Going Down Easy — A blast from the past post March 2013

(Yes, I’m still in the dungeon with the fish for my company as I destroy Liberte seacity [oh, shut up, it deserves it] so I was thinking of the whole SHTF is never as complete as people think.  So… this.)

I really wanted to title this “How to pack for Armageddon” but that is not right, and not something I can do anyway.  There are tons of sites on that.  What to pack in the scaredy bag, what to have for “shelter in place.”

I’m not saying those won’t be needed.  As I said before, I don’t think anyone has taken into account – well, maybe someone has, but that’s not a comforting thought – that while this crew in power is playing at being “more sensitive than you” they’re giving signals to a lot of very bad actors.  The crew in power might be ill-intentioned (mostly I think they’re power-greedy and trying to cover it up by doing the things they’ve been told are “good”) but I suspect they honestly believe that if we unilaterally disarm we’ll be safe.  Don’t laugh.  A lot of my colleagues believed that all through the eighties.  It has nothing to do with intelligence, but with having lived quiet, sheltered prosperous lives where the wildest environment they knew was their kindergarten class.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen other sides of life, and I’ve studied history.

If we can do things like let all the sequester cuts fall on defense, and eventually start reducing our nuclear arsenal (more flexibility, remember?) and NOT get hit, we should just assume the USA is the Almighty’s favorite child and my made up USAians were right.  If we don’t lose a city or more to enemy attack in the next five/six years, I’ll assume this country is G-d’s personal project and that He’s zealously guarding us.

But alas, I think we’re human like other humans and our project of liberty and individual freedom is ours.

So, some regions of the country almost for sure will have to deal with Armageddon conditions to an extent or another.  Which depends who hits us and whether it’s a missile or a backpack nuke.

Yes, I feel crazy just typing that – it’s like ebooks, you know.  We expected ebooks to hit any minute now, and they didn’t, for almost twenty years.  I attended conferences in ninety four where they were talking about how ebooks were the coming thing.  But most people don’t like reading on the computer, and therefore it didn’t happen.  And then suddenly there was the second model of kindle (the first was too green and computer-like) and by that time anyone who’d been immersed in the business was SO convinced ebooks would amount to nothing, that they never, really, got their heads around the reverse.  They still haven’t.

To an extent we have the same relationship with nuclear attacks.  We expected them all through the cold war, which means most of our lives.  It never happened.  Now we tend to roll our eyes as we think of them.

But they are a heavy possibility.  There is a huge difference between attacking the US when you’re the USSR and you know you’ll get hit back, and attacking the US when you know it’s weakened and infighting, and you’re a small back water country and know if the US retaliates the world community will complain they’re picking on you.  (My brother after the Axis of Evil speech “Why is Bush picking on tiny, mad North Korea?” is what I expect to see.)

So, if you live in or near one of our major cities (unless it goes completely astray, which is possible since this is mostly “Russian Technology”, I expect it will be in one of the cities that everyone hears about on TV and shows: DC, NYC, Chicago, LA, San Francisco – with an outside chance of cities that have had TV shows set in them – Cincinnati, Dallas.  While it’s possible there will be one in Denver, for instance, that is an extremely outside chance unless there’s a sudden upswell of  documentaries about “Denver, the power of the west” that makes it abroad.) have a get away bag, just in case, and DO for the love of G-d know some funky, back-road route out of the city.  Make it a weekend project to scout those.  If you live in NYC and don’t have a car – Yes, you DO know who you are – make sure a friend-with-car includes you in his evacuation plans.

For what to put in the bag, and what to put in your basement/crawl space/armoire if you have to sit tight, there are survival blogs all over the net, and if you don’t know any, someone in this blog will link it on request.

My post – taking this long to get to the point is the hallmark of the fact I have had only one cup of tea – is about not the apocalypse, but the gentle slide into chaos and a (much) lower but still civilized lifestyle.

I’ve never been convinced by the “apocalypse” stories simply because American authors, never having experienced it, seem to think of something like a nuclear hit, or even several, crippling all our major cities and making our daily life a negotiated mess (and I want to stress that last one is – I think – highly unlikely in the situation right now.  We’re more likely to get the equivalent to “terrorism with nukes” than to get a planned, carefully carried out attack.  OTOH the attack might well unleash our own tensions and release Civil Unrest with a capital Mess – in which case, it won’t be much different from most cities taken out.)  will immediately send us back to some past age, ranging from the stone age to the nineteenth century.

Of course, most of those stories were written to convince us to unilaterally disarm, which, of course, meant exaggerating the awfulness.

Here is what is not going to happen:

Most people are not going to become looters overnight.  Yes, it will happen in some places, but let me remind you of when the lights went out in NYC for most of a day, and people just quietly walked home.  Whether you’ll have to shoot looters and keep vandals away depends on what region of the country you live in and how dangerous it is now.

You’re not going to need to grow your own wheat and mill your own flour overnight.  Yes, I know “on demand” supply, etc.  So, the local groceries will run out of ice-cream, Hersheys and the other stuff like that.  They might also – always depending on where you live.  We’re in the Khaki for vegetables out here, unless it’s summer, and even then – run out of steaks, or onions, or even (but unlikely.  I think the stuff spontaneously generates) cabbage.  BUT it’s unlikely to run completely out of flour or beans or rice.  (Of course, if you’re low carb you should be making your own preparations.)  Nor will it prevent local farmers from putting stalls by the side of the highway selling local produce ¾ of the year.

You’re not going to have to make your own clothes.  Look, I’m a writer, which means our income fluctuates, which is a polite term for “sometimes it’s non-existent.”  It always hits rock bottom at the most inconvenient times, too, like, when my husband is unemployed, (knock on wood, only happened twice in our entire married life.)  We’ve had to cut back on food, by going to the essentials and having me cook from scratch (but I do that, anyway, by preference) BUT we’ve never really had to cut back on clothes.  In fact, I think I have more than fit in my closet, and one of these days the hanging apparatus will crash.  (Partly because I treat them as disposable, since I hate aprons and all confining clothing, and so I tend to stain clothes while cleaning or cooking.)  — first, the clothes in your closet will not evaporate into the ether.  Second, and VERY important, society as a whole probably has a larger supply of clothes than we could consume (without throwing away) in a century.  I know this because we shop for our clothes at an ARC thrift store nearby.  A LOT of the clothes are brand new still with tags, usually because a store donated surplus.  And I have a rule never to pay more than $5 for a piece of clothing unless it’s designer. Then I’ll go up to $7.  If I go to $10 I get the frown of doom from my husband…

You’re not going to have to make your own furniture – see above.  We’ve gotten used to changing furniture at the drop of a hat because we stopped liking something, but if things get rough we stop throwing it away, and I bet you that what we have will last generations.  (Here I do have advice on what to choose. And what to have.)

