Two Colorados – The Prospect of Northern Colorado Secession

Northern Colorado Wants to Secede from Colorado

This is an article from July 2013 I bookmarked back then with the intention of posting it just because I thought it was an interesting cultural divide within the same borders that has been festering for a while now.    Just like some countries don’t seem to make sense when you consider ethnic/regional/religious/political differences, states can be the same way.   The divide between Northern and Southern California is one of the more well known examples but there’s also Illinois, Michigan, Florida and arguably New York that seem to be two different worlds.

Probably within my lifetime, Colorado has made that list of places that are really hard to paint with a single stroke.   You have the conservative rancher types in the Great Plains, progressive urbanites in the Denver/Colorado Springs corridor and then the various cats & dogs out in the mountains.    The big divide in the state is of course rural vs. urban and that’s probably more or less the big divide just about everywhere but in a place like Colorado it might be a little more pronounced.   I can see the environmentalism of places like Denver and Boulder being at odds with the ranchers and farmers out on the plains.   I can also see the left-leaning tendencies of the urban areas being at odds with the rugged individualism of everywhere else in the state too.

In the article they’re talking about a movement to get rural Northern Colorado to split from the rest of Colorado.   To add a little more to the idea that some borders don’t make sense, a few counties from Nebraska are said to be in on it too.   Although the nuances of Nebraska aren’t as visible at the national level (same with Iowa, although they’re there), there’s a big divide between (very) rural Western Nebraska and urban Omaha/Lincoln.   I’ve even heard of tongue-in-cheek motions for Omaha to leave Nebraska and link up with politically moderate Iowa and leave the ultra-conservative Great Plains/Western Nebraska folks to themselves.     For what it’s worth, the world of an insurance agent in Omaha and a rancher somewhere outside of Kearney are pretty damn different and with different concerns.

This summer I went and visited an old friend I was in Iraq with who is a police officer in the Denver area.   It was my first time in Denver and it was really cool to get the tour of the city from someone who grew up in a very rough part of it and then sees the city from the police officer’s perspective.   He pointed out all kinds of cool little things that wouldn’t make it into Frommer’s.      One of the things that kept coming up was the huge cultural divide within the city, almost like three different places.   There’s the Denver that’s mostly white, progressive and affluent (see: “hipsters”, “yuppies” or whatever term is en vogue now.   Getting sick of hearing “hipsters” but that’s a different story) and then there’s the mostly Hispanic Denver that isn’t as well off and isn’t as interested in progressive politics.   The third Denver would be African-American but as I understand it isn’t as much of a factor these days as the White/Hispanic divide there.   I don’t think there’s necessarily a ton of antagonism between the factions, but little interaction and some frustration about having to deal with divergent agendas in local politics – it’s not so much that people have conflicting agendas, it’s that generally the different groups aren’t interested in the others’ issues.     It’s kind of interesting how these kind of fissures can boil all the way down to the local level and aren’t just an issue for countries.

Denver was a really cool city though, I thought….and I enjoyed both Chicano Denver and the progressive White Denver.    There’s probably not a better place in the world that I know of to get a good mix of urban offerings and the great outdoors, except maybe San Fransisco.    It was also the first time I’ve traveled by rail with the except of a couple short trips in the UK.    It’s about twelve hours from Osceola (45 minutes or so south of Des Moines.  I wish we had Amtrak!   They talk about it, but I doubt we’ll see it.) to Denver, which leaves at about 7:30 pm or so and arrives around 7:30 am in Denver.   I got a few hours of reading done and felt a little more comfortable than I would’ve on a plane (but yeah, the flight between DSM and DEN is about an hour and a half).    It beats the ten hour drive through Nebraska, too.    I’m sure I’ll repeat that voyage sometime in the future…

 

 

 

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Russian Jet Buzzes American Ship – Ohhh Myyyyy!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T

The war drums against Russia are getting a little out of hand.

