Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pitfalls in Preparedness: On Cars

This used car is for sale by owner.

            One of my adult kids has a job in finance. She has a perfectly acceptable car that is as reliable as anything else, and yet one of the frustrations of her job is that co-workers often tell her that her "car needs a tow truck" or its time to "go buy a new car".  It's as if buying a new car is an insulation to them against difficult financial times. If you have a new car, then you must be doing well. Looking as if you are doing well will help you continue to receive promotions or keep your job. This type of thinking is the equivalent of automotive magical thinking.  She used to simply accept this or make another joke, but it has become trying.  Yesterday, when someone she didn't know commented about her car as it sat next to a larger model BMW, she did.   "I'm going to make this quick" she said.   "#1, I have no car payment, and #2, my car gets 39 mpg.  In addition, I have decided to hold on to my house during the next financial collapse, how about you ?"   They didn't comment further.  Perhaps companies who are heavily invested in the perception of easily flowing money just can't think sensibly.

                     I have a lot of friends in the preparedness community who have bought vehicles they believe will help them with either rapid family evacuation or with looking the part of a survivalist.  First of all, any car you take on with a payment can be counterproductive to your preparedness. I suppose there are circumstances where buying an economical car on a short term payment that will be paid off quickly can make some sense, but a five or six year loan for a new vehicle cannot really be considered preparedness. About all you've done is become prepared to be poor in the days ahead, or become prepared to experience a repossession.  Remember that although it is your wish, you may or may not have fewer repair bills with a brand new vehicle. In addition, a car with a payment will necessitate a higher level of car insurance than you might buy otherwise. This is more money flying out of your household.  

                   Before buying a vehicle, do some consumer research.  You might want to seek a vehicle that has a six dollar oil filter rather than one with an oil filter that costs fifty.  Oil changes and filter changes add up.  Carefully analyze what you need a vehicle to do.  I need mine not only to have fairly good mileage per gallon of fuel, but I need it to have a good range.  I need it to go eight hundred miles between refuelings, and a few of them can.  Does your family of two really need an Escalade ?   What do you do with your vehicle ? What do you plan to do with your vehicle.

                 Next, take a look at your area used car dealers.  Some of them are scam brokers, but I know a few who aren't.  Some of them sell reliable vehicles that have been gone over with a fine tooth comb by a reliable mechanic. Sometimes this is your best alternative.  Does your area have a car auction ?   A couple of friends of my adult sons have done very well there also.  Take a look at Craigslist.  I have bought a back up farm vehicle and a couple of vehicles for kids on Craigslist from individuals.  So far, all the vehicles turned out to be excellent cars that were excellent buys.

                  Don't let the misperceptions of co-workers or neighbors make you feel that you need to overspend to keep up with their expectations.  Will they help you pay for that car when the economy collapses ? Will the company where you both work even be in business then ? Are they going to help pay for your food when your money for prepping continues to be diverted to that car payment ?

           Lastly, don't misallocate your assets.   If you're making thirty thousand dollars a year then you can't reasonably expect to buy a thirty thousand dollar car.  Whether you are a prepper or not, you shouldn't have all your assets in plastic and metal flying down an interstate highway in all weathers.  Cars are depreciating assets for the most part and they always will be.  Get what you need. Don't buy an eyesore, drug dealer's car, or a proverbial powdered do-nut cop magnet vehicle, but if your concerns are financial stability and preparedness, then don't overinvest in a vehicle either.    A car is a tool, a lot like a hammer, a mattress, a gun or anything else that is a consumer good.  Don't buy any of these things on impulse.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thoughts On Open Carry

Looks like an easy take to me, so long as you understand the holster release mechanism.

