Thursday, April 29, 2010

Burglar's Best Friends

While we were living in a cave in southern Utah, there were things we worried about — but burglary wasn't one of them. Living in the city, or even a small village, burglary is definitely a concern. Generally, burglars like to break and enter while no one is home. But sometimes they make mistakes and break in while someone is at home, and that can escalate into a hostage situation, an assault, or a murder. So it's a good idea to do everything possible to discourage burglars from even considering your home as a target of opportunity. 

What follows here is something that was sent to me by a friend. This is a list of 21 things a burglar doesn't want you to know, because if you are aware of this it will make his job more difficult. So here they are; 21 things a burglar won't tell you.

1.  Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste ... And taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4.. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom-and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door-understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather..

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

11. Helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

12. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at

14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never ever look like a crook.

15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

16. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

17. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

18. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets..

19. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address.

20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

21. If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina , Oregon , California , and Kentucky ; security consultant Chris McGoey, who runs; and Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book “Burglars on the Job”.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Survival Bath

It’s amazing how little water is required to take a survival spit bath. While we were doing our year-long wilderness living research project, I used to joke with Becky that I could take a bath in a cup of water. That was an exaggeration, but with a little practice, you can do the job in about a quart of water. 

When you take this kind of bath, or the shower described later, it's best to stand on a flat rock surface or on a bit of tarp or some leafy ground. This will help keep your feet from getting muddy. You should use some kind of wash cloth to bathe yourself from top to toes. The process goes like this:

  • If you have it, use a small bit of biodegradable camp soap and a rag full of water to wash your hair and face first, then rinse out the cloth in the basin and rinse off those clean areas. 
  • Try to use the cloth to recapture the water and wring it back into the basin. If you have soap, go easy on it or the water in the basin will become too soapy. You can actually do this whole bath with no soap at all, and still get fairly clean. 
  • Move down to your neck, shoulders, chest and arms, and repeat the process. 
  • Continue down your body to your waist, washing small areas at a time, and then rinsing. By now, your basin of water is becoming somewhat grungy. 
  • Wash your legs and feet next, then rinse. 
  • Finish up by washing the parts that normally hide beneath your underwear. 
  • When you’re finished, dry off, get dressed and dispose of the sludgy water a comfortable distance from camp and well away from any fresh water sources. 

A solar shower makes bath time so much easier than the aforementioned spit bath technique because it delivers a flow of water from a showerhead. There are several companies that make solar showers, so do a Google search and find the one you like best. None of them are very expensive, generally costing from $10 to $25. They all consist of a flexible plastic container that holds anywhere from a couple gallons to 5 gallons of water. Keep in mind that the larger the capacity, the longer it will take for the sun to heat the water. In nearly all cases, the container is black, to aid in the capture of solar radiation to warm the water during the day. For best performance, lay the solar shower flat where it enjoys full exposure to the sun for the greatest number of hours per day. 

A plastic tube is fitted to the bottom of the bag, and a small showerhead is affixed to the end of the tube. To take a shower: 
  • Suspend the bag from an overhead support, such as a tree limb. 
  • Stand under the bag.
  • Open the valve to allow water to flow down the tube and out through the shower head. 
  • Wet yourself down and then go through the spit bath procedure described above, opening the showerhead occasionally to rinse off. 
A solar shower works pretty well if you are blessed with strong sunshine during at least part of the day. And if you're conservative, you can easily get more than one shower from the bag of water. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Start Your Home Storage Program

There is a high probability that sometime in the future you will face a situation in which the grocery stores are not able to supply you with food or other goods. It might be due to a natural disaster like extreme weather, an economic collapse, war, or some kind of manmade crisis such as a transportation strike or highways that are closed. Even just the rumor of something dreadful can empty grocery shelves in mere hours — are you old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis, when stores were almost instantly emptied by folks suddenly inspired to stock up.

Well, it's going to happen again. More than once. Might happen in your neighborhood. But the good news is that you don't have to participate in the food shortage if you will start preparing now.

