Boring “Survivalist” Successes

Orwell was onto something. Redefine a word and you eliminate an idea. “Survivalist” was a perfectly acceptable word. To “survive” implies “not prone to die easily”. Where’s the nobility in dropping like flies? Who has a problem with surviving?

Well, one group has a problem with it. People who’d rather lord over a populace of weaklings find themselves by definition at loggerheads with survivalists. They fired up their pet press and went to work until intentional wordsmithing had redefined “survivalist”. Now it brings to mind tinfoil hatted paranoids plotting mayhem in their parent’s basement. In a world where there are real threats I think it’s stupid to invent pretend ones but that’s why I’m not electable or employed by the press. By now, “easily defeated” is treated as a noble trait and personal duty by people who otherwise look like adults. I call bullshit. Who the hell thinks “surviving” is bad and why would we listen to them?

Also “prepper”, the replacement word, sounds like the brand name for baby wipes. A truly unfortunate word.

At any rate I’d like to point out that “survivalist” in a connotation completely devoid of politics is still a generally positive idea that may pay off in a totally mundane way. It doesn’t take a zombie apocalypse; it just takes normal life.

Here are two “small ball”, non-paranoid, utterly uncool, survivalist successes. I hope to illustrate that even in the absence of Ebola laden politicians from hell dropping nuclear fallout on my backyard… being prepared (as the Boy Scouts knew) is a good idea.

1. Ammunition:

Like everything, the price of ammo has gone through the roof.* Something happened in oh, I don’t know when exactly…. lets just say it all started around the time of an unspecified event in the fall of 2008. I’m not saying what the hell happened, maybe it was space rays or bad guacamole that struck the nation en masse…

Ammunition, formerly an unexciting manufactured commodity made of brass, copper, powder, and lead… became far more expensive than market forces would imply. I don’t buy the gold plated investment grade bullshit that ammunition is somehow suddenly made of unobtanium. The price spiked due to unspecified events right around November 2008 and/or a reaction to it that was widespread and honestly felt. (Also, if I hear any horse shit about “hoarding” in the comments I’ll strike it. Americans are free citizens. They can buy whatever the hell they can afford and do whatever the hell they want with it… including amassing great piles and lying on it like Scrooge McDuck. “Hoarding” is a word coined by the economically illiterate to define a situation where people do something with their money that doesn’t meet with their approval.)

Anyway it’s not rocket science to make the stuff so it should (and hopefully will once again) cost about the price of raw materials (which also soared) plus the cost of manufacture and a reasonable profit. Economics are math and math always wins.

At any rate, I never cared because I’ve been too busy breaking tractors to spend much time at the range. It just wasn’t part of my reality. Until last week…

I had a hankerin’ to sight in a .22 and maybe hammer a bunch of tin cans until they cried for mercy. It dawned on me that a brick of .22 is harder to acquire than a nude supermodel holding a McRib. What the hell?

Being a guy who doesn’t shop if I can avoid it (and I’m good at avoiding it), I naively stopped at a few sporting goods stores for the first time in a long while. I learned what you’ve all known for years. A box of .22 is rarer than the Ebola vaccine. Also everyone at every store is royally pissed off about it. Imagine that; nearly 100% hatred right to the core. If I’d have been in power (which is something I studiously avoid) I’d never had stomped on toes like that. What kind of jackoff thinking is it to pick one group and get them riled up like rabid hornets? Here’s a hint. If people hate you because of what you’ve done, and they’re otherwise studiously law abiding (possibly even boring) people, you’ve done wrong. I let them vent because it seemed therapeutic. Then I skedaddled back to my homestead.

What’s a survivalist to do? Nothing. The die was already cast and, of course, I was already prepared. Duh! I just dug around on my shelves and found enough tin can puncturing goodness to tide me over. Why not?

This is where the rubber meets the road of survivalism. I didn’t have to do anything.

Without options I’d be more likely to internalize the bullshit. I, like many, would be prone to anger over such a crappy situation. A shortage of .22, like a shortage of coffee, bacon, or oxygen, clearly indicates humanity is on the ropes. When small game season comes, you need ammo or you’ve let the squirrels off the hook. Since when are Americans logistically incapable of shooting a freakin’ squirrel? Only politics could give a damn rodent the upper hand!

