Sunday, November 8, 2009

Four things I should be doing

I was originally going to call this one "Four things you should be doing" but this seems so much less accusatory. :) These are all good ideas regardless of your age, political affiliations, religious convictions, or past experience. I'll be listing each item, followed by why it's a good idea and why I (and maybe some of you) aren't already doing it.

1. Start a garden.

Why I should: This is one has been on my mind a lot lately. There really is no negative aspect to it. A little bit of time, a little bit of money (more than offset by the reduced food bills), and you get healthy food and increased independence. What's not to love?

Why I don't: Living in an apartment, we don't have much space. Any food gains would be too small to have a noticeable effect on ye olde grocery bill. As well, neither I nor my lovely wife are any good whatsoever at raising plants. There is that old "practice makes perfect" thing though (a common theme on this list).

Conclusion: even if it's just a windowsill pot full of herbs, there's no reason not to try this out. And with the advent of efficient hydroponic and enclosed box growing techniques, even a small place can yield usable levels of food.

2. Shoot more.

Why I should: shooting is a perishable fine motor skill. Although the basics of good technique can linger indefinitely, it requires regular practice to maintain a high level of competence.

Why I don't: ammo can be costly, the ranges in this area are atrocious, and time is an increasingly scarce commodity.

Conclusion: owning/carrying a firearm carries serious liabilities (both moral and legal) with it. Being able to use it well is one of those responsibilities. And if you don't agree that carrying a gun is a vital part of being a responsible grown up, well.... wait til next post and I'll lay that out for you. :)

3. Exercise more.

Why I should: probably the most self-evident one. Regular exercise means more energy, better health, and a longer life (speaking statistically).

Why I don't: I hate running. Can't stand it, and spending a couple years in a job where I was legally required to run most days of the week only intensified that. The forms of exercise I enjoy (swimming, hiking, kayaking, biking etc) require more money and time. Even making a couple yoga classes every week (a personal goal) has proven to be annoying
to fit into the schedule.

Conclusion: find what you actually like to do, make it a priority in your schedule, and do it. :) New Years is coming up for the resolution making types.

4. Develop practical, non-job related skills

Why I should: when your car/furnace/AC/etc breaks, would you rather pay the the eponymous sumdood $80 an hour plus %50 markup on parts to fix it, or would you rather DIY (the sweetest three letter acronym in the English language after EOS :D )? And those are just the beginning: from cooking to crocheting, you can never run out of things to learn how to do (or do better).

Why I don't: this one I actually have a decent excuse for. I spend a lot of my time learning this sort of stuff for my job. None-the-less, I could still do more to expand my horizons.

Conclusion: books, youtube videos, website tutorials, community classes; never has learning so many things been so cheap and so available. Hell, even MIT is putting their class material online free for anyone who wants to learn. Take advantage of it, and stop letting people take advantage of you.

Well folks there you have it. A little window into what I'm thinking, and maybe some motivation for you to do some of the stuff you've been wanting to but haven't gotten around to yet. Sorry, I know the last couple posts haven't been my normal smart-assery but I suppose I've had some serious things on my mind lately. I'll try to get back to the nonsensical humour soon. :) Please feel free to comment here or on Facebook and let me know the sort of thing you'd like to see here, or any particular topic you might enjoy hearing my take on. Lord knows I have enough opinions to go around...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some news items of interest

Goldman Sachs predicts sharp increase in price of food and oil.

Stimulus creates 640,000ish jobs (yay!) at a cost of $320,000ish apiece. Can't wait for that legendary efficiency to be unleashed on health care.

Audio clip from the BBC about the possibility of rising inflation as the next crisis.

US housing "recovery" entering bubble territory.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Historical snobbery, societal changes, and you

I've always been intrigued by history. Partly it's the ability to see "how we got here" and some of the underlying causes for the way the world is today. Partly it's the many fascinating characters that people all those dusty old history books. And partly it's to learn. It saddens me that the teaching of history has switched from "what are the lessons we can learn from the past" to "person X did Y on date Z." A part of the larger issue with modern schooling teaching you "what" to think, not "how" to think, but that's a different post...