I'm not proposing that you go out and spend thousands of dollars to buy a ready-made emergency supply of stuff that has been sealed in #10 cans and "guaranteed" to last for 30 years on your shelf. Some folks might see the benefit to having Godzilla-sized containers of stuff that has been dehydrated, freeze-dried, or otherwise treated with everlasting preservatives. It can make one feel secure to have shelves bulging with those cans. But have you ever actually eaten any of it? If you can answer "yes" then I say good for you. But most people have no clue what to do with those types of rations.

I'm not saying that nobody should have some freeze-dried stuff on the shelves. You can go that route if you want to, but that's not what I'm recommending here. The plan I'm promoting as a way for you to get started  is simple, cheap, and you can start today. You don't have to take out a loan or eviscerate the vacation fund to finance a survival plan. Just go at it a little at a time, consistently, and with a purpose in mind.

So here's the plan in excruciatingly simple terms:
  • First comes the planning stage. For 1 week, make a note of everything your family eats. As you're preparing each meal, list the canned items used, in all their varieties — soups, canned fruits, vegetables, stews, chili, whatever. Also make a note of the pasta you normally eat. Now you have the framework on which to build your emergency food supply. 
  • Each can or jar or package that is purchased and put on the storage shelf must be marked with the date of purchase. As you buy more, mark the date and move the newest stuff to the back, so the oldest items are always closest to the front of the pack. 
  • Our goal is to gradually build a 3-month supply of food that is already part of your normal diet. Do this by purchasing a few extra items each week, working from the list you made, and put those extras away on a storage shelf. Before long, you'll have a 1-week supply of food set aside. Be sure to build the food storage around all the varieties you normally eat. This way, your family won't have any trouble having to adapt to a new kind of diet when an emergency happens. 
  • Now that you have a secure 1-week supply, continue in the same fashion until you have a 1-month supply. Then eventually work toward a solid 3-month supply. Do this over the course of the next 12 months, and the process will be almost invisible to the budget. 
  • Here's the key — rotate this food into your normal day-to-day food preparation routine. Use the oldest cans or jars or packages of food first, and then replace it with a fresh item the next time you go to the store. This way, your 3-month supply is always full and always fresh. 
Food is only part of the equation. Water is even more critical to survival. Store drinking water in sturdy, leak-proof, unbreakable containers. In our home, we have most of our potable water supply stored in 1-gallon plastic containers. We also have some 5-gallon plastic containers on hand, but these are harder to heft. Water weighs about 8.4 lbs per gallon, so a full 5-gallon container weighs more than 42 lbs. The 5-gallon units are viewed as bulk storage from which we can refill the 1-gallon containers. Also on the property, we have a few 50-gallon containers full of water that we can easily access if the need arises. 
  • Calculate your own needs, based on the consumption rate of 1 gallon per person per day. That doesn't count flushing toilets, washing dishes, or personal hygiene. Figure a gallon per day per person solely for drinking and cooking. 
  • Store water in a cool, dark place that is away from exposure to heat sources and direct sunlight. 
This plan will help you obtain your 3-month emergency food and water storage without damage to your budget and without having to introduce unfamiliar foods to your family. It is the simplest and least painful way to become prepared to handle an emergency in which the normal food supply is disabled. 

While you're at it, stock up on toilet paper, toothpaste and other such items that you like to use on a day-to-day basis. Before long, you'll be able to rest easy, knowing that you are not dependent on the stores to keep you going. And, if you've a mind to, you will be prepared to share with others who are in need. Better yet, teach them how to set up their own personal emergency supply. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gangs Take Over America

America is being taken over by criminal gangs. At least the numbers seem to indicate that.

Wikipedia separates gangs into twelve categories and then lists individual gangs within each category. For example, under the heading of Asian gangs, there are 19 individual gangs listed. Some of those even have sub-listings of subsidiary gangs. It's kind of like looking at a genealogy chart with parent gangs that spawn offspring gangs.