  Sometimes people with whom I am acquainted ask me why I have gone to the trouble of getting a concealed weapons permit. Why did I pay for and take classes, buy a specialized conceal carry holster, and pay for the license itself when I could have open carried my weapon all along ?   Sometimes I have answered flippantly and others I have answered seriously.  Sometimes I have said, "Because I am not a cop".  Other times I have simply told the truth which is a bit more complex. When one open carries you will be the first person the active shooter takes out. Not having a death wish, particularly when I am out and around with my kids, it makes sense to me to carry concealed.  Few expect a thin woman who could well be a simple housewife to be both armed and trained. Also, if I were to open carry, I am advertising that I not only have a weapon that could potentially be stolen and used not only on me, but on my family, as well.  I am also inadvertently advertising that I not only carry, but I carry a rather desirable weapon. I therefore never open carry, and I work hard to ensure that my concealed weapon is truly concealed.  This can be a tall order in Summer.

    On January 29, Newport News, Virginia police reported that a 37 year old man who was open carrying was forced to the ground by two African American assailants. They allegedly grabbed his gun from the holster and fled.   I have included the link below should you wish to see the assailants in the event that you believe you may recognize them.

     It is very important not to relinquish our weapon. We must all take as many precautions as possible in order to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.  Don't advertise your weapon by carrying openly. There are plenty of people stupid enough to risk being shot in order to obtain your weapon.   I like to believe that my situational awareness is good enough that anyone attempting such a thing would be shot in the broadest part of their torso. I cannot guarantee this, and so my weapon is always concealed.

        Please think about this.  Keep your family and others safe from others who would steal a weapon from a law abiding citizen.


Why We Stopped Answering the Landline


    We have had a conventional telephone in our home for a long as we have been a household. When we built both of our farms,(one after the other) great consideration and planning was given to making sure that outlets existed in the places we would ultimately use phones, faxes or other devices. Sometimes, we have had two landlines, one for the household and another for my husband's business or for for farm business.

                  In the 1990s we got a couple of cell phones, not because we really used them, but because with a newly Type I diabetic child, we thought it prudent to be able to call for help, in the car, or anywhere else. At first, the cell phones were barely reliable. In the country we still have many places that are dead cell zones, or strangely automatic drop call zones.  As the years have passed the phones and the availability of cell sites have improved.  Today, all of our family has their own cell phones and we tend to call one another directly, while bypassing the landline. Months can pass before I actually need to make a call on the house landline.   We keep the house landline for a number of reasons.  First, the landline provides not only phone service, but sufficient electricity in the line to power phone service when the power is out.  Being able to call for help or report an outage is very important.  Secondly, the sheriff's office can immediately pinpoint the location of a 911 call, if we call them, and had to hang up.  A cell call can be triangulated for location, but not as easily and certainly not as quickly.  Thirdly, we have a coast to coast free call program with our landline which is quite cost effective.  I don't even mind the monthly fee we pay to the phone company to keep the number unlisted.
                There was a time when the security system here was connected to the landline phone, and would automatically call the sheriff's office.  Now, a wireless system to do the same exists.  The security system no longer depends upon the landline service.

               However, in the last couple of years I have rethought the landline phone.  Those creating databases of potential purchasers or mark,s no longer need a name with a number.  Calls are made in sequence and telemarkers or con artists will talk to anyone who answers.   We also get a huge number of calls from pollsters who want to know how we plan to vote in everything from primaries to presidential elections should they be held today.   I don't give opinions to people I don't know.  I don't talk to people who call and don't know the name of the people they have called.  I won't even talk to the NRA which calls incessantly to get additional funding and can't get my name or sex right.   So many calls we receive on the landline are time consuming and not really intended for us, that I no longer answer it.  Real calls come to my cell or to the cells of other family members.   Not answering the calls also has negative results.   I have an answering machine which picks up the first ten minutes worth of recorded messages.  I keep this because if the power goes out when we are away, we can call the house and if the answering machine message answers then the power is back.  We have a secondary voicemail through the phone company.  They pick up with a different message if our answering machine has ten minutes worth of messages or if the power is out.   It takes time to weed through both message venues. Calls can be so frequent that both message modes can be full in a week. The IRS scams I posted about clogged our landline message systems for a couple of weeks.