This is not saying that things will be either comfortable or wonderful.

So – what do you watch for, and how do you prepare?

This post comes from the fact I was talking to my husband and said “the first thing is usually the post office going unreliable.”

Right now you’re looking at me like I’m a lunatic.  “But our post awful was always—”

No. There are differences.  Yes, in most countries the post office jobs are a sinecure for a politically favored majority (Or minority.  I might be wrong in this, but I have a vague idea most postal carriers in South Africa were Afrikaans speaking.)  and that they are a union shop in most countries, and that jokes about mis-delivered mail exist everywhere. That’s not what I mean.

Part of this is tricky when it comes to the post office, btw – because ours is suffering from catastrophic technological change, as well as everything else.  HOWEVER:

The slide goes like this – it begins with mail distribution twice a day six days a week, and the mail fairly reliable in the sense that yes, you do get human error and things delayed a bit.  Then it goes to once daily.  (I don’t know if the US started with twice daily.  By the time I came here, it was once daily. Part of this was tech change.  Used to be that before the telephone letters in-town were used to say “I’ll drop by tomorrow afternoon.”  Read a mystery of the early twentieth century for that.)

Then slowly the mail becomes more unreliable.  Then one day is cut out.  Then delivery is every other day.

BUT the most important thing is how unreliable it gets.  We’re already pretty unreliable, the reason they’re mostly used for spam.  (Though their tendency to misplace stuff doesn’t help.)

But along that slide comes the time when the mail is COMPLETELY unreliable.  Anything you entrust to them has a fifty/fifty chance of arriving, and anything even vaguely useful/valuable WILL get stolen, unless you’re very, very crafty.

This is a sign post on the way down.  When you start seeing outright unabashed theft by postal employees, and no attempt to track down your registered package, it’s time to have your preparations for the rest of the slide made.

Because that type of theft is a “societal strictures have broken down.”  It’s not “the neighbors will rape and pillage” but it is the “people will pilfer from strangers as a matter of course.”  A package, entrusted to strangers to carry across the country is, of course, at high risk.

This is highly unlikely and there are already signs we’re headed in that direction.  Whether and how much it will affect the private carrier companies, I don’t know.  Whether there will be Amazon Delivery vans that are more reliable, I don’t know.  I do know that the break down in trust needed to efficiently run mail in a continental-sized country is already well underway and getting markedly worse by the day.

The way to deal with the post office is to disguise the contents of whatever you’re sending.  Put an old coat over the new dress you’re sending aunt Emily.  Learn to make false bottoms on boxes.  Encase you check in several pages of blather.

Or, more likely, in this country, in the 21st century, find ways to send ecash, email and different carriers (thank heavens.)

But even if we have more options – that break down in trust is a telling sign.

The other slide is what used to be called in Portugal “a zeal strike” which I understand is the opposite of what the words mean in OZ where they mean “be over-picky over everything and delay everything.”  In Portugal it means “show up for work, but do whatever.”

This, not as a strike but as a way of life ensues.

What I mean is, you don’t realize how much we, Americans, are used to getting what we want, when we want it.

This is likely to go by the way side.  People won’t be breaking their backs to get stuff done and also, sorry, but all businesses are likely to be understaffed for the foreseeable future, because it’s right now almost impossible to keep your margins up in this country unless you’re GE and the government is feeding you dough by the bucketful.

So, things to have:

Any staple you can’t do without, even if it’s not a “survival essential” thing.  Say you’re mighty fond of a brand of coffee, have three or four bags put by in your freezer.  Before you run through them, it will be on the shelves.  Restock when it’s on the shelves and you can afford it.  That way interruptions in supply don’t affect you.

In the same vein, this coming spring, can, pickle and dehydrate veggies.  I don’t think they’ll vanish forever, but supply can/might/almost certainly will (depending on where you live) get mighty irregular.

Any parts you need to keep your car and house running, and which you know are likely to breakdown or need replacing – have by.  And either know how to replace it yourself, or establish a relationship with someone who does.  Knowing how to rewire something in the house and/or how to deal with plumbing is important.  (My husband is okay with it.  But getting one of those comprehensive books from the hardware stores, you know “how to fix anything in the house” is NOT a bad idea.)

Also not a bad idea: if you have to buy furniture and CAN afford it, buy real wood and the best construction you can.  “Furniture you can will to your grandchildren” should be your goal.  Mostly because you might have to.

Also, if you have a young family, buy the biggest house you can afford.  Look, I’ll be blunt, the one slide I saw up close and personal ended up with three and four nuclear families per house.  I.e. kids married and had grandkids, but they were still living with the parents/grandparents.  This did not change till the economy got better.  (And yes, it SORTA is cultural in Portugal, but it was not the norm since the forties, and in fact, as soon as people could afford it, they went their own way, even if children normally live NEAR parents.)

For those people with three kids in a one bedroom apartment it could get tough.

If you’re renting, try to get in a place where the rent won’t go crazy and where you can hunker down if you need to.  Establish a good relationship with your landlord.

Have a deep freezer, so you can buy meat when it’s available/relatively cheap.  (This is a good idea at any time, but it might be vital in a slide down.)

Acquire some knowledge of folk medicine and lay some supplies by.  I’ve recently found that Manuka wound honey (available from Amazon) is the awesome, and will definitely stock it.)  This is obviously part of the slide down at least for this country.  Finding a doctor might become an issue.  DO try to make friends with a doctor or a trained nurse.  It might save your life.

Other things that are probably sort of kind of less vital but that you REALLY don’t want to do without.  One thing I’ve never seen in a slide down is a country sliding into the gutter without significant, pervasive disruptions in the electrical supply.  I don’t mean electricity goes bye bye and never comes back. I don’t even mean LONG black outs.  For those you should have a generator/whole house battery (we can’t afford either) but I expect most of the time you won’t get that.  I mean brown outs and black outs become a fact of life to the point they affect your daily life/ability to work. Not enough to get you to crisis point, not even enough to spoil food in freezer, if you keep it closed.  But enough to annoy you and make things a daily slog.

First – have something you can use for light.  I used to love candles when I was a kid, but of course there are better options.  If you are using flashlights, keep your battery supply up.  I’ve also laid by some of those solar garden lights.  The light is not wonderful, but it is enough to read by.

Speaking of which, since it’s almost impossible to have extra batteries for the kindle (I don’t know about other e-readers) have a car charger, so that if your electrical crashes, you can charge the kindle enough to finish reading that novel.  Also, keep the vital stuff like “how to” manuals in paper.

In the same vein, if you get your living by using the computer, have extra batteries for your laptop.  Keep three of them or so by.

And have an alternate means of cooking, if you rely on electrical.  A grill will do, though I have an entirely coal fired hibachi as well, but that’s because I’m a nut.

Have an alternate means of heating (IF we’re going to stay in this house, I want a soapstone stove.  Sigh.  Maybe Witchfinder will buy me one.)

These things will seem frivolous.  They’re not “how to survive apocalypse” – but having lived through the slide-down, trust me, it makes your life immeasurably better to know that you can still finish that chapter, or write that report, or whatever, even if electricity just went down, and/or you can cook that dish even if the store is out of peppers.

One disruption or interruption is piddly stuff.  An unpredictable succession of them saps the soul and kills the spirit.

Now, the thing is, in the low slide down and counterintuitively, things can do very well you’d never think about.

Look, let me put it bluntly: babies are still born, birthdays still happen, girls still want to buy something pretty for a pick me up.

The people who did well in my brother’s generation (the most affected in Portugal by the slide-down) learned to do something crafty to sell.  Usually bead jewelry, which they sold (literally) on street corners, but also stuffed animals which you could sell to friends of friends of friends.  Paintings, if you were good.  That sort of thing.

Yes, we have walmart and jewelry for a song.  How long it will be cheap is something else, with the dollar plummeting, BUT

But people will pay the same/a little more for something that’s unique/looks better.  And people will still buy toys, baby clothes, (giving stuff to babies is a deeply-rooted tradition.) pretty things that make them smile, unique bits of apparel/accessories that make a tired outfit look new.

Cultivate some crafty skill – first it will keep you from going nuts while you’re worrying about jobs or what not.  Second, it might bring in enough money to survive between jobs/if permanently sidelined by this atrocious economy

Crafts to pick, if you don’t have a favorite should be things that are useful/don’t need proprietary materials.  Scrapbooking would be right out on the first count, and stamped cross-stitch on the second.

But say learning to make clothes out of scraps of material might be in, ditto with braiding rugs.  (Clue zero, but I know people in the village did it.  They bought/got rags off other people and made these gorgeous rugs.)  In a cold climate quilting is a good one.  Altering clothes is too.  Even with the surplus we have, people will grow up, grow wider, or lose weight.  If you know how to alter clothes to make them look GOOD you have something you can trade on/get money for.

I’m decent at refinishing furniture, and I’ve picked up on fillet crochet again.  I used to do this obsessively, then I hit my head and lost the ability to keep track of where I was on the pattern (wonder if that affected writing too?) which is slowly coming back.  Right now – by way of warm up – I’m working on a massive (bedspread size) curtain for our outsized front window.  But I’ve recently come across normal sized patterns for pillows and hangings (and maybe clothes inserts) from the turn of the century, which I think fall under “beautiful and unique” and would probably sell well at SF cons.  And the little ones I can do in an evening, the bigger ones in a week of evenings.

Though I expect ebooks will continue to sell and I even expect Baen to survive.  (The other houses… They’re houses of the living dead right now.  They look alive, but…)  It’s just that you might have to time your publishing/buying for the times the net is up.  And yep, I expect those will actually sell better, because if the net is down there’s less gaming, etc. available.

In that vein, don’t get rid of ALL your obsolete stuff.  Keep DVDs by, even if you have Amazon streaming.  Keep CDs by, even if you buy a lot of music electronic.  I’m clueless about game systems because I don’t use them, but if there’s a way to keep games by, and have power for the systems, do so.

CDs, DVDs and other forms of entertainment not depending on connectivity (if the electricity goes down in your area, so will the net service, most of the time) might make good trade-goods, as well.  So if you see them at the thrift store, buy and store, just in case.  Don’t spend an enormous amount and don’t fill your house with them, but having a few around to trade for others you want is not a bad idea.  Burn you MP3 to CD as backup and keep one of the old stereos around.

Also, because in the long slide down things like the over-restrictive “must cook this in a sterilized kitchen with no one else in the house” health laws tend to slide, even baking and cooking might not be a bad thing, particularly because I suspect a lot of people can’t cook beyond pre-prepared and will be looking for alternatives.  Having the house where the working couple can pick up the pot of pot roast and give you something in return because they’re that kind, might not be a bad idea if the stores are having trouble stocking tv dinners.  (In Portugal it was bread.  Very few people knew how to make bread, but the bakers’ union got bumptious and started not delivering when expected.  Suddenly the people who could bake bread were very popular.)

These are not survival skills, but they’re “keep the world spinning” skills and “make people feel they’re not living in the end times” skills.  They will stand you in good stead.

Most of them are a matter of degree from the Armagedon skills.  So if you believe Armageddon is more likely, by all means, learn to make soap.  BUT learn to make scented, interestingly shaped soap, and you have a skill in case it’s a slide-down.  Learn to make beer, but if you make it micro-brewery specialty beer you can also do well in the slide-down.  Learn to make clothes – but also learn to fix/alter clothes.  That way you’re okay either way.

The only difference is stuff like laptop batteries which are vital in a slide-down and useless in the end of the world.  BUT having them won’t cost you too much.

And it might save your sanity… and allow you to make money off ebooks or whatever it is you do.  If it’s just a slide down.

We’re already in a slide-down, even if not critical yet.  There’s a good chance of a crash, but there’s a chance, also, the slide-down will continue.

In your packing for the crash, don’t neglect preparation for the tumble down the stairs.  It’s usually just a little more effort/expense.  But it can make all the difference.

