Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reply: About Self Defense

This is a short podcast replying to a couple questions from the previous one. Plase forgive me if the file or host isn't perfect, I'm new at this and learning little by little.
Reply: About Self Defense Podcast

I'll be doing another podcast soon, probably tomorrrow, so leave comments here if you want certian topic discussed or questions answered. 

Short version for those that dont want to listen to the podcast:

Don Williams said...Thanks for the info, Ferfal.

I have a few questions, if you have the time:

a) You mention Glocks and Browning HiPower for handguns. Do you think SigArms (9mm, 357 Sig,45 ACP), Beretta 92s and 1911s (38 Super, 45 ACP) are less desirable? Why?
 Note: I'm not pushing for a gun flamewar --just your personal opinion. And with the proviso that you shouldn't have to mount an impregnable legal defense of that opinion against every gun nut on the Internet.

Thanks Don, I've owned and shot most of the more popular handguns. Hands down the Glock is by far the best for most people. There's nothing worng with the Sig, the 226 was issued to the Navy SEALS and is an excellent firearm, yet both I and lots of other people who I highly respect go for the Glock none the less. I'd say that 80% of the serious self defense instructors here preffer the Glock, I know that the top 5 certainly do and I understnad why they like it so much. When you look at its accuracy, ergonomics, weight, reliability, easy of maitenance, ammo capacity and tolerance to abuse no other gun comes close when you combine all of those factors. Yet some like Berettas, Sigs, and H&K, its ok.

b) You didn't mention body armor in your broadcast although you have urged it's use here on the blog. Is body armor something that one generally wears only for dangerous situations (because it is hot and uncomfortable, esp in summer) or it it something someone should wear most of the time?

(It seems that here in the USA, police on patrol are wearing it more and more although I get the impression that there was resistance when it was first introduced.)
For the average Joe, not all the time but yes when moving large amounts of cash, going to dangerous parts of town. Also for keeping next to the bed along with your gun and flashlight. If you have a couple extra seconds, the BA provides a huge advantage and multiplies your chances of surviving a gunfight considerably. So not always, but still important to have near by and wear when you know you're taking an extra risk.

Don Williams said...PS Any thoughts on selection of holsters? Inside waistband vice oustside,etc.
I much preffer inside the weistband holsters, either Bladetec or Milt Sparks. Galco has good ones too.
Remember to combine that with a good gunbelt, I like the Instructors gunblet. Careful though, it does scream "gun" to anyone that notices it, but you cna conceal it easily under an untucked t shirt or polo shirt.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

About Self Defense

Did another Podcast, this one about the 3 basic pilars of self defense. Let me know if it wroks ok.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nestor Kirchner Died Today

As sad as any death is, the truth is that today died (of heart failure) the man responsible for most of the calamities suffered in Argentina, responsible for the hunger of millions and death of thousands, responsible of official lax laws against criminals, allowing even murderers and rapists to walk out the police department in front of the victim’s family . Thanks to him, Argentina has become a paradise for criminals and welfare leaches, and a nightmare for law abiding citizens that can’t afford their own personal army and must pay exorbitant taxes on everything. Authoritarian, violent leftist, even Peron disliked the Montoneros and what they represented.  Mr. Kirchner was the one actually running the country in spite of his wife being in office and Ms. Kirchner has shallow chances of staying in power after next years presidential election. This opens the possibilities of more serious presidential alternatives, and we just might avoid sinking further into a replica of what Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is today.
He will not be missed, and only a hypocrite would say otherwise.


Leatherman MUT‏


What are your thoughts on the new multi tool for AR15-style rifles, the Leatherman MUT (http://www.leatherman.com/product/MUT)? Would this be a good tool to add to one's collection?


Boston, MA
Mut, MOLLE Tactical, Black

Hi Loyalist,
You know, I really wanted to like this tool. It looks very nice and was marketed as a shooters multitool, but after looking into it a bit, seeing a few videos and reading the specs, I don’t think I’ll ever buy one of these.
First of all, it seems to be made around the AR rifle. I wont even make fun of the fact that the ARs reliability allowed an entire market for a multitool to clear its jams. I doubt we’ll ever see a Leatherman to clear the jams in an AK or a FAL. :-)
Its nice for example that you can attach cleaning rods to it, but then again you have Otis cleaning kits and Snakebores.
The hammer is an interesting addition and it seems Leatherman understood that a driver bit of half an inch length is of limited use to say the least. Even my little Victorinox Minichamp has drivers with more length.
The MUT/AR combo as a solution for failures to fire just doesn’t fly in my opinion. You’re supposed to incorporate that into your training? Use the MUT as standard FTF drills? No joking, if your gun is that bad that you can clear it with conventions FTF drills then you may need a more reliable tool.
I would have preferred a good owl instead of the explosives punch, its something I’d sure find more uses for. For Glock mag disassemble, for example, I use the needle pliers as a punch and that good enough.
The scrapper may come in handy and its nice that they thought of a material that doesn’t scratch the gun, but again, you have that and other cleaning tool in your kit so I don’t see the point in cleaning kit redundancy.
Shooter or not I still believe that the Charge Tti or the Wave are better mutlitools, and the tools the MUT has don’t compensate for the ones it doesn’t when compared to the Charge or Wave.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Situation in Buenos Aires, a few photos and a little Déjà vu

Today was an interesting day. As I was taking a shower right now after a couple hours at the gym I kept thinking about the different situations and a few of the pics I took. All in all, these are things you eventually get used to here in Argentina, but I’m sure those of you living in US and other countries might find interesting, and as the economy keeps getting worse these will be scenarios you’ll come familiar with as well. 

I had to run a few errands in the capital district so after showering and grabbing my bag I walked to the corner where the private minibus usually makes its stops. Much nicer and safer than public transportation, this is my choice these days for when going to the capital district. The minibus is fast, you travel seated (wont stop once they are out of seats) and they have air conditioning. The 9 pesos required for the trip will filter some of the less fortunate, and I admit it’s a nice change from the bus or train where you often find puke all over the floor, drunkards, vagabonds, beggars, and honestly people just smell bad. In my opinion how bad the train smells during rush hour is a good indicator of how poor the country’s citizens have become. You also avoid the pickpocketers that take advantage of the lack of space, all bunched one against the others, and the even more brutal gun to the face, give me your bag madness I witnessed once when the train was just packed full of people. 

The first thing I noticed was that the garbage strike was over and man was I happy. The city just stunk and the rats threatened to outnumber the people even on broad daylight. Just a week of trash is enough to sink any average sized city in its own garbage, give it a week and you’ll have diseases spreading.
Attention survivalists, this is a BIG topic that should be taken into account. Prepare to dispose garbage AND prepare to deal with pest infestation and diseases.
This is what Bs As Capital district looked like just after two days of garbage recollection strike:

After doing the errands I stopped by the Ateneo, the largest book store in the country. I checked a book called “San Martin: Argentine Solider, American Hero” by John Lynch. Highly recommended, by the way. The man didn’t settle with freeing just his own country from the Spanish Empire, so he liberated a couple of our neighbors as well.

