Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The problem with many Preppers/Survivalists: Reality being wrong about stuff

Some time ago I did a video on youtube about barter items. Basically I explained that I dont believe much in barter items, mainly for two reasons.
1) I haven’t seen it work well myself. Almost everyone that ended dealing in a barter club after the economic collapse in Argentina did so out of pure necessity and they would tell you that cash would have been better. In many cases, people in barter clubs ended up hitting different fairs and markets, both dealing with cash and barter clubs. Most barter clubs would in fact end up using barter coupons, which are little else than an improvised fiat currency of their own 2)Other than some occasional bartering among friends, when studying different disasters around the world, I saw that bartering out of necessity was limited to certain types of worst case disasters, where even basic economic tools such as currency aren’t an option. Examples would be extensive economic collapse, or events in which occupation forces disrupt commerce, a country or town is sieged, or in a smaller scale a person is in jail. All these are rather unique, unnatural situations and when looking at the bigger picture they are very unlikely events and even if they do, a nice egg nest in an offshore account helps more than 100 pounds of nails, hammer and saws.
 So with that in mind I said that if you already have your other emergency supplies, along with some savings and you just have to buy something for bartering after the end of the world, start with precious metals. Historically they have been valuable and accepted during economic collapses and war, and even if none of that happens they can still be sold today in "normal" times. Somewhat normal times are by far what you're most likely to see the rest of your life, with disasters and emergencies where the funds precious metals can provide not being helpful being extremely rare.

A few days ago someone commented the following in that video:
Luckily I didn't have to watch the whole 30 minutes, because at about 4:30 he puts precious metals as first on his list. Then I knew I was watching a dope. In the prepper wet dream situation of SHTF, if you need food, and I have food, and you tell me you can trade gold or silver, I'll laugh in your face and tell you to hit the road. I can't eat, drink, wear or live in your gold.
This comment is a wonderful example of the fundamental mistake most people make when it comes to preparing for emergencies and disaster: Adjusting it to their own personal fantasies or “wet dreams”, using it to justify a hobby or a lifestyle they look forward to rather than objectively preparing for emergencies and disasters. I'm not standing in some high altar here preaching to anyone. We ALL do this to some extent, some more blindly than others but I believe its an area we can all improve on, at least those of us that are capable of acknowledging it.
These are just a few examples of what I’m saying here:

1)Focusing on guns
Who doesn’t like guns? For lots of people, guns were the reason why they got interested in self-defense and later gravitating towards preparedness. A firearm is without a doubt an essential tool for self-defense, but then again its not the only thing you should focus on. Guns are nice to have. They are fun to shoot and they have a place. An essential firearms battery also has a place. A sound suppressor can be a very useful tool too. So can full auto weapons, same goes for a 50 BMG rifle. Night vision goggles give you a huge tactical advantage. All these statements are true, but where’s the balance, where do you draw the line, and where do you simply admit you just love guns? With unlimited funds you can buy all of the previously mentioned guns and accessories but its easy to lose perspective and spend money on this you justify by saying you “need” them while not addressing more relevant, realistic needs.
Consequence: Way too much people end up with a ton of guns and very little food, no water, no emergency funds and no other supplies or skills other than owning guns. Even more ironically, in many cases people that believe to be preparing end up with dozens of guns, but never spent a single dollar in being trained on how to use them correctly. Tip to keep in mind: If you buy a gun, don’t buy another until you take a good class on how to use that specific type of gun. Do this for handguns, shotguns and rifles.

2)Focusing too much on Food
In my experience its usually the ladies that are more likely to focus too much on food. Women being generally wiser than man in the ways of life, if you’re going to obsess or focus on only one thing, you can do a lot worse than having lots of food. Food storage is an essential part of survival and you’re going to be eating it anyway if stored correctly.
Consequence: While food is arguably the most important supply to stockpile, focusing only on storing food, cooking it and neglecting other aspects of preparedness is still a bad idea and leaves you exposed to a number of other problems you many encounter that you simply will not fix no matter how well stocked your pantry is.