Here's the rest of the rundown after Asian with 19. These are listed alphabetically, just so you'll know I'm not trying to "dis" anybody by putting them lower on the list:
  • Biker — 17
  • Black — 19
  • Diverse — 7
  • Irish — 22
  • Italian — 28
  • Hispanic — 34
  • Mid-Eastern/north African — 1
  • Native American — 1
  • Prison — 14
  • Russian — 3
  • White — 10
So that's 175 major gangs running the streets of America — Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. America, the country the rest of the world looks to for an example of the way life is supposed to be lived. A nation where anyone is free to work hard and prosper. A nation founded on principles of goodness and morality, where everyone can walk the streets free of fear from oppression. Whatever happened to that? 

I have my theories about how we got in this mess, but the thing I want to focus on right now is the dimension of the problem. Let me break it down to a single city — Los Angeles. I pick on L.A. because I'm from there, and the city has been nicknamed the gang capital of America.  Here are some more numbers that will show why Southern California gets to wear that distinction — According to the 2001 Drug Assessment conducted by the National Drug Intelligence Center, Los Angeles is home to 1,350 street gangs. Now, I know that is a lot more than the 175 in my previous list. But these 1,350 gangs are the wicked children of some of those "parent" gangs mentioned above. But wait, it gets worse. As of 2007 (three years ago), there were an estimated 150,000 gang members in L.A. And over the past three years, the numbers have grown.

These aren't just kids who like to throw dirt clods at each other and pretend they're hand grenades (the way I used to play when I was a kid). Gang names tell somewhat of a story by themselves. Names like Born to Kill, Public Enemy No. 1, Nazi Lowriders, and Luzon Visayan Mobsters. Take my word for it, these folks are all about building a bad reputation, and they'll do whatever it takes to become known as a dangerous criminal.

You might think that as long as you don't become involved in a gang, you'll be safe — 'cause we all know the gangs are really after each other. Right?

A study published in the Jorunal of the American Medial Association, way back in 1995 (and it's gotten worse since then), showed that 1/3 of victims were not associated with a gang. What that means is that you can become a victim of gang violence while minding your own business. You might be sitting in a fast food restaurant enjoying your artery-clogging meal when gang members burst in to rob the place, and they shoot everyone just to eliminate witnesses. Which just goes to show how dangerous it is to eat junk food.

So what can you do to avoid this problem with urban survival?
  • The best protection is to be aware of what's going on in your community and adjust your lifestyle to avoid problem areas.
  • Don't hang around where the police officers are. The number of vendetta killings of police officers is escalating at an alarming rate. 
  • Don't expect the police to protect you. They'll show up to do the paperwork after you're dead, but the old "Protect and Serve" motto is not reality. 
This next part is for you to take into consideration as it relates to your personal belief system. Maybe it will work for you; maybe not. You decide. 
  • Protect yourself by carrying a legal concealed weapon that you are fully trained to use in a combat situation. Now, that was a mouthful. In my world, the reason to carry a gun is to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming easy targets for the bad guys. But in order to do that, you must become exceptionally well trained in both the physical use of the weapon and the psychology of the use of the weapon. That doesn't come from putting holes in paper at the range one weekend a month. Sign up for a civilian combat handgun course. Ask for information at the local gun dealer, or the local shooting range, or do a Google search. Look for things like Civilian Arms Training, or Combat Handgun Course, or Tactical Firearms Training. 
  • Personal protection is an exceptionally high-stress experience, so the more you practice, the more capable you will become. The reason it's stressful for you is because you have a conscience and are, by nature, a compassionate and non-violent individual. What you have to understand is that gang members are not. They are cold-blooded killers who will drop you in a pool of blood as if you were nothing more than a character in a video game. They'll kill you for your tennis shoes. They'll kill you just for fun. That's their mindset, and unless you can come to grips with the nature of the enemy, you cannot stand on the same battlefield and win. A part of you must become capable of deadly force, and you must be able to know when that response is appropriate. Combat handgun training will help. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Life as a Refugee

Welcome to the refugee camp known as John F. Kennedy International Airport! Who would have guessed that a volcano thousands of miles away could turn a once bustling hub of international travel into an urban survival camp?