The book was on display for $ 109, but when I went to pay for it they asked me for  $115.
“You know” I told the clerk, “I’m sure it said $109” She went and verified what I said, and she commented “Everything keeps going up in price, we can hardly keep up updating the prices”. That sent a cold chill down my spine, since the last time I heard a similar phrase was in December 2001, after Argentina made the biggest debt default in known history.
 “Don’t worry though” she smiled back at me, probably noticing my expression that was more appropriate for “I see dead people”. In a way, it is an old ghost we all fear around here. “We have to charge you the price on display, there’s a law that says that”.
After that I went back to catch the minibus back home. We had to deviate because there was a protest in Avellaneda station: Last week several people got shot during a train syndicate fight, the government goons opened fire on the workers that were protesting injuring several and killing 23 year old Mariano Ferreyra. As we got off the avenue we got to see a bit of whats on the lateral streets. Usually the avenues look a bit better, and the further you get away form them the worst it gets. These are a few shanty houses, cardboard scavengers.

Back home we went to the supermarket. It was a nice day so it was mostly an excuse to walk a bit. A house that is about to get finished showed a bit of concern for squatters, a serious problem in Argentina. (notice the razor wire) and you can see the burglar bars and fences on the other houses as well. These are all pretty standard.

The supermarket also shows an intimidating fence, an addition after the looting of 2001/2002.

Its not all bad news, once again, its just the way you learn to live, the small things I notice and think are worth commenting on.

Remember to have fun people. Prepare, work out and always use common sense. Take care.


The good old days of junk gold in Ebay

My friend Captain Rick sent me an email the other day and he mentioned that a year or two ago he could sometimes find junk gold at 20% or 30% below spot price. Now he says those days are over and the price is above spot price in most cases. If you happen to come by it on the street, know that at the very least you’ll be able to sell it for spot on ebay pretty quick.
As “expensive” as gold is these days, nothing indicates its going to go down in price any time soon. If gold is too much for you, dear friend at least buy a couple silver eagles or some pre 65 silver dimes each month. Son enough the stash starts growing and whatever happens you can be sure that if the economy collapses the price of your precious metals will go up in inverse proportion to how hard the US dollar falls.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Middle Class Preparedness

This is a pretty tipical email. I get at least a couple of these per week. Its good because the average citizen is clearly seeing the writing in the wall, but I wish people wouldn't worry that much. You dont have to worry when you can DO stuff to improve your situation and be better prepared for harder times.

Hi Fernando,
I am in my 30's, have 4 children under 7 years old and am pregnant
with #5. Due in January. I'm short, skinny and have to wear glasses or
i can't see a thing. After reading your article part 1-4, I'm scared
crapless because America is headed for collapse. I have been hacking
away at the food storage stuff and i just planted 7 fruit trees on my
residential property. City won't allow me to put any animals on it.
I'm thinking of putting in a water well? I don't know. But anyway,my
question is, my husband is a manager of an Insurance company and he
does well. We are middle class Americans for now. But what happened to
insurance companies during the collapse in your country? Noone is
going to buy life insurance or anything anymore if the government
takes over and our country collapses and food is expensive. Maybe they
will still buy auto insurance? But I am thinking, If food becomes
scarce, people won't pay their bills and policies will lapse.
Therefore, my husband doesn't get paid. it's that simple. Am I right?
What should i do. I'm thinking of just buying gold and when the
collapse is announced, getting the hell out of here and over to....
china? I don't think i want to wait around and see what happens. My
little blonde blue eyed children are too precious to me. I've also
decided to get my tubes tied. just in case we don't leave and also
thinking of taking martial arts along with my 2 oldest boys.
THanks so much for your blog. I've been hearing things like, "get food
storage, get guns, etc" but haven't understand WHY until reading your
blog. Thanks SO MUCH. I GET IT NOW. And hindsight is always 20/20.
Think i should buy gold and learn Chinese?? Or will China be hurting
to? If America falls won't so many other countries? I doubt it but i
hear that a lot. So if you were me, happily married middle class
family with 5 wonderful children and a husband that' works for
insurance company, what should we plan for? just everything on your
Thanks so much!

Hi Michelle. About Insurance companies, by all accounts they where and I quote several news media websites form that time “destroyed”.  Add to the collapse of he currency used, that people don’t have any more money for insurance, combine that with a serious jump in both suicides and crime related deaths. If he’s a manager then he has a voice in his company I suppose, the best thing would be adjusting to the new, post crisis market. Based on what insurance companies are offering here, the keys are affordable charges and peace of mind. Maybe you can only charge little to a country that has a more poor population each passing year but then again what the insurance will cover will be likewise adjusted. Also imagine that there more poor there are, the less people have to begin with, so maybe he pays a minimum monthly fee and that only covers 5000 or 10000 bucks worth of stolen property in case of home robbery insurance, but at least its something, and that buys some piece of mind in a country where home invasions are more and more common. This is just a small, basic example of how the market readjusted after the collapse. You mention auto insurance, and that is indeed a market to consider, but know that with out of control carjacks many companies have gone broke. Now you see more of them specializing in recovery (Lowjack and such tracking systems) and this helps reduce their expenses. Its about being smart. Remember a post I made a few days ago about the most common cars being the ones that get stolen the most? That’s a key piece of information right there. It means there will be a profitable market for high end vehicle insurance. Why? Because a) you can charge the owners more b) there will be a market because the word of car theft going up will be on the streets c) they aren’t exactly the cars that get stolen the most.

About your other questions, mostly I would work on a mindset adjustment. Accept the crisis and the possibility of it getting worse simply as a fact of life. These things just happen, and if its not this its something else, but eventually natural or man made disasters affect us every once in a while during our lives.
Learn to live with the things you can’t control but work towards those that you can. You can learn hoe to fire a gun and carry it, its nothing special just making up your mind about doing it and not give up in the process. You mentioned some trees you’ve planted. That’s both therapeutic during stressful times and it helps put healthy food on the table. Some orchard is much better than no orchard at all, so keep working on it.
I’d forget about moving to China… ;-) 

If you want to learn a second language, Spanish makes a lot of sense, and it will provide your kids with a valuable tool when they have to compete tomorrow in a much tougher job market.
If I where you I’d take a deep breath and relax. Keep working on your garden and start working out within your possibilities. After having the baby you could start to learn how to shoot, an hour or so per week of time on your own could be spent on shooting classes, most of us find it pretty relaxing. Keep stoking up on food and other gear you may need without going crazy. Do lots of research before spending a single buck and only get what you really need and what your budget allows. Yes, do keep reading the blog since I’m sure you’ll find more useful stuff.
Take care!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Security in South Africa


Wanted to let you know I loved your blog and your book.  Very practical, without being over-the-top alarmist.  I
like that you live in the real-world, not some survivalist or pacifist fantasy land.