3)Focusing on gardening and homesteading.
This would be an example of justifying a certain lifestyle by focusing only on the theoretical self-reliance that a homestead is supposed to provide, while not taking into account its many challenges and disadvantages.
Consequence: Many folks have found out the hard way how difficult it is to make a living simply by growing your own food and trying to make a farm work, especially a small one at that. In some cases people have followed poor advice and moved away from good jobs and a good community to find themselves isolated, not making enough money and not integrating well in their new communities. In other cases people have compromised and end up commuting for hours in an attempt to have the best of both worlds. This is a tricky solution since you end up losing hours each day of your life. From a preparedness point of view, while growing food is a valuable asset, it can be done without having to move too far away from it all. An isolated homestead is all but impossible to defend during troubled times and having all your assets concentrated in one property alone can be a disaster on its own if ever forced to bug out.

4)Lack of self-criticism when it comes to fitness
Maybe the most common problem of all among preppers and survivalists is being in such poor shape that they wont be able to work, fight, walk or swim as they think they will when needed to do so. In fact in many cases people are not just out of shape, but fat to the point where combined with a sedentary lifestyle, their own health is their number one death risk factor yet they focus on EMPs, earthquakes or the breakdown of society, while remaining oblivious to the fact that whats really breaking down is their own arteries.
Consequence: After years of neglecting their own bodies it eventually catches up with people. Numerous diseases, worn joints, fatigue, and poor health in general eventually becomes a problem that in the best of cases ends up costing thousands of dollars, undermines your quality of life and ability to work, let alone survive disasters. Worst case scenario you don’t have to worry about a thing anymore because you’re six feet under.

5)Lack of self-criticism regarding social skills
So far I’ve mentioned aspects that are known to most and have been discussed often, but lack of social skills and ostracism are very common in the community and rarely addressed. With the understanding of some of the more shady sociopolitical constructions comes a rejection of those that don’t understand such manipulations. People that don’t get how disasters may occur, how likely some of them are, are often referred to as “sheep” by those involved in the preparedness community. Yet, again, this works as yet another excuse so as to not try to be social, don’t bother getting along with people that may think different. The problem is, we are all different, and with the excuse of getting along better with like-minded people your circle of acquaintances becomes increasingly small. First you stop hanging out with anyone that has different views, then you stop getting along with anyone that isnt in the same boat regarding survival, and soon enough even your own family bothers you.
Consequence: You end up alone. Families that fall apart, problems with the wife or husband, problems with kids, parents, problem with school teachers, neighbors, boss, employees. At the end of the day you need friends, neighbors and acquaintances, a network of people that helps one another. With enough self-absorption and introversion, you end up losing the ones you love the most, and then what’s the point of preparing at all?
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Warning signs for Argentina? Bitcoin in Argentina?

Clearly you were right that it was time to get out of Argentina.  They are having very high inflation once again.   What did you see as the warning signs?  How did you know it was time to bug out?
Also, do you know if people in Argentina have taken to using Bitcoin as a store of value or for trading?   It seems like it could be handy if you want to avoid pesos or to get money out of Argentina.   Is it getting more popular fast?
   -- Vince

Hello Vince,
The right time to leave Argentina was right before the economic collapse of 2001, when you could have left taking 1 US dollar for every Argentine peso you had saved during your life. For those that didn’t leave then, 2002 was the year in which hundreds of thousands escaped the sinking ship. Since then the country has been sliding into an ever darker shadow of its former self, with rampant inflation, crime and sociopolitical problems.
For years I kept waiting for an opportunity to move to USA. Several times there were a few glimpses of hope, someone being able to offer me the necessary work contract in America, but it always ended up falling apart for one reason or another.  It was number of events that made us see we were running out of time. 

Regarding crime and security we realized we were no longer living. Constantly afraid to even walk around our neighborhood and being careful where you went at all times. That level of crime paralyzes you and you basically stop living just so as to survive.
The death of a friend of mine from my shooting club was another slap that woke us up to the reality around us: People were getting gunned down around us, it was a matter of time until we ran out of luck ourselves.
Finally it was Cristina Kirchners reelection the thing that made us understand we simply had no more time left. Many statements had been made suggesting an eventual USd dollar ban and tighter control over the media as well as the general population.  You could see that they wanted to crack down on the purchase of foreign currency, street currency dealers where getting arrested and intimidated.

