Sun. May 30, 2021 – meatspace

After a really nice day on Saturday, I expect a bit of rain today. And some heat. And humidity.

I did one pickup, went to my storage unit and looked at a couple of things. Put some things away. Mainly did cleanup and chores around the house.

There is a bit of drama going on on our street involving one of the aging neighbors. I’ve gotten involved and that took up some time. Getting old sucks. Getting old and sick sucks worse. Getting old and sick when you are the only caregiver for a loved one who is very sick sucks the most. I have a lead on some family and will be talking with them later today or Monday.

Meatspace. Sometimes it would be a lot easier to never leave the house. That’s not a good way to live though. So, meatspace. And the problems that come from the people that live in it.

The rest of today should be spent working on the list.

And stacking.

Always stacking.

nick

Sat. May 29, 2021 – more rain for Houston

Cool and raining turning to hot and raining, or not. Because this is Houston. Yesterday was mostly nice, only getting wet late in the day. Rained and thundered most of the night though. There was so much lightning that I disconnected all my antennas. I don’t usually do that. I’ve got lightning protection on the HF vertical that is out in the open, and the others are all under a tree, which mostly should protect them from a direct strike. I have to get some lightning protection for them too, but it’s low on my list.

Spent the day doing small things, most of which actually advanced a project or two along. Back and neck were improved, so I didn’t want to re-trigger anything by going crazy with the work.

In the evening, the kids rented and re-watched the movie they saw in the theater the night before. It was called Pitch Perfect, and it is hilarious. It’s full of very funny side comments and ‘throwaway’ lines, rude humor, and it is not politically correct. I kept wondering how they could get away with some of the stuff they did. Part of it is they shot it 7 or 8 years ago and the snowflakes weren’t in control. For the rest, I think they did it without a lot of studio oversight or interference. The sequels look equally funny, the second grossing even more than the original did, and wikipedia calls it a cult hit. Watch the trailer, and you’ll know if it’s for you. I was very surprised and laughed so hard I was crying. They kept almost the whole team together for the sequels, and I think that shows too. The music is pretty good too, if you are a child of the 80s it’s like the AM radio soundtrack of your life.

Today’s toil will depend on weather. All the usual stuff needs doing. So I’ll do some of it. And some will slip some more.

The garden continues to produce tomatoes in large number. My wife gave away a couple of bags already, which is why I usually only plant a couple of plants, any more and you have far too many fruits. I think the cooler start to the season has helped, as well as getting them in the raised beds instead of pots, or it could be the coffee grounds added to the soil, or that I finally got the soil in good shape, or it could just be the universe laughing in my face… In any case, my stuff languishes, my wife’s stuff looks like a jungle.

The peach tree never flowered, the apple is filling in, and the frozen citrus are definitely d. e. a. d. dead. That is a kick in the gonads, after all the effort that has gone into them, and the fact they were just starting to produce.

Farmers throughout history have learned the same lesson- one bad event and you lose your crop, and then, if it’s all you have, you starve. Even if your garden is doing great, and you have green thumbs, you still need stacks of food. And you need to be ROCK SOLID in your skills and knowledge long before your life depends on it. So start practicing, and keep stacking.

nick

Fri. May 28, 2021 – schooooool’s out for suuuuuummmmer…..

Possibility of rain here in the Bayou city, but otherwise, the same as yesterday, hot and humid, with some sun.

Did a bunch of stuff yesterday, some of it moving my goals along. I’ve found that my auctioneers are very busy and the best way to get them to talk with me and do things for me is to talk to them in person by showing up at their office. Most of them treat their phones like you’d treat a rattlesnake, something I’m seeing in more and more people. Meatspace is becoming increasingly important.

One of the lots I picked up was a bunch of medical supplies. They had hand written unit designations that made it look like an army medic took his bag with him when he went home. Of course most of it is probably out of date but that doesn’t worry me much, it’s stuff that would only be used in extremis anyway, or stuff that doesn’t age out. There are some interesting things out there, if you are lucky and paying attention. Hibid.com is nationwide and is the platform that most of the auctions I patronize are listed on, if you want to check out the ‘scene’.

I’m a big fan of the ‘secondary’ market and believe that it’s the future, at least for a while yet. Retail and the way people acquire goods and services are going through a change, along with everything else in our day to day lives. Part of that change is the rise of resellers, and person to person selling. It’s actually a bit worrying for me, as one common element of life in any third world shitehole is the proliferation of street vendors and unofficial marketplaces. I see it growing in the areas around my neighborhood, I see it around my secondary location. Not a good sign in my estimation. (Flip the script- can YOU become one of those vendors? You might have to if things degrade that much.)