Thought you'd find this interesting.  I was on a hunting trip recently and was talking with a Canadian who had lived
in South Africa for 3 years.  He lived in a gated community with full-time security guards, had a 10 foot wall around
the house with an electric fence on top.  The house was divided into two "zones" with a metal gate between to
close off.  His home was broken into 3 times over that period.  He owned long-guns but I forgot to ask him if he
had a handgun in South Africa.  The underlying cause of the situation is the same as in Argentina: too many poor 
and angry people who will do anything to get what you have.  After 3 years this guy couldn't take the stress and 
relocated back to the Americas.

Keep up the good work, and good luck with your relocation plans.

Sounds typical of the security needed in SA: Gated and guarded community, 10 feet high wall, electrified fence, dogs (plural) alarm, burglar bars, other barriers to protect the people at night, diving it into more zones to be breeched, bullet proof construction, guns and fighting training. Then you listen to people that think they’ll have security covered… “when SHTF” … just because they live in an out of town homestead, have a dog or two and some guns. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it only works well because you never had serious crime to deal with.

I posted a couple articles regarding how it is to live over there. Many of the those security measures are applied here as well in the nicest gated (and of course guarded ) communities. Burglar bars can be found in pretty much every house across Argentina.
Please keep in mind that these writers aren’t exactly the survival and preparedness type, but more of the politically correct Times correspondent that hates guns and is more worried about not looking paranoid than protecting their own lives.
I think the SA situation is a good example to be studied, where you can learn about advanced home security and how you simply can’t win when the entire country wants you dead and people willing to do that have an unofficial green flag by the government. It’s a no-win situation and leaving is the only option. Yet many of the security measures are worth learning.

(Before anyone starts, I’m posting this ONLY for the security aspect of the thread. Any comment that isn’t specifically about security will not be posted, so don’t even waste your time with other topics of discussion)

We carried panic alarms and slept in an anti-rape cage
April 28, 2004

South Africa's reputation for violent crime is unequalled, one in nine is HIV positive and poverty and unemployment are rampant. But as he prepares to leave after five tumultuous years as The Times bureau chief there, this correspondent explains why he will always find the country seductive
I HAVE SURVIVED cerebral malaria, several doses of amoebic dysentery and two near-fatal car crashes. I live with my wife and children in a fortified home inside a fortified compound, under permanent threat from murderous intruders. We can’t walk or take public transport anywhere for fear of attack; even when I drive, a carjacker could shoot me for less than £1. One in nine of the locals has HIV, and there are bent cops, massive unemployment and grinding poverty, with beggars at every traffic light.
It is, in short, a vision of hell. So why is it that, as I prepare to leave South Africa after five years to return to England, I have such a gut-wrenching feeling of loss? (FerFAL comment: Because you’re an idiot? Sorry, couldn’t help it, wont happen again)

This country is not for the faint-hearted, but somehow it gets to you. There are the obvious things, of course: the all-year sunshine, the sky that seems to go on for ever, the beaches, the barbecues, the big house with the huge garden and the swimming pool. And most of all, there are the people. Our children, Laurence, 5, and Emilia, 2, have grown up here. Laurence loves to get out his toy mower and help Sam, the gardener, cut the lawn. He won’t be doing that in London — there isn’t any grass. Emilia will miss being strapped with a towel to the back of Winnie, our domestic worker, the way African women traditionally carry their children, and which she adores. Sam and Winnie have become close family friends, and we could never afford them in London. 

Of course, there have been bad times too. I still remember the day when our first domestic worker announced that she was seven months pregnant, and was going to give birth at the same time as my wife, Nicol. At first I thought nothing of it. Then a South African friend told us it would be too dangerous to keep her on after she gave birth. “It’s illegal to test employees for HIV,” he said. “But she ’s from a rural area, and no matter how many times you tell her not to, she will pick up your child and breastfeed it. Are you prepared to take the risk that she might infect your child? You have no choice. You have to pay her off.”
South Africa has the highest HIV rate in the world, so we had little option but to take his advice. On several occasions since we have read stories in the local press about domestic workers infecting the children of their employers with HIV. It was a sobering experience. But then, Africa is not the Home Counties.
In the fortified northern suburbs of Johannesburg, we have become accustomed to living behind an 8ft remote-controlled gate and sleeping in a special section of the house with steel bars on the windows and a steel gate in the corridor, known as an anti-rape cage. We all carry panic buttons so that an armed response team can be summoned in seconds if there is an intruder. Even Laurence understands this. “That’s for the baddies when they come, isn’t it Daddy?” he said once. 

Nothing dominates dinner-party conversation in Johannesburg like tales of violent crime. Everyone has a story to tell, and they delight in telling it, terrifying the tourists, demonstrating how macho and fearless South Africans are and helping to orchestrate a collective hysteria in the process.
Our own experience was limited. Two intruders broke into the master bedroom while I was away. Nicol was in the adjoining bedroom putting Emilia to sleep. She heard a noise, and thought little of it. But for weeks friends and colleagues bombarded us with the possible horrible consequences had she walked in on the intruders. By the end of it, I was more frightened of them than the robbers.
Then one day we woke up to the news that an elderly couple near us had been killed when someone broke into their house and stabbed them in the head with a pair of shears. Nicol and I exchanged glances, tried not to panic and went about our day. 

The image this extraordinary, if deeply troubled, country has in Britain as one of the most dangerous places in the world outside a war zone enrages the South African Government, which sees this as a legacy of colonialism and apartheid. Violent crime is only an aspect of South African society. It does not define it. If it did, no one would ever want to live here, black or white.
There is another side to South Africa, which keeps people here who could leave if they wanted to, and which pulls back many who have already left. The fact is that, ten years after the fall of apartheid, South Africa is the powerhouse of the continent. As one white South African who left and then returned told me: “This is a dynamic society. Everything is in flux. It’s a society trying to find its feet. There is no more exciting place to be.”
As representatives of more than 100 governments, including 40 presidents and ten prime ministers, arrive at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to celebrate the tenth anniversary of freedom and democracy, it is worth bearing in mind how much the country has changed in ten years.
Armoured vehicles no longer storm the black townships and fire on impoverished residents who object to being politically and economically marginalised by a white-minority government who saw them as sub-human because of the colour of their skin.

The Government no longer pays scientists to carry out research into race-specific bacterial weapons, schemes to sterilise the majority black population, or experiments with such notable contributions to warfare as chocolates laced with botulinum, cigarettes spiked with anthrax and bottles of beer adulterated with thallium.
At shopping complexes all over the country, blacks, whites, Coloureds and Indians casually sit next to each other in restaurants and bars, share a meal, a drink and a conversation — all of which were once criminal offences. It is hard to believe that only ten years ago South Africa was a totally segregated and intolerant society. Today, for the most part, South Africa’s people get along remarkably well.
Black political leaders periodically remind the white community that a little over a decade ago they actively or passively supported the violent oppression of the majority of the black population, turned a blind eye to the apartheid-era death squads and sanctioned the violent destabilisation of neighbouring black states. But there hasn’t been a hint of the vengeance that so many whites feared. White people whinge about affirmative action, falling educational standards and the lack of job and promotion prospects for their children. But that’s because the country’s resources are being used to benefit all its people, not just a privileged white elite. A decade after black majority rule, white people continue to dominate corporate South Africa.
Afrikaners, the descendants of 17th-century Dutch and French settlers who account for some 60 per cent of South Africa’s four million white people, and who erected the edifice of apartheid, complain that their culture and heritage are under siege. Their language, they say, is disappearing from schools, courts and government offices, and they feel threatened by affirmative action. But few whites would seriously argue that South Africa is not infinitely better now than under white minority rule. Most of those who think otherwise have already left.
Racial tolerance and reconciliation are the official government goals. That has bred a new climate in which words such as “kaffir” and “coolie” are beyond the pale. Maids are now called “domestic workers,” and non-whites are respectfully referred to as “the previously disadvantaged”. 

South Africa, for all its shortcomings, is no longer the skunk of the international community. On the contrary, it is held up as an example of how apparently intractable violence and conflict can be resolved in an increasingly volatile and hostile world. The hate, fear and paranoia which characterised the country in the dying years of apartheid have all but gone. South Africa is now a much happier and relaxed place in which to live and work.
When Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson swore in Thabo Mbeki yesterday for his second five-year presidential term, South Africans celebrated the peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy at a time when the rest of the world was convinced a bloodbath was inevitable. 

But they are also celebrating a decade of stability under black majority rule, which has been responsible for a dramatic turnaround in the country’s fortunes, the revival of the bankrupt apartheid-era economy brought to its knees by years of sanctions and the lowest rates of inflation and public debt for a generation. In contrast to the South Africa of a decade ago, today it is getting richer, not poorer, an achievement for which the ruling African National Congress is rarely given credit. South Africa is now regarded by the international financial community as one of the most disciplined of all the emerging markets, with low labour costs and a potential for economic growth that is among the most attractive in the world.
The fears of white people who stocked up on canned goods before the first democratic elections in anticipation of Armageddon now seem ridiculous, as do the predictions from white alarmists that once the ANC took power it would nationalise everything, from “swimming pools to children”.
Of course, despite many reasons for optimism, the country’s problems are far from over. The hopes and expectations of millions of impoverished black people who believed that the end of white minority rule would bring wholesale improvements in their wretched lives have not been realised. Unemployment is increasing, and now stands at more than 40 per cent. Fewer than 7 per cent of school-leavers each year will find a job in the formal economy. 

For most people, life has got harder, not easier, under black majority rule. For the thriving black middle class, estimated to be up to 15 million people, who have been in a position to benefit from the transition to democracy, the past ten years have brought considerable gains. But the same cannot be said for the estimated 20 million of the country’s 45 million people who live outside the formal economy.
In the squalid squatter camps or “informal settlements” that have sprung up like festering boils, millions of people live in conditions of abject poverty, with little or no sanitation, water or power, and no visible means of support. Having lived in a tin shack in the Diepsloot squatter camp north of Johannesburg for a few days, I soon realised that the depths of anger over such conditions is the gravest threat to the country’s stability.
Few white or for that matter affluent black people ever venture out to visit these hell holes on their doorsteps. These are the people that residents of the wealthy suburbs, black and white, have fortified their homes against with all the latest that security technology can offer. Here, amidst the stench of human urine and faeces, the fury and despair of the poorest of the poor is palpable. It is here that South Africa’s answer to Robert Mugabe is most likely to emerge — a firebrand demagogue who could tap into the festering resentments against rich white people in their fancy houses, and mobilise millions of landless peasants to march on the shopping malls and golf courses. 

This is where most of the crime comes from. Bringing this vast underclass into the mainstream of society represents the biggest challenge facing Mbeki in his second term of office. Unlike the black urban elite which has benefited from a decade of black majority rule, this seething underclass has little in the way of education or skills. It is unemployed, and largely unemployable. 

It is going to be a Herculean task. Many critics think that it is beyond the ability of the ruling party, that the country’s social and economic problems are just too big to be solved. Mbeki does not share such views. He is adamant that the ANC has done more in ten years to improve the lives of the black majority than all previous white governments put together. Unemployment, he says, can be defeated, just like apartheid.
South Africa’s black electorate has just delivered Mbeki and the ruling party their biggest election victory since Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black President. Despite the ANC’s failure to rescue millions of them from poverty and despair, they seem prepared to wait a little longer for it to do so.
After five exhilarating years, our time here is up. Living in South Africa was always only going to be temporary. We are Europeans, not Africans, and must return home, despite flirting with the idea of becoming South Africans as some of our friends have done. It would be fascinating to see if the squatter camps can be removed from the landscape. That might just be the first step in ending Africa’s image as the “basket case” continent.
Sitting on the Tube or walking through a London drizzle at some point in the future, I know that images of South Africa and its people — from the Afrikaner farmers of the Free State to the impoverished residents of the squatter camps — will always return to haunt me. Perhaps I will return one day. On the other hand, perhaps I won’t leave at all . . . 

Backstory: In South Africa, home sweet fortress

As I begin a new assignment in one of the world's most dangerous countries, I rent a house with electric fencing, burglar bars, and more laser beams than a Star Wars set.
By Scott Baldauf, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / December 6, 2006
Marius, a pot-bellied security-alarm technician, yells to his assistant up in our attic, who is staring at a box with flashing red lights. "OK, Boet, I'm going to arm the system," he says. As he presses the four-button security code, I hold my breath.
"Right, now step out into the room," he says to me, "and see if that sets off the alarm."
In theory, the infrared beams scattered throughout our rental house should trip a silent alarm that will bring an armed guard from the Stalag-17-style, electric-fenced community – with, I should add, a lovely duck pond, clubhouse, tennis courts, playgrounds, and walking trails – where my family and I have chosen to live. (I say in theory because I haven't the faintest idea how to turn the system on.)
I step into the room, and the eyebeam in our living room spots me. Just 2-1/2 minutes later, there's a sharp knock at the door, and a shout: "Security here! Is everything OK?"
In South Africa, nothing says "Home Sweet Home" like 10-foot walls, electric fencing, burglar bars, and at least one panic button wired directly to an armed-response team, licensed to shoot, if not kill. It's not the sort of thing you put in a tourist brochure. But South Africa, statistically speaking, is one of the most dangerous places in the world to live.
As recently as 1998, according to a report by Interpol, the country had the highest recorded per capita murder rate in the world – with 59 homicides per 100,000 people, followed by Colombia with 56. The US, by comparison, had 6. Also in 1998, South Africa had a high recorded rate of robbery and violent theft.
South African government officials like to point out that the number of crimes is declining – particularly murder, which they say has dropped every year since 1994. In a country of 40 million people, the number of homicides dipped from 21,553 in 2003 to 19,824 in 2004, for instance. Still, the US had 293 million people in 2004 and fewer murders (16,150).
It doesn't help that many of the homicides occur at home, which only fuels the paranoia of those who worry about that noise in the yard late at night (and no, dear, I'm not talking about you). Nearly 35 percent of males and 55 percent of female victims of homicide were killed in a private home or yard. The majority of murders continue to be black on black, with the townships being most at risk. The biggest fear of whites in the suburbs remains property crime.
The local press does its best to highlight the problem, telling residents about the latest military-style daylight robbery of an armored vehicle at a posh suburban mall. Dinner parties bring the sense of danger one step closer to home, with the inevitable game of "guess who got robbed this week."
Elite private schools get into the act, too. Our daughters recently took part in a "duck and cover" drill. The enemy wasn't Russian ICBMs like in the good old 1950s, but roving gangs of thieves. While the principal banged on the doors of every classroom, my daughters took cover under desks and inside cubbyholes meant for their backpacks and rubber boots. Teachers locked the doors and asked for silence.
Coming to Johannesburg, from New Delhi, has been a bit of a smelling salt. In New Delhi, the most I ever had to think about crime was to lock the door at night. That's more than our "night guard" ever did. He would fall asleep precisely at 10 p.m. on my landlord's garden furniture. Sometimes we had to wake him in the morning (but, ah, he did salute us smartly when he got up).
The first people we met in Johannesburg made a big impression on us. One, an ethnic Indian businessman, shocked us with a story of his home being robbed by armed men, who terrorized his 3-year-old child and the nanny.
Another, a Western journalist whose home was robbed twice, showed us the accordion-style gate she used to lock herself in the bedroom at night, in case she got robbed again. "This," she said, sliding the gate across to demonstrate, "is my rape gate."
Charming name, no? The rape gate became a feature in many South African homes in the early 1990s, in anticipation of lawlessness in a post-apartheid regime. The theory is that thieves can take whatever they want in the living room, but won't be able to go into the bedrooms. The rape gate fad has diminished over the years: It turned out thieves were more interested in electronics.
Today, specialized relocation firms, who help newcomers settle into South Africa, tell clients to focus on the essentials, and peddle easy-to-remember acronyms on protecting themselves.
My favorite is B-SAFE, courtesy of Xpatria Relocation Services.
Bars – iron bars on all windows that open.
Staff – preferably live-in housekeepers who are always present, even when you are at work.
Alarms – best bet is a motion-sensor system that alerts an armed-response team which arrives in three minutes or less.
Fido – dogs provide a deterrent, both through noise and through their incisors.
Electric fencing – preferably 220 volts, which can cause severe injury or death.
With all this talk of crime, it's a wonder anyone comes to South Africa at all. But as the continent opens up politically and economically, many businesses find the market too lucrative to pass up. And compared with other African cities, Johannesburg is seen as a dream post. In Lagos or Nairobi or Dar-es Salaam, the crime may not be as bad, but the roads and electricity and Internet access are decidedly worse.
Government officials, tasked with reducing crime by 2010 when South Africa will host the World Cup soccer tournament, have been appealing for a lot more patience and a little less griping. One South African official famously told those who constantly carp on the crime problem that they were welcome to leave. (He later recanted.)
Many black South Africans see the current white South African fascination with crime as veiled criticism of black majority rule. Crime always existed in the townships, where police visited only to break up demonstrations, not to protect citizens. Now, whites are just getting a taste of what blacks have been victims of for decades. Black taxi drivers blame crime on African immigrants from other countries, such as Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
Outside the house, I meet with the security guard who came to my rescue. He's wearing a black bulletproof vest, with a 9-mm pistol tucked in front. I thank him for coming, offer him some water, and ask if South Africa is really as dangerous as people say. "It's happening every day," he says. "These robbers are very well armed. You have to be careful."
Later in the week, during a pink and orange sunset, I take a dog named Lampo out for his evening constitutional. He belongs to some friends, who found him as a puppy at a local pound. I've agreed to housesit, in part because I want to find out if I'm still a dog person, and in part because of one of the letters in my security checklist: F for Fido. My friends tell me the dog is fine around children, but is skittish around men, especially black men. The people at the dog pound told them it had probably been abused.
As we walk past house after house, with barking dog after barking dog, I notice Lampo pays no attention. Instead, he's watching the stream of housekeepers and gardeners heading home from work. They eye the dog nervously back.
Great, I think, I'm walking a racist dog.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Q&A Podcast

 Hi guys, this is my first podcast. Here I answer the quesitons that I got for the Two Beers with Steve interview.
Let me know if it works ok since its the first time I do this. I like the podcasts and will be doing more of them, its fun to change a bit from all that writing. :-)

If you have suggestions for topics to be discussed in the next podcast feel free to write them here in the comments.
Take care and have a good weekend!

Friday, October 22, 2010

About Water


We made it home.

Actually, we made it home with no trouble, and a pleasant few flights (minus just a bit of turbulence over the Andes.)

Thank you so much for meeting us, Amy and I both had a fantastic time, and learned quite a bit.

I forgot to ask you something. On the highway out to Ezeiza, many of the homes and apartment buildings seem to have tanks or cisterns on the roofs. Can you explain what these are, how they work, and what they are used for? Here in the US, storing rainwater is becoming much more popular both from an environmentally friendly standpoint, as well as money savings as resources become more expensive. Many folks are purchasing "rain barrels" (approx. 50-70 USD for a standard 55 gallon/210 liter drum) examples at http://www.plastic-mart.com/class.php?cat=187 but here we allow gravity to take the rain down the roof through the gutters and then into the barrel on the ground - as such, no pumps or power necessary. I understand in BA, the barrel would be stolen - so do folks use a pump of some sort? Does the water get used for the garden as it is here? Or, do you filter and drink/bathe in the water? Do you pay for water from the city and is it expensive? I know  you told me you dont trust the water, but I don't recall if you said you just buy bottles or do you have a filter of some sort (I purchased one from Jeff the Berkey Guy - he is AWESOME!) Just wondering about these (and feel free to use this on the blog if you like, but please don't use my name - if you think other readers would be interested in something that jumped out at us when we visited.)



Hi A! Any time man, it was a pleasure meeting you both. Those tanks you saw are mandatory 1000 liter tanks, our building code requires that you have at least one of those per house. Apartment buildings have bigger ones of course but a 1000 liter tank is minimum for most houses. Usually houses have two of these, so as to use one when the other one gets cleaned. The tap water level sometimes goes down, specially in summer, and you are left without water, at night when people use less water the level goes up a bit and these tanks get filled. Other folks have wells too. The basic idea is having water stored already, so if the water network goes down for a day or two you can get by if you are careful about not wasting it. This is pretty common here during summer. 

I’ve said it many times, water is one of the priorities along with food and means of self defense. I have both bottled water and a water filter to filter the tap water. As I told you when we met, even the water company admits there’s harmful chemicals in it and not recommended for pregnant women and children under the age of three.
 Take care and hope to see you again soon!

Also in regard to this same topic, Jeff from Directive 21, better known as the Berkey Guy, sent me this link. It’s good to see more people realizing how important it is to be able to have potable water.