             Last year I made the mistake of looking into completing an additional college degree online.  When I reviewed details of the curriculum I found that this particular program would not be of interest to me, and so I have chosen against completing at this location.  On several occasions I indicated this.  I now receive five calls a week from a reputable university asking me when I wish to begin there.   No one seems to be able to successfully notate that I have passed on the opportunity.

This is the phone my parents began and ended their household with.  In all those years, it never malfunctioned. I replace mine, almost annually.


             So we have almost reached the point at which we can unplug the landline being almost assured that no one calling is legitimate or calling for something that might actually benefit us.   We keep the landline for the rare occasion in which we need to report a power outage, call 911, or call long distance free. We used to use long distance a great deal, but now with e-mail, not so much.  It is interesting to see the mode of communication that was so dear to me as a teen, fall into disuse, even in my own household.

            I still recommend you have and keep a household landline if possible, for the positive reasons I have mentioned above.  I hope you are enjoying the Information Age a bit more than I.




Sunday, January 24, 2016

From the Archives: The Disaster Supply Room

This is not my basement, but this is the idea.  This particular basement comes from www.abowlfulloflemons.net

I first wrote this post in February of 2013.   I have had numerous requests for a reprise of the original post.


     It is no secret that one of the rooms in my basement is a Disaster Supply Room or DSR for short.  (No, a DSR is not the most advanced nursing degree which will be required by all new nurses after 2018)
My DSR is a small room with wooden shelves all around the periphery of the room, and a locking closet.  You would think that having gone from a single emergency supply shelf in my first apartment, to an entire closet in the next house, to a large walk in closet for supplies in the suburban house before, that I would know what I am doing by now, in terms of design and set up.  In 2005 when we finally moved our emergency supplies into this new DSR, we ran out of space very quickly.  My original vision had been the locking closet for peroxide, and alcohol at the bottom, and over the counter (OTC) meds on the shelves above.  I planned to put evacuation kits, evacuation bedding, and other supplies on the shelves in the periphery of the room to be grabbed easily.  Then, I added a place for preparedness books. Afterward, I added a place for the Evacuation Notebooks, including medical evacuation notebooks etc..  After that, I added a place for communications equipment and it was full.  There was nowhere for bottled water, freeze dried or canned food.  With a large family there are lots of DSR needs.  I decided to keep the room set up as is, and to buy three of the very sturdy shelving units sold at Sam's Club which have wheels.   This allowed me to cluster them, and move them when I need to create an aisle through which to walk when I need something.  Now I have freeze dried food, some water, toiletries, and I keep some unopened veterinary oral meds there for our farm animals.

             The idea behind the Disaster Supply Room is that in an emergency, anyone could enter, obtain the emergency item they need, and then use it. It is therefore very important that it be orderly and preferable that it be inventoried, and the stock regularly rotated.

             In August of 2011, we had a 5.8 or 5.9 earthquake, depending upon which authority you ask, which was centered not too far from here.  Houses broke in half, two  schools, a middle school and a high school were eventually demolished as a result of the damage they sustained that day. Many houses were reduced to being worth only their land value, when the foundations were irreparably damaged.  Historical properties lost chimneys as if they were legos.   We were fairly lucky in that we had less damage than most people.  We built this home using a full basement with thick and tall walls made by Superior Walls.  This and a fair measure of good luck limited the damage we had.  We had no real damage to the house itself, although the well had slightly muddy water for a couple of weeks.  However, the pantry in the kitchen did throw contents to the other side of the room.(I apparently left the door unlatched that day)  A large  sealed plastic bucket of ketchup which came from Sam's Club which I use to add a half a cup of ketchup to a large meatloaf on occasion, fell from the top of the frij, rupturing leaving abundant ketchup far and wide. It looked like a crime scene !  This took time to clean up, but we were thrilled that the farm and it's outbuildings did not sustain more damage. I also lost an antique piece of cloisonne as it fell from the mantle.