115 responses to “Going Down Easy — A blast from the past post March 2013

  1. Either way the democrat controlled inner cities will be death traps

  2. Before our freezer went out from a lightning strike, we kept several gallon jugs of water in it. Electricity was iffy, especially during storms, and having them in there helped keep stuff going until the electricity was back. When it got fried, we were able to keep stuff cold and use it over several days instead of a one-feast gorge session.

  3. Why is Bush picking on tiny, mad North Korea?

    No country with deliverable nuclear devices is tiny. Being mad does surprisingly little to diminish the danger.

    • My brother also thinks the Chinese aren’t racist, unlike Americans. So…

      • Because only persons of northern European descent can be racist, because political/economic/military power. *nods and looks very serious* I read it on the Internet and heard it on MSNBC so it must be true.

        • Don’t you know? Even the Europeans are no longer racist. It went away when they abandoned colonialism. Only those stupid Americans are racist. Everyone knows this because the Americans talk about it all the time.

          • Unless they are complaining about the Roma/Gypsies. Then they are oppressors and racists. One of the great bits of schadenfreude I encountered on this trip to Central Europe was that Britain now has to accept “Slovaks and Romanians” aka Roma/Gypsies, and the Eurocrats are getting to see why the Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, and others are less than fond of Roma/Gypsy culture.

      • Sigh, family who also happen to be blithering idiots are still family. It’s generally better to avoid some subjects. If they won’t let it go hit them with fact after fact until they run and hide. That’s usually enough to train them to not bring their pet issues up when you’re around.

        • Not my relatives, Conservative or Liberal, the fact that I disagree proves that I’m the idiot of the family and must be dealt with severely. Facts only prove my foolishness and must be eradicated.

      • My brother also thinks the Chinese aren’t racist, unlike Americans.

        Oh…my. Has he actually met and or spoken to anyone from mainland China?

        • I don’t think so, not unless they were party apparitchniks. BUT he reads the propaganda.
          Yes, that one sent me and #2 son to basement to scream with laughter, so we didn’t get in a fight at the dinner table.

      • The Chinese are very racist as I found out from relatives and co workers.

    • Usually madness increases the danger of random high powered explosive devices going off in unexpected and painful places. (Painful to whom is usually a surprise depending on the flavor of madness with aforementioned devices.) Alas few people seem to realize this.

      • In North Korea’s case, “mad” is more properly spelled r-a-b-i-d. Any sane person would treat a rabid dachshund the same way as a rabid wolfhound.

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    When a fire started in an adjacent apartment last December, I was ready. I have my backpack containing my wallet, keys, watch, a few essentials and a bag for my laptop. I grabbed those, put one irreplacable book, my e-reader, and got out of there.

    (Don’t worry: 3 hours later, I was back again. The worst damage was from the firemen kicking my door in.)

  5. Different scenario, no nukes; bio instead. What if an opposed nation (What? We do have a few. Because we’re such imperialist bully racist selfish poopy-heads.) such as Chavenezuela, were to round up a whole bunch of sick kids, mix them into a horde of other kids and send them across our Southern border to claim refugee status?

    What then?

    • Pretty sure that’s happening even if not deliberate; enterovirus 68, for example, is endemic to several Central American countries and is showing up in the Midwest where – surprise – the refugee kids from this summer are being sent.

      • William O. B'Livion

        I think that was his point.

        But to answer the question, we’d treat them, give them homes and a good socialist education.

  6. One thing about nukes: if one goes off in your neighborhood, don’t panic. I know everyone makes a big deal out of the radiation effects, but that’s mainly due to several decades of watermelon propaganda. If you survive the blast, you’re almost certainly survive the direct radiation effects (and those would take years to kill you from cancer). If you also avoid the “black rain” fallout you have excellent odds of living. The latter is why the government recommends that you move away from the blast for 30 minutes then shelter wherever you can for 24 hours.

    • Most of the cancers associated with Chernobyl were thyroid. Because iodized salt was not used in that part of Ukraine and Beylorus, so the children’s bodies took up the iodine from the fall-out. Not a major problem in the US, unless you are one who only uses sea-salt or other non-iodized kinds. (A family member did medical assistance work over there for several years and has contacts with the researchers here in the US and in Europe.)

      • And even then, you can get iodine and just paint it on your skin, from what I’m told. When your body has enough, it won’t absorb any more. Anybody know differently?

      • Radioiodine is one of those good news bad news sorta-good news isotopes. On the one hand, it has a rather short half-life so it’s pretty much all gone about a month after fission stops. On the other hand, that short half-life means it deposits a lot of energy into the surrounding material, like your thyroid. On the gripping hand, iodine goes straight to the thyroid and thyroid cancer is one of the easiest to treat. Granted, it involves completely destroying your thyroid and spending the rest of your life on artificial hormones, but it beats dying.

        Initial responders will be given potassium iodide tablets to limit their radioiodine uptake, but that poses it’s own problems. For one thing, flooding your body with iodine isn’t exactly great for it. For another, the potassium portion is itself naturally radioactive. A bottle of KCl salt substitute will alarm the radiation instruments we use.

      • If a major portion of the salt an individual intakes is from the little packets at Mickey Dees or other fast food, the last time I looked that stuff was not iodized.

    • OK, I’m actually trying to think up a situation where “Panic” is good advice.

      Um…

      I got nothin’.

  7. I have spent 20+ years learning to bake bread. (It would have been faster if I’d been willing to read a recipe sometime in the first 15 years, but hindsight…)
    I am still thinking of building a pizza oven out back. I have all these Kugel and casserole recipes that bake best at low temperatures over night, and were traditionally made by putting them in the bread ovens after the bread was baked.
    Eastern European cuisine is surprisingly simple.

    • I’ll admit, I’e spent comparable less time learning how to bake bread. On the other hand, I’ve found making a good sourdo is pretty easy if you start with a known good culture, and feed it daily.

      All this has given me a sudden urge to start making bread again. I want to try no-kneed dutch oven bread. I’ve read it’s pretty good. I could stand to have a decent dutch oven, anyways.

      • I’m rather pleased with the “little” Lodge dutch oven I got from Amazon– WAAAAAAY cheaper than I’ve been able to find in any store, too. (I took the free shipping option, obviously.)

