Little House in the Suburbs by Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin


I picked this book up a couple of weeks ago and read through it.   There are a lot of different books out there in the urban homesteading realm, each one sharing what one person or family has done with their homes.  There are a lot of similar themes and overlapping info in these books, but ultimately each story is a little different.

First, I didn’t feel that Little House in the Suburbs is quite geared towards my demographic group (although they did give a brief shout-out to the ‘survivalists’ at one point in the book), but that’s just a matter of style and kind of trivial.  As the name suggests, it does have a suburban mother aura to it, but still worthwhile for anyone interested in these subjects to read.

I think one of the strengths of this book was that most of it wasn’t very technical, but sounded more like the kinds of things you would hear from talking with people with experience face-to-face in these matters.   I particularly liked the chapters about goats, bees and chickens, which were some of the best material on these subjects I’ve come across.   In fact, after reading it I think I’m knocked off the fence on getting bees and egg laying hens here and will talk with a local beekeeper sometime this week about bees.

Another notable theme throughout the book is dealing with neighbors and homeowners associations.    Your neighbors are probably going to think you’re eccentric for bringing in livestock to your backyard, but the authors give tips on how to win your neighbors over on these things.   In many places the laws for keeping chickens and bees are up to the city’s discretion and a content neighbor isn’t going to be making calls to the city every day complaining about this or that.   I forgot if this was brought up in the book or not, but it’s also a good way to build community by including your neighbors on these activities if you can – plus it could influence them to take similar actions as well.   Maybe your neighbors would like to do something like keep chickens but thought that you would think they had lost their marbles?  I don’t know…  At any rate, this is an important subject that I think gets overlooked in most books from the genre.

There’s also chapters about preserving food, homemade foods, natural cleaning products, natural health and beauty products and homemade crafts as gifts.  I’ll admit that I skimmed through some of the less-masculine material in these departments.

I also have to say that it’s a good looking book with a lot of good pictures.   Very well done.

I think that the authors unimposing and personal approach to the world of urban homesteading would go over well with people who are new to urban homesteading or maybe just interested in making their life a little more “green”.

The authors have a blog that can be found here:


The Iron Heel by Jack London

This, then, is our answer. We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched.  We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain.”


When it comes to the world of dystopian fiction, I think that there has to be some element of realism in order for it to really be scary.    Sure, that movie Maximum Overdrive about the comet flying over the planet and making all of the machines blood-thirsty killers had me think twice about walking in front of the Coke machine when I was a kid, but the horror and suspense is superficial.  The thing that makes The Iron Heel such a bone-chilling book is that just about everything in the book is completely plausible and had some grounds in reality and/or historical precedent.   Published in 1908, he circumstances of the novel are based on London’s perception of the world at that time and how he saw the course of things going.

First, the story is presented as a historical document that was found 600 years after the fact, with footnotes from a contemporary (or, uh, future?) historian.  The story is written from the perspective of Avis, the daughter of a well-to-do intellectual.   Avis becomes enamored with Earnest Everhard, an alpha-male socialist activist from the working class who her father brings around to political discussions.  Earnest draws in Avis through intelligence, strength and charisma and then challenges her entire way of life.    As Avis tries to research some of Earnests’ claims, she finds layers of corruption and brutality that she had been sheltered from in her upper-class existence.  Avis eventually becomes involved in Earnest’s work and a good portion of the book is dedicated to Earnest expressing his social and political views through various venues.

The bad guys in the book are the “oligarchs” – or the “iron heel”.   The ultra-rich capitalists than ran monopolies – to use Occupy Wall Street’s term, “the one percent”.    This small group wielded their power over other lesser-elites in politics, business, media, finance, academia and religion in order to perpetuate their hold on the world.    I don’t think it’s too outlandish to claim that there are some very rich and powerful people who have a lot of influence over what happens in the world of the above-mentioned fields.    Earnest and the Socialists strive to break the oligarchy and usher in a society based on socialist principles.

As the book progresses, a revolution brews and eventually manifests itself in many different ways throughout the country (and world).  This revolution sees American troops being used against the citizenry (sounds outlandish?   Get out your ouija board and ask someone from Georgia in 1865), guerilla warfare throughout the country, draconian measures taken by the ruling class and widespread suffering.    The revolution fails and ultimately ushers in a couple hundred years of virtual slavery by the proletariat.   The oligarchs were said to have built a large city with this slave labor which very well may have been the inspiration for Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis.   The fact that the revolution fails isn’t a spoiler as that is already made clear (along with a few other things) by the historian’s notes.

Even though this book was published in 1908, most of the book still seems eerily modern.   We can still point to some of the same kinds of shadowy (and sometimes not-so-shadowy) figures with great wealth that seem to influence virtually every aspect of society, even/especially those who we trust to have altruistic motivations, like academia, democratically elected politicians, religion, organized labor, law and the media.   At the end of the day, someone is signing their meal ticket and these people ultimately end up answering to them.   Throughout the course of the book, Avis sees the work of the “iron heel” manifest itself through these fields and some of the stories seem just as timely today as they did then.

London challenges a lot of different belief systems over the course of the book and for this reason I think that anyone with any kind of belief system should look into this book for the gut check that you’ll undoubtedly get from it.  Listing the examples would make enough material for a book in itself.    I can see this book being in the same category as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle as being a gritty work of reformist literature, but I wonder if the reason why The Iron Heel never got the same kind of mileage and notoriety as The Jungle is that it hits too close to home to too many people?    It’s one thing to get people to squirm about their breakfast sausage and canned ham, but London manages to point a lot of fingers in a lot of directions in his book.   I don’t mean this to belittle The Jungle – it is a good one too.

One chapter that hit close to home with me is the “Machine Breakers” chapter where he sits down with a group of petty capitalists, representing the middle class.   Again, it seems eerily modern because if you tweak a few details this same conversation could be had in almost any Tea Party / Ron Paul / Libertarian circle.   The gentlemen talk a lot about “returning back to the ways of the founding fathers”, which Earnest addresses.

In typical Jack London fashion, there’s a lot of references to the natural world and how cruel it can be sometimes.   Men are reduced to animalistic reactions (see “the people of the abyss” and “the philomaths” chapters for the best examples) when civility starts to get some cracks in it.    London expresses that we as a species have not evolved beyond a point to where our actions cannot be explained beyond natural impulses (i.e. acting in self-interest).

London’s brand of socialism has some different packaging than what we’re used to.  “Socialist” is such a loaded word in our society, like “<insert Democrat here> is a socialist!”.   When we hear the word, we usually think of over-educated and smelly trust fund kids rallying for some leftist cause, Latin American despots or limp-wristed Europeans.     The hero in the book, Earnest, comes off as masculine, bold and aggressive with all of the traits of a leader.   London (via Earnest) wasn’t asking for equality to be loftily handed out to everyone – he wanted to see the people that he believed were exploiting the sans culottes knocked down from their positions of power.   London acknowledged and accepted inequality in ability as a fact of life – in fact, it has even been suggested that he was the writer for Ragnar Redbeard’s “Might Makes Right” which vehemently argues this (btw, I think he was eventually ruled out as the writer) and a big fan of Nietzsche.      In other words, reading The Iron Heel isn’t quite the same as reading about female farm workers in Ecuador in The Militant.

Do check out the book if you haven’t.   It’s one you’ll definitely remember as a lot of it probably sounds familiar if you’ve been paying attention.

So let’s relate this to preparedness…

Basically everyone that wasn’t part of the oligarchy had their life made miserable in one way or another.   I would imagine that the people who fared the best financially were people that had skills and were able to sell themselves, such as independent contractors and tradesmen.    The less dependence you had on “the system”, the better insulated you were from outside calamity.     After reading it, I thought more about being able to ‘write my own ticket’ in various ways, like landlording or finding other ways to generate income outside of depending on the oligarchs that currently employ me.

The “people of the abyss” made me think of the kinds of people that you would have to worry about in the event of some kind of calamity – just a few meals away from being hungry and desperate.   Might be a good idea to put some distance between yourself and the unwashed masses if you can and/or try to build a sound community around you…oh, and to find ways to defend yourself.


Copper: The Essential Metal: Supply and Demand

Here’s an article I read on –

Somehow I’ve ended up talking about copper quite a bit and this graphic from the Visual Capitalist does a good job of succinctly explaining the supply and demand outlook for copper.   I’ll have to check back with Visual Capitalist, I like the format of this.

Basically save your copper pennies because the long-term outlook for copper is good as emerging economies around the world uh, emerge.  It says that China’s per-capita copper consumption will double by 2025 (their total consumption is pretty significant already).

Oikos Update 8/30

Today I picked about three good-sized handfuls of French green beans, which I felt was a pretty good haul as well as a few tomatoes.   All of my fall crops have started to sprout as well as a tray of collards, kale, spinach and mustard greens I put out recently.   I’m planning on keeping those in trays until a little bit later on and then transplanting them into the garden beds for a winter crop.   Right now the plan is the use a pop-up greenhouse to keep some stuff through the winter, or at least well into it.

I just finished reading “Little House in the Suburbs” and “Homesteading in the 21st Century”.   I have “Beekeeping for Dummies” I’m currently meandering my way through.   I’ve been on the fence about livestock, but I’m seriously considering getting a few egg laying hens and a beehive.  I found a local backyard beekeepers yahoo group, I’ll see what I can learn from them.   I eat eggs daily, so being able to provide my own would be a big deal for me.   Should be fun.

I have a couple other internet projects going right now, including an eBook on a subject that I feel I’m a total authority on – it’ll be sweet…at least I’ll have fun doing it.   We’ll see.

Other than that, not much going on.

Your Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence

I’ve never read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or any other self-help books for that matter, but I recently heard a list of the 7 habits of highly effective people from Stephen Covey’s book.   One is “be proactive”.

On this one he talks about your “circle of influence” and your “circle of concern”.     Your circle of influence includes all the things you can actually do something about.    This would include things like your health, the skills you learn and generally the choices you make in life.  The circle of concern includes things that are more or less out of your hands.  For example, environmental policy in China, who wins the presidency, national monetary policy, etc.

Proactive people focus on their circle of influence and accept responsibility for their lives via the choices they make.  There are some things you can do to address the things within your cause of concern (voting choices, consumer choices, etc.), but nothing reasonable that will alter the way things are done solely by your actions.    Proactive people choose not to dwell on these things and instead divert their energy to the things they can actually control.     For instance, I could post a graphic on Facebook about Monsanto killing everybody off with high fructose corn syrup and how the Obama administration should step in and do something about it OR I could make choices in my own life to produce as much of my own food as possible and buy food from those outside of the factory farm/GMO world.   Which one would get me further?  Which one would best advance the cause of limiting factory farming – not giving them my business or squawking to people on Facebook about it?

Health care is another example.   My eyes gloss over when people start talking about this subject.   There is nothing I can do about the way things are run in this country…but I do have some choices:    I tend to make healthy choices in what I eat, I get regular exercise, I do things that limit my stress levels and I try to avoid doing things that are unnecessarily risky (i.e. things that start with “hey, watch this!”).   This isn’t a surefire way to avoid the health system – there are always legitimately inherited diseases and accidents, but my odds of not having to deal with the system are a lot better than say, someone who doesn’t exercise, is under a lot of stress, smokes and is under a lot of stress.    The last time I was at the doctor was two years ago due to an accident at work where I ended up with a few stitches.   I haven’t been to my personal doctor in about four years.    Again, I’m not saying that if you do the right things you’re guaranteed to steer clear of that world, but you’ll be doing just about everything you can reasonably do to avoid it.

Covey describes proactive language as things that tend to start with “I can”, “I will” and “I prefer” and reactive language as “I can’t”, “I wish” and “If only…”.

The more I think about it, I know a lot of people who focus way too much on their circle of concern and too little on their circle of influence.   I think this leads to a lot of undue stress and wasted time.   The world is a much more pleasant place when you’re not screaming at FOX News (or MSNBC), fuming over some comments someone made on Huffington Post or anything like that.    It’s ok to have opinions about things and voice them, but I think you’re better off considering what actions you can take in your own life first.   I know of too many people with a lot to say about the world around them, but take very few actions to improve their own lot in life.   What good is it to get worked up about what some guy who owns Chik-Fil-A said about gay marriage or whether or not Obama held his hand over his heart during the National Anthem while your own life is crumbling around you?   Your time is best spent being proactive about the things you can change rather than spending your time reacting to the world around you.

Over the past few years I’ve gotten a lot better about distinguishing between what I can control and what I can’t.   Sometimes I slip.   I know this winter during the Iowa Caucuses I got caught up spending WAY too much time arguing with people on the internet in favor of the Ron Paul campaign to the point where it affected my personal life.   Somehow I doubt that the hours I spent arguing with people on the internet amounted to anything significant.   I could have spent that time doing just about anything else to improve my position in life and would’ve been better off.

My point today isn’t to encourage apathy and indifference – in fact, it’s just the opposite.  I think that we have more opportunities to take actions to improve our lives, our families and our communities than we realize.   I also think that doing our best on the things that are within our circle of influence will pay off a lot more than placing faith in the notorious “they” and “them” that I talk about from time to time to solve the world’s problems.


French 20 Franc Piece – A Good Way To Get a Little Bit of Gold



Yesterday I posted Investing in Silver 101 and I mentioned that one advantage of silver over gold is that it’s a lot more practical to deal with small amounts of silver than it is with gold.   If I wanted to trade somebody metals for something currently worth around $30, I can do that with an ounce of silver.   $30 worth of gold would more or less be a tiny flake and very impractical for barter.  Silver dimes, quarters and half dollars make barter with silver a lot more flexible.

You can get gold in increments smaller than an ounce and the French 20 Franc coin is one way to do it.   Each coin is 90% gold and contains .1867% of an ounce of gold.  I believe the other 10% is copper, which makes the coin more durable for the wear-and-tear of exchange.   The size of the coin is similar to a US nickel.     The coins with Napoleon were minted in the middle part of the 19th Century and the ones with the rooster (national emblem of France) came from the beginning of the 20th Century.   At today’s (8/22/12) prices, you can expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 for one of these coins.

With gold at over $1600 an ounce, buying it might be a little intimidating for the average person but the 20 Franc piece lowers the entry point into the world of gold.   I think it’s also interesting to note that this is an example of a currency vanishing but the coin still retaining its’ value based on the metal content.   What do you think a 20 franc note is worth these days?  Absolument rien, mes amis!

I’ll give my gut feeling on what one of those coins would be worth in an agrarian barter economy:   My guess is that hundreds of years ago this amount of gold would have been able to get something like a day’s work from a skilled craftsman, a sword, maybe some kind of livestock or a month’s rent in someplace fairly modest.


Investing in Silver 101: How To Begin Investing in Silver

1 Ounce Silver Bars

1 Ounce Johnson-Mathey Silver Bars


One ounce Johnson Matthey silver bars

I get people asking me about precious metals every now and then – I’ve noticed a lot more commercials advertising precious metals investing, shysters opening up “We Buy Gold!” shops and a lot of people concerned with the way the economy seems to be going.

There are some similarities between the worlds of silver and gold and some differences, so some of the things I’ll say about silver apply for gold.    Honestly, I know a lot more about silver than I do about gold and I believe it’s more accessible to the average person.    I will go into why I prefer silver later on…



I don’t have a bunch of dates and historical facts for you, but I can tell you that silver has been used as a medium of exchange (i.e. “money”) for thousands of years, at least as far back as ancient Greece and eventually throughout the world.     I can also tell you why silver has historically been used as money.   The value of the silver money was based on the intrinsic worth of the silver.   The intrinsic value of the silver came from the metal’s practical and aesthetic qualities as well as it’s rarity – you can’t just go pick silver off trees.  People wanted silver to do a lot of cool stuff with, but there was only so much silver out there so basically the high demand and relatively low supply made a little bit worth something, so you can carry a respectable amount of wealth in a small piece of silver.  Silver is also very durable and doesn’t degrade over the course of your lifetime (ok, no nit-picking on this, chemists).    The portability plus the durability made it a perfect choice for coinage and trade.

As the civilizations began to trade with each other, silver (and other metals) facilitated this international trade.   When a trader dealt with a merchant from a different civilization, they could agree on pricing because both parties knew what metals were worth.   It didn’t really matter which despot was stamped on the coins, the silver content was the important thing.  Trade in precious metals carried on until approximately the middle part of the 20th Century (the US abandoned silver currency in 1965) – someone in Great Britain trading with someone in the Netherlands could understand the price in Dutch guilder based on the silver content of the guilder compared to the silver in the pound.


Currently silver is not officially traded as a currency, although some governments do issue silver coins which are technically currency.   Approximately half of the world’s silver demand comes from industrial uses. Silver has the highest thermal conductivity and electric conductivity out of all the metals, making it very useful for many electronic and high-tech items.  Your cellphone probably has a tiny bit of silver in it.  So does your computer.    Photography film used to make up about a third of the annual silver usage, but that has been shrinking due to people not using film often anymore and opting for digital.   On the other hand, the increase in digital cameras leads to an increase in demand for silver in the way of electronics.

Another portion of the silver supply is used for things like jewelry and silverware.   Just like our distant ancestors, we still find the metal nice to make pretty things with.

Another portion of the supply is used for medical and dental applications, such as fillings, surgical tools, bandages and even some medicines.   Some of this is beyond me, so I’ll just post the Wiki link here if you want to read more on the medical/dental uses of silver.   It is kind of neat to hear about the different properties it has.

What’s left is used for investment purposes.


People invest in silver largely as a hedge against inflation and see it as a way to preserve wealth (think of it as freezing your money as it’s worth today).  Governments can print money, but they can’t magically come up with the silver to correspond to the money supply.   As everything else goes up, silver will theoretically go up in proportion to the money supply.  In reality, silver isn’t inherently any more special than any other commodity, but the fact that it’s durable, easily transferable and portable make it a better option than other commodities.   For example, today (8/21/12) about three ounces of silver is worth one barrel of oil.   One ounce of silver is worth about three bushels of corn or wheat (give or take a little).     Which would you rather keep around?  You can take those couple ounces of silver, put them somewhere and they’re not going to take up hardly any space and they won’t require any special care or consideration.

Some people invest in silver because they believe it has the potential for a true upside – not just reflecting inflation, but an increase in demand and/or a decrease in supply.   Many of the uses of silver previously mentioned lead to small amounts of silver being basically thrown away each year, eating away at the world’s total supply of silver.   Some suggest that “peak silver” is rapidly approaching, a situation where there’s severe shortages of silver in the world which will make the price of existing silver go up.

Here’s a video on the concept of peak silver:

Many people keep silver around because of lack of faith in currencies.  In the event of a currency collapse, the silver would be used for barter or exchange for new currency. Governments rise and fall and paper currencies go with them.   I’d rather have a tiny silver coin from the Ottoman Empire right now than a slip of paper with any promise from the Ottoman Sultan right now.      If you think governments are permanent fixtures, check this video out and think of all the currencies that have probably come and gone in Europe:



The “spot price” of silver can be found by checking commodity markets.   I prefer Kitko to track prices.   This price is more or less the absolute base price of silver throughout the world.     It isn’t the price you should expect to pay, because this price reflects how much the largest buyers are paying for the metal in it’s raw state.   It passes through a few middlemen who put energy into it and take a profit along the way.   Normally you’ll pay a couple bucks over spot per ounce at the low end.

The price comes from basic supply and demand.   When industrial or investment demand is up, the price goes up.   When it’s down, the price goes down.    It’s also important to note that the prices reflect currency rates as well.   Right now the US dollar is relatively strong, making silver a little cheaper than it would be if the dollar was weak.

Silver is also very energy-intensive to mine and the cost reflects the effort put into it.   If energy prices go up and silver becomes harder to extract (i.e. we’ve already gotten all the easy stuff and have to dig a little deeper), that will reflect in the price.      Here’s a video that shows some of the effort that goes into mining silver:

Ok, now on the good parts –


Some people invest in silver by buying exchange traded funds (ETFs) or other financial instruments.   There are good reasons to do this and good reasons not to, but I’ll focus on physical metals here.

Many people purchase 1 ounce bullion coins or bars.   These can be government minted or privately minted.   Examples of government minted ones are the US silver eagles, the Canadian maple leaf, the Chinese Panda and the Australian Koala.  These are usually given some sort of currency denomination that doesn’t come close to reflecting the value of the silver, i.e. the US eagle is worth one dollar and the price of silver is around $28 today.   Privately minted coins have no face value and can sometimes be had for a lower mark-up above spot than the government minted ones.   This largely depends on the numismatic value (basically the appearance) of the coin.     I’ll show an example here – the coin on the left is really sweet, the one in the middle is ok and the one on the right is really lame.   They’re all worth the same in silver, but sometimes people are willing to pay a little more for a better coin.

Various Silver Rounds

The USS Constitution with “Honest Value Never Fails”, an Indian head and Santa Claus with “Merry Christmas 2001”.    No offense to Santa, but that coin is pretty lame. 

Canadian Silver Maple Leaf

Canadian Maple LeafsI put up an article recommending these here.

US Silver Eagles


The US silver Eagle.

As far as where to buy your metals, there are many dealers out there.   Some good, some bad, some somewhere in between.  It doesn’t hurt to shop around a bit.   I have my preferences and if anyone asks I’ll gladly share, but I’m not going to post “buy from <dealer>!” here.

Another option is pre-1965 silver US coins also known as “junk silver’   Typically these coins have a 90% silver content, but that’s not always the case.  It’s good to check a site like Coinflation to find out the silver content of coins by year and denomination.    Usually you’ll end up paying somewhere near the spot price for one ounce of silver for $1 in junk silver.    These coins are a good idea for buying in very small increments and to keep around as potential barter currency.   Right now you can buy a single silver dime for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.   If you don’t have much to spare, that’s a good way to start building up silver.    You can find these at your local coin shop or eBay.

Junk Silver

Various pre-65 US silver coins or “junk silver”.  

Some people also purchase large 100 ounce bars of silver.   You get a discount on the markup for these because there’s less input into them and you’re buying in bulk but on the downside they’re not easily divisible.   If you want to sell some silver, you pretty much have to sell the whole thing unless you’re going to find a way to cut it.


Hey, people have been exchange silver for a lot longer than you or I have been on this earth.   Who’s to say it can’t happen again?   One thing that is cool about silver is that you can get small denominations (i.e. silver dimes) to make small transactions.   In a post about copper for barter, I said that my gut feeling is that the copper in one AOCS round would probably be worth a few tomatoes, a squash or something like that in an agrarian barter economy.   I’d say that a silver dime would probably have the value of a basket of grain, a small bag of apples, a good sized mug of beer or maybe a dozen eggs in a barter economy.   My gut feeling on an ounce of silver is that it would be worth some kind of handcraft, like a good basket, some kind of pottery, a decent knife or a few chickens.   Remember, currencies are not permanent arrangements.   It’s just something to consider

As a slight aside on the subject of acquiring silver for a barter currency later down the road, I think it makes more sense to try to acquire whatever it is you feel you’ll be barter for later now instead of during a period of calamity.   It’s much easier to walk into Menard’s and buy some tools with cash today than it probably will be to track specific items down and pay with silver should things go south in the economy.


Both have their place in the investment world, but I feel that silver is a little more accessible to the average person than gold.   You can get an ounce of silver for about $30 today and an ounce of gold for a little over $1600.   There are denominations smaller than an ounce for gold (i.e. French 20 franc coins) but it’s more realistic that someone is going to want to pick up a few ounces of silver over a tiny sliver of gold.   Silver is also a little easier to break down into small denominations.   If I had 100 ounces of silver and wanted to sell 20 of them to pay for something, that’s easier than if I had two ounces of gold and wanted to sell/barter half an ounce.

Gold is also almost entirely an investment metal.   Silver is as much of an industrial metal as it is an investment, so the supply/demand factors are different.


Sorry to give a vague answer, but whatever you’re comfortable with.   At the extreme, some will say that you should have everything in precious metals and some will say steer clear entirely.   Many people suggest somewhere between 5-25% of your net worth in metals.     Instead of worrying about percentages and amounts, I guess I’d just suggest learning a little bit about the financial system, precious metals and how the market works (hey, you’re doing all of that now!) and start making a plan to put something into silver, whether or not it’s a dime here or there or several hundred ounces at once.   Maybe make a point to pick up a few ounces with whatever is left at the end of the month – you know your finances better than I do.


Silver is probably the most user-friendly investment you can make and there’s really no minimum entrance costs.   You can start today by picking up a single silver dime for a few bucks on eBay.    You don’t have to fill out any paperwork, you don’t have to set up an account, you don’t have to screw around with the guy at Edward Jones or the HR lady that deals with your 401k and you also don’t have to notify the government.   It’s very easy to do.   It’s not the end-all-be-all of the financial world, but it’s something worth considering.   Also, there’s something about being able to hold something with true, lasting intrinsic value in your hand that your grandparents and distant ancestors would have  recognized as something with value.

Red Dawn 2012 Trailer


Ok, so I’m a huge fan of Red Dawn.  Hollywood has been tormenting me with the prospect of a new version of Red Dawn for several years and will only now be putting it out – I guess the studio had some financial issues.

Yeah, it’s probably going to be kind of goofy and not as cool as the original.   Sure, remaking this movie is another sign that Hollywood is getting stale and just rehashing all of their old tricks either through remakes or renaming the same story line.

But I don’t care.   I’ll be there for the first possible showing I can get to.

During the delay they changed the enemy from the Chinese to some conglomerate of Asian countries headed by North Korea.   While China makes more sense, I guess I understand the diplomatic side of not making China the bad guy in this – it really could be a minor thorn in the side of US-China relations.   North Korea?  Who cares what they think, we can demonize them all we want.     When I first heard that there was going to be a remake, I figured they would make it with Islamic terrorists, which would have been extremely hokey.   I also figured they would make it intentionally clownish to make a statement about paranoia and all of that to poke a little fun at the Cold War era.    I’m glad they didn’t go that route and instead tried to make a serious movie out of it – well, about as serious as a movie as you can possibly make about North Korea quarterbacking an invasion of the US.

We’ll see how it all pans out.  I’ll keep an open mind about it and try to view it as a stand-alone movie based on Red Dawn as opposed to one that tries to stay 100% true to the original.

Edit – I just read an article that suggested that the producers changed the enemy from China in order to not alienate themselves from the growing Chinese film market.   Makes sense.    I’d bet there’s a little from column A and a little from column B here.


The Cause of Riots and the Price of Food

The Cause of Riots and the Price of Food

Last night I was listening to a podcast with Marjory Wildcraft of Backyard Food Production and Grow Your Own Groceries fame on the Preparedness Radio Network (you can find this podcast here) where she and the host were discussing the potential impact of this year’s drought on the food supply.   If you want the Cliffs Notes version of the discussion, they both thought it was going to lead to notable higher prices in food and ethanol fuel, but I’d encourage you to listen to the podcast to hear their perspective (and you can read my perspective from a few weeks ago here).

Wildcraft brought up a study done by MIT where they decided that food prices were the primary factor in determining the likelihood of riots.   I suppose this is a common-sense kind of thing, but it’s interesting to see it put to charts and graphs.   I think the study also recognizes that some of the factors that are catalysts to riots aren’t independent of each other, it’s just that when people can’t afford to eat things get urgent real quick.   The article has a quote something along the lines of “societies are just three squares away from unrest”.    The Romans knew this with their “bread and circuses” policy, where they kept the populace fed and entertained, thus keeping them complacent.   Sound familiar?

According to the article, they notified the US government that food prices were about to cross the threshold into dangerous territory only a few days before the Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia.    They also predict that global food prices will get up there again in August of 2013.   We’ll see.    In the mean time, get prepared so you don’t get caught off guard with this sort of thing.



A good way to get prepared and have some degree of food sovereignty would be to watch Marjory Wildcraft’s DVD and put the things in it into practice. It’s worth the cost if you’re into urban homesteading and looking for ways to turn your land into something more productive.

Invasion of the Drug Cartels


The graphic and story can be found here: Invasion of Drug Cartels


I don’t think anyone is surprised by the fact that drug cartels are bringing drugs from Latin America into the US, but this article highlights the extent of the cartels’ reach into the US and provides some shocking figures on what’s going on down in Mexico.   To put it briefly, there’s some very powerful drug cartels in Mexico that are fighting each other as well as local and federal government.    There’s been a ton of violence and terrorism associated with this drug war – the cartels have assassinated politicians, police officers, journalists and others who attempted to stand up against them.    It doesn’t sound like the violence is exactly surgical either – check out the number of decapitations and pre-death torture reported.        I don’t have the figures on hand, but I would venture to guess that parts of Mexico are currently about as violent as post-war Iraq.   When I was there (Iraq) in 2004-5, the populace lived under threat of similar levels of violence from the insurgents and at times the level of fear from the normal people trying to go about their lives was a sad sight to behold – people shouldn’t have to live like that.    Things like decapitations, executions, torture, kidnappings, etc. were common and it’s hard to stomach that those things go on in the world.

I don’t really like to use this blog for political reasons, but what are we doing putting all of our “defense” assets halfway around the world when we have stuff like this going on next door in Mexico?    I’m more worried about these guys or MS-13 (yeah, I know, El Salvadorian) in my country than I am Iraqi/Afghani insurgents coming to get me here in Iowa.

So these guys are increasingly coming into our backyard.   Great.  It’s easy to point fingers at Mexico and the Mexican government for this but in reality the drug cartels exist because we’re supplying the demand.   If there wasn’t a (huge) market for drugs here, they wouldn’t come here to peddle their wares and they wouldn’t terrorize Mexico over the ability to peddle said wares in the US.

I like to throw out potential solutions for individuals to take when I post these kind of articles, and I don’t really have any solid ones, but I think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in Mexico and here and recognize that there’s the likelihood of spillover violence here in the US.   A little bit of situational awareness and basic security/defense precautions go a long ways.

I think it’s also notable to point out that governments and “the authorities” sometimes fail and that it’s not a good idea to stick your head in the sand and expect that they’ll sort everything out due to their omnipotence and benevolence.   Mexico has never been known for being well-run, but it’s not as bad off as most Americans think it is, all things considered.   Still, I don’t think that it’s impossible that cracks in our system due to any number of reasons can make it easier for Mexican drug cartels to operate – the article mentions budget cuts are forcing a few border patrol stations to close down, as one example.

Now I don’t condone the use of drugs, but if you do use them buy local, I guess.

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