Especially interesting to me are the ways civilizations (Imperial Rome, Mayans, the Anasazi) and countries (Weimar Republic, Peronist Argentina, Zimbabwe) fail from within. The one question I always have about these situations is: did they see it coming? I'm going to go ahead and just make all the history majors cry here by over simplifying and say "Generally, no." Most people are not willing to consider that their personal world could change drastically and irrevocably. How much more reluctant are they to consider that their society as a whole could come crashing down...

This brings me to historical snobbery, another favorite subject of mine. Modern people (especially in America) tend to look at everyone who lived before [/random date generally around 100 years ago] as some type of hopelessly foolish and naive rubes. It's inconceivable to many that anyone who lived their entire life without electricity could have any wisdom or knowledge to impart. I mean, they didn't even have, like, cars and ipods and stuff. Of course they couldn't see it coming, they worshipped gods that sound like a bad soap opera! To us advanced modern people looking back it's obvious...

So how does this apply to us? Society in modern America is a hugely complex and interrelated system. ~1-2% of the population produces the food for the entire country. The bulk of the food most people eat comes from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. The water we drink and use for sanitation comes from many miles away, and depends on stable electrical power being delivered to the pumps at the central water plant. Being able to get to the store to purchase this food requires open, passable roads. The goods getting to the stores depends on those same roads, and about a dozen steps in the oil extraction/refining/shipping process. All of these processes depend on enough people being healthy and willing to go in to work. Any disruption in any point of this chain brings all the others to a screeching halt. Most large cities have 2-3 days worth of food available, total. When the electricity goes out, the water stops. No food or water for more than a few days will cause societal disruption.

When I lived in Arizona, I learned that all gas that comes into the state originates from two pipelines. I learned this because one of them broke. Poor maintenance, inevitable wear and tear; whatever the cause, it was out for a couple days. Gas was being rationed, huge lines at the stations, some were out etc. They fixed it before it caused any serious societal unrest, but it did get me thinking about all this sort of thing.

Preparedness gets a bad rap today. It seems like a pretty simple and non-offensive concept. Be ready to take care of yourself in an emergency, grow your own food (as much as possible), generate your own power (as much as possible), have some extra food stored, be able to protect yourself etc etc. How could anyone object to this? I find it's generally guilt by association.

I'm a hardline Christian, so my atheist/Wiccan/gay/bi-sexual friends associate me with the pricks who use a veil of religion to justify their own bad actions and biases. I'm a conservative so my liberal friends assume I'm... hell, I don't really understand the way they think so I'm not sure what weird stereotypes they have. ;) I admit I do it too; I fight against it, but when a large percentage of a certain group think a certain way it takes real effort to look past the stance and see the kind of person they are. Of course, a lot of the time they really are as bad as you think so you can safely dismiss them... :D

All that to say, look past all the nuts and kooks who flock to this subject, and start evaluating what you need to be ready for. Have an emergency fund of 3-6 months of your expenses in case of job loss. Have a few weeks worth of food stored. Learn how to dry/smoke/can your food. Have an alternative method of heating your house, safely. Every major blackout there is at least one family that tries to heat their house with charcoal and ends up dead. Plant a garden. Learn some basic first aid/medical procedures. Open your mind, and consider that things may not always be the way they are now. If there is another economic collapse like the Great Depression, would you rather be standing in a soup line, or tending your garden?

Sorry about that

Howdy folks,

sorry about the long delay. Been trying to study and sleep more, screw around on teh intarwebz less. This has not actually been a great success, but it has nerfed my blogging time. Stuck in the house with [zomgwtfbbqteotwawkieleventyone]swine flu [/
zomgwtfbbqteotwawkieleventyone]. Not a huge deal, except for the "supposed to be leaving to go elk hunting this weekend" factor. Not cool.

I'm changing the fonts a bit to make it more readable, let me know how ya'll feel about it. I'm going to try to be a little more regular about posting on here.