Worldview: Readiness: Readiness Watch for the Week of 2 May 2011

Readiness Watch is a weekly publication intended to provide current, relevant, and actionable readiness information to people determined to be ready for whatever comes next, and especially for those people who are just starting their journey down the road to readiness. Readiness Watch will include observations, commentary, advice, links to resources, and related news.

I always welcome input from my readers, especially tips on information or ways to make this publication better. Feel free to contact me with information, advice, or tips or for ways you can support this effort.

Readiness Watch for the week of 2 May 2011

Previous Readiness Watch posts.

DLH

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Worldview: Readiness: Be ready now: 3 things you can start doing this week to be ready for whatever comes next: Sanitation

Be ready now is a weekly post about things you can do right now to get ready for whatever might come next courtesy of Dennis L Hitzeman’s Readiness Weblog. You can find other posts in this series in the “Be ready now” category.

This week’s theme: Sanitation

  • Immediate: The best rule of thumb for proper sanitation is to keep waste products away from people. Consider storing non-potable water for the purpose of flushing toilets, and designate a place to dispose of trash and other waste at least 50 yards downwind and down-water from people. Do not dispose of waste near well heads or open water. Make sure you have sanitation supplies, such as toilet paper and trash bags, on hand. Consider purchasing a sanitation kit to allow for safe storage and removal of waste.
  • Intermediate: Consider purchasing a self-composting toilet or self-composting waste system for the number of people involved in your readiness plan. Locate sites for compost piles and trash pits that are at least 50 yards away from water supplies and are downwind from human habitation areas.
  • Long-term: Long-term sanitation involves finding ways to permanently dispose of waste products and will generally involve three components: disposing of human waste, disposing food waste, and disposing of or recycling non-food waste.
    • Human waste can be safely buried at least 50 yards away from potable water sources, and functioning septic systems (that is ones that have access to water) will continue to function if cared for. Otherwise, an outhouse with a leach bed or a self-composting toilet can also be used. At worst, a pit that is periodically buried or burned can be used.
    • Food waste (yes, even meat and bones) can be composted, although compost sites should be located away from water areas. Composting can be accelerated by adding animal feces to the compost, by the regular addition of soil, and by turning the compost periodically.
    • Non-food waste should be handled based on what it might be. In a long-term readiness situation, most waste will need to be recycled for its raw material value.

 

Do you find this information informative and helpful? Feel free to contact me and let me know. You can also contact me about ways you can support this effort.

DLH

Read more at my Readiness weblog...

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Worldview: The cost of reality: who do you believe in?

I believe a significant part of the debate over everything from massive deficits to union bargaining rights centers around a question most people never consciously consider: who do they believe in?

In this case, I am not talking about belief or lack of belief in God, but rather whether they believe in themselves or the government.

I suspect that most people will immediately claim they believe in themselves and dismiss the question as irrelevant, yet in doing so, they will not have considered what the question really means.

For instance, do they believe that it is their responsibility or the government’s to pay down the national debt? Who do they believe is responsible for making sure they are provided for in their retirement? Who should be responsible for making sure they can afford health care? That they can afford gas? That they can afford food?

Too many people, even faced with those questions, will respond with something like, “Well, me, I guess,” even as they then say, “Someone should do something about…” without any sense of irony.

From my perspective, Americans have gone from a collection of people who depended on themselves to a collection of people who depends on the government. In transferring that dependence, only the surface of things has changed–that is, the government still depends on the people, but the people have given up the power to a proxy.

So, even as people depend on the government, what they depend on in a phantom parasite of their own creation, one they believe they can cleverly hide their excess in, yet one that progressively bleeds them dry as time goes on.

It has taken two generations–the Baby Boomers and Generation X–for the United States to go from the most prosperous and powerful nation that has ever existed to a teetering ruin built on ever expanding government and a debt a dozen generations will still not have paid off. That entire transition happened through the auspices of a single idea, that the people handed the government responsibility for aspects of their lives they no longer wanted to be responsible for themselves. The people stopped believing in themselves and started believing in their government, and their government started bleeding them dry.