You may want to get some practice in the new marketplace, just like you need practice in any endeavor. Observe, pay attention, do what the others there already are doing. Do they haggle? Do they expect some chat in addition to the transaction? Do they expect a bag or box for their purchases? Is cash king? (it may not be, there are a lot of phone based person to person payment systems, and the “unbanked” seem to be using them.) One other thing, are the buyers using coins? I’d argue that if they are, you should be too, otherwise you’ll be marked as “rich” because you aren’t counting every penny.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that in some cultures, the females will be doing the shopping, handling the money, but there is a watchful male with them. He’s really in charge, but apparently can’t be bothered to actually do the ‘little things’. I hate seeing that for cultural reasons, or rather, the destruction of OUR culture reasons. If you’re male, and you are in that sort of a marketplace, you are going to stand out if you don’t have a female to do those things for you. (and yes, I’m talking about the US, in thrift stores, the Goodwill Outlet, and swapmeets and yard sales. We are losing.)

During conflicts the ‘outsider’ is always suspect. Start paying attention and realize that you might be the outsider, even in your own home town. How do you dress, move, comport yourself? It may be to your advantage to be obviously ‘foreign’ as people won’t expect you to know the unwritten rules, as long as things are ‘normal’. But if the mood shifts, or violence is in the offing, you want to disappear, blend, fade to grey. Pay attention now. Start learning** while it’s not a matter of life or death.*

And build up those stacks, so you don’t have to venture into danger unnecessarily.

nick

(* equally true for rural or city areas that are nominally part of our culture. You show up at the Quik E Mart in rural America with a problem, and you will get a lot more help if you are “might be one of us” rather than “f’ing rich city boy”, and the same is true in NYFC. You should be able to fit in enough that you are in the ‘provisionally not a threat/outsider/unknown’ category rather than ‘you’re not from around here are you, boy?’*)

(** for practice, there are usually farmer’s markets on weekends, and there are always ethnic stores, even quite large grocery stores. Every city has a swap meet, maybe only one weekend a month, but usually every weekend. You’ll know if you venture too far off the beaten path. The interrupted conversations, the guarded looks, the people who suddenly leave are all good indicators that you are recognized as an outsider and a (possibly dangerous) unknown***. There are a different set of markers when you are recognized as an outsider and you are tagged as “prey”. In that case, you don’t want to stick around, and it would be a great time to have a reason for being there, like “Can I speak to the owner? I’m from the local agency and we’re doing outreach with local businesses… oh, he’s not here?? Thanks, I’ll check back later.”**)

(***for examples, you can watch xiaomaNYC on youtube, and pay attention when he goes into an area or a business where he sticks out, and then note the change when he gives them a REASON why he’s there “I’m learning pashtun and I am out practicing my speaking skills”.***)

Thur. May 27, 2021 – last day of school for the kids

Hot and humid, possibly sunny too. Or so they say. It was nice yesterday, but I was crippled up with back pain so I mainly stayed in.

This is getting ridiculous. I sit in my chair too long, my leg muscles contract, and that pulls stuff out of alignment. The problem then ‘zig zags’ up my back to my neck. This from observation and talking with the doc today. Upshot is, move around more, and get serious about stretching. So now stretching is going to nibble at my day too. On the plus side, time spent stretching should cut down the time spent hurting, and should keep me from being non-productive.

I did get a couple of small things done despite being nauseous all day.

Today I am supposed to drop off auction items. That is top of the list. It’s also the last day of school for the kids, and they will not want to sit around waiting for a pickup, which is understandable. That kills my momentum and afternoon however. That’s life though.

Kids and wife are playing with the new Switch game device. Hard to call it a console, when you can take it with you and use the built in screen, but also hard to call it a handheld, when you put it in the cradle and connect to your big screen tv and pull off the controllers so you can sit on the couch. Games are about the biggest entertainment market. IIRC they are bigger than movies, tv, and music combined. Dollar per hour, I think that games are usually really good value for your entertainment buck too.

One example of how big gaming really is, I keep running into bands and songs on youtube where the comments are full of “I came here from XXXXXX game and really like this music, anyone else?” and the chorus of similar comments is overwhelming. You Want It Darker, by Leonard Cohen was my latest example, and it featured in about 3 video games, and at least two TV shows. The comments from the gamers outnumbered the TV viewers dramatically. LOTS of music featured in video games, and the players notice and seek it out. The world is changed wrt media.

Of course the world is always changing, but the PACE of the change is accelerating, and I think the change is happening faster than people can internalize. It’s not just tech either, but almost every aspect of our lives. This plays into my theory that we are living through one of the periods where everything changes.