I have multiple steel shelf units such as these which are filled and stacked against each other.  They can be pulled out sideways to remove or to load things we need.  There is an incredible amount of space in such a set up. Sam's Club also sells longer units than this, and some that do not have wheels for heavier articles. 

These are the size metal shelves I use in the center of the DSR, leaving a clear aisle to walk around them to access the items of the peripheral wooden shelves built in to the finished wall.  (Picture: idareyoutoeatit.com )


            About this time, I was aware that things had fallen from some of the shelves in the DSR.  I was concerned about a lot of other things, and so I resolved to get back there later.  I have used some things from there since that time, but things here have been busy. Since the earthquake, we have built an additional animal storage building on the farm, so that everything animal can be in one space. I wrote two books, and we helped our daughter locate and clean up a home she bought as a government repossession. Let's face it.   I didn't really want to go through everything which had fallen down in some of the areas of the DSR.    This week I finally got to it.  I started by picking up all the things which had fallen on the floor from the Sam's Club metal shelves.  I found bottles of Apinol.  I found bottles of liquid soap. I found a large package of Omeprazole.  I found a six pack of D-Mannose. 

              A couple of hours later I realized what I had suspected originally, which is that although the heavier items remained secure on the built in shelves in the periphery of the room, the tall stainless steel shelves with wheels shook during the quake and many light items, packaged gauge, vinyl gloves, and all the aforementioned articles fell and rolled.to many different places in the room. The only reason things didn't get destroyed, is that there was relatively little activity in that room, and therefore no one to inadvertently step on them.  In fact, until I got the room reorganized and the set up repaired, I have been stacking other large cans of freeze dried food elsewhere.
             The reason I wanted to relate this to all of you is that there is some learning that all of us can do here, myself very much included.

 1. To prevent things from shaking and falling from these tall steel wheeled shelving systems a la Sam's Club, if you have them,  simply buy whatever color and brand bungee cords you like.   On each shelf, front and back, select the size that will hold things securely when there is shaking, or even simple normal moving. Simply hook a bungee on each side to provide a stretched guide which prevents bottles and other items from falling forward off the shelf in the front. Do the same to the back.  These are simply unhooked if needed, and most times, they can remain intact when I collect something from the shelf.

2.  Try to stock more freeze dried food than canned.  The canned food does age and need to be used within 5-10 years and some of the freeze dried really is good for 25-30 years. Also canned food is being made with thinner cans, and some of these items I would not trust as long as 5-10 years.  Freeze dried food is also a lot lighter and so long as you have access to water when it's time to reconstitute all of it, freeze dried food is MUCH LIGHTER than canned when stored.  This has all sorts of benefits, including when it's time to rotate stock.

3. Place smaller medical supplies like wrapped roller gauze and elastic bandages in square plastic open topped baskets. This way, fewer things tumble out when you take one.

4. Make liberal use of freezer bags.  Many of these things store much better in freezer bags than they do in the boxes in which you bought them. They also occupy less space. I have fifty pairs of all different types of shoe laces, all in a freezer bag which takes up next to no space.

5. Group like things together.  This sounds obvious, but it doesn't always work in the manner in which you initially cluster.  I tried grouping all oral meds together, and all topical meds together.  What I found is that it worked far better to group things in like categories.  For example, I now have a shelf for everything related to cold and flu. This includes oral meds, and vitamin C, along with things like vaseline and Vick's vapo-rub generic.  In the old system, vaseline and Vick's would have been groups separately with topical medications, leaving someone searching through several different DSR regions, paper, topical, and in the closet for OTC meds..   Now, everything from masks, kleenex with lotion, etc. are all grouped together for the ease of the person, who might actually be ill while entering and gathering supplies for themselves.