        Because I’m a snob, I scrubbed it down but good with soap and water and re-seasoned it with butter, then canola oil, then finally bacon grease and steel wool. It’s easier to clean than my crock pot.

        • added an enameled one to wish list. My birthday and Christmas are coming and the inlaws sometimes ask, so…

          • I prefer the blackened myself, but that’s because they say “home” to me. (I have a “skillet” that is as big around as my shoulders are across, and deep enough to hold half a chicken. It’s what my goulashes are made in– that’s American goulash, AKA “clean the fridge,” not the traditional one.)

            The enamel on the outside is lovely, the enamel on the inside is… ok if you don’t need iron, I guess. 😉 (See? Told you. Total snob.)

            • It’s more like the guys clean the kitchen now and then, and they don’t handle iron well.

            • If seasoned well, cast iron is almost as stickproof as teflon, and you can use metal spatulas. I have a smaller dutch oven that I use to make baked casseroles, cook up preserves and make potroasts in the oven.
              I was on a “primitive cooking” binge for a while: how do you cook when your only gauges of temperature is browning paper, color of the coals and boiling water? I found a lot of recipes for boiling things like puddings. The dutch oven fits a pudding mold just perfectly.

              • It’s getting it seasoned well that’s an issue– sesame seed is great, too.

                • Do you worry about the oil smoking and getting gooey if you get the pan too hot, or do you rub it down after cooking? I’ve done it both ways and I find both have risks.

                  • I worry about everything. 😀

                    Answering the actual question, though– if I have time, I prefer to season it by putting the just-rinsed (or, if new, just washed with soap, detergent, scrubbies and anything else to removed EVERYTHING) pan on the stove, heat it up to about six, turn it off, steel wool the oil on, let cool until I can wipe it down with a doubled paper towel covered with MORE oil and not get burnt, then do it again until it looks pretty.

                    I notice the sticky mostly comes when I use olive oil*, but I just looooove cooking with it…..

                    *also vegetable oil, but I don’t use “vegetable oil” anymore since my mom went through breast cancer and I started being kind a twitchy about soy content, which is in most of the cheap stuff. It’s not rational, it’s just me.

                    • ….

                      Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing wrong. I tried scrubbing and starting the seasoning process over again, but I never applied the oil with steel wool.

                    • I have a dedicated green scrubby soaking in oil next to the stove.

                      And some burns from over-estimating how quickly iron cools….

                • I don’t remember the name or details, but I keep hearing that you should not buy new cast iron, you should buy a …….. brand in some antique store, if you can find one. Was just looking up the online pages about buying old cast iron. Oh, good, lord. Forget it, just buy the new stuff.

                  • It’s one of those simi-myths.

                    The Chinese stuff has had some nasty events, because… well, it’s China. If they don’t have a rep on the floor, then they obviously don’t care if we pour this lead scrap into the vat.

                    Lodge had a few years of bad in the mid 90s where they did some ornamental stuff, and if something survives to become “antique” then it’s obviously avoiding the major issues…. but so long as it’s stamped “made in the USA,” it’s safe, and I have yet to see an ACTUAL pattern of “recent” vs “ancient” on accidents that shatter the metal. Mostly, it’s just that people either screw up, or do something stupid. (Even 60 years of experience ranch cooks can screw up, it’s nothing shameful. Anybody who tells you different probably also insists that you can only clean cast iron with a lemon and salt.)

        • I ended up getting the 8-quart one, because it was on sale. We’ll see how big it really is when it gets here. I may be making flatbreads…

          • I’ve got a family of five, and the one I linked is just about right for “cover the bottom with processed meat an inch thick, add an inch or two of veggies, cook, add starch” meals with enough left over for my husband’s lunch. (When the kids aren’t tiny anymore, probably just right for dinner with some wiggle-room.)

      • your results depend on what you you are aiming for: I was aiming for “cheaper than store bread” which I got. Later I focused on “better than store bread” and that I am starting to achieve.

        • You can do both. The best, and easiest sourdo bread I’ve ended up making is just 1 part starter, 1 part water, and add flour into the mixer until it starts getting to the right consistency (typically about two parts). Dump it into greased or butter bread bands, spray some sort of oil on top, and let it sit over night.

          In the morning, throw it in the over at ~450ish for 30m. It’s done when the bread goes “thump” when you thump it.

          The trick is keeping the starter fed to the point that it doubles in size 12 hours after every feeding. that generally requires feeding it twice a day or so. That’s generally enough starter to do real flapjacks in the morning, and fresh bread in the evening. Unfortunately, there’s only one of me, so I end up not using most of the starter from the feedings.

          Where I generally end up stumbling on is cleaning the bread pans afterwards. A 450 bake will weld the grease onto a glass bread pan, and the metal ones don’t handle heat as well. I’m hoping the dutch oven uses the grease as seasoning, rather than blacktop.

  8. William O. B'Livion

    The crew in power might be ill-intentioned (mostly I think they’re power-greedy and trying to cover it up by doing the things they’ve been told are “good”) but I suspect they honestly believe that if we unilaterally disarm we’ll be safe. Don’t laugh. A lot of my colleagues believed that all through the eighties. It has nothing to do with intelligence, but with having lived quiet, sheltered prosperous lives where the wildest environment they knew was their kindergarten class.

    Anyone, ANYONE who thought that was a moron, a fool and incompetent to hold any position higher than “Would you like fries with that”. In every instance of adverse interpersonal interaction, from verbal sparing to fisticuffs to interdepartmental politics the monument you drop your guard, the moment you decide that the best way to resolve the situation is to either compromise or to stop fighting you lose. And I don’t mean you lose because you gave up. I mean you lose because you get run over like a damn freight train.

    Those unilateral disarmament types in the 80s? They didn’t want the “us” that includes them to to disarm. They wanted the US to disarm because THEY WERE AND ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE. They wanted what is America–capitalism, freedom, liberty, chaos and risk DIE. They want us to all look like Northern Europe with their overpriced little hovels and their tiny cars.

    There is a huge difference between attacking the US when you’re the USSR and you know you’ll get hit back, and attacking the US when you know it’s weakened and infighting, and you’re a small back water country and know if the US retaliates the world community will complain they’re picking on you.

    Hit us with a Nuke and see how much of a Fuck we have left to Give about the “World Community”.