But that's what happened, since the volcano on Iceland came to life and has continued to spew ash into the atmosphere to such an extent that European air travel has ground to a halt, stranding hundreds of passengers who are now living full-time in at JFK and other airports around the world.

Consider the plight of Dominica Zschiesche, five days into an ordeal of unknown duration, washing her body with hand wipes and using the public bathroom sink to wash her hair and shave her legs.

A family from Belgium sits on the floor around a table they improvised out of a cardboard box.

A British structural engineer waiting for a flight to England was robbed of his wallet and is now stranded and completely out of money. "It's not very comfortable," he said. "You're indoors all the time. It's hot in there, sticky."

The Port Authority set up 1,000 cots and distributed blankets to stranded passengers in New York and New Jersey, and served hot meals and handed out bottles of water and baby wipes. Five days into the crisis, the Red Cross brought in trailers with a dozen showers, so folks like Dominica won't have to bathe in the bathroom sink anymore.

Hundreds more passengers are experiencing the same thing, at airports around the world where flights have been cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud that can damage airplane engines. People are sprawled on blankest, sleeping directly on the cold, hard floor. "We have one meal a day," a stranded student at Incheon International Airport in South Korea commented, "At the moment a lot of people are not eating."

It would be somewhat easier if the stranded travelers had access to their personal items, but many of them already checked their luggage through, leaving them totally dependent on others to provide for them.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "We love them and we want them to have a good time, but it's kind of hard to do when you can't get your luggage or have to sleep on a cot.. There's no substitute for somebody that wants to get home. They're not going to be happy no matter what you do for them."

Unfortunately, teams of scientists are not optimistic about the future. For all the worldwide chaos that Iceland's volcano has already created, it may just be the opening act. The fear is that the tremors at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano might trigger an even more dangerous eruption at the Katla volcano nearby. If that were to happen, it could create a worst-case scenario for travelers worldwide, as an eruption at Katla is anticipated to be 10-times stronger and send ash higher into the atmosphere than the current volcanic eruption that has already strangled European air travel.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Travel Disrupted by Mother Nature

Aviation experts are saying that the lingering ash plume from the ongoing volcanic eruption in Iceland has caused the worst travel disruption Europe and the world has ever seen. The most recent count shows that 16,000 of Europe's 28,000 daily airline flights have been cancelled, and that number was twice as many as just a day earlier. The International Air Transport Association announced that the volcano is costing the industry more than $200 million per day.

Alternative means of travel are being sought by anxious travelers. The railroad system has suddenly been overwhelmed. Eurostar reported that it was carrying almost 50,000 passenegers between London, Paris and Brussels. Thalys, a high-speed rail company, is allowing passengers to buy tickets even if the trains are already fully booked. Extra trains have been added in Amsterdam, and ticket lines are so long that the company is handing out coffee to hopeful passengers. Ferry operators in Britain are receiving a flood of bookings from passengers desperate to cross the English Channel to France. And even the London city taxi cabs have been recruited into the "alternate transport" game, receiving requests for travel to destinations as far away as Paris, Milan, Amsterdam and Zurich.

What does all this tell us? For one thing, it shows how easily a natural event, such as a volcano hundreds of miles away, can disrupt the normal rhythm of life. Transportation is one of those things we depend on, not only for our convenience, but for our survival. Every item on every store shelf must be transported from somewhere else, unless the shop owner is manufacturing those things himself.

Well, you might say, the bakery makes all their stuff from scratch. Some folks might be surprised to learn that the grain to grind into flour to make into loaves of bread has been transported from somewhere else. Likewise the yeast, the salt, and all the other ingredients. In today's world, urban dwellers are totally dependent on the continuation of the transportation system for everything they consume.

