Gestalt # 110 – Security

First, a disclaimer. I do not claim to have ANY expertise in this subject. The following consists of my idiosyncratic and non-partisan views. If you want information on what gun to buy, ask someone more knowledgable than me.

Personal

The first rule of personal security is to run away from trouble. I know, this doesn’t sound very brave, but it is sound advice. If you live in a dangerous neighborhood, don’t stay up at night thinking about how many guns you need to protect yourself – move. There are many safe places to live. Move to one of them as soon as you can.

The second rule of personal security is to discourage attack. That means – don’t look vulnerable. Light up your place at night. Put rose bushes next to your windows. Get a dog. Most definitely, get a dog. Cops will tell you, people who have dogs are much less likely to be robbed than people without dogs. Even a little white dog can serve as an early warning system. Don’t get a pit bull. They were bred to fight other dogs, not serve as security. True security dogs, usually German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, have to receive extensive training and are expensive. Just buying a “mean dog” isn’t helpful. If you have the money, by all means, get a good security dog. Otherwise, talk to people who have dogs and try get a puppy from someone who has a good watchdog.

The third rule of personal security is not to buy a weapon you do not know how to use. The number of tragedies associated with improperly secured or used guns is a national scandal. Do not buy a gun until you have been properly trained in its use. Find a shooting range with a respectable training system and get educated and practice before you buy a gun. There are lots of things about the NRA I don’t like, but they do take gun training and safety seriously. You can find training sites from their website and other places as well. Store your gun safely. If anyone is killed with your weapon, it’s your fault, whether you pulled the trigger or not.

The fourth rule of personal security is to know how to defend yourself without a weapon. I misspent some of my youth watching Bruce Lee films on Saturday afternoons. The kind of fighting you see in marital arts films, or really any film, is mostly totally BS. Real fights end fast. If you hit someone hard in the face you can break their nose and possibly knock them to the floor where killing them by stomping on them (with boots) is pretty easy. This is another use of the term “first mover advantage”. People are much easier to kill than most realize. As usual, Hollywood has given people a totally false view of reality. If you hit some over the head with a bottle, the bottle will not break, the person’s head will and they might die. Same thing with a chair, a baseball bat etc. Avoid personal combat, if you can. Again, run away, if this is an option. Otherwise, strike first and hard. Never let anyone grab you, if you can help it. But if they do, fight dirty (put your finger in their eye, bite their hand, etc.). If you want training, consider Krav Maga. Another note of realism. Size and strength matter. Most women have much less upper body strength than men. Movies that show 90 pound supermodels throwing 250 pound men through doors are ridiculous. Women, especially, should avoid dangerous situations, if possible.

Community

Number 1: Live somewhere safe. This bears repeating. Here’s a map from 2014:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/crime-rates-by-county/

Get to know your neighbors. Be prepared to join a neighborhood watch, if necessary. Pay attention to who your local law enforcement officers are. Vote for law enforcement officials you trust.

National

I’ve read that the US military is having problems recruiting enough qualified soldiers. Part of this is due to some incredibly stupid woke advertising, but this is a long standing problem. The Pentagon can’t figure out what to do, but I can. PAY SOLDIERS MORE MONEY! The entry level salary for a Private is $22,000 a year. That’s slightly above minimum wage. So, we are asking people to undergo substantial hardships, including possibly getting maimed or killed, for about $9.60 an hour? This is insane. Salesmen for defense contractors spend more than this on their haircuts and shiny shoes. Double the salary for soldiers and I guarantee you we will get more and better candidates. Another thing. Many military families are treated like dogsh*t. Housing is crummy, schools are mediocre, at best, and they have to move all the time. For God’s sake treat the families decently. While their loved one is away saving our country, the least we can do is provide good quality homes and schools for the families. If kids growing up in a military environment have a good experience, they are more likely to consider enlisting when they are old enough. I would like to see this problem fixed, first, before one more 10 billion dollar weapons system is put out to bid.

International

War is coming. See China and Russian War threads.