This transition should be no surprise to anyone who has a decent view of history. Many of the world’s greatest civilizations broke and fell on the same premise. Reading the history of societies as diverse as the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages Chinese dynasties shows the effect of the same corrosive idea.

Our fate as Americans will be no different unless we somehow figure out how to do something that has never been done in history: reverse the trend. Until we, as a nation, return responsibility for the debt, our retirement, health care, our jobs, our well-being, and the well-beings of our most vulnerable citizens to ourselves, we have set ourselves on a path whose destiny is certain.

Yet, even if the destiny of our nation is certain because of our dependence on government, those of us who see this reality for what it is can take heart: something will come next and we can be prepared for it. Hope for the present and plan for the future, but do so knowing this could get ugly before its over.

DLH

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Readiness: When will you be ready?

If an emergency were to happen today, what would you do? What if the power went out? What if you could not buy gas or groceries?

What is your plan?

We live in unsettled times. Riots aren’t just for the Middle East anymore. Financial uncertainty, inflation, and shortages of critical goods are spreading. History tells us that it is exactly at times like these that you need to be ready because disasters happen quickly.

You don’t have to listen to me. There are plenty of other people saying the same thing, but the message is the same. Get ready. Be ready. There is danger ahead.

DLH

Read more at my Readiness site...

Worldview: The cost of reality

I’ve been watching the progress of the collective bargaining revocation bills in Wisconsin and Ohio with great curiosity and not a small amount of amusement. What I see on all sides of this debate is a failure to deal with reality.

Teacher’s unions fail to understand that there is no more money. Wisconsin is in the hole $2.2 billion. Ohio is in the hole $7 billion. Those deficits are only the ones for 2011. Sure, they are just trying to protect their own, but at what cost? What else has to get cut to protect them? Who else has to pay?

On the other hand, you have the conservative law makers and those who elected them. They claim union busting–because that’s what revoking state collective bargaining agreements really is–will save the tax payers millions. That’s true, but so would cutting state programs, especially the costly social welfare programs even conservatives are addicted to.

The problem, as I see it, is that nobody wants to admit the truth: we’re not going to get out of these problems with selective, politically motivated cuts. Instead, we’re going to have to make far-reaching, across the board cuts at all levels of government that will last decades, and those cuts will only serve to allow us to tread water.

Unfortunately, no one is listening. Liberals and progressives want to tax more and spend more. Conservatives want to attack their political opponents’ pet programs without doing anything real to face the problems. Libertarians are too wild-eyed and disorganized to do anything other than make incoherent noises.

In the midst of all of this, our nation is failing. Our currency is devaluing. Our economy is not creating jobs. More than half our citizens effectively do not pay taxes, and the other half are paying so much they can’t make anything happen. Our tax system penalizes success. Our laws make starting and maintaining businesses unnecessarily complex. This year, local, state, and federal governments will spend between $2.5 and $3 trillion more dollars than they collect in taxes. The total US debt burden carried by all levels of governments could exceed $25 trillion–or twice the entire GDP of the US in 2011.

If we really want to fix the problems that got us here, we have to end–no, destroy–the disincentive to perform, succeed, and innovate on the strengths of our own merits. We have to wipe out the notion that we can somehow treat every individual and situation as some kind of an average and deal with reality in all its uniqueness and complexity. For the first time in decades, we have to think, act, and react in accordance with the situation we have, not the one we are convinced we should have. We have to return the bulk of control to the individual and stop expecting governments to take care of us.

And all of these solutions are going to happen whether we want them to or not. We cannot continue what we are doing because what we are doing is failing. The question that remains is whether we participate in the process by which the next thing comes into being or whether we stand and watch as the terms are dictated to us.

I suspect most will do the latter, which is why I’m pretty sure you should be getting ready for some really tough times ahead.

DLH

Read more at my Worldview site...

Readiness: The looming currency collapse

UPDATE: For those who find the linked video too painful (that is badly done) to watch, if you browse away from it, then click “Stay on this page” from the resulting pop-up” it will take you to a transcript of the video.

I’m not much for investment research firms for the most part, so I am skeptical when they give advice for free or as part of a thinly veiled promo for a product or service they provide. It is with that skepticism that I viewed Porter Stansberry‘s apocalyptically titled “The End of America” video.