I could burn too much cash. I could get on e-bay and sell my left nut for a pack of “match grade” bespoke gold plated squirrel rounds. I could wait in line at dawn like a strung out groupie hoping to score on the next shipment to Wal-Mart.

Nope! I didn’t have to do any of that. I simply turned to my own resources. That’s why you maintain your own resources… to avoid buying match grade ammo to shoot a tin can.

I spent the afternoon popping tin cans and having a grand time. I can afford patience while waiting for the world to turn sane again. No need to sweat the small stuff. That’s the whole point of preparedness.

2. Major illness:

One day, long ago, it dawned on me that I’d been feeling under the weather in unspecified ways for far too long. I looked in the mirror and said “if I was a used car, nobody would buy me”. It’s wise thinking to look reality in the face and react to what is and not what we wish was true. Reality was, I needed to do some damn sit ups. “Fuck this, I’m going to get in shape” I muttered.

That’s precisely what I did. The process was hard earned but deeply fulfilling; feeling like shit sucks and feeling healthy is better. No question about it.

Gradually, with much effort and a few setbacks, I got in shape. The exterior is still as ugly as ever but the inner workings, muscle, lungs, etc… are in decent condition. I’m happy with that. Just as I don’t care if my truck has a dent but I’ll carefully keep the fuel pump in top condition, so too I’ve maintained myself. At least reasonably so. To do otherwise is trusting to fate and good luck. Is it not “survivalist” to minimize trusting to luck?

So what? Here’s the second part; a few years after looking into the mirror and getting serious about working out, shit got real. With no warning and I had a sudden medical event (which I won’t specify at this time). It wasn’t lung cancer bad and I’m not complaining. Others have faced far worse. Yet for me, it was a big honkin’ deal. I’m proud to say I got to the emergency room under my own power but that’s about all I could manage. In serious pain I addressed the surgeon (or doctor… I was hazy by then). “Get ‘er done doc!” Then I quit worrying.

Sometime the next day I was unceremoniously kicked out the hospital door feeling like a pincushion that had been hit by a train. What’s a survivalist to do? Recover. Duh!

I recovered fairly quickly. Did I recover so easily because I’m lucky and my doctor was a miracle worker? Maybe. Was modern medicine great? Certainly! Still, I get some credit for stacking the deck in my favor. As a “survivalist” (or “prepper” if you wish) I had a reasonable bank of “health” upon which to draw. Physical duress, no matter who you are, is tough. It’s less tough if you are in reasonable overall shape before you take a hit. I was in decent fighting trim when external factors pole-axed my ass and it made a difference.

That too is “survivalism”. It paid off in the mundane. It didn’t take an earthquake/hyperinflation/bubonic plague/EMP pulse/bacon shortage. Life tends to surprise you in it’s own way and on its own schedule. In these cases it was nothing terrible on a large scale but I skipped around personal difficulties more or less without drama. I’d banked a little “luck”.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. All I wanted to say was that shooting tin cans on a sunny afternoon and a speedy recovery from injury aren’t flashy or exciting but they’re nicer than the opposite. We all play an unknowable but significant role in our own fate. Anyone who tells you different is out to drag you down and boss you around. Rise above.

A.C.

* The press and government stats report no (or minimal) inflation. Yet the cost of everything from Spam to screws went up in a way that looks exactly like inflation and was timed exactly as one might have expected during certain events right around late 2008 and early 2009. Math works like that. It doesn’t much care your opinion. I don’t expect the press to address the difference between what they say and what is, until and unless the party in power changes. Here’s a hint, if December 2016 rolls around and the press is still blowing sunshine up your ass… you know the stupid party once again managed to snatch defeat from the hands of victory. (They’re good at it!) If it suddenly dawns on the press that inflation sucks and America has more debt than ever before amassed in the history of mankind (which is a true statement… say it a few times to yourself and remember that math never loses), you’ll know the evil party played its hand all the way to its logical conclusion.

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Mechanization: Video Epilogue

A couple weeks ago I was pondering the ratcheting effect of minimum wage laws (actually minimum wage plus all the errata like fringe benefits and whatnot). If you’re interested here are the links.

For those of you who have no desire to click links I’ll summarize: I mentioned that, as a consumer, I’m perfectly happy when machines replace people. For example, ATMs and Self Serve Gas Pumps are (in my opinion) superior to the humans they replaced. I also admired the great mechanical land barges that harvest wheat and are part of the reason my corn flakes are dirt cheap. (Note: trying to grow stuff with my antique tractor has taught me what a stone cold pain in the ass farming can be with sub-par machinery.)