Gestalt # 109 – Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the two domains I worry about the most in a collapse scenario, the other being security. This is because serious health issues require access to specialists and expensive machinery that may not be available. Nonetheless, there are some things we can do now to improve our odds of survival.

Personal

Learn Human Biology

A basic knowledge of how the human body works will repay you many times over no matter what happens. Even if all medical care remains available, you will be a better patient if you know something about how your body works. There are many excellent textbooks that you can read. Here is one that you can have for free:

https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/textbooks/576

This textbook can be read online or the pdf can be downloaded. The latter is probably the best choice given that we may lose the internet at some point. The Open Textbook Library provides access to a number of other free books. Medically oriented books of varying quality are located here:

https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/subjects/medicine

Get a First Aid Kit and Learn How to Use It

There are many first aid kits you can buy. Here is a link to the American Red Cross First Aid Supplies webpage:

https://www.redcross.org/store/first-aid-supplies

You may be able to purchase similar supplies for less money at other locations, but this will give you some idea of what is available. You can find a variety of books and DVDs here:

https://www.redcross.org/store/books-and-dvds

You can find out where to get specific types of training here:

https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class

Both online and in person training is available depending on your location.

Get a physical and do what your doctor tells you to do.

We have a window of opportunity to get medical treatment now. This may be much more difficult to access in the Fall and Winter. So, get a physical and any recommended screening and vaccines. If you need a procedure done, get it now, while you can. Fill all your prescriptions.

Get Fit

I won’t say much about this because I think most people know that they should eat healthy food and get exercise.

Community

You should know where all medical facilities are in your immediate neighborhood. In a crisis, you may not be able to go to your favorite hospital if it is not close by. If you have developed some skills as a result of training by the American Red Cross, you may be able to volunteer to help in some capacity in an emergency. Assess your local public health authorities. Unfortunately, we have found that some in public health are untrustworthy. They will sometimes spread misinformation through ignorance, perhaps even malice. So, decide now whether your local public health authority is trustworthy.

National

We have learned that our national public health authorities are definitely untrustworthy. They are not going to improve in a crisis. There is no indication that the Biden Administration will correct its errors. It will simply add more bureaucrats to the mix. No one will take responsibility for the overall national response to the current two pandemics, especially not the President. That said, the coronavirus vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer have been lifesavers, literally. It will be worth getting boosters and any updated vaccines that better match circulating strains of coronavirus that may be available this Fall. Coronavirus tests are worth acquiring. We will have to wait and see if monkeypox tests become available. Personally, I will take whatever monkeypox vaccine is available to me, even the harsh one with side effects. Monkeypox is already breaking out of the demographic it is notorious for infecting. I expect this process to continue and for more and more members of the general public to be infected. I think many hospitals will be seriously challenged by having to deal with both coronavirus and monkeypox patients this Fall and Winter. This may make access to any type of healthcare difficult.

International

The WHO has been pretty much worthless for both coronavirus and monkeypox pandemics. They “warn” the public long after it is obvious that pandemics have already started. The Director of the WHO has run interference for the Dictator of China. He calls for rich nations to stop hoarding monkeypox vaccine and to give their stockpiles to poor countries. Really? American citizens are in Hunger Games-like competitions for scarce vaccine and we are going to send some vaccine which we developed and paid for to other countries? This is not a serious suggestion. Monkeypox is going to spread through poor countries without vaccine or treatment and their citizens are going to suffer, as usual. The only real solution is for poor countries to clean up their corruption and reallocate money away from the luxury homes and cars of their leaders towards education, science and healthcare.

War is already here in Europe. It is coming to Asia. Biological weapons may be used (or perhaps already have been). Isolation and self-care may be the only options for many of us.

Gestalt #108 – Money, Wealth and Power

Money

One of things I underestimated when planning for the pandemic was the economic consequences. Like many others, I used the 1918 pandemic as my model for what to prepare for. In that pandemic, there were 3 waves and then it was over. That’s not going to happen with SARS-CoV-2 and probably not monkeypox either. We are now in a different economic situation than we were pre-pandemic. We are swinging between recession and inflation. We may have both at the same time. We are experiencing shortages. In some countries, this may lead to starvation. War is already here in Europe and soon to explode in Asia. The US will not escape the consequences of this.