Because of all these reasons I ventured to guess (and it turned out I was right) that the government was simply waiting until they got reelected before taking some of the more unpopular, draconian measures. Right after they won, in a matter of days the restrictions, control and intimidation campaign was on full force.

Regarding Bitcoin, it has received some attention in Argentina with about 10.000 users, given that people are always looking for ways to escape from the Argentine peso. Bitcoin mining was until not long ago fairly attractive. The price of electricity made Bitcoin mining viable but in the last year with power prices rising and inflation making mining hardware very expensive the interest in Bitcoin is slowing down some. Bitcoin isnt as popular as in other countries but it is accepted in some stores, even for the buying of real estate although on street stores its more of a curiosity.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Security Cameras an Door Stoppers

Hi Fernando,
Great blog! I enjoy all of your updates.
Wondering if you have any opinions on a good security camera. I was
looking for a “search” function on your site to see if you’ve covered
this before, but couldn’t find one. Any insight you have would be
appreciated! Thanks!
Hi Tom,
The Zmodo Surveillance kit includes 4 night cameras, 4G phone and internet access, motion detection activation and 500GB storage. Its ranking #1 in Amazon with pretty good reviews so I’d go for something like that. These days cameras are as much of a deterrent as an alarm, maybe even more. The alarm is still essential, but at the end of the day when the alarm goes off you only know someone broke into your house but you have no evidence of who it was. With motion detecting cameras you get notified of the activity as well as keep ID of who it was, that’s a powerful resource. Whatever it is that you buy, its important to get notifications on your phone so as to know what going on when you’re not home.
Zmodo PKD-DK4216-500GB H.264 Internet & 3G Phone Accessible 4-Channel DVR with 4 Night Vision Cameras and 500 GB HD
For larger properties I would also look into installing some exterior motion detectors.For 40 buck they arent that expensive and even having just one in your driveway would given you crucial warning time.
Chamberlain CWA2000 Wireless Motion Alert System (Black)
Chamberlain CWA2000 Wireless Motion Alert System
Fernado how useful would this be for american doors in your opinion?
Door Stopper - Resists Over Two Tons of Force - Protect Your Home with the Club
Door Stopper – Resists Over Two Tons of Force – Protect Your Home with the Club
Hey Jim,
It sure would add to the security of the door given that you basically add another point of contact, one that is also pretty sturdy, stronger than most door locks in use. It’s a pretty simple device but for the money it will make the door much harder to kick open. Keep in mind though that the door itself is the key weak point. A hollow core wooden door will break before the stopper does. If you combine this with a strong metal door you can have some pretty good results. Back in Argentina my door was an armored, custom made door, locking on all four sides. That can get pretty expensive but it provides the best protection. For good results on a budget, metal doors are a good option. Even the ones that aren’t specifically armored security doors can take a beating and still hold strong.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Enjoying Halloween and making the most of it

I always loved Halloween. Its not celebrated that much in Argentina but its been one of my fondest memories from the time I lived in Boston.
Not much of a Halloween spirit in South America, there’s some parties here and there but that’s that, mostly for adults looking for yet another excuse to party. Trick or treating is simply impossible because of the obvious crime problem.
But now that we can celebrate it we do enjoy it. Sure, another excuse for consumerism and what not, but kids have a blast and that what matters the most. Enjoy it and make the most of it!
Here’s some tips :
*Have a blast and spend some quality time with the family. At the end of the day, that’s what matters the most.
*What’s Halloween without pumpkin carving? It’s a good time to teach safe and responsible knife use to children that are old and mature enough to handle one under adult supervision.
*Don’t throw it away! Make pumpkin pie, soup or some nice snacks with the pumpkin seeds. Teach your kids not to waste. Rinse the seeds with water and dry them up, mix with a bit of olive oil and a tad of salt, spread over oven paper and put it in the oven for 15 minutes or until the first seed pops. A bit hard but tasty. Tastes somewhat like popcorn.
*Use trick or treating as an excuse to get to know your neighbors a bit better. We’ve often talked about how important your community is. When things get tough, there’s very few people you’ll be able to count on, but that simply means you should have a more extensive network, not a smaller one.
*Teach your kids self-control when it comes to eating candy afterwards, have just a couple pieces and learn to stop. These are all small gestures, but in the end it works towards forming a stronger personality.
*If you can manage it, invite some kids over for a Halloween sleepover. Learn who your kid’s friends are, become more social. Again, a good moment to speak with your kid’s friends parents.
*Don’t buy a ton of stuff. Its nice to improvise and try making some costumes yourself. I’ve done projects before involving glued paper, recycling, some metal cutting for a helmet and cutting some wood. Its no big deal but it’s a good excuse to have your kids try some tools, maybe for the first time.
*Spooky night games are a great excuse to use some flashlights. Kids get to handle them, learn how to use them. This Halloween we’re going to a museum that makes a night scary tour in our town. You’re supposed to dress up and bring a flashlight (yes, we have enough flashlights for everyone … :) )
Just a few suggestions folks, happy Halloween!

 Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The crumbling infrastructure across U.S.

The video and article linked bellow explain the kind of problem I wrote about in my first book “The Modern Survival Manual” when explaining the slow decline and overall degradation of infrastructure after an economic collapse.

Infastructure issues across U.S. not an easy fix


From rough roads to dangerous bridges and broken sidewalks, America’s infrastructure is showing its age.
And while we can’t see it, deep underground, the country’s network of water pipes is aging too. It’s a growing problem that’s causing huge water main breaks across the country.
Fixing the problem isn’t easy or cheap, CBS News’ Brandon Scott reports.
When one water main ruptured in July, it looked like the scene from a summer blockbuster, with a sky-high geyser blasting through a giant crater in Los Angeles’ famous Sunset Boulevard.
Twenty million gallons of water poured into the street, flooding the nearby UCLA campus.
Then, just two weeks ago in West Hollywood, another pipe burst, turning the iconic Sunset Strip into a raging river.
It was the latest high-profile rupture in America’s second-largest city, which every day averages three water main breaks.
“It’s critical that we have pipe that can handle the loads that we put on it,” said Jeff Bray, a superintendent with LA’s water department.
His crew is trying to get ahead of the problem by replacing aging pipelines before they break.
The new pipes are made of welded steel and lined in cement. Once one is connected, it will handle a water flow of 51 million gallons every day
“With our budget the way it currently is, we’re on a 300-year cycle to replace the smaller pipes,” Bray said. “It’s not fast enough.”
But Los Angeles isn’t alone. In Oklahoma, a summer water main break flooded a Tulsa road, leaving resident Cassie Hill stranded. ….
Some people expect a sudden end of the world event, worthy of Hollywood where it conveniently unfolds within one hour and thirty minutes. In reality is a slow grinding process. The power and water grid, roads, gas lines, communications, transportation, even bridges and tunnels, it all requires constant maintenance. When the infrastructure is as massive as it is in America, it is already hard to keep up with it in normal times. When combined with the limitations of an economic crisis, you do end up having serious problems down the road. Its very difficult to keep the grid in shape and it can be downright impossible when the money simply isn’t there. All you can do is run around patching it up as it crumbles, within your limited resources.
Water supply problems, more frequent blackouts, broken roads, and a general lack of maintenance of public infrastructure is to be expected in the years to come. Services will also go through a similar degradation, expect less (and worse) public services, not enough cops on the streets, slower response time for medical and fire emergencies.
The degradation is physical as it is social and cultural. Schools will suffer a similar fate, with public schools showing a clear lack of maintenance while private schools or schools in high end neighborhoods being better taken care of. As funds simply aren’t enough, efforts will be focused on keeping the nicer areas afloat while letting the lower class sectors drop further down the socioeconomic ladder. An economic crisis isnt a matter of years, it’s a matter of decades. It’s a matter of entire generations suffering the consequences. In a country as large as the United States some States and some counties will fare better than others depending on how bad the situation was pre-economic crisis times and how much funds they currently have, but I believe it’s important to know what to look for and understand what’s going on, why this is happening and therefore prepare better for it.