Russian Jet Passes Over US Warship

So there was a US Navy vessel in the Black Sea (that’s the one that’s, you know, right there by Russia) and a Russian fighter flew by it a bunch of times and it’s headline news and everyone’s shocked and appalled that those goddamned Ruskies would do something like that and wondering why our boys didn’t shoot that pinko son of a bitch down.

This sort of thing actually happens all the time when two formidable militaries get close to each other.   I knew a guy that was in the USAF during the Cold War and stationed on the Alaskan coast who said that one day a week the Russian jets from their base across the Bering Strait would come over and buzz the towers and then the next day our fighters would go buzz theirs.   All that was exchanged were some universally recognized obscene gestures.

I also wonder if there would be the same sort of indignation if American jets harassed a Russian naval vessel in the Gulf of Mexico or somewhere else close to home.   I’m sure that happens pretty much any time a Russian vessel gets anywhere near the US and it should happen.   I have no problem at all with letting foreign powers know who’s neighborhood (not “backyard”, haha, that’s a different subject) they’re in.

I just thought this was one more silly example of the powers-that-be seeming like they’re foaming at the mouth to start something with Russia.   I’ve said before that the “human rights crisis” that magically surfaced when Obama was going to have to have a face-to-face with an angry Putin with some tough questions over Syria at the G-8 was pretty much bullshit, the media coverage of the Sochi Olympics was out of hand from the start (my favorite was the “this is just like the Munich Olympics with Hitler!” line.) and whenever I click on any mainstream media news site it seems like there’s always some “top 10 reasons why Russia sucks” article.

I also think that the revamped cold war thing has kind of lionized Russia and Putin to a small handful of Americans, including myself.    They’re not perfect by any means, but they’re openly hostile to a lot of the things that I think are the worst aspects of the United States – namely the way we run our foreign policy.   Sometimes we make the Russians out to be this bulwark against American militarism and soulless consumerism.   I suppose they are in a way, but they’ve got their own agenda in mind too.

Anyways, I hope cooler heads prevail in all of this bullshit and maybe we go back to arguing about the worldview of chicken franchises and other things of that nature instead of rattling Russia’s cage.   If we want to keep this up, I’ll gladly offer my services to Uncle Sam in the way of compiling a list of chicken hawks that have been pushing for this kind of thing to send in first.

 

 

 

 

 

ohmy

Posted in Geopolitics/World Economy | Leave a comment

Food Oasis Project

https://www.facebook.com/foodoasisproject

So this is a new project I’m working on with a handful of other people in the area.    The point is to help people start community gardens and turn unusued/under-utilized space into productive land, especially in areas where access to healthy options is limited (“food deserts”).   I’m pretty excited about this project and so far it’s off to a good start.    I’m not sure if I should spill out a lot of details before they really come to fruition, but we’ve got a project under way with one community center near me on revamping their community garden, our foot in the door for a project at a prominent local institution either this fall or next year and talking to some enthusiastic folks at another local institution which could be a big project.    We’re also making a ton of great contacts around the community.    It’s starting to look like a lot of good things can come out of this and I’ll be sure to share.

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Backyard Permaculture, Edible Landscaping, Mini-Orchard or Something Like That.

I’ve been on the fence about where I see myself living in the long term and this year I decided that I’ll probably stay here for a while.   I have a few fruit trees in the ground and some other edible perennials, but I’ve been a little hesitant to put things in the ground just because of the likelihood that I was going to move somewhere else.    There’s a lot of good reasons for me to stay put in this house (for one, I’ll have it paid off by the time I’m 39 at the current rate) and unless I do something like marry Mrs. Duggar, it’ll probably meet every need I’ll have in the future.

Not only was the prospect of moving on my mind, I also told myself that I needed my lawn for my dogs.    This is true, but it dawned on me that the majority of the tree exists in the air and underneath the ground and there’s usually only a small trunk at the surface level.  No shit, Ryan.    Putting in a few trees wouldn’t take hardly anything at all from the dogs.   They might even like having more things to run around, more things to observe and more shady spots in the summer.

I’ve had my order out for plants for quite a while and I’m fine-tuning my plans for where things are going.   I called the utility companies the other day to get them to mark out the lines, so hopefully they get here tomorrow.   Then over the next few daysI’ll put the trees and shrubs in.