A lot of people aren’t gonna LIKE all those changes. Which just adds to the general disorder and upheaval coming. And it is coming. It’s already started.

Keep stacking needful things.

nick

Wed. May 26, 2021 – more stuff to do, more rain forecast

Same weather forecast as yesterday. Rain for parts of Houston, hot and humid. Although, for us mid 80s really isn’t “hot”. Yesterday as I drove all over the Houston metro area and even some rural areas north of town, I could see the storm cells in the distance all around, and I drove through enough to know that almost everyone got some rain. Today should be the same and that’s a bit of an issue because the ground is saturated. The bayous are filling up, and we’re going to see flooding soon.

One of my errands yesterday was a Costco run. Picked up the usual things, but also some extensions to my stores. Grabbed another 50# of rice, at 32c/pound. Didn’t get much meat. They were completely out of spiral sliced ham. No lamb at all. Usually they have roasts, chops, and ribs. I got one package of chicken thighs for the freezer and one package of their “master carved” ham. Beef was all more expensive than I was ready to pay. I can still get it on sale, but if we go a couple of weeks without a sale, I might have to ratchet my ‘base’ ‘willing to buy’ price up another notch. Pork wasn’t cheap, and I decided that Costco pork was just too lean for me so I don’t usually buy it there anyway.

All of the canned veg that I noticed was national brands. Our Costco had substituted the Kirkland brand for all veg pre-wuflu, but it was all back to the big brands yesterday. Don’t know if that is indicative of anything bigger, or just what they could get into the store.

They did have Mountain House Freeze Dried in the “Adventure Pack” boxes. I picked up another. They are heavy on breakfast and lunch, so not a great deal, but very convenient and light and FDs should have a place in everyone’s preps.

During one of my pickups I chatted with the auctioneer about prices and buyers. He agrees with me that more people are taking advantage of the resale auctions to save money on everyday purchases. He worries too that they will eventually run out of money for anything other than daily necessities, and his sale item mix is heavily weighted toward discretionary items. Prices in general are a bit lower this week than last on discretionary items. Could be falling demand showing up. (Buyers new to the auctions are generally excited by the low prices and buy a bunch of stuff. That tapers off over time. We’re seeing a bunch of new buyers which might be propping up prices.) Food for thought.

Today I’m supposed to finally be dropping off some small amount of stuff with one of the local auctions. I might still get a chance to drop off more later. The auctioneers are all crazy busy and are mixing estate sales in with resale items, or mixing resale in with estates. In other words, they are all jumping at every dollar they can, and they are scrambling to keep up with demand, and trying different things to find stuff that will sell well.

My un-paid-for pokemon cards will get relisted in a new sale, and I’m adding vintage hot wheels and some other smalls while I have the chance. She doesn’t want another 10 bins of stuff from me yet despite telling me initially that she’d take as much as I could bring. Any is better than none though.

It feels like the window to sell off unwanted stuff is closing. And that’s bad.

If you haven’t figured out an inflation hedge, you should take another look at that. Everyone is noticing that prices are up. Physical gold in large amounts? If you can swing it, you might want to… just saying. Half a year’s expenses in gold might make all the difference in getting through whatever is coming. I am not so sure about half a year in cash, and even less sure about money in ‘investments’. I remember my money market account being locked up for two years when it ‘broke the buck’ in 2008, until they decided what to do. Very few people can call the top of a market successfully, but we all know that history hasn’t been eliminated, and what can’t go on forever, won’t. I’ve been ringing that bell for a while, but … I’ve lived the conviction too. Caution should be your watchword, greed should be your nemesis.

And stacks will help, no matter what.

nick

Tues. May 25, 2021 – even Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn lived through it

Warm and damp, but maybe not raining all day. Yesterday finally dried up in the mid and late afternoon, but by then everything was saturated and my day was shot.

So I stayed in and did cleaning and paperwork. I let it go far too long. Every year I think I will get a better handle on it, and every year I don’t. I don’t beat myself up too hard about it anymore, but it does lead to stress for my wife and me, that could be avoided by some more consistent habits. It also takes big chunks of time when I leave it to be done last minute, that I’d be better off using for just about anything else.

That points out two things- staying on top of a job by doing little bits as they come in saves the big effort later, and the flip side, you can spend a great deal of time doing stuff a little bit at a time, that you completely lose track of because it gets lost in the noise of your normal life. In other words, you can either piss away a lot of time on small tasks, or you can use the little bits of time efficiently and save a big continuous chunk for use later. I guess it depends on the task and your personality which is which…

Today I’ve got auction stuff to drop off if the weather is dry, an orthodontia appointment for oldest, and a Costco run, along with the usual errands.

