Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Independence USA

When I first started this blog I had a plan to keep it in some type of sensible order, however it hasn't really turned out that way.  So please...forgive me for what at this stage might appear to be nonsenible ramblings. It will all come together eventually.

I'll continue with the baby steps of preps, then move on to some of the more serious stuff.  I'll also continue with the Oil Shockwave Scenario posts.

For now though I wanted to talk about the new Glenn Beck GBTV reality show Independence USA.  I haven't seen it yet; it's on either tonight or has been on very recently.  However given the previews and  interviews with Mr Beck himself, I can only say this has the potential to be a great show.

The primary basis for the show is to prepare yourself enough so that you can survive a crisis, independent from external resources or institutions.  While I don't think this is really can't do everything yourself; it is important to have at least one skill that can be essential to survival in a long term emergency.  The real idea is to come together as a community where each person has skills that can contribute to the survival of their neighbours.  You can't do all this yourself, you must work together.

Whether the show tries to make one man or one family the basis for all skills and knowledge to survive on their own, or whether it's more realistic in bringing a community together so everyone can survive and thrive, this is yet to be seen.

I have a criticism on a part of the show already though.  From what I can tell they are attempting to design a sustainable method to keep a car running in a crisis.  Trying to grow biofuels or using wood gas, or any of the other "green-type" methods of running a vehicle without refined oil products is a bad idea and a waste of valuable time, knowledge and resources that could be used for something else.  There's already a sustainable replacement for a's called a horse.  The K.I.S.S. principle applies here.

Lets hope though that the show is so good that blogs like my own are superfluous.

The big problem I see is it's unlikely the show will make it out of the USA.  Heaven forbid any of you attempt to download it...I'd never condone something illegal :)

I'd be very interested to hear Mr Beck's own opinion on people downloading his show, given that he has said he is against SOPA and PIPA, but has invested heavily in the show himself.

I'm getting a lot of hits on this blog from people in Portugal, where they are currently undergoing a financial crisis that could be the start of the end of their economy.  I'm hoping the show at least makes it over there to help those who are obviously in desperate need of help and advice at the moment.  None of us are safe in the constantly evolving global financial crisis.  While I encourage people to read this blog, don't wait for me to tell you what to do.  I'm a slow typer, and this could play out faster than I can post.


Monday, 16 January 2012

Immediate Threat - Oil Shockwave Scenario - overview

The following post (and series of posts) was originally drafted by myself on Aussies Living Simply, however it is spread out over 68 pages and is difficult to read with all the other intervening posts.  Although I recommend reading the entire lot if you are interested in more than my own narrow point of view.
Nobody can deny, regardless of how much of an optimist they are, just how close oil supply and demand are to each other, and how if we haven't already reached peak oil, then it's going to happen very soon.
Major oil fields all around the globe are encountering steep decline rates, and new fields are a lot smaller, will reach their own peak earlier, and decline even faster.
This leaves the world in the nasty situation that if there is some problem regarding oil supply, there really isn't any spare capacity to pump extra oil into the market to take up the slack. There is debate that Saudi Arabia is able to pump more than what they currently are, between 2-4 mbpd, and this is being used to prevent the threat of Iran using their oil as blackmail, turning off their supply and sending the world into an immediate oil crisis at the drop of a hat.
But the Middle East is an amazingly complex political and geological region. The risk, now that supply is peaking and demand is only being constrained by a weakening economy (which ironically is being caused by oil peaking), is that anything that even slightly interrupts oil supply for a short to medium term within the middle east could cause catastrophic economic and social problems.
There are no, and I emphasise this, absolutely no technofixes that can come online fast enough to help us in a sudden crisis.
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to determine how vulnerable you are to a sudden oil crisis.
You must take into account that the majority of our diesel fuel (or the oil to refine it) comes from other countries. Australia may be self sufficient for LPG, natural gas, coal, and ultra-light sweet crude, however we do not have the ability to supply ourselves with enough diesel fuel to sustain agriculture and the economy. We have the technology to convert coal into synthetic diesel, however we do not have the conversion plants and refineries built to do it.
So look at your life, your lifestyle, your house and location, your job, and the food you eat, and perform a hypothetical assessment of your vulnerability to an oil crisis. Factors you should include are the distinct possibility of imposed fuel restrictions by the government, social unrest, looting supermarkets, disruption of the health system and reliable supplies of medicines, home invasions, maybe even bread lines.
Personal security, food security, financial/job security and health could be scored separately on a scale from 1 to 10 to help you quantify the issues. 
Remember it is not necessarily the responsibility of the Government or Police to protect us. What percentage of crime do the police actually prevent? The majority of the time they are making arrests AFTER the crime has been committed. That doesn't help the person who has already been stabbed, murdered or raped. It is our responsibility to protect ourselves.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Fenix TK21 - Product Review