So, what do we learn from this event?
  • In order to continue with some semblance of normalcy, we must have our own supply of foods and other consumable items such as soap, toilet paper, etc., sufficient to carry us through a shut-down of transportation for at least 30 days. 
  • We should practice living solely from our own supplies for a short period of time, so we gain an understanding of what it will take to shift over in the event of a crisis. 
  • We should plan alternative forms of transportation for ourselves, in case the normal systems are shut down. It's not good to leave ourselves totally at the mercy of public transportation systems. 
  • If we can't travel at all, we should have contingency plans that will allow us to carry on as close to normal life as possible until travel is again possible. 
Examine your own situation, analyze your needs vs your wants, and figure out how to continue with life even if the transportation system were to become totally disabled for a time. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Code Name: Viper

My new novel, Code Name: Viper, is available on in the Kindle Book format. To find the book, go to the Kindle Books section and type Rich Johnson in the Search bar at the top of the page. 

Here's a peek inside the story: 

A deadly betrayal is exposed in the secret war journal of John Blake, and America is at risk …

Roland Gates, Deputy Director of the black-ops National Intelligence Agency has a secret he will kill to protect — dark deeds from the days when his NIA code name was Viper during the Soviet/Afghan war and he covertly ran a cartel dealing in guns-for-drugs with a young Islamic warrior named bin Laden. Viper’s high-risk business led to the grisly murder of fellow agent Clive Mabrey — but it was not just a murder, it was an evisceration.

Only one man left alive knows Gates’ dark side and ugly past — former CIA operative John Blake. Unable to murder Blake, Gates had him slammed in away in the insanity ward of Leavenworth to discredit anything he might say.

But Blake managed to smuggle his war journal to Mark Benton, a trusted man at NIA. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose and the chase is on in a run-for-your-life escape and evasion that leads from Washington D.C. to the swamps of Louisiana, then across the Gulf of Mexico to the sacred and uninhabited Mayan island of Xulakan. There, the final showdown between Gates and Benton explodes in a fireball that nearly buried the truth in the depths of the sea.

Emergency Shelter

In virtually every survival situation that does not involve a medical emergency, protection from the elements rises to the top of the priority list. The human body quickly and easily suffers from overexposure to the sun, wind, cold, humidity or lack thereof. While there are tales of heroic survival situations suggesting that the human body can endure a great deal of torment and depravation (all of which is true), it is far better to prevent the suffering than to endure it. Proper shelter, established early in the game, is one of the best ways to avoid unnecessary physical and psychological distress. 

The first line of defense, when it comes to shelter, is your clothing. Any time you leave the controllable environment of a heated and air-conditioned house or vehicle, your clothing becomes your most important shelter. We use and make adjustments to this shelter almost without thinking, as we turn up our collar against the cold wind, pull on gloves, or zip the coat a little higher. These actions can be compared to adjusting the thermostat at home, to keep ourselves comfortable and safe.

Proper selection of outdoor clothing is important, because you never know when you will have to rely on what you are wearing to keep you alive — at least long enough to improve on the shelter situation by finding or building a structure. Fabrics that turn the wind, refuse to absorb water, wick moisture away from the body, and dry quickly are most highly prized. Before the days of synthetics, wool was the material of choice (and still is for many outdoor enthusiasts) because it provided all of these desirable features to a limited degree. But now there are high-tech fabrics that offer wind and moisture protection, retain body heat, and are more lightweight and comfortable than wool. Cotton is comfortable, but absorbs moisture like a sponge, so it is generally avoided by serious outdoors people who are concerned about such cold-weather threats as hypothermia. Wearing several layers of clothing is best, because it allows you to add or subtract insulation and protection to match the conditions at the moment. And in hot, sunny weather, it's best to cover up with lightweight and lightly colored clothing to help prevent sunburn and slow dehydration.

Erecting a shelter actually plays several roles in a survival situation. First, it protects against the elements. Second, it may serve as a visual signaling device that can aid in a search and rescue operation. And third, it provides a powerful psychological benefit by allowing the individual to enjoy the relative comfort of a secure camp.