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The idea that hyperinflation might be coming is spreading throughout the prep-o-sphere and related circles on the blogoverse Venn diagram. Peter has some interesting things aggregated over at https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/ I’ve linked to him before, his ongoing observations on irregular warfare and his experiences in failed states and conflict zones are well worth your time. He mostly blogs about gun stuff and writing with a healthy dose of preparedness (not necessarily ‘prepping’.) Lately he’s been addressing some of the basics as if they’ve just come up for him (which is odd) but it does lead to some good comments. There is also the usual bunch of “waddabout-ism”- “waddabout after the zombies eat your wife, what’ll you do for laundry then?” and shite like that that always crops up… This time it was “waddabout after your pile of stored food runs out? Waddabout then? Huh?” Go read the post and the comments for yourself, and then think about it.

My response there was that all your preps basically give you time and choices when it comes to adapting to the new circumstances, and that there are always more options. Which led to a comment about solar powered freezers and a company I’m not familiar with, SunDanzer that specializes in off grid freezers. I don’t have any experience with them, but they look the business, and it’s one more option, so I’m linking it here.

It is VERY common when talking about storing food, especially frozen food, to get the “waddabout”. What about when the power goes out? Get a gennie. What about when the gennie runs out of fuel? Go to solar and batteries. What about when you’ve eaten all the frozen food? Well, you won’t need to worry about powering the freezer, you’ll be too busy working on your garden, hunting, or roasting strays over gasoline fires… The “waddabout” thinks every option is the only one, the last one, and because it’s limited or has flaws, it’s useless. The “waddabout” is frustrating and can be infuriating if you’ve already asked the questions and considered answers.

It’s frustrating because asking the question the “waddabout” asks IS valuable, if you don’t ask it as a ‘gotcha’ but as a way to explore second and third order effects and their problems. Absolutely ask “what do we do when the fuel runs out”? but then find an answer that works for you. Then iterate again and again, as far as your time, money, experience, and imagination will allow. Just going through the exercise is valuable. Actually doing some of the stuff to mitigate the problems is even more valuable. The “waddabout” stops with the first question, and sits gloating with his triumphant ‘gotcha’ shutting down the discussion. It’s a lot easier than actually prepping.

Attitude is everything. Mine is that “I’m going to get through this.” “I am going to get my family through this”, for whatever the values of ‘this’ turn out to be. This illness. This job loss. This economic collapse. This worldwide pandemic. This civil disturbance. This race war. This gulag.

Whatever the S in the SHTF turns out to be, I’m getting through it. Skills, people, and stuff will help. You need some of each, and more besides. Keep stacking.

nick

(and not just get through it, LIVE and prosper afterward. Don’t forget that after you get through it, you’re just getting started…)

Mon. May 24, 2021 – Last week of school, last week of freedom for me..

Well the forecast calls for light rain, but we all know that means SOME PART of Houston will be getting rain, but not necessarily MY part of Houston. 20% chance of rain here seems to mean that 20% of Houston will get rain… and the temps are low 80s, so pretty much just like yesterday.

I’m really hoping for a break in the wet so I can do some local auction deliveries.

I spent yesterday puttering around, doing indoor stuff all day because of the steady drizzle. The few moments without water from the sky were used to deal with trash cans, take trash out, and get some stuff indoors from the truck. I got some household restocking done (moving from stores to use areas), some closet clean up, a bit of PC work, and generally just moved from one small project/task to another.

Today I really need to get a bunch of stuff out of the house, and out of the storage unit, and to the auction. It would be nice to get some stuff done with the new truck too, like installing the dash cam and a radio, not high priority though. Of the two, the dash cam is probably the easiest because there are fewer choices involved and no need to move interior trim panels.

The main ‘hang over’ task is getting the pickup truck to the repair place. The delay has been because I need it to move stuff for the ‘pallet’ auction. I may have to suck it up and rent a trailer for the Expy and just get the Ranger on the road to repaired. A trailer is cheaper than a rental car and would let me keep moving on the other auction. At least my back and neck are back to ‘normal’.

I need to visit Lowe’s or HD too and do some actual shopping. I’ve got to replenish a couple of the plumbing fittings I used up, I’d like to see lumber prices with my own eyes, and I’m hoping to catch kerosene on close out. It’s that time of year, and I would like to have some in my stacks for the next cold spell. I’m pretty sure there will be another. Any garden veg plants that are left might be nice, and I’ll add some seed packets to the stack too. I’ve got room in the beds for some more plants, and more of the ‘salad’ veggies that you can keep planting every two weeks. If they have any citrus trees, I’ll grab one or two as well. Mine are not coming back from the freeze.