Big Berkey gravity-fed water filters are a top pick for clean water and long-term preparedness
(NaturalNews) The water filtration market is saturated with products that claim to provide clean drinking water. While all of them work to one degree or another, some can be complicated to install and maintain. And some are downright expensive on a per-gallon basis, too. The more popular faucet filters, for example, only filter a hundred gallons of water (or so) before requiring replacement. Personally, I like to have water filters that can handle several thousand gallons of water at a very low effective cost per gallon.

I also like gravity-fed
water filters for several important reasons: They require no electricity to use -- meaning they'll work even when the lights go out -- and there are no complicated motors or pumps to wear out or replace. They're also light and fairly portable, making them a natural choice for anyone interested in short-term storm preparedness or even long-term "end of the world" preparedness scenarios.

I've used several gravity-fed
water filters, and I've come to really like the Big Berkey system the best. As far as simple, reliable water purification on your countertop, it doesn't get any better than Berkey water systems.

How the Big Berkey works
With a Berkey water filter, you simply put the water into the top chamber and gravity pulls it through the media filters that capture bacteria, parasites, herbicides, pesticides, solvents, nitrates, nitrites, lead, mercury, chlorine, VOCs, and even fluoride. You can run practically any type of water through the unit and get fresh, pure drinking water as a result. (Of course, really dirty water will clog the filters more quickly, requiring more frequent cleaning of the filters, but that's true with any filtration system.)

I personally use the "Big Berkey System" which is made out of stainless steel, and I love it! I used it for many months in Ecuador without a single problem, and it is still a personal favorite that I highly recommend. The water always comes out clean, no matter how dirty it is when you initially pour it into the holding container at the top.

My favorite feature on the Big Berkey System is the stainless steel water container. Many other brands of water filters are made out of polycarbonate and plastic components that may leach harmful chemicals into the water (Berkey does sell a co-polyester variety, but guarantees that it's BPA free). Another cool feature of the system is that it requires no pumps or effort to function. Gravity literally does all the work for you. Yes, it takes some time for the gravity filter to produce water, but by filling the top container, the effective water pressure provided by gravity is more than enough to produce sufficient drinking water each day for a typical

The stainless steel aspect of the Berkey water filters is also a huge plus. I've used other hand-held filters that ran the water through a hose, and it seems like the water always comes out tasting a bit like the hose. But with the Big Berkey, there's no "hose"
taste because there's no hose! The water tastes clean and clear, with no "surgical" aftertaste.

If you don't already have a gravity-powered water filter, I recommend one for every household that's interested in preparedness. As long as you have access to some source of water, this water filter can get you through a storm, a blackout or even a period of social unrest. When the municipal plumbing fails, Big Berkey keeps you hydrated with clean, bacteria-free water.

That's worth its weight in gold, in my opinion.
Where to get Big Berkey water filters
Here's the source for Big Berkey water filters that I'm familiar with and recommend. You'll get excellent customer service with these folks along with very competitive pricing, too:


(They also carry some other large-scale water storage devices such as the Aquatank.)

Got a family member who doesn't believe in preparedness? Give them a Big Berkey and call it a Christmas present. One day when they need it, they'll realize you actually gave them the gift of clean water during an emergency, and that's perhaps one of the best gifts you can ever give anyone.

Site Problems

Fernenando, There is a Formatting problem with your site. Is unreadable by IE, Firefox or Chrome.

Hi, I'm getting a lot of email about this. I have no idea what's wrong, I see it just fine on both Firefox and Explorer. I did add a new gadget on the sidebar, most popular posts. I'll remove it and see how it works.
Anyone else having problems? Any idea what's wrong?

Edited to add: Just checked again with Explorer and you're right, its not showing correctly. I removed the favorite post gadget and now seems to be working ok. Can you see it ok now?


Thursday, October 21, 2010

SHTF Car Paradox

Based on this article we get a general idea of what could be considered an appropriate SHTF vehicle:
*Tough and easy to repair.
*Solid reputation. A car that rightfully earned the item mentioned above by being on the street for decades.
*Cheap and commonly available spare parts.
Now, these three narrow down the options a bit but not completely. In this day and age there are other factors and since two is one and one is none its not a bad idea to have one vehicle that is cheap to repair but also cheap to drive (good gas mileage) and a second one that is bigger and 4x4 capable, I’m thinking a 4 door double cab type or sport utility truck like the 4-door Hilux.

To this we have to add another factor that presents a bit of a paradox when we go a bit further into ideal cars and bad times, and this is the issue of robbery and carjacking.

The 3.0 L Turbodiesel  Hilux is made here in Argentina. We freaking love this car, of course. The Hilux is used by the police and liked by the rest of us for the reasons we all know. Yet yesterday while having a conversation with like-minded people at the shooting range, the consensus was that driving one around pretty much painted a bullseye on your back because its very sought after by carjackers.
The car is well made, popular, lasts a long time, all the things that make it a good car to own in tough times, yet at the same time that popularity creates a parallel black market of used parts. This means that chop shops have a list of prices for certain vehicles. Lets say a Peugeot 206 gets you 300 or 400 pesos, a Fiat Duna/Uno/147 gets you 200 bucks, but a nice Hilux delivered to be disassembled, be shipped to neighboring countries or have its numbers altered to be sold within Argentina, that car will get the carjacker maybe 500 or 600 bucks. This means that when criminals go out looking for vehicles, there’s a list with prices in their mind, and cars like the Hilux or Peugeot 206 are at the top of their list. You get all the good traits common and reliable cars have but you also suffer the black market that eventually grows whenever a country collapses.

This is a serious problem in other poor or corrupt countries around the world as well. It is in fact so serious, some security-aware people just don’t buy them to avoid these problems.
Now for example my crappy Daewoo, is a subcompact esthetically and in terms of capability not that different from a 206, but a 206 it is not. This means that a carjacker would look at my Daewoo twice, specially since it has its fare share of bumps and dents. Yet at the same time most of the parts used by the Lanos are common to the widely popular Chevrolet Corsa. I buy Corsa parts for my Lanos, but the Corsa is the one that is in high demand  for carjacking.

If you happen to know of a model that isn’t as well known but uses many parts of the more popular cars, that may be a way to go to avoid getting your car stolen. Adding a few esthetic mods and sticking a different name in the back  may dissuade some of the not so well informed criminals that are looking for a particular brand and model.

Just as a curiosity factor, are you wondering how many cars get robbed in Argentina? This insurance company website says 10%, 1 out of 10 cars get robbed each year, so you see, it is a serious problem  since every year you roll a 10 side dice to see if its your turn or not.
The website also mentions that common yet older vehicles like the Duna, 147 or Peugeot 504 are favorite choices in the provinces and small towns. “Its just an old beatup truck/car” just doesn’t make it safe. If its common then that’s the factor that matters the most.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Equipped Website

Ever heard of this place? They design unique survival items, & review other outdoor gear.


Their keyring LED is a real improvement: red light lasts longer, plastic collar protects LED bulb & directs light forward, yellow color easy to see, etc.

They also made a small blade for an Altoids kit.

Hi! Yes, equipped.com and Doug Ritter have been around forever. Its a well respected webiste among the survival and preparedness community. If I remember well he specializes in airplane and boat survival kits. He has designed some gear as well.
The kits are pretty good but you can do better if you research a bit and buy quality products to put together a kit specially for your own circumstances and location. The light you mention for example, I’m much happier with a Fenix LD01 as a keychain light, I think it’s a much more capable flashlight, capable of both 80lumen output or long term 10 lumen for when light will be needed for long periods of time.
I’d even take the Fenix E01, which, like the LD01, uses a single readily available AAA battery and runs for almost 24 hours in its constant 10 lumen mode. Its built like a tank and costs just 14 bucks.
Haven’t tried the knife but a Spyderco Bug would work nicely. Heck, if you have a kit, then I’d hope you’d be the type of person that has something better than a 1” blade with you.
What I like the most about the website is some of the gear reviews. They are a bit dated but I remember reading pretty good reviews about the Leatherman Wave and Charge. I ended up buying both and I currently carry the Charge Tti.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Toyota Hilux

Thanks Guy for the link ;-) The Hilux is used here by the police and its pretty common. I just love that truck, the only problem is that criminals love it too so its a carjacker magnet.


Guerrilla Trucks

Why rebels and insurgent groups the world over love the Toyota Hilux pickup as much as their AK-47s.


As the war in Afghanistan escalated several years ago, counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, a member of the team that designed the Iraq surge for Gen. David Petraeus, began to notice a new tattoo on some insurgent Afghan fighters. It wasn’t a Taliban tattoo. It wasn’t even Afghan. It was a Canadian maple leaf.
When a perplexed Kilcullen began to investigate, he says, he discovered that the incongruous flags were linked to what he says is one of the most important, and unnoticed, weapons of guerrilla war in Afghanistan and across the world: the lightweight, virtually indestructible Toyota Hilux truck.

“In Afghanistan in particular,” he says, “[the trucks are] incredibly well respected.” So well respected, in fact, that some enterprising fraudsters thought them worthy of ripping off. The imitations, Kilcullen says, had flooded the market, leaving disappointed fighters in their wake. But then “a shipment of high-quality [real] Hiluxes arrived, courtesy of the Canadian government,” he explains. “They had little Canadian flags on the back. Because they were the real deal, and because of how the Hilux is seen, over time, strangely, the Canadian flag has become a symbol of high quality across the country. Hence the tattoos.”

It’s not just rebels in Afghanistan that love the Hilux. “The Toyota Hilux is everywhere,” says Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger and now a fellow of the Center for a New American Security. “It’s the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47. It’s ubiquitous to insurgent warfare. And actually, recently, also counterinsurgent warfare. It kicks the hell out of the Humvee.” Anecdotally, a scan of pictures from the last four decades of guerrilla and insurgent warfare around the world—the first iteration of the Hilux appeared in the late ’60s—reveals the Toyota’s wide-ranging influence. Somali pirates bristling with guns hang out of them on the streets of Mogadishu. The New York Times has reported that the Hilux is the pirates’ “ride of choice.” A ragtag bunch of 20 or so Sudanese fighters raise their arms aloft in the back of a Hilux in 2004. Pakistani militants drive through a crowd, guns high, in 2000. It goes on. Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq—U.S. Special Forces even drive Toyota Tacomas (the chunkier, U.S. version of the Hilux) on some of their deployments. (Click here for a gallery of Toyota trucks in conflict-torn regions.)

While Taliban leader Mullah Omar reportedly likes to roll in a Chevy Suburban and Osama Bin Laden is said to have preferred the Hilux’s bigger brother, the Landcruiser, when he was able to move freely, most Al Qaeda lieutenants drive Hiluxes, according to a New York Times report from the early 2000s. Even today, says Kilcullen, “It’s a bit of a sign you’re dealing with Al Qaeda when you come across them in Pakistan. They use the twin-cab version, because you can carry people and stuff in the back, and also mount a heavy weapon in the pickup.”

The truck even has a war named after it: the so-called “Toyota War” between Libya and Chad in the 1980s was dominated by fighters using the light, mobile Hilux. Indeed, Africa, says Kilcullen, is where the truck got its nickname as a fighting vehicle, “the technical.” “When [nongovernmental organizations] and the U.N. first went into Somalia,” he says, referring to a period in the 1990s, “they were not able to bring their own guards. So they got so-called ‘technical assistance grants’ to hire guards and drivers on the ground. Over time, a ‘technical’ came to mean a vehicle owned by a guard company, and then eventually to mean a Hilux with a heavy weapon mounted on the back.”

The Toyota is such a widespread and powerful weapon for insurgents, says Dr. Alastair Finlan, who specializes in strategic studies at Britain’s Aberystwyth University, because it acts as a “force multiplier.” It is “fast, maneuverable, and packs a big punch [when it’s mounted with] a 50-caliber [machine gun] that easily defeats body armor on soldiers and penetrates lightly armored vehicles as well.” It is particularly dangerous, he adds, against lightly armed special-forces operatives.

An experiment conducted by British TV show Top Gear in 2006 offers one explanation. The show’s producers bought an 18-year-old Hilux diesel with 190,000 miles on the odometer for $1,500. They then crashed it into a tree, submerged it in the ocean for five hours, dropped it from about 10 feet, tried to crush it under an RV, drove it through a portable building, hit it with a wrecking ball, and set it on fire. Finally they placed it on top of a 240-foot tower block that was then destroyed in a controlled demolition. When they dug it out of the rubble, all it took to get it running again was hammers, wrenches, and WD-40. They didn’t even need spare parts.

The Hilux was originally designed, says Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota’s design division in California, as “a lightweight truck with big tires on big wheels. It was meant as a recreational truck, a truck people could have fun with. They also have a really high ground clearance, which means they’re ideal for off-road work.”
They have always been built, says Hunter, as “body-on-frame” trucks: “There’s a rigid steel frame construction, and the body is fitted on top of that. That’s much stronger that most modern cars, where the body and frame are one. I would describe them as bulletproof. We get people who run them for years. There are 200,000 or 300,000 miles on them and they’re still going.” But Hunter admits he doesn’t know why Hiluxes are so popular with guerrilla forces; many other manufacturers’ trucks, he says, are also body-on-frame.

Kilcullen, who has faced forces using the Hilux in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, says the vehicle’s longevity is a factor, as is the high ground clearance. “They cover the ground incredibly well,” he says. They are often used by insurgent forces as “a modern version of light cavalry. They move weapons into positions to fire, and can also shift people around very quickly, with a quick dismount. The Hilux is perfectly designed for that. I’ve seen 20 people and a mounted weapon on one.”