I am not an economist nor an expert on related content fields. So, take the following recommendations with a large grain of salt.

  1. Live within your means. Don’t take on debt unless absolutely necessary. Focus on essentials: shelter, food, water, security, medical care. This is not the time to spend money on luxuries.
  2. Get a remote job, if possible. Some options: software developer, remote customer service agent. Good internet service is essential for this choice.
  3. Move to a rural area. This does not have to be expensive. You can get a few acres with a trailer on it in many areas of the country for a modest amount of money. If you can afford a small farmhouse and have the skills/money to fix it up even better. Some will be able to build their dream house on pretty land. Whatever you choose, make sure you can afford to maintain your property.
  4. Grow as much of your own food as possible. This will be easier for some than others. Stockpile staples and have a rotation system to make sure food is not wasted. If you don’t know how to cook from scratch, learn. It’s not rocket science. Learn to can.
  5. Homeschool your kids, if you have them.
  6. Buy high quality items even if they cost more initially. Stuff that breaks easily and quickly is more expensive in the long run than items that last a long time. Fix and mend whatever you use. Don’t throw them away unless you have to. Hand down clothes from older kids to younger kids. Don’t just keep buying new outfits.
  7. Be a smart shopper. Buy in bulk what you use a lot of when it is cheap. Hold off when prices are high, if you can.

Long story short, be frugal.

Wealth

The average lottery winner is broke within 7 years. How many rock stars and professional athletes get rich, lose it all and die early? Well, you could say that they didn’t really deserve it. They were just lucky, had fortunate genetics etc. But what about people who work hard to get rich in real businesses? Shirtsleeve to shirtsleeve in 3 generations, usually, unfortunately. A poor immigrant comes to America. He works hard and builds a business. His son is raised middle class but has to work in the family business while his American friends are playing football and having fun. He inherits the business when his father is too sick or dies. He keeps doing what his father made him do for a while and the business continues to prosper. After a while though, he hears about creative ways to take money out of the business so that he can enjoy some luxuries. He sends his son to a “rich kids school” and does not make him work in the business. His son becomes spoiled and learns nothing practical at his expensive school. When the son of the immigrant gets sick or dies, his son, the grandson of the immigrant, finds out that the family business has been hollowed out and nothing is left for him. He tries to get a decent job, but his attitude and lack of skills doom him to menial labor. An all too common story.

Individuals can be rich, but only families can be wealthy. What does this mean? There’s a saying that the rich are different. Not true. The rich just have more money than us. It is wealthy families that are different. What’s the difference? Here’s the short version. Most wealthy families are of English or Dutch descent. They have a family fortune that they built up over generations. It grows each generation because they don’t spend the principal, only the interest on the family fortune and not even all of that. It is invested in safe assets that grow faster than inflation, but not a lot faster. The children will have gone to expensive schools, very expensive schools, but not just prestige schools, but schools that deliver an outstanding education. Rich parents often don’t even know such schools exist. They think if they send their kids to snobby schools, that is sufficient. No. People think that elite Colleges are tickets to wealth. They are wrong. It is the elite High Schools that make the difference. There are schools that were set up 200 or more years ago by Episcopalians (the unofficial religion of the wealthy). I call them Hogwarts schools because that is what they look like. Students learn to read Latin and Greek in addition to modern languages like German and French. They learn to speak and write impeccable English. Wealthy families have social connections which they also have built up over generations. These ties are reinforced at the Hogwarts schools. To sum up, wealthy families have a family fortune to which each generation is expected to contribute, outstanding classical educations and deep social connections with centers of power. The merely rich cannot compete with this. They don’t even know that there is a competition. Watch the Whit Stillman movie “Metropolitan” to get view into this world.

