Friday, February 29, 2008

Peak oil is looking more and more feasible

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/02/29/gas.squeeze.irpt/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

There are a few testimonials from readers on CNN.com. It all stems around gas prices. How much worse will things get and how many more people will be affected when the prices rise to $4-5 a gallon or more? A lot of people that just glance at the whole peak oil theory make the mistake of believing that the doom and gloomers think that we're going to run out of oil. It's not about running out. It's about demand increasing beyond the supply which, naturally, results in gas becoming prohibitively expensive for your average joe. This couldn't have come at a worse time. Between the credit crunch, the housing bubble bursting and the price of gas skyrocketing due to peak oil we could very well be on the verge of a major crash. Expect gas prices to further devalue the real estate market when everyone wants to move closer to their jobs but can't sell their house for anywhere near the amount that their mortgage is worth.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

So I bought a cheap grinder

I was walking through Big Lots the other day and on the end of the kitchen utensils aisle I found a grain grinder that was only $15. It was labeled as a corn grinder and there was more spanish writing on the package than English but it was basically the same thing as the cheap, cast iron grinder that you can get from Amazon. The first thing that went through my mind was the post that I made a few days ago about buying too cheap. I make my own beer so I knew I could use it to crack my grain. It also grinds stuff like coffee beans and nuts which you're supposedly not supposed to do with some of the "better" grinders that are capable of producing baking flour. I'll easily get my $15 worth out so I went ahead and picked it up.

It was easy to put together. I had it ready to rock in about 2 minutes from the time that I opened the package. The plates are easy to adjust and everything fit well although the hopper seems to be a bit flimsy. It's more well built than what I'd expect for $15.

I had just picked up some grain from the home brew store so I went ahead and cracked some of that first just to see how it would handle it. With the plates tightened down almost as much as I could get them it spit out exactly what I need. The handle was easy to turn and it cracked about a cup's worth in well under a minute. From there I decided to give beans a shot. I filled up the hopper (probably about 2 cups or so) and ground up some dried pinto beans. It pulverized them quite nicely into a course powder that could be used for paste or refried beans. Once again it was easy to turn and it didn't take long. Rice was the last thing that I tried. I ran a few cups through and ended up with the same consistency as the beans. It ended up looking like cream of wheat or grits. I ran it through again and it didn't look much different.

I only had a couple of issues while using it. I said that the hopper was flimsy. When I was grinding the beans I was holding on to it for leverage and it flew off. Luckily I was grinding beans so it was easy to clean up. I didn't touch the hopper after that and didn't have the problem again. Also, producing enough usable flour with this thing for a batch of bread would probably take hours of grinding and sifting. It aint happening people. I already knew this, though, and didn't buy it with that particular function in mind.

I've already done my research on grain grinders and I've been in the market for a good one for a while now. I just keep putting off the purchase. I'd really like to get one that's capable of making baking flour but those are prohibitively expensive. I just keep stockpiling flour and baking my own bread to keep it rotating.

If you don't have a high end grinder then something like this is most definitely better than nothing. There's a lot you can do with wheat besides just making flour but you've got to be able to crack it most of the time. When beans get old they get too hard to cook and being able to grind them up could be the only way to make them edible. You're not supposed to run things like coffee beans and nuts (or other oily products) through most high end grinders because the oils lubricate the grinding surface and are difficult to clean. If you can't afford a "good" grinder then something like this would be a lot better than nothing. Even if you do have a good, expensive grinder you might want to keep one of these around for certain jobs. You can find them for around $25 - $30 online (after shipping). After getting the chance to play with one and because I don't own something "better" I'd say it's money well spent unless you really intend to buy something better soon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Knowing how to cook

This, of course, falls into the "skills and knowledge" category of your preps. It's probably one of the most important skills that you can have, though. I'm not talking about knowing how to work a microwave or being able to grill a choice cut of meat. I'm talking about making bread from scratch or knowing how to take subpar meat (a rat for example) and make it taste good. There are very few skills that are more likely to come in handy. It's useful even if the ball never drops. It can save you money. It's very easy to learn how to do. Ingredients tend to store a lot better and last a lot longer than the finished product. If you're doing it from scratch then you know exactly what you're eating. You can tailor what you eat to your own tastes. There are resources available everywhere.