    We destroyed and almost rebuilt two nations over 3 buildings and 3000 people. Take out half a million? Oh *man* will the rubble bounce.

    The *best* hope they have is a Republican in the White House. Republicans know that war is a profession and will listen to the DoD. Democrats know better about everything and it will go horribly, horribly wrong.

    • Anyone, ANYONE who thought that was a moron, a fool and incompetent to hold any position higher than “Would you like fries with that”.

      If by “thought,” you mean “reached the conclusion by careful consideration and weighing of all reasonably available information,” you’re right.

      But that’s not how they “thought” it— it’s “thought” as in “believe;” it’s frequently found when folks think there’s no hope. They choose to believe in stuff that will make them feel better on the way to their utterly unavoidable death.
      It’s a kind of sub conscious fatalism.

      • William O. B'Livion

        If by “thought,” you mean “reached the conclusion by careful consideration and weighing of all reasonably available information,” you’re right.

        By thought I mean “had such a conclusion in their head”.

        I head things like that in the late 70s through the 90s. In fact there’s still a percentage of the population that thinks DESPITE ALL THE AVAILABLE EVIDENCE that if we stop something resisting, they’ll stop pushing.

        It is an idea so easily disproven:

        “If you stop arguing with me, will I sudden stop taking the opposite position from you, or, alternatively will you accept my position?”

        “Then *why* will they?”

        But that’s not how they “thought” it— it’s “thought” as in “believe;” it’s frequently found when folks think there’s no hope. They choose to believe in stuff that will make them feel better on the way to their utterly unavoidable death.

        Actually, I think it was propagated by soviet agents and our fellow travellers, and was just what all the popular people were saying, so the rest of their clique/crowd/whatever just parroted it without ever really examining it.

        Fools, morons and incompetents. Shouldn’t be allowed to hold any more important office than an order taker at McDonalds.

        • “If you stop arguing with me, will I sudden stop taking the opposite position from you, or, alternatively will you accept my position?

          The way they see it? Yes, generally speaking; if you’re not arguing with them, then you agree.

          Haven’t you noticed that an argument is started by someone openly disagreeing, not by them saying something objectionable in mixed company?

          • William O. B'Livion

            Then it is like I keep saying:

            Fools, morons and incompetents. Shouldn’t be allowed to hold any more important office than an order taker at McDonalds.

            • I know we’re talking ideals, but who the heck would you expect to enforce that?!?

              • William O. B'Livion

                I don’t.

                At least partially because there’s a bunch of nominally “right wingers” who are just as window licking dumb.

                I fully expect the world, as I put it “revert to historical norms” where those people will grow up, starve to death or be used badly by those who have a firmer grasp on reality.

  9. Fits in perfectly with everything I’ve read about places where things just got crappy, either fast or slow. The first lesson in my Russian 101 textbook was about a New Russian whose scheme-of-the-day was selling rubber boots to people in the housing complex – it had been raining that day, and so they had to slog through mud to get from the lobby to the actual street. One of my teachers told me that it was really true that propaganda films meant to show how awful America is (race riots, etc.) were just proof to her and her friends that Russia was incredibly poor, because even the guys getting blown off their feet with pressure hoses had blue jeans and decent shoes, and no one ever looked hungry.

    After having read way too much about life in places like that, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most valuable thing you can possibly store is social connections – you want to know “a guy” who can do all the things (preferably more like forty or fifty guys, and their wives and kids and brothers and mothers-in-law.) Make sure to go to church every time you can, and eat at a specific local diner often enough that they know your kind of pie, and always, always give your business to the children of your neighbors if it’s at all feasible.

  10. “While it’s possible there will be one in Denver, for instance, that is an extremely outside chance unless there’s a sudden upswell of documentaries about “Denver, the power of the west” that makes it abroad”

    I dunno… Tim Allen’s current sitcom is set in Denver, and as a right-wing caricature he might be pissing off the wrong (right?) people.

    (Sorry for the tangent, just trying to add some levity to a heavy thread)

    • Yeah, I would look at the ratings before I get concerned. Tim Allen has not had the best track record in the world of attracting audiences after Home Improvement went off the air.

      As Our Most Lovely Hostess has noted, the rest of the world has no idea about the sheer scale of the US, and many have only ever heard of a short list of city names. Washington is likely seen as too hard a target, and New York is so 2001, so I’d guess Los Angeles is likely right at the top of any target list. Particularly deep thinkers might specifically target that den of all morally objectionable media content, Hollywood, even though nuking Vancouver would do more damage to current TV and movie productions*.

      * While the deals are all still made in Hollywood, there’s not much actual movie making committed in California any more.

      • After overly familiarizing myself with the horror stories about invading Russia, I was rather shocked a few weeks ago when I realized that the distance from Los Angeles to New York (which is probably within 20 degrees of due East-West) is significantly longer than the distance between London and Moscow. Europe is *tiny*.

        As for targets, I wouldn’t be surprised if San Francisco looks more attractive as a target than Los Angeles does. Most of California’s political apparatus comes from the Bay Area. And Los Angeles tends to present a disorganized mess to the rest of the world, while San Francisco tends to look more “together”.

        • Oh please please evil enemy do not nuke San Francisco! It’s our most treasured seat of all that’s good and just in America.
          Attacking San Fran would be as bad as… as bad as throwing a rabbit into that briar patch.
          Apropos of nothing whatsoever, anybody know an easy way to tell when San Fran Nan is on a junket home?

          • Absolutely do not nuke that bria…San Francisco.
            Especially since I’ve just moved from 70 miles away to 1550 miles away from SF. Should be about right.

        • Re non-state-actors targeting strategies: You’d be more right saying compact SF would make a “better” target than sprawling LA (though from my proximity, any description of SF as “more together” in any sense other than geographically is pretty funny) if you were discussing the Norks or another State Actor, but for the most likely attackers you need to think not like a state, but like a terrorist.

          A State Actor would likely make an attack in an effort to disrupt our ability to interfere in their affairs. SF’s banking concentration would potentially be a good target to an unsophisticated* enemy of this type. Another possibility along these lines would be a shoreside WMD attack on Hampton Roads, VA, Everett, WA, or San Diego, CA to mess up the Navy’s ability to go do Navy stuff with the carriers.