This is a rare instance when I’m a “glass is half full” kinda guy. I’ve already seen the self order kiosk at a couple fast food places and I don’t mind them. (Am I the only one that finds it frustrating trying to explain what I want to someone two feet away who’s just punching ideograms on a terminal?) I’m eagerly awaiting my first robotically created hamburger. For me, it’s just a game.

Also, for me, I see every minute a human spends doing anything as an opportunity cost. Whatever they were doing, could they be doing something cooler? What is the cooler thing that they’re not doing? Would the world be more awesome if they were right now doing the cooler thing? Humans have a certain unknowable amount of time, the less time they spend darning socks the more time they have available for something more. (Unless one aspires to be the best damn sock darner ever… excellence in any venue is a reasonable goal.)

Now I’m not a fool. I know that 99% of free time will be spend on bullshit. Great big harvesting machines replaced herds of people with hand scythes and most of those former hand scythe operators didn’t go on to write symphonies. That’s ok. They had a chance. If one has options and then decides to sit on the couch growing moss… at least the chance was there. That’s a good thing.

There’s a different and opposite opinion to mine. I think of a person as having a certain amount of time and ponder what they’ll do with that gift. The other side thinks of a person as needing a job and ponders their misery if they’re not employed. I’m not so sure about this. The purpose of a job is not to entertain the masses. Jobs are not playpens for adults. The removal of one duty just broadens the horizon for another.

However, in the interest of fairness I’m posting this video. It’s a “glass is half empty” discussion of what the hell are we all going to do when our robot overlords replace us at the job? It’s well written, well reasoned, and well presented. Let it never be said that I don’t air contrary opinions.

I’m still perfectly happy in an employment arms race with machines and I’m well aware that I might indeed someday lose. I can live with that. So long as those robots keep my corn flakes cheap and don’t screw up the bacon supply… good luck to ‘em.

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Go Kart Errata

As the weekend winds down I have some random thoughts:

  • When you drive a full sized vehicle many miles at 65 MPH to a recreation venue where the entertainment is to drive a little toy at 30 MPH… you truly grok what it is to be an American.
  • Every go kart track is a hold out against chickenshit helicopter parents, greedy liability lawyers, and Al Gore. When they’re gone, we’re all dead.
  • “Go Kart” is a safe way to give children a chance to drive. I have mixed feelings about this. The traditional method was called “bale hay and don’t come back until it’s done”. The latter is probably better training for life.
  • If something breaks on a “go kart” you get out and walk away.  Given a lifetime of vehicle maintenance, abandoning stuff is a delicious freedom. There should be an amusement park for adults where you rent a decrepit car, drive it until it breaks, and then get out and leave it in the middle of the road.*
  • One of a kid’s rites of passage is standing on tippy toes long enough to convince the disinterested pierced teenage stoner at the ticket counter to let you drive the “big carts”. I think it should be something cooler like killing a bear with a spear but I don’t get to make the rules.
  • Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you don’t get to go fishing.
  • Being a modern man sometimes means blowing cash to entertain children who should be home stacking firewood.  Being a dad sometimes means letting a kid pass you and pretending to be shocked at his/her driving prowess. Being a Curmudgeon means you’ll let the punk pass and then pin your bumper 1/16″ inch behind them for twenty laps. It’s good to let ‘em know the old man ‘aint dead yet.
  • You are not allowed to hammer other go karts into the wall. The temptation was stronger than you think. Maybe that’s just me.

I hope you all had a great weekend. I also hope the fish appreciate being spared this time.

A.C.

* There is a venue like this, the ride is called “road trip” and the park is called “the whole world”. In my youth I figured any car that cost about one monthly payment and and lasted two months or more was a “win”. Alas getting in the rut of returning with the vehicle in which one left is a natural part of the aging process.

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Thunderstruck

For the rednecks:

 

For the elitists:

Hat tip to Lonevoiceblog and A Large Regular respectively.

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The Saga Of Sumdood’s Army

And now for something completely different… the story of Sumdood’s Army.

OK, it was written in 2007 and I just found it. I’m late to the party. So what? It’s hilarious. I found it at A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver.