6. Mark true emergency supplies differently.  I have a rack where I hook packaged Epi-pens,  Glucagon kits, Snake Bite Kits etc.  My family is very likely to grab emergency supplies and not so likely to go digging looking for some of the obscure things I stock, like the tool to remove rings when there is a hand injury.   Another area has cyalume lightsticks, for quick and easy distribution to the family.

       My next task for the DSR is to install some better lighting.  Presently, there are two bright lights in the tall ceiling in the finished room.  However in numerous parts of the room, where one might need to read tiny writing while making a selection, there are shadows as the supplies are stacked very high on metal shelving units.  I am thinking that LED lighting in chair rail fashion, around the periphery of the room might be an economical and safe way of lighting all the supplies when needed.   Tying up one hand while holding a flashlight while looking for a particular item, has not worked very well.

This is an example of the type of LEDs I plan to use in the room.  Mine came from Harbor Freight. These can be a big help in lighting up a DSR.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Update on the Murder of Alexander Litvinenko

Alexander Litvinenko before his death  ( www.independent.co.uk  )

                 Alexander Litvinenko was a former Russian citizen who came to London to live with his wife Marina and three children.  He had been a former agent of the KGB and later of the FSB while Vladimir Putin ran both operations.  Litvinenko was murdered in 2006.   A particularly rare isotope of polonium 210 was added to his tea and resulted in a painful deterioration and death within a British hospital.   This not only killed Litvinenko but exposed a number of people during the public transport of the polonium, in the tea room and in days when nurses and physicians cared for the patient when they did not yet know why he was dying.

                  It took a lengthy British inquiry before the results of the investigation was released today.
It has long been surmised that Vladimir Putin himself ordered the murder of Litvinenko using this rare isotope which is exclusively available to the Russian military. 

The results of the report can be found here:


My prior post on this matter in detail can be found here:



Saturday, January 16, 2016

Beware of IRS Phone Scams


(This rendering is the work product of www.lubbockonline.com    )

              As the economy worsens or stagnates, the criminals always adapt, often faster than the decent people.   Yesterday, I was driving on an interstate highway and a call came in on my cellular phone from a number I did not recognize. I don't answer while driving so they were out of luck.   They called again when I got to my destination. The call was a recording in which the IRS claimed that I had been "named in a lawsuit" that was filed today and that I needed to call this number immediately.   I didn't think this was very likely.  First of all, I owe the IRS nothing, as they already have all my money.  Secondly, the caller did not know my name and did not recite it in the message. Thirdly, when I file taxes, I never include a phone number, and I have never provided my cell phone to them. Fourth, if the IRS has a problem with the way my return was prepared, they would call my tax preparer, not me. However, many people might be afraid when they receive such a call.  It's a scam, I thought.

                    When I got home and was doing some chores, the same number called again, but I didn't answer fast enough for them, and they didn't leave a message.    The fourth time, I was unloading hay in the barn. This time, I answered.    It was a recording stating that "IRS Agent Bob Brown needed to speak with me at once regarding the lawsuit that was filed against me today". He repeated the number that had been calling.   Although I recognized this as a scam, I wanted more information before reporting it.   When I called the number, which was supposedly located in Texas, a man with a heavy East Indian accent answered. His accent was so heavy that I believe he was located in India and that the call is somehow routed to appear as if coming from Texas.   When I called, he wanted identifying information.  I told him that all I could provide him with is the number he had called.  He said he would need a moment to look up my file. When he returned he said, "Ah yes, Mrs. Bourne".   Then I said, "No, you have the wrong number. You are not to call this number again." and he hung up.

                   Upon researching this I found that there are an abundant number of telephone IRS scams running out there right now.    When you do deal with the IRS, insist that you do so by letter.   Don't provide them with phone numbers.  If they don't have your number, and someone from there is calling, you automatically know that the caller isn't the IRS, just as I did.

                   Although such scammers probably use a ton of different numbers, the number from which they called me yesterday was:


Here is detailed information directly from the IRS concerning scams such as these: