Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Wal-Mart Plan

I kinda ripped this idea off from the guys over at AR15.com. I just expanded on it a bit. What a lot of those guys do every time they go to Wal-Mart is buy a 550 round brick of .22lr. The idea is that for an extra $10 per shopping trip you'll end up with thousands of rounds of ammo in a pretty short amount of time (even though it is just .22) and you won't even notice how much it cost you. The reason that they shop at Wal-Mart is because the final total tends to be cheaper than at other stores.

The first thing that you need to do before you can really use this method effectively is get to know where to go to get certain items. Every time I go to target I get a few cans of tomatoes and mushrooms. Their 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes are about $.50 cheaper than everywhere else ($.89 per can when I went to pick some up today). King Soopers probably has the cheapest meat department in the area. I've found that they have the biggest "manager's special" markdown section for meat that's about to expire out of all of the local big chains. Get to know who has the cheapest prices on certain items and whenever you shop there make it a point to spend an extra $10 or so on those items to add to your preps.

Another trend that I've noticed is that certain stores put certain things up for sale for less and more often. Now I can go to Wal-Mart and buy a can of their generic vegetables for $.49 a can any time that I want. Every once in a while, though, King Soopers has canned Del Monte vegetables on sale 2/$1. I'd rather have the Del Monte since a) they have pull tab tops and b) they don't have potatoes in them. They also put ground beef and ground turkey on sale for ridiculously low prices on a fairly regular basis. I just bought 20 lbs of ground turkey there for $1 a pound. That sale came just in time because I was almost out of the ground beef that I had paid $1.25 a lb there for just a couple of months before.

Clearance items are another thing that I try to make it a point to check out periodically. These aren't usually advertised so you have to know when to check for them. Target is awesome for ridiculously cheap clearance items. I got an $80 grill there for $10 once. I got a $120 paintball gun/mask combo for $20 another time and on top of that they were selling their 200 round boxes of paintball ammo for $3 a box. Every once in a while they put their ridiculously overpriced, el cheapo furniture on their clearance end caps for about what they're actually worth. I still use the $20 wine cabinet that I bought there a few years ago that was marked down from $100. Of course the $30 coffee table and end table set that was originally around $200 now sits in my shed. Wal-Mart also has some pretty good clearance sales at certain times of the year. So do a lot of the big camping stores like Dick's and Gart Sports. I'm still looking for a good propane heater to go on sale now that the cold season is almost over but it looks like everyone is holding out.

I know I kinda took the Wal-Mart plan and ran with it. The gist of it as I see it goes something like this. Find out who sells what for the lowest prices and stock up every time that you go there. Learn where to go and at what time of year for the best clearance deals. Get to know who puts what on sale for the best prices on a regular basis. Once you get it down it doesn't take long before you start to notice how much extra cash you have for important stuff like massive amounts of ammo and overpriced gas.

PS: I still buy a brick of .22 every time I go to Wal-Mart.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mmm Sourdough

I'm a bread lover. I always want to be able to have it. One problem is that you need yeast to make it. So you're a few months into the latest and greatest disaster. You're running low on yeast or your yeast supply was ruined because the power grid is down and you couldn't keep it refrigerated. That's when you go back to baking bread the old fashioned way.

Before you can start making sourdough you need to make a starter. It's basically a cultured vat of wild yeast. Start with a cup of whole wheat or unbleached flour and a cup of water. Mix it up and put it somewhere dry and dark. Every day pour half of it out and add half a cup of flour and half a cup of water. After a few days it will start to bubble. It should have a yeasty, doughy, sour smell to it. You'll also notice that a layer of liquid forms on top of it. Once it starts bubbling then you can start using it to make bread.

Pour the starter into a mixing bowl with a cup of water and a cup of flour. This is your sponge. I usually just cover my sponge and leave it out overnight. After a while the whole thing will start bubbling and you should get a white froth forming. Now take about half a cup of the sponge and put it back in your starter container (make sure that you clean it so that other nasty crap can't start growing in it). Add another half cup of flour and half a cup of water. Now you've got a starter for next time.

Now pour your sponge into whatever bowl you plan on mixing it in. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of vegetable oil (optional) and a cup of water. Then gradually mix in 3 cups of flour. Once you've got a good, solid dough let it sit covered for an hour or so till it starts to rise. Once it starts to rise you'll want to punch it down again and form it into whatever shape you want the loaf to be. Put it on a pan covered in corn meal and then put it in a warm, dry place and let it rise for a few hours. For me sourdough tends to take a lot longer to rise and it needs warmer temperatures than normal bread. Once it doubles in size you bake it at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or so. You know it's done when the top starts to turn brown and the bottom sounds hollow when you thump it. Let it cool and voila. You have bread.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What our founding fathers missed

The US government is about as close to perfect as any world government comes. Our founding fathers drew from the lessons of the past to try to form a republic that would protect every individual citizen and put their rights first. Unfortunately the greed and unscrupulousness of ambitious people cannot be underestimated. Over the years people have found ways to work within the system to improve their own situation at the expense of others.

Our founding fathers realized that the people that control the money supply control the economy which, in turn, allows them control of everything else in the system. They tried to put into place a system that would insure that our government would maintain complete control of our money supply. Almost 100 years ago Congress gave that power away to a panel of appointed bankers. Just look at where that got us. We gave up the gold standard because it limits the profits of the people at the very top of the totem pole. Basically the economy becomes stagnant because there is only so much money floating around. In other words you can only take so much money from everyone else before they start to feel the pinch and start to wonder what went wrong. Then the guys at the stop start to feel the pinch when the guys in the middle and at the bottom decide that it's better to hold on to what little they have left rather than continue to give it to the guys at the top.


They did everything that they could to keep church and state separate yet churches still get huge tax breaks from the government and the religious right still has an enormous amount of control over who gets elected. Don't even get me started on the religious lobbies. To say that religion doesn't have an impact on government is extremely naive. Some people think that it should. Then again a lot of extremely religious people that I've met firmly believe that everyone should believe the same way that they do. I have no problem with someone telling me that I should do something a certain way because their religion says so. I do have a problem with my government telling me that I HAVE TO do something a certain way because it's morale and the law says so (ie - what religion tells me to do.

The big screwup came when they failed to separate BUSINESS from state. Over the years it's become harder and harder to operate a small business or compete with some of the bigger businesses due to the cost of certifications, regulations, permits and everything else involved in starting a new business. I firmly believe that a lot of that has to do with lobbying. Big business can easily grease the palm of a politician or even promise him or a family member a (lucrative, high paying) job to make sure that they get what they want. Make it illegal for special interests to lobby politicians. Force politicians to liquidate public assets before taking office. Those two steps would go far to limit the pull that special interests have in politics. Just imagine if lobbyists had to lobby individuals...oh wait...kinda like the NRA does....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

War with Iran

It looks like George Bush effectively fired Admiral William Fallon, one of the highest ranking officials in Iraq and one of Bush's loudest voices of dissent. He didn't think that the Iraq war was a good idea. He doesn't think that war with Iran is a good idea. The end result? Bush doesn't want someone like that working for him. Here's the story.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2008/03/12/BL2008031201898.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ignorance is bliss

Lately I've seen more and more people talking about how they sense something bad just around the corner. Obviously the news has a lot to do with that. The internet has changed the way that we receive our news. It's becoming more and more easily accessible and big stories are being distributed much more quickly. You don't have to pay for a newspaper subscription and read about it the next day or have the tv on at a certain time to find out what's going on these days. You just click a button on the internet and you can find out about what just happened five minutes ago. Also, people can take that news and run with it. You get to see people's thoughts and reactions to it real time. Stories are quickly and easily sensationalized. You have experts on both sides trying to break it down. It's easy to point to one expert's take on what's going on while completely ignoring another expert that's saying something completely different.