I have quite a few of the Fenix torch products, including two TK11's, two LD01's and two more E01's.

The E01's are for the kids.  They are simple to use, run off a single AAA battery, and can stand the rough treatment that a child is capable of subjecting any device to by default.  While they're more expensive than a toy or supermarket torch, I only have to buy one for each kid because they don't break.

The LD01's are part of my Every Day Carry (EDC) equipment.  I have two sets of keys and I have an LD01 on each.  They are used several times each day and never fail me.

The TK11's are used for security around the house; those "bump in the night" situations where you try to convince the wife it was only a possum, but you still have to go out and look anyway.  They are incredibly bright and would blind any possum or intruder and render them useless if looking at the torch.

Recently after putting one of the TK11's on my shotgun, then one night hearing two of my tyres being slashed while the car was parked on the street (which is another story on its own), I searched for the second TK11 but couldn't find it.  The survival rule "Two is one and one is none" applied that night, and I then decided to get a second torch to replace the one on the shotgun.

Aside from one of the TK11's having intermittent problems with the light flickering, they have continued to impress me, therefore I decided to buy either another one or a newer upgraded TK15.

That's when I discovered the TK21, an upgraded model of the TK11 and TK15 which uses the same 18650 battery.  It can also be powered with two CR123A batteries, but I don't bother with them as the 18650 format is much better.

The best price I could find was a Hong Kong supplier on eBay for $85, which is the same price I had bought the TK11's for.

When it arrived my first impression was the head of the torch was bigger then the TK11.  The unit came with a pouch, but I had difficulty closing the flap on the pouch due to the TK21's size.  It looks like while the torch has been upgraded which resulted in an increase in size, the pouch is still the same for the TK11.  It works, but only barely.

A significant improvement in design has led to the twisting of the torch head to change brightness levels being removed.  The head is now fixed.  A small silver button is now used to change between up to four brightness levels, and you can hold the button down to change to strobe mode, an incredibly disorienting mode perfect for intruders or attackers in the middle of the night.

Activation of the torch remains the same, by a rubber button at the end of the torch tube.  I intuitively thought that the new silver button may have been used for quick activation of the torch, but when pressing the button if the torch is off, nothing happens.  This is an improvement that could be performed on the next TK2x model; the silver button should be used as a momentary "on" feature.

The brightness of the TK21 is rated at an eye-melting 449 lumens.  The next thing I did was grab the TK11 to compare it's 285 lumen output on a wall inside the house.

I was very surprised to find the TK11 was twice as bright in the centre spot than the TK21; it should have been the other way around.  So I swapped the batteries thinking one wasn't at full charge, only to find the same result.  Even though the TK21 is rated at almost twice the lumen output, the centre spot is not as bright as the much older TK11.

A field test was required next, and that's where I discovered a possible reason for the higher output rating.  While the TK21 isn't as bight in the middle, the wider field is much brighter than the TK11.  I was hoping that a brighter centre spot could have been used on the shotgun, but I now see the TK21 is the perfect torch for security duties around the house.  There's no hiding from the centre spot or the wider field brightness.