Power

Who has power? Mostly, it is members of the wealthy class, although they often go to great lengths to hide their status. They will shamelessly claim to be members of the middle or even the lower classes to hide their great advantages. Elon Musk has managed to present himself as a penniless immigrant who came to North America and made good. Nothing could be further from the truth. He grew up in the most expensive home in South Africa. His father was/is one of the wealthiest individuals in that country. Elon Musk went to a Hogwarts-type school where he got an outstanding education (and supposedly got beat up). Most people know Bill Gates the Third grew up in a wealthy family. What they may not know is that he went to an outstanding private High School where he had access to a computer, which at the time almost no other High School in the world had. This gave Mr. Gates a huge advantage. So did his family connections when he negotiated with IBM. Increasingly, CNN is looking like the Anderson Cooper show. Only his real last name isn’t Cooper, it’s Vanderbilt. He comes from one of the wealthiest families in the United States which date back to Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the original robber-barons. He went to the Dalton School – tuition is $57,970. Fox News is turning into the Tucker Carlson show. He is also from a very old and very wealthy family. His father was the President of PBS (!). After his divorce, Mr. Carlson’s father married the heiress of the Swanson fortune (frozen food empire). Tucker Carlson attended several schools including St. George’s School (Rhode Island), tuition and boarding – $69,650 per year. Let’s do some actors. Gwyneth Paltrow is the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and producer Bruce Paltrow. She went to Spence School – tuition $60,880. Before that she went to Crossroads School in Santa Monica, CA – tuition $28,400 per year. Here are some of the alumni of Crossroads School: Sean Astin, actor, director and producer; Michael Bay, film director and producer; Jack Black, actor; Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks), actor and director; Gary Coleman, actor; Zooey Deschanel, actor; Jonah Hill, actor and director; Kate Hudson (daughter of a singer and actress), actor; Maya Rudolph (deep family connections to Hollywood and business), actor (SNL); Liv Tyler (daughter of the lead singer for Aerosmith), actress. This is a partial list of alumni from one K-12 school. Maya Rudolph, a wealthy heiress, went to High School with Jack Black (related to some of the most brilliant scientists in America) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Hollywood Royalty). Do you think someone who went to Noname Public High School in West Nowheresville has an equal chance to succeed in Hollywood? No way, Jose. By the way, I think it is almost funny that Maya Rudolph, who comes from great wealth and connections to the Entertainment industry, often plays poor or oppressed women. She is a good actor.

I have met members of wealthy families. Almost without exception they have perfect manners and are in fact usually quite charming. However, they are not forthright about the power they hold. I am not aware of any book or article which describes how these wealthy families are connected to the American power system. This is a topic I intend to explore in more detail in future blogs. It’s relevant, because they are controlling what we see, what we hear, and what we can do about the pandemics afflicting us.

You will be surprised.

Gestalt #107 – Energy

Energy experts will tell you, the first thing you should do if you want to be energy secure is to look at how you can conserve energy rather than trying to produce more. So, this blog will discuss ways to avoid using more energy as well as how to generate it.

How to stay cool without electricity

Europe is experiencing a deadly heatwave. Many European buildings do not have air conditioners. How to handle the heat? First, adjust behavior. Plan physical activities for the early morning hours when it is coolest. Southern Europeans having been taking siestas in the hottest part of the day for centuries. Northern Europeans may now need to adopt this practice. Second, use low tech ways to stay cool. People in the US used to have “sleeping porches” at their homes where they would sleep in the summer to avoid stifling heat and enjoy breezes. A sleeping porch would typically be covered with netting so that mosquitos could not get to you. You can also try wrapping yourself in a sheet that has been made wet with cold water when trying to sleep on a hot night. People used to live in very hot climates without air conditioners. No reason why we can’t too. We just need to remember what they did.

How to keep food cold without electricity

If energy supplies are disrupted for long periods of time, we may need to consider how to keep food cold without electricity. Refrigerators used to be called “ice boxes“, for a reason. Food used to be kept in a box that had a big chunk of ice in it. The “iceman” would actually bring big chunks of ice to your house every day. Where would he get ice in the summer? In northern climates, large amounts of ice are formed on lakes in the winter. This would be “mined” by cutting slabs of it and storing it in an ice house. The ice would be kept from melting by using insulation such as straw or sawdust.