The best shelters are those that are tight against the wind and offer protection against precipitation. These are enemies of the human body, so staying dry and protected against either the blistering heat of the sun or the chilling wind is most important. Of secondary concern is that the shelter is secure from invasion of insects and animals. A third desirable feature is that the shelter be highly visible so it can attract the attention of potential search and rescue teams. Sounds like a colorful expedition-quality tent, doesn't it? But a high-zoot piece of camping gear may not always be available, so the survivor needs to know how to improvise.

Protection against the elements may be offered by something as primitive as a rocky outcropping, an overhanging ledge, the protected space created by the upturned root system or massive trunk of a downed tree. These natural shelters can be improved by using available brush, rocks, limbs, slabs of bark or whatever can be found in the area to further enclose the area. By paying attention to the direction of the prevailing wind and utilizing what nature has provided, a cozy enclosure can be constructed.

Perhaps you're lucky enough to have a few things with you that can be employed in making an emergency shelter. Something as inexpensive and lightweight as a pocket poncho can perform extremely well at turning the wind and rain. Propped up in lean-to fashion against a log or boulder, this simple expanse of plastic can keep you dry and protected from the wind.

If you're near a vehicle, the best shelter may be inside. However, if you're dealing with extremely high temperatures, taking refuge inside may be exactly the wrong thing to do. In that case, it may be preferable to remove the hood and prop it up to form a make-shift lean-to shade shelter. Or, the carpeting, headliner or door panels could be stripped out and put to similar use. When it comes to survival, don't worry about a little cosmetic damage to the vehicle — you're trying to save your life.

It's important to be careful about where you set up the shelter. Make sure it is on ground that is not infested with ants or other insects, and where the natural drainage of rainwater won't flood the camp. Try to establish a shelter whose opening takes advantage of the prevailing climate. North-facing would be best in hot weather, to avoid the direct glare of the sun. During cold weather, the shelter should face southeast so it can catch the earliest warmth of morning sunshine.

Once the elements are no longer a threat, attention should be turned to making the shelter as visible as possible, to aid in the search and rescue effort. Do anything that will attract the eye of a searcher. Clearing foliage around the area may help. Make tracks that lead to the shelter. Set up "unnatural" objects such as piles of rocks, or arrows on the ground made of small rocks that point to the shelter, or a message drawn in the hard soil. If you have a space blanket or other bright fabric, use it as an attention-getting cover for the shelter, or simply spread it out on the ground so it can be seen from a distance.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Storm Predictions

According to the Tropical Meteorology project at Colorado State University, the 2010 hurricane season is predicted to be more active than normal. Estimates are for approximately 11 to 16 named storms, 6 to 8 hurricanes and 3 to 5 major hurricanes during the 2010 Atlantic season that runs from June through November.

That might sound like important news for folks who live along the Gulf Coast or the Eastern Seaboard, where hurricanes and tropical storms can have a direct and devastating impact. But what about the rest of the country — why should any of this matter to the rest of us?

I don't know if you noticed, but almost within minutes of Hurricane Katrina slamming ashore, the price of gasoline went through the roof. There was talk about massive damage to the infrastructure that pumps oil out of the sea floor below the Gulf, the refineries that process the oil, pipelines that deliver it, and a whole host of other "reasons" why the price of gasoline suddenly skyrocketed. And I can almost understand that kind of reasoning. After all, Katrina did a huge amount of damage. But here we are five years later and the price of gasoline still hasn't recovered to its pre-Katrina level. Seems like once they (whoever "they" are) got us used to paying five bucks a gallon, they could look like heros by slowly bringing the price back down to the mid-three-dollar range. And now, by golly, we're all thankful.

See, it wasn't about Katrina. That was just a convenient crisis that delivered an excuse to pilfer the populace and exert control over our lives. Any crisis will do, and we all know how the good folks in government administration are dedicated to not letting any crisis go to waste, to quote White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

So, am I getting all paranoid about the government? Not even a little bit. I'm not paranoid at all — I'm a realist who can recognize what's happening and call a spade a spade. Paranoia is a thought process influenced by anxiety or fear that often leads to irrationality and delusion. When I see what the government is doing to the county today, I would have to be irrational and delusional to ignore the outright theft and unauthorized use of power by elected officials and appointed government personnel.