          A terrorist attack, though, has a different objective, and unlike a State Actor it also has a target audience. It would primarily seek to humble the great satan in his own foul abode, with the rest of the world, and especially the middle east “street,” as the prime audience. Their main objective would be the credit and prestige that would accrue to them, and the resulting positive effects in their efforts to recruit, fundraise, and politically dominate the region.

          Causing actual effective damage to the financial or combat capability would at most be a happy tertiary effect. The main thing is how it would play to their audience – in effect, this type of attack is theater, so the knowledge level of the audience has to be taken into account.

          * Banks have lots and lots of offsite backup systems, and especially banks with facilities in earthquake zones. It would be bad locally, but the SF Financial District companies would not skip a beat.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Consider a nuke going off, not *in* the city, but in the bay between SF and Oakland.

            Think it *all* the way through.

          • The main thing is how it would play to their audience – in effect, this type of attack is theater, so the knowledge level of the audience has to be taken into account.

            So Disneyland then.

        • Europe is *tiny*.

          It really is freaky to realize.

          http://blogcritics.org/americans-know-thy-world-the-size/

          This is freaking AWESOME– tells you comparative size of stuff.

          Need a version for states back east vs out west, though. 😀

          http://blogcritics.org/americans-know-thy-world-the-size1/
          part 2.

          • Also freaky….

            Amarillo is closer to Chicago than it is to Brownsville
            Brownsville is closer to mexico City than it is to Amarillo
            Texarkana is closer to Orlando than it is to El Paso
            El Paso is closer to Los Angeles than it is to Brownsville.

        • And L A is spread====out. That’s the only detail I think the doomsday movie “Miracle Mile” got right, the Soviets were hitting Los Angeles with one small nuke after another, and people were still running around trying to get out of town.

      • Feather Blade

        The most amusing example of this I have ever seen was in a 90’s-era anime, in which the characters (from Japan) went to New York, met a lovely low-SES Hispanic lass, and took her with them as a guide when they followed the bad guy to Los Angeles’ Chinatown, because that’s apparently not more than an hour away, and of course she would know how to navigate the environment.

  11. CombatMissionary

    Also, don’t look like you have money. It makes you a target.

  12. California’s sitting right on the edge financially, and I’m seeing occasional hints that the rest of it will be starting to slide as well. Of course, no matter how bad things get, and no matter how difficult it becomes to get food to the cities, the Delta Smelt will be protected.

  13. I might have posted it the first time around, but WRT to early eBooks, or “Cyberbooks” as they were called at the time, there was a great episode of Prisoners of Gravity on it in 1993. (Part 1 below, you’ll have to find the other two on your own so I don’t go into moderation purgatory.)

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      It’s amusing, watching TNG now, seeing people using e-book readers. The future catches up with us so quickly.

  14. “If you live in NYC and don’t have a car – Yes, you DO know who you are – make sure a friend-with-car includes you in his evacuation plans.”

    If you live in NYC, GET OUT!!!

    My wife & I grew up in NYC, and it took years of effort and a career change to get us out of NYC, but we did it and so should you.

    “but let me remind you of when the lights went out in NYC for most of a day, and people just quietly walked home”

    We lived in NYC through BOTH “great blackouts” and the power was out for days each time. There was minor looting, but the bigger issue was folk trapped in the elevators in high-rise buildings.

    “This is a sign post on the way down. When you start seeing outright unabashed theft by postal employees, and no attempt to track down your registered package, it’s time to have your preparations for the rest of the slide made.”

    One of my side businesses that have been helping us make ends meet since I lost my day job is selling microphones over the Internet. Often for smaller items I will ship by Priority Mail with Insurance. One such package earlier this year was insured for $75 and never arrived. Tracking shows it up to a point and then it just disappeared from the system. The Post Office has zero interest in either finding the package or paying me the insurance. One of my main suppliers positively hates shipping via Post Office because of the lost package rate. They will only ship via Post Office if you are willing to take the risk of the package not arriving.

  15. “I don’t mean electricity goes bye bye and never comes back. I don’t even mean LONG black outs. For those you should have a generator/whole house battery (we can’t afford either) but I expect most of the time you won’t get that. I mean brown outs and black outs become a fact of life to the point they affect your daily life/ability to work.”

    At our current location we have blackouts several times a year. A year ago with the flooding in Colorado we had multiple blackouts in a week.

    I use a medical device every night that needs a small amount of power. This is literally a matter of life and death if the power is out for more than a few days. So I researched and built a small solar electric system to power this device and have used it for a few years now. The cost was modest (about $500) but I now have reliable power for the device that does not depend on the utility company.

    For under $1000 you should be able to buy a generator and cabling to power at least most of the critical loads in your house. This is not a “whole house” system, but will get you by in any sort of power outage. We have owned and used such a portable generator for the last 29 years.

    “Speaking of which, since it’s almost impossible to have extra batteries for the kindle (I don’t know about other e-readers) have a car charger, so that if your electrical crashes, you can charge the kindle enough to finish reading that novel.”

    Great idea. The next step up is getting a small folding solar charger (under $100 these days) to charge the Kindle, iPad, iPhone and the like.

    “And have an alternate means of cooking, if you rely on electrical.”

    When our kids were young we liked to camp, and we still have a lot of the old camping gear. Coleman stoves and lanterns last next to forever, and repair parts can be had at every Walmart. If you don’t have any Coleman stoves check yard sales and Craigs list. I picked up a Coleman stove (brand new in the box) and three gallons of Coleman fuel for the cost off the fuel.

    “Have an alternate means of heating”

    One of the cheapest ways to get safe heat in an emergency is a Kerosene Heater. Brand new on Amazon they are not much over $100, and kerosene stores easily for many years.

    Rather than preparing for “The End of the World as we know it” prepare for all the common everyday sort of things that happen as we “slide down”.

    • The “Duel Fuel” (Unleaded or White Gas) stoves are getting harder to find, most rely on propane these days, which still isn’t so bad. Still, I want to get one since I grew up on them. Finding the lanterns is even harder. Battery operated LED lanterns are the latest thing. Can’t say that I object too much, it’s much safer to have one in the tent, and LED’s are not big battery hogs.