I have the following trees coming:  Plum, Crabapple, Sweet Pit Apricot, Cherry, a 5-in-1 Pear and a mini-dwarf apple.    I picked up a few more container-sized trees – two Evereste Crabapples and a Necta Zee nectarine.

I have raspberries, several currants, elderberries, sea buckthorn, gojis, Nanking cherries, kiwi, Rugosa roses, maypop and a few other odds and ends coming too.

The plan this year is to put down the trees and start working on a food forest where I’ll have the trees surrounded by layers of shrubs, herbs, roots and vines.    I’d like to put in a brick path that leads to….somewhere and have this path lined with shrubs and mini-dwarf trees.

My front yard is fairly shady with a few partial-shade spots and a bit of full sun areas.   Right now I have a little bit of catnip, a dwarf peach tree and about a dozen or two strawberry plants here and there but I’d like to get more production out of the front.   Right now I’m thinking of taking a sunny space about 3′ x 20′ on the side of the house and filing it with edible ornamentals as well as putting in crabapple and cherry trees and maybe elderberries.

Another project I’d like to tackle is the issue of my deck.   It’s a nice deck and very big but it’s kind of miserable during the day in the summer just because it’s so damn hot.   I’d like to make the space productive and nice to hang out in, but it’s hard to get things to grow in containers with the sun constantly beating down on it.    It’s really nice at night though.   I’m not sure if I want to build a trellis over part of it but I suppose that’s an option.

I’ve drawn up a rough plan for what I have and have coming and will post pictures and updates as I go as well as some of my thoughts and anything I come across that I feel is worth sharing with the world.    The more I think about it, I have a lot of possibilities with my less than a quarter acre lot and no reason NOT to go wild.   My neighbors probably already think I’m a little weird, I don’t see myself trying to sell the place anytime soon and my dogs will be fine.

Posted in Gardening, Urban Homesteading | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Damn It Feels Good To Be An Author

So Wolverines:  Reflections on Red Dawn isn’t going to go down as the most important and highly acclaimed book in the Western canon or anything, but I had a lot of fun writing it and overall, I’m pretty proud of it.   Two things struck me over the past week that put it back into my mind.   First I filed my taxes and had a 1099 misc form for royalties to claim.   Royalties.   It hasn’t made me rich or anything and in the big picture the amount I made this year wasn’t much, but it was exactly that amount more than I’d ever imagined I’d make in book sales if you would’ve asked a few years ago.    Oh yeah, I also had a small amount to claim on foreign book sales, which was kind of cool too.   Again, the total amount wasn’t enough to quit my day job but it was very inspiring to see that.

The second thing is that every now and then I get an email from someone who read the book saying that they enjoyed it and usually they’ll share their thoughts on a certain topic relating to the film and/or ask me my thoughts about it.   I absolutely love this and I’ve had some good discussions with other fans of Red Dawn about some subjects that weren’t in the book.   I got one of these emails this week and it made my night.   This is more inspiring than a 1099 Misc form.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – we’re very fortunate to live in a time where average people are able to create things and get it out to the world.   You can write a book and self publish it, make youtube videos about whatever, podcast, spread your band’s music via a ton of different channels, sell things on a bunch of different sites, write about whatever on a blog, etc.    It’s really not that hard.     Hell, it only winds up being about $120 a year, a (very) limited amount of technical know-how and a bit of time for me to have this site.     The fact that the traditional gatekeepers are no longer an excuse for anyone to do pretty much anything is pretty inspiring too.     If you want to do something, do it.

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Xochimilco, Permaculture and Chinampas

Last month I went to Mexico City and Guadalajara.   Great trip, maybe I’ll write about it later.    One of Mexico City’s attractions is the floating gardens of Xochimilco, which is on the southern edge of the giant metroplex.    It’s an interesting place at face value, but what put it on my radar was that it’s kind of considered the textbook example of chinampa farming, or at least what’s easily accessible for a traveler to see.