Part of knowing how to cook is having the proper tools and knowing how to use them. Like a lot of us I have a bunch of kitchen gadgets that just sit in the back of a closet or in a drawer and gather dust. There are a few that I use all the time, though. I think that what is considered "necessary" is different for everyone. Most kitchen tools are just specialized tools designed to do a certain thing. A decent set of knives, a basic utensil set (wooden spoons, tongs, spatulas, etc), a few pots and pans and a mixing bowl is all you need to get started and, in a pinch, it'll be sufficient to do 95% of the things that you need to do in the kitchen.

The most important part of knowing how to cook is just understanding how the ingredients interact. Once you know what certain ingredients do and how they interact with other ingredients then you can start to improvise. Anyone can read a recipe. In SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation you might not have access to the ingredients in those recipes, though. Cooking is just chemistry. Understanding how it works is the most important part.

One of my favorite cooking and food related sites is The Hillbilly Housewife. The link is in the corner in the "links to live by" section. She does an awesome job of breaking everything down and explaining the how and why. She also gives some great suggestions on how to stock your pantry on a budget. I would recommend that site to anyone and it's generally the first place that I check when I'm looking for a recipe.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bang for your buck

I'm a pretty frugal guy. I buy my meat from the "manager's specials" section. If I see a good sale on something that I use a lot of I stock up. I know which stores tend to sell certain things for less. I buy the generic brands most of the time (unless there is a ridiculously good sale on the name brand that ends up making it cheaper than the generic). I always check the clearance section when I go to a store. I shop at thrift stores and visit garage sales. If someone's throwing away something that I can use I won't hesitate to snatch it up. Watching how much you're spending is easy and everyone should do it. There is such a thing as going "too cheap", though.

When I make purchases I try to find the best deal possible for the stuff that I need without tripping over dollars to pick up pennies. I don't buy my power tools at Harbor Freight anymore. I tried that and they always end up breaking or they just don't work as well as higher quality brands. When I go grocery shopping I don't stop at 5 different stores because this store has a sale on this item and that store has a sale on that item. The $4 or $5 that I end up saving at the end of the day isn't worth the gas or the extra time spent. If I break my snow shovel while shoveling the driveway after the first snowfall of the season I'm not going to wait until they go on sale again to buy another snow shovel.

The same type of logic needs to go towards your preps. In a lot of ways it's even more important when it comes to prepping. It's easy to get caught in the trap of spending the least possible amount of money for a little peace of mind. That three pack of old military gas masks that you picked up for $10 online might make you feel better but if you ever actually need them for anything they're probably not going to protect you. Why bother spending the money in the first place? That gen 1 night vision scope that you picked up for $50 is great for star gazing but if you bought it so that you could see badguys at night if things ever get ugly then you're probably going to be really disappointed (if you're lucky that's all you'll be) when you realize that you can't see anything farther than 10 feet away in complete darkness when you really need it. That mosin nagent that you found for $70 with 500 rounds of ammo might make a really cool fireball when you shoot it but when a couple of guys with AKs are shooting back at you you'll realize really fast how much it sucks trying to reload the damn things and work that crappy bolt under stress.

The price tag shouldn't be the only factor that you consider when you're buying something. You have to make sure that it will do the job that it's intended for when it comes time to do it. Going the absolute cheapest route possible will sometimes cost you more. If you're just buying that rifle for a fun range toy or a cheap hunting rifle then an old milsurp bolt action should suit your needs. If you're buying a rifle because you honestly believe that you may have to use it to defend yourself someday then the bare minimum should be a dependable semi automatic that's extremely fast and easy to reload. Buy once cry once. Eventually it does get to the point where the added benefits and features aren't worth the extra cost but you also have to think about that grey area between the cheapest price and the best value.