Getting back to the 2010 storm predictions, though, I want to alert you to the fact that when big storms hit, it isn't just ground-zero that takes the punishment. Far away from the storm, you will be paying a price for the damage. Wisdom would dictate that you stock up on necessary commodities that might become scarce in the aftermath of the storm season.
  • Keep your vehicles topped up with fuel, so you aren't suddenly smashed by an overnight fuel price hike. At least you'll be able to get around for a while on the cheaper gas you had stored in your vehicle tank. 
  • If there are landscaping or construction projects in your future, get them done now, before a sudden price hike for materials and delivery costs can cripple your budget. 
  • Stock up on produce that comes from areas that might be impacted by storms. Stock your shelves with canned goods, freeze what you can, and store fresh produce in Evert Fresh Green Bags that prolong freshness and dramatically slow the spoilage of fresh foods. Search for these online or at grocery stores. 
  • Learn to use local produce in place of the foods that must be imported from storm zones. This might require some alteration of your eating habits, but that's okay. Let's not be whiners, just get on with life. 
  • Plant as much of a garden as you can, given your circumstances. Do some landscaping to include trees and bushes that produce edible fruits. Harvest and eat from your yard, freeze or dehydrate the oversupply. 
  • Stock up on other commodities. Do you have enough toilet paper? Toothpaste? Soap? Other stuff that you use on a daily basis? Some of these things come from parts of the country that might be shut down for a while. So just because you don't live in the crosshairs of a hurricane doesn't mean that you won't feel its impact. 
Hopefully, the day will come when we, as a nation, pick ourselves up out of the entitlement gutter and start doing things for ourselves. I look forward to the day when communities don't just sit on their tush and wait for everybody else to come in and rescue them — but they link arms as neighbors and dig in to start rebuilding after a disaster. Hey, I believe we can become American again — a country where we help each other, but we also help ourselves. 

There's an old story about the ant and the grasshopper. I recommend that everybody should read it, ponder the meaning of the story, and then figure out how to take personal responsibility for emergency preparedness. 

Don't put it off — the storms are coming. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hurricanes as Teachers

When a big wind storm hits, or an earthquake knocks out the electricity, or ice builds up on power lines and tears them down, or some other type of disaster disables the power grid, here are some of the things that can be learned after seven days without electricity. It’s supposed to be “tongue in cheek” so it’s okay to smile, but I’d really like you to take it serious enough to get prepared.

Coffee and frozen pizzas can be made on a BBQ grill.

No matter how many times you flick the switch, lights don't work without electricity.

My car gets 23.21675 miles per gallon, EXACTLY (you can ask the people in line who helped me push it).

Kids can survive 4 days or longer without a video game controller in their hand.

He who has the biggest generator wins.

Women can actually survive without doing their hair.

A new method of non-lethal torture — cold showers

There are a lot more stars in the sky than most people thought.

TV is an addiction, and the withdrawal symptoms are painful.

A 7-lb bag of ice will keep a 14-pound turkey frozen for 8 more hours.

Flood plane drawings on some mortgage documents are seriously wrong.

Contrary to most beliefs, speed limits on roads without traffic lights does not increase.

Just because you're over 40 doesn't mean you can stay out as late as you want. At least that's what the cops said during a curfew stop.

People will get into a line that has already formed without having any idea what the line is for.

A Lincoln Continental will float, but it doesn't steer well.

Some things do keep the mailman from his appointed rounds.

Hampers can only contain a certain amount of clothes.

If I had a store that sold only ice, chain saws, gas and generators … I'd be rich.

Your waterfront property can quickly become someone else's fishing hole.

I learned what happens when you make fun of another state's blackout.

Disaster Math 101: Thirty days in month, minus 6 days without power equals 30% higher electric bill — how does that work?????

Drywall is a compound word, take away the “dry” part and it’s worthless.

I can walk a lot farther than I thought.

The only good thing about not having telephones — you haven't had a call from a telemarketer lately, have you?