Most people find the subject of the video boring. Many people who actually watch it will see the video as a scare tactic designed to frighten them into using Stansberry’s products or services and will ignore its message.

I believe they will do so to their own detriment.

Whatever Stansberry might be selling, his analysis of the looming crisis with the American dollar and everything it could mean for our way of life is dead on. And, he only focuses on one narrow aspect of looming problems that threaten to create the perfect storm that could bring the American and world economy to its knees.

Again, it is easy to ignore what people like Stansberry or me are saying because it sounds so impossible, yet it is only impossible if one ignores the inevitable lessons history taught past nations and civilizations who thought the same things.

Now is the time, more immediate than ever before, for you to get ready. Get out of debt. Make sure you can provide for your own basic needs without the need for constant infusions of cash. If you live in a city, have a plan for how to get out and where you are going to go. Have supplies and means of self-defense on-hand.

I grant that I could be wrong and that these things may never come to pass. History is quirky that way. Yet, I cannot miss the fact that it can and does happen and that the United States is not exempt from that reality.

The signs are all there. Are you going to pay attention?

DLH

Read more at my Readiness site...

Worldview: The razor’s edge

Last January, I started an experiment to see how many times I could use a single disposable razor blade before it was unusable. I discovered several years ago that the thing most likely to cause the blade to become dull was the moisture, oils, and salts left over from the shaving process instead of regular use. Critical to this experiment was the fact that I dried the blade after each shave and stored the blade face down on a tissue to wick away residual moisture.

A year later, I can report that I used the same blade to shave 85 times over twelve months, an average of 7 shaves per month. Granted, I do not shave everyday as some people do, but using this evidence, this blade would have lasted a daily shaver as many as 12 weeks. For a daily shaver, this would be a savings of around $50 over 12 weeks if you used the blades I use and replaced them weekly, or about $215 per year.

Further, even after 85 shaves, the blade I am using now is still usable and probably will be for some time to come. I expect that I may get as many as six more months before it has to be replaced, and it could last another year with proper care.

Now, I grant that I do not shave everyday, so daily shavers may get less performance, but the evidence so far is clear: it is possible to save hundreds of dollars a year on replacing razor blades by simply drying them before you put them away.

Why go to all this trouble to prove something like this? Because I believe frugality is one of the ways we are going to dig ourselves out of the mess we face as individuals and as a nation in the years ahead. I believe spending less, saving more, throwing less away, and reusing whatever we can are critical parts of making our way of life better.

Do you have other frugality tips? Let me know, and I will post them here.

DLH

Read more at my Worldview site...

Readiness: Immediate readiness

The simplest part of immediate readiness is assembling a readiness kit. The government website Ready.gov has a good list for a basic kit, and a quick Google search can reveal hundreds of variations on the theme. That said, everyone’s kit is going to contain different things based on each person’s views, approach, and the kind of changes the person might be planning for. I tend to follow the advice presented by Laughing Wolf in his “Readiness Week” posts at the blog Blackfive because he has assembled quite a bit of information and experience all in one place. Whatever list someone might use, it should contain, as a minimum, the following:

  • Three gallons of water per person involved in the plan.
  • Enough preserved food to last each person involved in the plan for three days.
  • Flashlights and batteries (a hand crank radio with a built-in flashlight is really the better way to go).
  • A portable radio with batteries (a hand crank radio with a built-in flashlight is really the better way to go).
  • Weather appropriate clothing and footwear for each person.

In addition, some other things to consider as part of immediate readiness kits that do not always come up in lists:

  • A good quality multi-tool. I prefer multi-tools from Gerber, but brand is not so much of an issue as quality, but it needs to have pliers, a knife, and a flathead screwdriver as a minimum.
  • At least 100 feet of rope. I prefer military grade 550 cord because of its versatility.
  • A length of malleable wire (such as electric fence wire or steel ground wire). Wire can be used for all sorts of purposes, and even a short coil can prove to be infinitely useful.
  • A roll of duct tape.
  • A backpack big enough to hold all of your immediate readiness supplies.