Chinampas are a method of agriculture developed in pre-Columbian Mexico where they would create artificial floating peninsulas with sediment and woven reeds along the banks of a body of fresh water.   These small areas were intensely cultivated and highly productive, because they could sustain so much life.    This system is probably the most pound-for-pound productive system we know of in agriculture.  The good folks at Midwest Permaculture do a great job of explaining the concept and showing pictures here.

There’s some key permaculture concepts at play in chinampas.     There’s the edge effect; there’s more productivity where two ecosystems meet.   Due to the narrow layout of chinampas, just about the whole thing is land interacting with water.   The deep root system creates another edge for aquatic life and usually there are trees which create another ecosystem above.    This means that there’s a lot more potential for interaction between species than in one clearly defined ecosystem (i.e. in the middle of the water, a field, etc.).   On a practical level this diversity keeps pests in check.   If one species gets out of hand, there’s always going to be something there to prey on it, unlike a field of corn or something where there’s not much diversity.    The plant mix was diverse as well, so a potential pest would only have so much to feed on anyways.    Oh, being surrounded by water created a microclimate that had a moderating effect on temperatures too – it’s a little warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Building a chinampa would’ve been a little labor intensive, at least more so than digging up the ground, but it saved labor in the long run.   There were no irrigation requirements as the surrounding water soaking in pretty much took care of that.   Once they were established it was just a matter of planting and picking.    On some chinampas they would build trellises between them where they would grow vines (squash, beans, whatever) over the water and harvest by boat.

So that’s the mile high view of chinampas.   A lot has been written about them and there’s a lot more that could be said about them.   On to Xochimilco…

Xochimilco is a town, I suppose a far-flung suburb of Mexico City even though as the crow flies it’s really not THAT far from the city center.    It takes about an hour and a half to get there from the city center – you take one subway line to the end of the line and link up with the above-ground train line that goes through the southern suburbs and Xochimilco is at the end of that line.   It’s not too difficult to get there, it just takes a little time.

The train station of Xochimilco is about a half mile from the boat docks (embarcaderos) and there’s signs guiding the tourist to these docks.   There are bicycle taxis that will take you there, but I decided to walk.    The town itself reminded me so much of Iraq to the point where it was almost kind of creepy.    The layout, the earthy colors of the buildings, narrow sidewalks, the kinds of businesses and the smell with almost exactly identical to the town that I was in there.   Even though it’s kind of a touristy place, it really didn’t look like it walking down the main drag.   I made it there late in the afternoon and figured that if I were out past nightfall, it would probably be a better idea to take one of those bicycle taxis to the station rather than walk through “real Mexico”.     To be fair, it did seem peaceful though.

I think I fell for one of their tricks.   When I got close to the docks, I turned and followed a sign.   An old man that was hanging out on the corner stopped me and pointed me down another block, which led to the first or second series of docks.   I guess these ones are the more expensive ones and they get a little cheaper the further you go down.   Oh well.   It cost about $25 US for some guy to spend an hour pushing my ass around some canals in a gondola.  Not a bad deal.

The canal system is lined by people’s homes, which was kind of cool.  People had little chinampas in their backyards and the gondoleer (?) pointed out a few different fruit trees.   I’m not fluent in Spanish, but good enough to have some very basic conversations so we didn’t talk too much about things.  I just asked about a few plants and he’d describe the fruits or whatever to me.

I only did a one hour tour, but if you pay more they will take you further out and show you more things of agricultural/botanical interest.    If I ever go back (and I’d like to), maybe I’d do that.     Although the parts I saw aren’t really used for agriculture, you could still feel how full of the life the place was an the effect on the microclimate from the trees and water.   There were a ton of ducks, fish and birds and everything was lush.   Oh, and floating mariachi bands.

The first time I read about this place was probably six years ago and I remember really being intrigued by it and put Mexico City on my “Hmm, maybe sometime” list of places to go and I’m glad I got to see the “Venice of the Americas”.   Although Xochimilco is more about floating around in a nice environment than showing permaculture in action, the permaculture background gave me a different perspective to see the place than the average tourist.   Anyways, here are a few photos:

A few other gondolas

Mexico 098

 

Someone’s backyard.   See the geese and the vines.