Here’s how it starts:

 “What is your last name, Sir?” I ask, watching the guy with the dank, greasy hair sitting at the triage desk, nervously wringing his hands.

“Gol,” he simpered. “G-O-L.”

“And your first name?”

“Smea. S-M-E-A,” he answered, baring his rotted teeth in an obsequious grin. He grimaced and cleared his throat painfully.

Eeeeewwww. Somebody has the meth mouth.

“So what brings you to the ER today, Mr. Smea Gol?”

From there things get weird:

“I pull a document from the file cabinet, march out to the ER entrance, and gird myself for battle. The ER clerk, fear and desperation etched into her features, stands with her back to the barred door. Outside, the howls of the fibromyalgia orcs herald their thirst for blood.

Stout heart, AD. And if you go down, go down swinging.

I heft the six-foot, carved rosewood caduceus adorning the ER hallway off of its hanger, and hold it before me like a scepter. Taking a deep breath, I nod for the ER clerk to clear out, and I fling open the doors.

The patients charge…”

Go there and read it all.

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Mea Culpa Ferguson

I’ve been avoiding the Ferguson kerfluffle. It has every demographic element fated to incite hostility. Count the red flags. Is it an area that’s southern, poor, two thirds black, and urban? Yep. Was the person shot either trying to surrender or trying to kick a cop’s ass? Yep. Was he a choir boy or a serial killer? Yep. And of course, was the person who shot him white? Yep. America in 2014 is not a place where urban masses are prone to react intelligently to such stimuli. As predictably as night follows day, a shitstorm of angry has ensued. Little, if any, good will come of it. I tuned out.

I was pretty successful too. Several days of stupid came and went without darkening my door. Then one day I was having a conversation with a good friend and he brought up the topic. I was trapped!

My friend pointed out things had gone from bad to worse. I’d presumed as much without examining the details. Things like this progress along a spectrum. As far as I could tell it was far beyond a Maine township circulating a strongly worded petition but not quite approaching 1992 LA. My friend said it was bad news and implied I should be paying attention.

It was mentioned that the President chose to insert himself in this weighty matter. Lately Federal action in a local (city level?) police matter hasn’t racked up a good track record. Particularly when a President uses local human pain to score national political points it’s a very bad thing indeed. Rather than “tut tut” I made light of it. “Of course he did.” I laughed. “His bread is buttered by racial friction.” It didn’t escape my mind that this is a mid-cycle election year and nothing would help the party of D like a big ugly urban riot and the press’ favorite superhero saving the day. He probably has a cape in the closet for just such a purpose. Never one to quit inserting my foot in my mouth I added more. “Let me guess. He’s having a beer summit?”

So it's agreed; Henry here gets to say he met the president, I get a photo op, and whitey here has to suck it up and smile.

So it’s agreed; Henry here gets to say he met the president, I get a photo op, and whitey has to suck it up and smile.

“This is a big deal.” My friend complained.

“Sure it is.” I snarked. “Let me guess; the press makes out like the guy who got shot is a cute innocent kid. They’ve got a photo of him looking just like Michael Jackson when he was in the Jackson Five.”

Reading and writing arithmetic Are the branches of the learning tree But listen without the roots of love every day, girl Your education ain't complete.

Reading and writing arithmetic
Are the branches of the learning tree
But listen without the roots of love every day, girl
Your education ain’t complete.
(Knowing how Michael Jackson turned out, the lyrics from ABC seem a bit creepy.)

I wasn’t done. “…they claimed he was a choir boy and everyone and their dog loved him. But now some blogger has come up with a Facebook selfie that the press miraculously missed. Maybe he’s posing with a pound of cocaine and a Glock stuffed in his shorts. Plus he hijacked a bus load of nuns last week. Am I right or what?”

The president of the United States actually said if he had a son his son would look like this.

The President of the United States actually said of the man in this picture; “If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon”. In my opinion that’s setting the bar pretty low.

“No! The police, they’re going apeshit.” My friend was serious.

I wasn’t.

“So they fired up the racial unrest grievance machine right?” I envisioned a giant dollar sign projected against gloomy clouds like the bat signal. Jessie Jackson springs to action and flies out in his Learjet to fan the flames in honor of folks who’ll never even fly in a Boeing. “So has Jessie Jackson arrived yet?” I laughed. “Wait. Isn’t Jessie dead? His son is in jail. Who’s left?”