A former British special forces soldier, who asked not to be identified because he still consults on active operations, says he too has faced the Hilux, which he refers to as “the technical,” in both Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’d say the appeal is pretty simple,” he says. “You can’t underestimate the value of having a vehicle that is fast, will never break down, and is strong enough to mount a heavy weapon in the back.”
Exum, who has seen the Hilux in action across the Middle East, says the Toyota’s status is self-perpetuating. “Because everyone uses them, there are parts easily available, and mechanics everywhere know how to fix them. That kind of feeds on itself,” he says.

The New York Times piece on Mullah Omar’s car also noted that during Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the Hilux and its larger sibling the Landcruiser “provided ideal platforms for intimidation and enforcement.” The Taliban rode around “ready to leap down and beat women for showing a glimpse of ankle or to lock a man in a shipping container for three weeks until his beard grew to the approved length. Or, most dismal, to drag an accused adulterer or blasphemer to the soccer stadium for execution.”

Some of the Canadian-flagged Hiluxes, says Kilcullen, have almost certainly ended up in Taliban hands this time around. Here’s hoping that history doesn’t drive back around in a Toyota.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Skills and Making money after the Collapse.

Thanks for your blog, I check it weekly and enjoy it a great deal.  I think you offer a very valuable counterweight to the “Roadwarrior” perspective on economic collapse and subsequent survival.  You made a statement about “the head blacksmith in Bartertown” that made me chuckle:  I’m old enough to have viewed the release of that movie!

Your point is well taken, but I wanted to poke at that a little more and get your thoughts.  I took a trip recently to India and it me struck how even in the poorest neighborhoods every second or third “apartment” had a downstairs where there some useful activity going on: bicycle repair, sewing, blacksmithing, something.  This brought me to thinking about my neighborhood.  Mine is like every other middle class neighborhood in the country where you have 100 families that don’t know how to do anything at all besides “manage” or “lawyer” or “doctor”, and 1 guy like me.  I have a garage full of “primary manufacturing” tools, and I know how to use them.

The question I have for you is this:  are these skills useful in a collapse?  Once Pottery Barn and Ikea are way too expensive because of currency rates, and things are generally collapsing because of widespread poverty, do local craftsman find they have a greater ability to put a chicken in the pot than folks who don’t have these skills and tools?  Or do people simply not replace the cracked dishes and the broken chairs?

Hi Joe, Your accounts of India remind me of the poor neighborhoods here. Some of the things you come across here just blow your mind. I’ve watched a shanty town (commonly known as “Villa”) called Ingeniero Bunge, grow from day one. It started as a large, vacant lot, maybe 100 acres or more. This empty lot had been refilled with garbage and it floods with just a few drops of rain, but these people didn’t seem to care.
One day they get the political approval to take over the land, usually in exchange of political support, showing up at the president’s rallies and such.
The next day the same vacant lot is full of improvised shacks and tents, made of plastic, cardboard or old, rusted corrugated steel. Soon enough they throw power lines, stealing power from the main power cables and every one of these shacks suddenly has a 100W light bulb and a TV inside. Of course this promotes accidents due poor installations. People get electrocuted or the place catches fires. Given that most of these materials are pretty inflammable sometimes you have tragic fires like the one we saw in Villa El Carton, mainly because people there where scavengers that collect paper and cardboard.
Even in these places, eventually the shacks are replaced with brick and mortar structures. Its usually one or two rooms. Then when space starts to run out they build one room in top of the other, and the place starts to look like this.
Villa 31 in Buenos Aires
Why do this instead of looking for another land parcel? Because these “villas” are usually located within the city or in the proximity of. This means hospitals, schools and more important work for both honest people and of the other kind. This is of course an accident waiting to happen because these structures are made my people that don’t exactly know how to calculate bearing loads.

In the above picture you can see what you mention, the floor level usually has some sort of store or shop, sometimes an improvised grocery store, repairs, I even saw someone put a neon sign on top of such construction that said “Hotel” so they had these rooms for rent. This kind of organic structure is common word wide when it comes to the poor building “as is”, with no prior urban organization. You actually study these things in Architecture, its interesting to find that its not that different from insect hives. Its also a cop’s worst nightmare with all those tight quarter corridors that spread like a labyrinth.

Now, about your question. Bicycle repair, sewing, etc, are these skills useful after a collapse? Well of course they are, but the question you want to ask yourself instead, do I want to repair bicycles or sew clothes for a living after a collapse, and the answer to that is certainly no. Why? Because there’s a lot of people already doing that, because its just not well paid. Even if you think that right now people are lazy and pretty much useless, it doesn’t mean that that situation will go on afterwards. As things get worse, it wont be just you thinking about opening a small grocery or repairing bikes and mending clothes. Competition and poverty will bring the prices down and you’ll find yourself working a lot for relatively little income. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying that its going to be very competitive and even if you are good you wont be making much money out of it.
I have a guy that repairs TV and appliances in general. He’s good at that, he has clients but he’s making little money and has a tough time getting to the end of the month. It could be worse, he could have no income at all, but his situation isn’t something you’d want for yourself. And then you have this other guy who started a business selling parts for repairs. TV, washing machines, and so on, he sells the parts to the guys that do this for a living and the people that prefer to do their own repairs. Now this guy has a sweet deal. He’s not rich but he’s making more money. Why? He’s smarter about the repair business. He knows that being the one that gets the parts means he benefits from every customer the various repair guys have in the area.
You have people selling cheap clothes in fairs, cheap china imports, DVDs, you name it. But these guys aren’t making much money. Now the guy that bought the abandoned warehouse, got the security to keep it safe and is renting the space to all these people selling stuff, he has two of the latest Mercedes-Benz 500, one in silver gray and the other one in black.
You have people driving Remis, a kind of improvised taxi that boomed after the 2001 collapse, probably the worst paid job around. Most common remis offices have 4 or 5 drivers. They look awful, smell bad, overcharge and drive crappy old cars. Yet the guy that organized it into a clean looking business, offers a quality you can come to expect, with well groomed drivers, new cars, GPS installed and radio connection, he’s the guy making very good money. And he’s not even buying the cars himself. You can invest in his business by buying a car and putting it to work with him. He provides the brand and logistics and ensures the quality control. See how the approach is different? How being more entrepreneur about it means better income? One guy drives a remis for a living, or owns a crappy little agency that is always about to go bankrupt. The other one is smarter about it and offers a better service for the same price and ends up with a +70 car fleet.
Skills are important and its good to have them, but when it comes to making money out of them you have to go a step further and see how that knowledge you have can be maximized for better profiting.
Cracked dishes aren’t repaired. They are used until they break completely and then replaced with the cheapest dishes they can find. You may want to be the guy that sells those dishes (or chairs) but its even better if you’re the guy that is importing them from China. You may be the guy that starts building very inexpensive furniture and selling it to the new offices opening up because of the cheap labor offered by the new 3rd world conditions. I know a guy that did just that, sells cheap office supplies, and he’s doing very well.
Having a skill will put a chicken in the pot as you said( or a piece of it, chicken is pretty expensive these days) but being smarter about it, understanding the different niches the crisis creates and learning how to provide a service that satisfies these new needs will maximize your profits.