Mexico 094

Barking dogs

Mexico 095

 

Selfie

Mexico 099

 

 

I told you there were floating mariachi bands

Mexico 100

All of the boats have names and look kinda like this

Mexico 092

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Prepper Pete Prepares by Kermit Jones, Jr.


 

 

I received this book for review several months ago and I’m long overdue on the review, sorry.    I heard an interview with the author Kermit Jones, Jr. on The Survival Podcast recently and was reminded about it.    It’s a children’s book about survivalism and preparedness loosely based on the ant and the grasshopper parable.

First, I think this book could be subtitled “Why Dad is So Weird”.   Although it’s a brief book (as children’s books tend to be, of course), it covers a lot of ground and introduces a lot of preparedness subjects.    At first glance I thought the mile wide, inch deep approach to just about every issue within the preparedness world was a weakness but the more I think about it, the more the book’s vagueness seems like a strength.   Kids are naturally inquisitive and a lot of ideas in the book probably wouldn’t be understood at first by young children, which would lead to questions and discussion between the parent and the kid(s).

I really think this is one that’s best read with the child as opposed to throwing them the book and expecting a child to figure it out.    When I try to think back to what I was like when I was a young child, I’m sure a lot of the material would be hard to completely grasp and I’m sure I’d have a lot of questions – which would be a good way for a parent to open up discussion on some of these things.   I don’t have kids so what do I know, but I figure that getting a kid to ask their own questions probably goes over better than trying to sit little Jimmy down and tell him about EMPs, economic collapses and shit.      Hell, when it came in the mail I opened it and read it with my then-new girlfriend and it led to a discussion about some of my preparedness measures.   We had talked about these things before, but I suppose it’s a pretty big step to show a girl your hoard of #10 cans of Mountain House, 5 gallon buckets of beans and grains and other things while explaining your theories on America’s gradual economic decline.   For those of you playing at home, she didn’t run off and agreed that it’s a good idea to store food and such.

I also think that if I saw this book when I was a kid, I’d think the pictures and the format was pretty cool.    I can see the value of a coherent story with preparedness themes (i.e. the ant and the grasshopper), but the pictures and descriptions of brass tacks things like gear and action would probably stimulate thought and imagination in a child more than abstract concepts.   For example, I remember watching the scene in Red Dawn where they load up on supplies before heading out to the mountains and thinking through in my head what I would want to take with me and why.   I think this book would have a similar effect.

This book has a few downsides for me.   First, I think some of the subject matter might be a little overwhelming, like bringing up solar flares, EMPs and plagues.   That just seems like a can of worms that is probably best saved for a little later on in life.   I also think that this is a book that should probably stay in the house – I can see a teacher freaking out if little Johnny brought this one to school.    Prepper Pete himself advises being discreet with prepping and I think a kid bringing this book to school would definitely raise some eyebrows and draw some unwanted attention.     I’ll say it again that I don’t have children so I’m a little out of the loop with children’s books, but my impression is that the style and format of the book appeals to a younger child (like early elementary) while the material seems geared towards older children (maybe late elementary).    I really don’t know if that’s a fair assessment of the book or if an older kid would write it off because it seems geared towards younger kids – I remember being touchy about that and my girlfriend’s seven year old daughter always likes to point out that she’s reading “chapter books” now.

I’m not sure if this was the author’s intention, but the book would have a lot of “kitsch” value for adult preppers.    I mean come on, it’s an ant that buys gold and keeps guns around to fend off looters.    I think anyone involved in this world with the ability to laugh at themselves would get a kick out of thumbing through it.   I know I did.

Fuck. Yes.

Fuck. Yes.

I guess there’s a series of Prepper Pete books, including one about gun safety.   If I can get my hands on them, I’ll review them too.