Inside the house the torch has replaced some of the duties of the miniature LD01.  One of the best practical uses of the LD01 was middle-of-the-night nappy changes where the brightness can be set really low so as not to blind anyone or wake the rest of the house.  It's also good for those 2am toilet stops too.

The TK21 can be set at four different output settings using the silver side button, right down to a battery-sipping 4 lumens.  This is great for those night-time activities that require a bit more discretion.  I can now use the one torch for everything, although it's way to big for EDC.

I'm a bit disappointed at the advertising for this model, which states "powerful focussed light with longer throwing beam".  Longer than what???  If you are comparing it's grandfather the TK11 that's not true at all.  And unless you are buying older stock for the TK11 and TK15's on eBay, those models are no longer produced so you'll get stuck with the TK21 even if you want a brighter beam.  There are other TKxx models that may have a brighter centre, but they are going to be bigger and cost more as well.

Is this torch an improvement over the older models?  Yes and no.  The brighter wide-field is definitely an improvement and would help in security situations, but the centre spot brightness has been sacrificed to achieve this.  I'd be curious to see what independent lumen ratings come up with for this model.

Don't get me wrong though, I am extremely happy with this torch.  It feels more solid and reliable than the TK11, and the new side button gets a big thumbs up.

I'd recommend this torch to anyone interested in personal security or portable lighting round the home.

The new torch is now located next to the front door; I'm not going to be caught flat footed next time someone wants to mess with my car.


Monday, 9 January 2012

Sugar is evil

Eating healthy foods isn't as hard as what most people make out.  It doesn't require a strict regime or guide, but there is one food above all others that should be avoided as much as possible.  Sugar.

Lowering consumption of fats has been big since the 80's.  Saturated fats, unsaturated fats, trans fats...we were told to cut down on the amount of fat we ate.  I'm actually a big fan of unsaturated fats (olive oil is amazing) and some saturated fats (full milk, cheese, meat fat, eggs...yum yum).  They fill you up, stop that hungry craving feeling, and play an important role in our daily health.

Sugar on the other hand, especially refined sugar, has no purpose other than tasting good and giving us a rapid overdose of energy leading to rapid fat storage.  It's the food version of crystal meth.  And it is addictive.  I should know, because I've always fought my own sugar addiction.

I'm not saying you can't eat sugar.  Natural sugars can play a role in our diet, but even they shouldn't be consumed in excess (orange juice is a good example).

The research is in and it looks like overeating of refined sugar has more to do with obesity and heart disease that fat consumption.

So a simple way to a healthy diet is to dramatically cut back on refined sugar intake.  Soft drinks serve no real purpose, so cut them out completely.  Beer is just as bad.  Treats like cakes and biscuits are nice sometimes, but they should only be eaten in moderation.  You'd be surprised how much sugar is hidden in cereals; be especially careful of those.  I have eaten Vita Brits since I was about 2 years old.  They have no added sugar (only 1.1% natural), compared to a serial like Nutri-grain which has a heart-stopping 32% sugar  w/w.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth is a great video to explain why refined sugar is so bad, and the difference between how fructose and glucose behave in the body and their relation to excess fat.

Aside from sugar, if it takes you five minutes to read the ingredients on the back of the pack of food you are about to shove in your mouth, you shouldn't be eating it.  If you can't pronounce any of the ingredients you shouldn't be eating it either.  Ask Jamie Oliver.  He'd back me up on that one.

Cooking fresh food, even if it contains fat, is far better than eating something out of a packet or that contains loads of refined sugar.  The pure enjoyment of eating a meal that has been cooked with fresh ingredients and herbs is far more satisfying than filling your face with frozen pizza and cola.

Learn how to buy fresh food and walk past the junk food isles.  Learn how to cook fresh food and you will be rewarded with a modest waistline and a clean refined pallet.  Learn to avoid sugar, perform a very modest amount of exercise and you increase your chances of reaching your ideal weight and lower blood pressure.

I'd never recommend that a person diet to loose weight.  Just be sensible, eat the foods you like, but most of all, significantly reduce the amount sugar you eat.  That's not hard is it?  Nothing dramatic, no liquid meals or weeks of drinking carrot juice.

This is one of the first steps (crawling first) that are the way to prepare yourself to survive and thrive.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Get out of debt

A credit card is one of the worst things you can own, and yet one of the most useful.  It's like yummy yet you know you are going to pay for it later.

It's the same with credit cards.  They provide you with fast, instant, easy ways of buying cool stuff, and yet the rates of interest are astronomical.

Do you get those letters in the mail asking you to sign on the dotted line for an extra few thousand dollars increase in your credit limit? That's because the credit companies know that the more you have the potential to spend, the more you will spend, increasing their profits through larger interest repayments.  While they want you to make regular payments off your card, they don't want you to ever fully pay off your debt because then they won't earn any interest.

The best credit customers are those that accumulate a few thousand dollars credit, struggle to pay it back, and really only just keep up with repaying the interest and new purchases.  Are you one of those people that never sees a zero credit balance owing on your card?  The credit companies just LOVE you.

So the solution is not to be one of those people.  The way you get there is a three-pronged attack.

1) Dramatically reduce the number and amount of credit purchases.  Limit yourself to only those purchases that are absolutely necessary that can't be made with an EFTPOS card or cash, and only when you have the cash on hand or in your bank account to pay it back immediately.

2) Never use a credit card to obtain credit!  If you don't have the money available then you can't afford to spend the credit that is about to be loaned to you, plus interest.

3)  Reduce your discretionary spending to only those purchases necessary to live.  Do this for a while and you will hopefully be able to make additional repayments on your card to reduce the principle, reducing the monthly interest repayments, and making it easier to repay the entire amount.  If this isn't working you need  to find money in other ways.  Have a garage sale and sell stuff you don't need on eBay.  you've got to get that principle down as fast as you can!

You may also have to change your credit provider.  If the interest repayments are killing you, swap to another company that offers low interest rates on transferred credit.  This way you can work on paying off the principle debt without being slugged by huge interests costs.

Also, be vigilant.  Don't succumb to that easy expensive purchase where they offer you a few years interest free to buy a new lounge suite, fridge or computer.  Like I said, if you don't have the money you can't afford it.  Pay your credit debt off first, then save for your new lounge suite the hard, conventional way.

The opposite to this rule can be investment debt.  Taking out a loan for an investment property used to be one of the best things you could do, assuming the rental repayments can pay for the interest and your own additional repayments can pay off the principle.  This is also assuming that house prices are going to increase, which unfortunately you can't assume any more.

I'm not a financial expert, and my advice shouldn't be taken as strict financial gospel, but if I owned investment properties right now I'd be selling them.  Given the current global financial situation and the potential for an extended recession, or even a never-ending depression, I'd recommend talking to a financial advisor about other safer ways of investing your money.


Quit smoking

Cigarettes are an addiction to nicotine.  While the nicotine won't kill you, the other 7,000 chemicals in commercial tobacco will.

But more importantly, not only will those chemicals eventually kill you, they will make your life hell until you eventually die.

And if you live in Australia like me, smoking will take all your available cash (and them some more) to keep the addiction rolling.

I've talked to a lot of smokers, and I have a lot of friends who smoke too.  Most of them acknowledge that one day their addiction will probably kill them.  What they don't realise though is that they will most likely live in discomfort and pain for possibly decades before they eventually die.  

Death by smoking can be torture, for the smoker and their family.  

Take throat cancer for example.  You can have your voice-box and lymph nodes removed assuming the cancer is detected in time, but imagine not being able to talk without the assistance of a machine, having to breath through a hole in your neck, never being able to swim (you'd drown with water rushing down your throat), and loosing your smell and taste.  If you elect to undergo radiation therapy instead, you can enjoy your remaining life with mouth ulcers, bleeding gums and most or all of your teeth falling out, difficulty swallowing, and the chances that the therapy won't work and you have to resort to radical surgery anyway.

Smokers don't like to think about these things because they are the nasty realities of smoking.  It's much more comfortable to think they'll just drop dead some day, which could happen too.

Personally I don't particularly like the idea of a premature death.  Lets try not to die too soon, ok?

Most smokers will admit they don't really want to smoke, but the've tried quitting but can't do it.  See that's why its called "addiction".  You've got to break that addiction, and this is the first step.  If you can't accomplish this, don't bother reading further than this post.  You're wasting your time.

I'm not here to offer professional advice on how to quit smoking.  There are a multitude of commercial products, medicines and therapies that will help.  Go see your doctor and discover the method that works for you.  Don't stop trying until you are smoke free.  Find the will-power, fight for your life as though someone had a gun pointed to your head.  Every time you smoke you are pulling the trigger a little bit harder with each puff.  One day the gun is going to go off and you're not going to have anyone to blame except yourself.

If you are living with a loved one who smokes, you're going to have to get them to quit.  It's as simple as that.  They are sapping precious funds that could otherwise go into prepping or getting rid of your debt.  They probably won't have the physical stamina to survive a crisis either, and people don't like employing smokers because of the amount of time they waste with their habit.  When they get sick they are going to take all your time and money to look after them and you are going to experience their living hell along with them.

Make an appointment to see your doctor now.  Don't delay this life-changing step.  Do it NOW!


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Prepare for everything so you can survive anything

It is becoming more common these days for the general population to understand the importance to prepare for disaster, whether it be an economic collapse, depletion of energy resources (oil), war, earthquakes & tsunami, or asteroid strike.

These are world changing events with varying levels of probability, most of them low.  However there are much less serious (in comparison) events that can and do happen much more regularly.  Take car accidents for example.  Many people drive vehicles without insurance or health insurance, and yet you are far more likely to be seriously hurt in a car accident than just about anything else.

So why don't we prepare for it?  And not just a serious car accident, but a minor one too.  If you've ever had a car accident, and I'm sure a high percentage of the people reading this have, you'll know just how stressful it can be immediately after the collision as well as getting your vehicle fixed.

The theme of this blog will be to prepare people for anything and everything, from a simple rear-end collision, to an earth shattering asteroid impact.  And I'm stressing here "prepare".  It doesn't mean you will survive the event at all (its inevitable someone's going to buy-the-farm), it just means you will increase your chances of not only surviving, but thriving post-event as well.

Before reading any further, there are several simple things you can do to increase your chances of surviving and thriving, but you have to have the willpower and mental focus to do them.  They are:

1) Stop smoking.  (This includes dope)

2) Get out of debt. (or at least have zero credit card debt)

3) Eat (reasonably) health foods.

4) Get (moderately) fit.

5) Stop drinking (excessively).

See, they aren't too hard are they.  Do these five things and you are well on your way to increasing your chances of living a long and healthy life.  But I can already hear the hardcore readers saying "that's childish".  They want to prepare for the end of the world by stocking up on canned beans and ammo.  First things first though.  You have to walk before you can run, and you have to crawl before you can walk.

Lets do things in order.  Crawl first, walk, then run.  Get healthy and free of debt, stock up on a modest supply of food and equipment, then worry about the lead radiation suit and bomb-proof bunkers last.

I hope you enjoy your stay here, but most of all don't linger too long.  Get out in the real world and experience it in full Technicolor 3D.  There's nothing like real world experience to get the blood pumping and develop the mental abilities to survive a crisis, regardless of how big or small it is.