The previous two lists are far from complete, but they are a good place to start. In my opinion, the best way to start an immediate readiness kit is to buy one of the ones someone else has already put together. There are as many kits as there are places that sell that kind of thing, but my personal preference right now is the Personal 72 Hour Emergency Kit with MREs from Emergency Essentials, to which I would add a Pocket Survival Pak (or a Pocket Survival Pak Plus when they become available), an emergency blanket, an emergency sleeping bag, a multi-tool, a 100 foot coil of 550 cord, a 100 foot coil of wire, and a roll of duct tape. My kits also tend to collect a variety of other things along the way, but pay attention to how much you put in the bag because they can get really heavy really quick.

I also take my kits one step farther by trying to stock one kit for each person in my house and another in my car, that way, even when I am away from home, I know I have at least a three day kit nearby. I also always carry a small pocket knife with me and will probably add some sort of survival key chain to the mix at some point so even if I cannot get to my kits, I am not without resources.

An important part of a complete immediate readiness plan is having an evacuation plan. Some sudden changes, like a natural disaster or a political upheaval, may require people to relocate, sometimes very suddenly and very quickly. Evacuation plans should include the following considerations:

  • Make sure there is enough fuel on hand for vehicles that may be used in an evacuation.
  • Make sure that some part of the readiness supplies are easily portable in case evacuation means walking.
  • If evacuation means walking, make sure you have appropriate clothing and footwear available. This idea is especially important if you find yourself needing to evacuate from work where you might not be wearing walking appropriate clothing and shoes.
  • Make sure that portable readiness supplies include supplies to weather being outdoors, possibly for several days.
  • Establish several rally points at increasing distances from the sites of potential changes and discuss those rally points with anyone involved in your plan.

Immediate readiness can be a lot more complicated than these simple considerations depending on the specific events someone might plan for, but starting at this simple point is a good way to establish a baseline from which more complex plans can be built.

DLH

    Read more at my Readiness site...

    Readiness: An aside: who the hell is Dennis L Hitzeman and why is he lecturing me?

    At some point, someone is going to ask who the hell I am and why I think I can lecture other people on readiness.

    Frankly, I’m nobody more important than anyone else. My readiness experience is average and some of my qualifications are tenuous at best. A lot of what I am repeating here, I have learned from other far more qualified people, and to them we all owe a debt of gratitude.

    Yet, while I am not some sort of super-secret-squirrel-ninja-ranger survivalist, I am a halfway intelligent person who can read and learn and observe the world around me, and what I have read and learned and observed over the past several years leads me to believe that it is very likely that you are not ready for whatever comes next at all. In fact, I used to not be ready at all too, and frankly, I still have a very long way to go to be ready in the way I think being ready should work for everyone.

    So what makes me think I’m qualified to be saying what I am saying and doing what I am doing? Mostly, because I care enough to say something even as I do the something I say.

    Five years ago, I was part of the Ohio National Guard’s assistance task force to the state of Mississippi as part of the response to Hurricane Katrina. One of the images that sticks in my mind more than most is the clear difference between people who were as ready as they could be and the people who plainly weren’t.

    Among those memories was a sign tacked over the door of what was otherwise an innocuous ranch style house in Waveland, Mississippi. It read: “We’re fine and don’t need help. We are armed. Please help those who actually need it.”

    Later, I discovered that there were as many as 10 people in that house: its original residents and probably family, friends, or neighbors who banded together for common survival. As far as I know, those people never took more from the relief workers than some water and ice.

    That image and those people changed me, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Then, just two years ago, the freak windstorm caused by Hurricane Ike knocked power out to the area I was living for almost two weeks. While not everyone lost power, many, many people did, and I was without power for ten days.

    So, I began planning in earnest and have learned quite a lot along the way. And what I have learned is that, even if I do manage to get ready the way I think I should be, in all likelihood you won’t be, and what good will that do me? I want everyone to be ready because, if we’re all ready, then even if something bad does happen it won’t be as bad as it could have been.

    Hence this blog. I may not be an expert and I may not know everything, but I do care enough to try to get you to think about something I think is very important. If I succeed, then we will all be better for it.

    DLH

    Read more at my Readiness site...