Thanks for the shout out a couple of days ago Bison. I'll try to update more often but I definitely fall into the fan boy category. I don't ever intend to profit from this. I just get sick of watching my sometimes lengthy, in depth posts disappear when the threads that I post in die.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not again

There's been another school shooting. This time it was a college in IL. At this point the details are sketchy. There were 5 killed with several others wounded. The shooter, of course, shot himself. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23171567/ is the link to the story.

These school shootings drive me crazy. This happened in rural IL, one of the least likely places that you'd expect for something like this to happen. First of all IL has some of the most draconian gun laws in the US. You need a permit just to buy ammo over the counter there. Secondly, as usual, it happened on a school campus where it's illegal to carry a gun in the first place. That sure didn't stop the shooter, though. Where were the police while this was going on?

This is the part where they're going to try to twist it to make it seem like this only happened because of our firearms laws. Our background check system isn't thorough enough. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can get any gun that they want because the streets are overflowing with them. Why would a normal person want a handgun or an assault rifle? You don't hunt with those. As long as your neighbor can buy guns you have every right to be deathly afraid of him. You never know when HE could be the next one to snap. They'll just use it as another reason that the common man needs big brother there to protect him.

Here's the part that they don't mention. With hundreds of millions of people in the US you have a fraction of a chance to be involved in a school shooting. Your more likely to get hit by a car while you're crossing the street or to drown in a swimming pool. It's easy to play on people's emotions with things like this. It's a scary thought to think that you or your kid might be the one in class when some psycho with a gun decides to shoot it up. After all, you couldn't carry a gun in a school to defend yourself even if you wanted to.

This leads us to another point. Gun free zones are only gun free until a criminal decides to shoot it up. Criminals and psychopaths don't care if they're not supposed to have a gun there. In fact it makes it an even more appealing target. They've got free reign to do whatever they please as long as they know that they'll be the only one with a gun.

Rather than creating more gun laws we need to let people defend themselves. Make it easier for people to get guns. When someone proves to society that they're not responsible enough to own or carry a gun then crack down on them hard. Even if the thought of an armed teacher or student doesn't discourage a school shooter maybe that teacher or student (I'm talking about older college students here.....not kids with guns) will be able to stop that school shooter before he can do the amount of damage that he intends to. Gun free zones and restrictive gun laws don't make me feel any safer. I don't know how these "feel good laws" could make any rational person feel good. Hopefully people start waking up and accepting responsibility for their personal safety rather than selling out their liberties to a more and more oppressive government because of heinous, frightening acts like this.

In other news this is what taking handouts from Uncle Sugar can get you http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23168160/ . A bunch of temporary trailers that FEMA provided after the recent tornadoes apparently had toxic levels of formaldehyde fumes. Now they're asking the people to move.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My AK Chest Rig

I've been an AK guy for a long time. They're cheap. Ammo is cheap. Magazines are cheap. They're extremely durable and reliable. They're reasonably accurate. Parts are easy to come by. You can get a couple of beater SKS's for cheap backups and not have to worry about stocking another caliber or different magazines. Finding a decent chest rig that's reasonably priced is pretty tough, though. A couple of months ago I ordered one from www.centerfiresystems.com and was pleasantly surprised by the quality.

It's got 3 AK magazine pouches and 4 accessory pouches. The two pouches right next to the AK mag pouches are the right size to hold 2 high cap handgun mags each. The other 2 pouches on the outside are a little smaller but are still big enough to be useful. It's made out of the same material as a milspec LBV with the same type of snaps on each pouch. It's pretty easy to adjust. You do have to tie it in the back but attaching a buckle to fix that problem would be a simple fix. It only holds 3 AK magazines but that's enough for me. If I feel the need to carry more than that I'll just put the rest in my pack. Since it only holds 3 magazines it's extremely low profile and could easily be concealed underneath a jacket or even a loose shirt. The best part is the price. For $6 you might as well get one for each AK that you own.

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