And on top of everything else, it’s time to get the hurricane preps going. First storm was already here, and moved up north off of the East Coast. Yikes. I need to keep moving the generator projects along, get some fuel rotated out, refill some propane bottles, maybe get a propane conversion for the Honda 3000, and on and on. Time flies.

If you haven’t already, start trying your hand at gardening, even if it’s just herbs and salad. If you’re already growing veg well, think about stockpiling some more of whatever you use, be it soil additives, pest control, or canning jars. Add some seeds to your stacks too. Just buying a seed vault isn’t enough, you need stuff that grows in your area, and you need practice.

If you haven’t already, think about beefing up your home’s physical security as part of your spring cleanup. Lights, cameras, driveway or gate alarms, landscape changes, and door and window reinforcements should all be on your radar. We’ve talked about specific small things you can do that will make a difference a few times; search or keywords should find the posts and comments.

If you haven’t already, sign up for a couple of email alerts from companies like Palmetto State Armory, Gunwinner, AR500 armor, and the like to see when ‘stuff’ come into stock. Glock pistols are available, and not at crazy inflated prices. Taurus G3s likewise. PSA had an upper/ lower self assembled kit rifle for a not crazy price this weekend. Memorial Day sales are just around the corner. Ammo has come down slightly in the last week too, when it’s in stock. If you are lacking, you still can get to stacking… but it will take a bit more money and time.

Which is the crux of the problem. How much time do we have, and how much money can we spend? Both are likely to be in limited quantity soon. As always the quality triangle still holds true, Good-Fast-Cheap, pick any two. And then stack.

nick

Let me know how does your garden grow?..

Sun. May 23, 2021 – another week without SHTF, hooray!

Warm and wet, possibility of rain, probability of hot. Maybe some sun. Saturday was that way with parts of town getting a lot of rain, some none, and some a few showers.

I ran my errands,and the details are in yesterday’s comments. The best news was that I caught up with one of the local auctioneers and he’ll take more of my stuff next week.

I made a couple of good finds this week at the thrift stores, and while recounting the tale, it occurred to me that there is a bit of universal truth in the story. I make money, or live better on less, or score some great preps by RECOGNIZING or SEEING something the other guy didn’t. That is the universal truth- that by training yourself to recognize or see a particular thing, you will succeed where another fails.

Some people have been trained by their life experiences to see and avoid predators. Some to see and seize on financial opportunities. Some to see prey and victimize others. Cops are trained to see the crime. Prospectors learn to see the raw ore in the rock, and foragers train their eyes to see the mushrooms or the ginseng under a log or a leaf. People that handle a lot of cash often develop a great sensitivity and spot fakes that other people might not. Proofreaders and copy editors spot mistakes with the written word. In every endeavor, from sports to hunting,from crime fighting to committing criminal acts, people learn to see what others don’t.

The message for preppers is both simple and hard. You can learn to be more successful at every aspect of your life. Usually it takes a lot of experience and a lot of hard knocks, before you see what others don’t. Sometimes, you don’t even know that you are consciously doing it, and a good teacher or coach can draw that out, so you can expand on it and explain to someone else what you are doing, and learn to do it that much better. And that leads to the hard part. You need to practice, and you need to train, and you need feedback and coaching to shortcut the otherwise long and hard won knowledge.

Fortunately, the easier part is that there are more opportunities for learning, training, and coaching than there ever have been. Youtube (even though politically they are the enemy) hosts an astounding number of creators sharing the things they have learned the hard way. From gardening to self defense, small engine repair or electronics repair to leather working, from thrifting to crafting, sewing to welding, there is someone out there teaching you to spot the differences and see the things other people are missing.

Of course, if there is someone willing to have you learn from them in meatspace, you should do that too.

Take advantage of the time and resources available to increase your skills, no matter what they are, and to expand your abilities. It’s a lot cheaper to stack skills than 556 at this point in time too, so level up some skills, WHILE you keep stacking more stuff.

nick

Sat. May 22, 2021 – up late, slept late

Patchy clouds, high in the low 80s, occasional sprinkles. Which is what yesterday was like for our part of Houston.

Friday was a good day. Did my errands. Gave daughter 1 a nice birthday.

Then I ate far too much sugar and fell asleep in the chair in the office, until a chase on the scanner woke me around 3am. THEN I went to bed properly.

Today I’ve got two auction pickups, a trip to my storage and secondary locations to unload stuff, and some more birthday activities planned. Busy day for me.

Short shrift for the keyboard and my internet friends. Talk amongst yourselves….

(and stack some stuff)

nick