks, read pdfs, listen to music, audiobooks and podcasts, and watch movies and TV shows. You can even go to iTunesU and watch courses from schools and universities from around the country. Its also a great place to keep parts of my document kit information.

I like to listen to podcasts when in the car and doing things like laundry, but lately iTunes has been very slow to download my podcasts. It would estimate hours of download time instead of the seconds or minutes it normally takes. But browsing the web was still fine. A quick search didn't find anything helpful on the web.

So I started to apply some simple troubleshooting techniques:
First, a simple reboot. That solves most problems, but not this one.

Then, is it my iTunes library? I open iTunes with the option/alt key down and created a new library with a different name, like test. I went to the iTunes Store podcast directory and started downloading one of my favorite podcasts from scratch. Still horribly slow. So I quit and went back to my regular library using option/alt again.

Next, was it my user. I created a new user in System Preferences/Accounts, logged in and loaded up iTunes and downloaded a favorite podcast. Fast as lightning again, so something was wrong with my user settings somewhere.

So I log back in to my regular user and went looking for any iTunes related files like preferences and caches to delete to see if that was the problem. It is not unusual for a corrupted file to do something really weird to an application.

Spotlight is great for finding such files. This is on a Mac so if you're on Windows you'll have to find the equivalent places yourself using Windows Explorer. Make sure iTunes is not running.

The first thing to try is deleting the cache files which I found in my /Library/Caches/ folder, those are not critical but are some of the first to get corrupted but that didn't fix the problem. So I exited iTunes.

Then I went looking for any preference files and deleted /Library/Preferences/ and /Library/Preferences/ Restarted iTunes, still no joy, exit iTunes again.

Then I found /Library/Preferences/ByHost/< lots of numbers>.plist. I deleted that and restarted iTunes again, that did it. Downloads were fast again. 10 meg downloads took only about 15 seconds, actually a little faster then before, nice.

Troubleshooting skills are basic to resolving any problem.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Marginal Revolution: This is Chile, not Haiti

Marginal Revolution: This is Chile, not Haiti: "'There is a certain lawlessness in this country that the government enabled,' he said in Spanish. 'They don't protect people and people don't respect them and criminal elements get out of control. People also have a high sense of entitlement. They expected the government to have water and power and things under control.'"

Something to consider.

When to Check Up on Your Emergency Kits

The Ebb and Flow of Preparedness in Earthquake Zones - Bay Area Blog - "Some people here don’t wait for tremors but have made earthquake preparedness a regular part of life. A few manage to live with the feeling of imminent disaster. They evaluate schools not only on education levels but also on structural safety."

Readiness is a lifestyle. You don't have to check everything everyday or not do all kinds of good things but it is something you have to spend a little time on from time to time.

Big disasters don't have every day or even every month, but when there is one or the weather report is threatening, it is a good idea to evaluate what you have on hand and what you might need.

At least check your stores once a year. Daylight Savings Time is coming up on the 14th and that is a good time to check over things.

It is also a good time to improve one aspect of your disaster kit. I talked about a Layered Approach to Readiness recently where you go for Good, Better, Best solutions. Look at your kit, is there something good that can be made better? Now is a good time to improve it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Titanic vs. Lusitania: Time Determined Who Survived | LiveScience

Titanic vs. Lusitania: Time Determined Who Survived | LiveScience: "The time people have during survival situations might affect whether they behave selfishly or socially. Examining two shipwrecks, the Titanic and the Lusitania, researchers recently found the longer passengers had to react to the disaster, the more likely they were to follow social mores. The less time, the more selfishly passengers behaved."

How people react to disaster is vitally important to know. If you are not prepared this is how you might react.

But there are other factors, a major one being normalcy bias, or the desire to continue as if nothing much is happening. A lot of people have died because they tried to use the same door they came in and ignored the clearly marked emergency exit no one was using.

I always find it odd that when the fire alarms go off in a supermarket or mall and no one seems to leave because of it.

It is an easy skill to cultivate, looking for emergency exits and the like wherever you go. It may come in handy someday.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Disasters take practice

Disasters take practice: "Some examples are below, I know you can think of a lot more that keep you up at night.
What steps does your backup operator take to perform a restore?
Where are the backups stored and how often are the audited for accuracy?
How often are your security programs monitored?
What is the procedure for a DoS? Virus infection? Disgruntled employee?
Who on your legal team would you call? Do they know you?
Is your incident response team call sheet up to date?"

Have you ever practiced your disaster plan? The reason you really want to do that is if find out where you are missing something and then you can fix it when times are still good. It's much easier then then trying to find something important during an actual emergency.