How to stay warm without natural gas or electricity

Due to the Russian war against Ukraine, energy availability in Europe is almost certain to be disrupted this winter. Europeans should be making plans to stay warm using traditional methods. Number one of course is to make sure that their buildings are well-insulated. Piles of wool blankets and down comforters on a bed is a great way to stay warm at night even if thermostat is pretty low. In a real emergency, say there is no heat at all in very brutal weather, it might be useful to have a sleeping bag rated for extreme cold weather. During the day, wearing wool sweaters inside can be helpful. Long underwear might be a good investment.

“To Build a Fire” is a famous short story by Jack London that drives home the importance of having this skill. This is something everyone should know how to do. If you live in a house with a fireplace or wood stove and you have a ready supply of wood, you will have a great advantage should energy supplies be disrupted. A masonry heater (like a fireplace, only more efficient) would be a great investment if you are building a new home. In some parts of the country, people still order large amounts of wood (measured in “cords“) to keep themselves warm in the winter because power may go out at anytime due to winter storms. This wood must be “seasoned”, i. e., dried out. “Green wood” which still has a lot of moisture in it will produce too much smoke.

How to cook food without natural gas or electricity

We are again back to our old friend, fire. Cooking will need to be done outside unless you have a proper wood stove with a good exhaust system. Might we worth having one of these installed if you have your own home and can afford it. Otherwise, plan to cook outside when the weather permits. Fire pits can be made in the dirt if you have enough space. Otherwise, you can buy a steel fire pit with a grating on it for cooking. If you don’t have access to wood, you might want to lay in a supply of charcoal. NEVER, EVER cook with charcoal inside your house!!! Doing this will KILL YOU with carbon monoxide poisoning. If it is too cold to cook outside, then just eat a cold pop tart and call it done. I will discuss preserved foods in a future blog.

How to generate electricity yourself

There are lots of blogs about solar and wind power, so I won’t provide a lot of details here. I will say that the technology for using them has greatly improved. You can buy kits and install them yourselves or hire someone to do it for you. It is surprising how much energy you can get from the latest generation of solar panels, even in areas without a lot intense sunlight. Here is a map of solar potential. Wind power kits can also be purchased. I’ve been told that choosing a wind system with the turbine at the right height is the most important consideration. So, if you have to choose between a taller tower or a larger turbine due to the cost, go with the taller tower if you need one to get to the wind. Here is a map of wind potential. If you have a stream on your property, hydroelectric energy may also be an option. The key technology for these alternative sources of energy is the battery. This is something else you need to be careful with. The most common type is lead-acid. Unless you are an electrician or engineer, I strongly suggest taking a course in a community college on alternative energy and/or talking with an expert in this before installing any system involving batteries.

Community-level energy conservation

One of the biggest users of energy is the car. One of the easiest ways to reduce energy usage is to simply live near where you work. Communities can and should be planned so that long commutes are not necessary. The pandemic taught us that work-from-home will save tremendous amounts of energy, time and money by greatly decreasing the need for gasoline. It is also “green”, if that is important to you. Companies that insist on workers returning to grey cubicles to do work that could just as easily be done at home can make no claims to being “green”. I’m looking at you Tim Cook.

Community-level energy production

There is tremendous potential for alternative energy production in the United States and other countries. Did you know, Iowa gets 57% of its energy from wind power? Other States have the potential to greatly increase their usage of this energy source. The desert Southwest is the perfect place for solar energy. There are very large cities in very hot places. Using solar in these cities makes tremendous sense as the time of greatest need of energy, during the day to run air conditioners, is the same time that solar power is available. You don’t have to worry about storing energy in expensive battery systems.