“Things are getting out of control…”

“Oh wait Al Sharpton is around right?” I was having a grand time. “Let me guess Al baby wants to have ‘a conversation’.”

I have to admit, the dude rocks a pinstripe suit.

I have to admit, the dude rocks a pinstripe suit.

“Meanwhile, in the name of justice people are stealing televisions and burning cars? Are Korean shopkeepers patrolling with…”

“Shut up dammit! The cops are acting crazy.” My friend was having none of my rudeness.

“Uh huh.” I chuckled. “You know I’m all for rioters getting kicked in the balls.”

“But…”

“Don’t taze me bro. Ha ha ha. I’m not buying it. This time the cops have me in their pocket.” I was just having a grand time.

“You’re being an asshole! This is a civil liberties issue!” My friend barked.

This brought my humor to a standstill. I’m all about civil liberties. I love freedom. It’s a bigger deal to me than just about anything else. Yet here I was cheering for cops which may (or may have not) have shot someone who may or may not have earned that fate. Since when do I make rosy assumptions about competence and a reluctance to run amok on the part of the boys in blue? Was this an internal inconsistency in my personal philosophy?

I seethe about a flash grenade in a baby’s crib so why should I grant the benefit of the doubt in Ferguson? Why am I incensed that the ATF toasted a bunch of Jesus Freaks in Texas but perfectly happy if they stomp on presumptive rioters in Missouri? My friend was suggesting the locals were acting like authoritarian duouchebags. Why should I doubt that? I’d simply assumed the Feds would make it worse. Throw in a few Cartman jokes (“respect my authority!”) and I’d somehow sided with a group that has a tendency to kick down doors and shoot the wrong person. What had I done?

The conversation ended. I felt thoroughly cowed.

I thought about reading all the news about Ferguson and getting to the bottom of it. I refused. Frankly there’s too much bullshit and I just don’t want to deal with it. Also Al Sharpton was involved and listening to that guy is like stepping in something that’ll stink for a week. As for Obama, perhaps he did a glorious soliloquy or perhaps he ate his teleprompter while golfing but none of that matters. I just don’t feel like parsing the delta between whatever the hell he will do from whatever the hell he said. Besides, what he’s likely to do is more or less nothing. Ask the Ukrainians. Who’s got time for all that swimming against the tide of misinformation?

Further, none of this changes the fact that I’d made a knee jerk generalization that was cynical and mean. Federal involvement doesn’t always make things worse. I’d been wrong to glibly dismiss what might very well be local cops acting like jerks and when the local po po act like jerks it’s the Feds that are supposed to punch ‘em in the groin. Maybe they were doing their job?

So how should I rectify my verbal missteps without shoving my face into Ferguson? I had an idea. In the spirit of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness I decided to seek out and post a picture that’s unlike the nihilism of today’s age. I shouldn’t let cynicism take root and my friend called me on it. Good for him. The Federal Government can indeed do good. Here’s a picture from when staid boring President Eisenhower used the National Guard, guns and all, to do the right thing.

Sometimes calling in the National Guard is indeed the right thing to do.

Sometimes calling in the National Guard is indeed the right thing to do.

This has nothing to do with Ferguson. Nor does it mean that the Feds are guaranteed to be on the side of angels this time. It has everything to do with not letting 2014’s panic du jour cloud the long term good that’s out there. Mea culpa. I was wrong.

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News Blackouts

I regularly and deliberately go on vacation from the news. The manifold benefits of limiting one’s bullshit consumption are simply too huge to ignore. I haven’t heard of many people doing the same thing. Until now! Clarie Wolfe just posted a link to Mr Money Moustache titled The Low Information Diet. It’s an old post but spot on. Some quotes:

“I’m going to suggest that unless you work directly in the news media industry yourself, you too should be paying absolutely no attention to the news. This is an unusual stance in this country, where the 24-hour news cycle has become common and 100 million office workers flop down in front of the television nightly to catch up on the day’s events. Political dramas, stock markets fluctuations, sports, local tragedies, weather, and of course an update on what is new in bikinis and celebrity gossip.”

“The news also completely fucks up the layperson’s perception of risk. The very fact that bad events are rare these days, makes them newsworthy.”

“…it’s not just the news that is the enemy. It’s all forms of irrelevant information…”

Read it all here.

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