Posted in General Preparedness, Reviews | Leave a comment

Catalonia Secession Updates

About a year ago I wrote something about the prospect of Catalonian Independence and a growing trend towards secession and political devolution in the world.   The regional parliament of Catalonia (in Spain – think Barcelona) has decided on putting out a referendum on November 9, 2014 where they ask two questions:   “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” and “Should that state be independent?”.    A vote of yes and yes doesn’t mean that Catalonia would split away over night, but it would probably really get the ball rolling.

For what it’s worth, the government in Madrid has pretty much dismissed the motion by calling it unconstitutional and saying that the vote won’t be held…but some Catalonians are asking how can they stop it?   Send in the police or military?

Spain ‘won’t have enough tanks’: Catalonia to vote on independence , defy Madrid  

The article above briefly tackles that question by bringing up the fact that the Spanish military has been so scaled down that they don’t have the teeth in Madrid to put them down if they wanted to.    The poor economic climate and ineffective government that leads to weak institutions plays a large part in bringing about these kind of secessionist sentiments, so that’s kind of a double whammy.    We’ll see what happens between now and then.   As of right now, it sounds like la gente in Catalonia are about evenly split on the issue.

…and in another update   Separatist Spirit:   Catalonia Ditches Spanish King’s Christmas Speech

Catalonian public television decided to not air the King’s Christmas speech this year.   They say it was a brief worker’s strike to protest budget cuts and outsourcing and there’s probably truth to that.   The station said it was unrelated to the independence movement but it sounds like too much of a coincidence to not have anti-central government sentiments too it.    I can’t think of a direct apples-to-apples comparison, but this situation would be kind of similar to major TV networks in Texas (or any state) deciding to not play Obama’s State of the Union Address or something in response to something from Washington.   Kind of a bold statement, really.

Again, we’ll see what happens.    I don’t think Spain as we know is going to unravel this year or next or anything, but it’s interesting to watch the developments as things stay rough over there.   I recently met a guy that moved to Spain from Argentina after Argentina’s economic collapse and just moved from Spain to the US due to economic reasons, I should talk to him a little bit about the situation in Spain and his experiences.

Posted in Geopolitics/World Economy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s Getting Darker in Detroit – Half Of All Streetlights Out

Bankruptcy Casts Shadow over Detroit’s Plan to Fix Streetlights

I don’t think anyone is surprised that things are bad in Detroit, but after hearing this segment I got to thinking about a lot of the small things we take for granted in modern civilization…like street lighting.   Have you ever been in an urban environment without them?   It’s pretty fucking eerie.   The town in Iraq I was in didn’t have them and it was very unnerving until you got used to it.    People had fires sometimes outside their homes, lights from their houses or in some areas they’d string lights up on their own if it was a place of business.    I remember one section of street with North American-style street lighting for about half of a block on the edge of town and it was even more unnerving to see that.   I still have no idea what was special about that 100 feet or so.  It made me feel like I was walking down my parent’s cul-de-sac or something.

Detroit’s municipal government has been having financial issues for quite some time and I’ve seen a lot of stories of examples of how these issues have been surfacing there over the past few years.    I think the situation in Detroit is interesting because it’s a scenario of what happens when a large American city can’t kick the can down the road anymore.    The City of Detroit has lost out on a ton of tax revenues due to people jumping ship and a declining local economy.   Not a lot of people are falling all over themselves to pick up Detroit’s municipal bonds either, so they can’t just get a loan and figure it out later anymore….and there will probably come a day when the rest of the country can’t just get a loan and figure it out later anymore too.

Another thing that’s unfortunate for Detroit is that it’s not just that they can’t afford the light bill, it’s that a lot of the street lamps aren’t working because they’re old and in dire need of updates.    Neglect of course makes these things worse.   It’s easier and cheaper to maintain something than to completely replace it…but if you don’t have the money for maintenance and repairs, what can you do?

Posted in The "Deep Shit" Files | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Check Your Change!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin from Gainesville Coins sent me this infographic (?) a while back ago and I thought it was pretty cool as a nice, quick reference for US silver coins.    I never thought about checking large quantities of coins that way.

 

check-your-change

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