Although I’m a big fan of alternative energy sources, they cannot supply all of the energy we need. Coal is probably the worst of the traditional sources of energy in terms of pollution. Fortunately, the US has tremendous natural gas supplies. Although a fossil fuel, natural gas is a much cleaner source of energy than coal. The German Green Party convinced Chancellor Merkel to close down Germany’s nuclear power plants. This was a profoundly stupid decision as it necessitated a reliance on natural gas from Russia. Germans will face a cold winter this year as a result. We all know about the disaster that was Fukushima. However, the Japanese government foolishly refused safety upgrades to their aging nuclear power plants offered by their manufacturers. Nuclear power plants can be relatively safe, especially newer ones. Nuclear power plants that are operated today rely on nuclear fission to drive energy production. Another strategy, nuclear fusion, is being developed. Ironically, the Germans are working on nuclear fusion technology called “Stellarator Devices” at the Wendelstein facility. This has the potential to provide safe, cheap and limitless energy. Fusion technology has been hyped for many years. Recent advances are increasingly making fusion look like it’s really going to happen, although we are still probably a decade or more before it becomes commercially available.

Gestalt #106 – Water

Personal needs

We need between 2 – 4 liters of water each day to survive. Dehydration is one of the quickest killers. Further, we need clean water, something we may not always be able to assume is available. Fun fact. The Bronte sisters, authors of such classics as “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights” died early, likely because they drank water contaminated by runoff from very public outhouses and the exudates of a nearby graveyard.

There are different ways to secure water. One is to be hooked up to a municipal system which assures you that the water is clean. These assurances are not always accurate. What happens if the power goes out in your area? No water. What happens if there is a problem at the local water sanitation center? Boil orders are becoming increasingly common. What about if your water system is hacked and poisons are added to it? This has actually already happened.

Alternatives to depending on city water include having your own well or cistern. Many people in rural areas depend on wells. If you go this route make sure you get your well water tested regularly. Also probably helpful to have a reverse osmosis system to purify your water. You can get specific filters that will be designed to remove specific contaminates identified in your water. In dry areas, cisterns are an option. I know of one fellow who bought an old milk truck, cleaned the inside thoroughly, dug a trench, buried the container, ran a pipe from his roof water catchment center to the now underground container, had a pump to bring the water to his house and cleaned the water with a reverse osmosis system. He claimed he could collect enough water in one day to last him and his wife one year. He would make sure that he collected the water before the crop dusters were active so that the water be as clean as possible. If you are handy, and have a strong back, look into Earthships. These are homes that can be made with dirt and old tires. They have been designed to use water sparingly. You can find them in New Mexico, not far from Taos.

In an emergency, you may need to depend on surface water. Know where the closest, available to you, surface water is located. Have a plan to clean it. Boiling is a tried and true approach to killing biological contaminants. If you Google “water filters”, a number of options will appear. Do some research and decide which one will work best for you.

National and International needs

Wars in the future may occur due to water shortages. This is completely unnecessary. We live on a water planet. There is plenty of water. We just need to be smart about obtaining and cleaning it.

Parts of Africa experience famines because there is not enough available water for agriculture. There are huge aquifers of water in Africa which could be tapped and would provide plenty of water for agriculture. Failure to develop these resources is a disgrace.

The United States is largely desert. Most of our population is in the non-desert areas.
Los Angeles would be a desert if water wasn’t pumped in from the outside. Watch “Chinatown” for a lesson in what happens to people who ask too many questions about where that water comes from. The Colorado River is being drained dry to provide water to American cities it passes near. Watch the Mexican movie “Sleep Dealer” to see the effects of the various American Colorado River projects on Mexican agriculture.

Fortunately, the North American desert is right next to a huge source of water, the Pacific Ocean. We know how to desalinate ocean water and make it fit for drinking and agriculture. Unfortunately, there are complete idiots stopping this from happening (Poseidon desalination project is rejected, Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2022). Los Angeles is going to dry up and blow away if they don’t get their act together. I know I shouldn’t ask why. “Forget it, Monotreme. It’s Chinatown”, right?

Australia is sensibly building desalination plants. They have to, or they are toast (with or without vegemite).

You know, it would be possible to build really big desalination plants and create really big water pipelines to make many of the world’s desserts bloom. We have the technology. We need the energy. Solar can help and is appropriate. However, to do the really, really big projects I’m thinking of, we need nuclear power, best of all would be fusion power. I’ll write about Energy in a future blog.

Interplanetary water needs

Just for fun.