      I try to have two propane tanks at any time, one on the BBQ and the spare filled whenever I swap out. (A guy at the Co-op store suggested to me that the Cylinder Exchange at the home improvement store is a great way to get rid of out-of-date tanks and get newer ones. Well, except when the Cylinder Exchange gives you an out-of-date tank back….) It’s cheaper to refill than exchange if you know where to go. Also, I have an adapter hose that goes from big tank to small appliance, and nifty little adapter that will let you refill small cylinders from the big tanks. The legality of that is iffy, but it works fine.

      Solar phone chargers should work with the Kindle too, now that most phones have standardized on microUSB…. scratch that, I don’t think the kindle uses microUSB. You might have to feed through a hub or some other kind of adapter. Stock up on adapters.

      • Even if all our kids can start a fire with flint and steel … there are easier ways, and they know them too.

        While I’ve got a couple of Svea 123 stoves and cooking gear that works with them (for going on 50 years now), I’ve also got a couple Trangia cooksets whose stoves use methyl alcohol (easy enough to get, for example as SLX Denatured Alcohol or the like from hardware stores). Dead simple, silent, rugged, no moving parts.

        Perhaps more useful for us, though, are a couple of Katadyn and MSR water filters that stay in our travel gear.

        • I once employed a oil lamp and a couple of bricks to heat a can of clam chowder for dinner during a blackout. Oil lamps are great, and decorative too when you’re not using them.

      • Doc, we have Kindles (Classic, Paperwhite, Fire and Fire HD). All of them take microUSB.

        • Right, it was my camera that has the not quite but almost exactly unlike MicroUSB connector on it. It also uses XD data cards you can’t find anywhere.

          (Sucker doesn’t charge via USB either. Annoying.)

          I think I misremembered because I had an issue with my USB connecter on the Kindle being loose. Turned out the case had pried apart ever so slightly, and a good squeeze put everything back into place.

    • CombatMissionary

      One of the biggest problems with solar is the massive power loss that comes with inverting. When I was a kid living in the woods, we had a gas generator to power our wringer washer, the tv, etc. But we had an ‘aha’ moment when I rigged 12 volt camper lights in the house. Eventually we got a 12v tv, too. I recently did research and found you can get a 12v version of just about any appliance, except for a dryer. I plan on having a place in the country eventually, with a solar 12v system and a backup generator made from a lawnmower engine and a car alternator or a 12v permanent magnet generator. Maybe set up a separate 48vdc dryer with its own solar setup.

      • I though a solar powered clothes drier was called a Clothes line? (~_^)

      • “One of the biggest problems with solar is the massive power loss that comes with inverting.”

        Most inverters these days are 80% efficient or better. For background lighting it is hard to beat white LED Christmas tree light strings. We have three rooms of our house ringed with these for background light at less than 10 watts per room. In an outage a 90% efficient 200 watt inverter will run these for a very long time from a deep cycle battery.

        “I recently did research and found you can get a 12v version of just about any appliance, except for a dryer.”

        If I was totally off-grid then running some stuff on 12 or 24 volts DC might make sense. As it is, using normal 120 volt appliances with modern high efficiency inverters seems to be the best way to go for me and probably many others.

        Even if it is possible to get a 12 volt DC refrigerator for example, these are not common which means the selection of models is small, the price is high, and repairs are very expensive. By contrast my huge 27 cu ft 120 volt AC refrigerator with all the modern bells and whistles needs only 60 watts of power on average to run, and can easily run on a small high efficiency inverter. This is a major brand available from many local sources with parts and repairs again easily available locally.

        “Maybe set up a separate 48vdc dryer with its own solar setup.”

        If you figured out the total cost of running a dryer on a solar electric system, you would quickly discover why this is not done. Clothes lines outdoors (when weather permits) or indoors, are what folk living off-grid actually use.

        • CombatMissionary

          Darn that tech! Changing when you don’t look at it for a mere five or six years! Just like cars, where you learn to troubleshoot them and keep them running, and then, just because your car was made in the previous millennium, it’s suddenly considered ‘obsolete’!

        • William O. B'Livion

          If you figured out the total cost of running a dryer on a solar electric system, you would quickly discover why this is not done. Clothes lines outdoors (when weather permits) or indoors, are what folk living off-grid actually use.

          I’ve been hanging most of my clothes up inside the house, or out, for the better part of…Since 1994/5, IIRC. It keeps stuff from wearing out as fast, shrinking etc. And in the winter time it helps humidify the house.

  16. …since it’s almost impossible to have extra batteries for the kindle…

    I’ve been messing around with electronics stuff since back when HeathKit was still around, but replacing the battery on my Kindle DX did not require tapping into those skills, and was not difficult at all, especially as there are a number of instruction pages and videos on the web.

    The hardest part for me was getting the case open, and that only required patience, not pushing too hard, and some non-marring prying tools and a teeny tiny screwdriver. Once you are inside it’s unplug the old battery and plug the new one in, then patiently put the case back together.

    If I hadn’t been so cheap and had bought one of the kits for sale that included the correct new battery plus some appropriate plastic pry tools, it would have been even easier.

    As it was I’d rate doing the replacement a 2 on a 1-10 scale of difficulty, and it’s not a 1 only because the battery doesn’t pop itself out at you.

    • It’s amazing what you can find on the web. I cracked the screen on my camera (In spite of the acrylic plate I put on top of it, which everyone should do) and I found videos on YouTube of how to replace it on my exact model, and a replacement part from a guy in Hong Kong on eBay for about $25.

  17. William O. B'Livion

    Also, if you have a young family, buy the biggest house you can afford. Look, I’ll be blunt, the one slide I saw up close and personal ended up with three and four nuclear families per house.

    I’d suggest getting the biggest *yard* you can afford with a right sized house. Plan for the number of kids you plan to have of course–no one these days wants to raise 6 kids in a 800 square foot 2 bedroom one bath house, but a large yard has a lot of utility. You can put a “guest house” out back by getting a used RV off Craigslist for not a lot of money. You can run chickens and goats and have as big a garden as you can manage/grow.

    In many areas a building smaller than X square feet isn’t required to have permits pulled, so you could put up a 10×10 “shop” out of SIPs, put a couple solar panels on the roof, some RV lights & appliances and have a guest house.

  18. “Most inverters these days are 80% efficient or better. ”

    Be careful. The efficiency is normally calculated at full load, at part load it can be far worse.