Unfortunately, when normal people that don't really understand something have to come to their own conclusion about it they're easily confused. Confusion leads to fear. That's how talks about gun bans get started when someone shoots up a school or how talks of recession lead to people thinking that the next great depression is about to go down. It only takes a few loud voices to create an air of uncertainty. The internet connects everyone so easily and gives everyone a means to voice their concerns and opinions about everything that happens in a medium that anyone, anywhere can see and hear. It's dangerous to the establishment and it's dangerous to our current society. Most people just can't deal with knowing more than they need to know.

I think that something big is about to happen in the foreseeable future. I think that the free flow of information is going to be a major contributor to it. It's already gotten the ball rolling. We'll either come out of these hard times with an even greater value for the free flow of information or the powers that be will find a way to put a stop to it. I like to think that when people finally get to choose between taking the red pill and the blue pill that most of them will take the red pill. Unfortunately I think that the vast majority would rather just take the blue pill and not have to worry about any of this crap anymore.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

One more thing to worry about

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,335186,00.html


Apparently there's a super nova about to explode and it's close enough that it could affect us (or completely obliterate us if the conditions are juuuust right).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What I see unraveling

I've been seeing the gold standard pop up a lot lately. People preach about how we have to have sound money. We have to know that the money is there for it to be worth anything. For a few smart people this may be true. Unfortunately most people are dumb. If you give them a piece of paper and tell them "You can buy stuff with this" then they will go out and try to use it to buy stuff with. When they spend their entire lives getting stuff for the worthless paper then they perceive it as valuable. As long as everyone thinks that it's valuable then it's valuable.

There are just a few things that our economy needs to really thrive. It's a consumer based economy so obviously the people have to have money to blow. They also have to be willing to spend their money. Once the consumers start to lose confidence then things go downhill. Cheap energy is also a necessity. As long as things like gas, food and water are cheap then we have plenty of leftover cash to spend on luxuries. Over the years the development of cheap energy has raised our standard of living and raised consumer confidence to the point where the biggest concerns are who Britney's latest baby's daddy is and what kind of coffee we're going to spend $4 at Starbucks on.

The subprime crisis was just a part of the beginning of the end of all that. It set the stage for a major recession. The guys at the top started to realize that it wasn't such a good idea to give shady loans to people with bad credit because of optimistic speculation really fast when they started receiving sets of house keys in the mail and the mortgage checks stopped coming in. The fact that the banks all continued to repackage and sell these loans to the point where they couldn't even keep track of them all, anymore, didn't help things. Now the banks don't even know how much money they're going to end up losing and everyone is afraid to loan each other money. That means that they're afraid to loan normal people money, too.

With so many foreclosures there's a glut in the housing market. With the tightening of credit fewer people are able to buy houses which just makes that glut even worse. This, obviously, results in the value of houses taking a dump. Now people that bought a house just a few years ago are seeing the value of their house drop instead of go up like it was supposed to. At the same time that people were buying houses at the peak of the market other people were "capitalizing" on the easy credit by taking out home equity loans every few years. Lots of people had lots of extra money to spend for a long time. A lot of that was because the value of housing just kept going up. Now that it's dropping people don't have a lot of extra money. The people that do have extra money are seeing what's happening to others and they're less likely to spend their extra money. Consumer confidence is fading. At least we still have cheap energy, though, right?

Just a few weeks ago Bush visited the king of Saudi Arabia to ask him to keep oil prices low. How much have gas prices gone up at the pump in the last few weeks? Wheat prices are skyrocketing because of Bush's subsidies for ethanol. I can see why he'd want to push ethanol despite the repercussions if he knew that our oil supplies were diminishing. Bush's ranch in Texas is completely off the grid. This is a man that is neck deep in big oil. Do you think he knows something that the rest of us don't? Peak oil is here.

If the housing bubble had popped but gas was still $2 a gallon and no one cared about making ethanol because the world's oil supply wasn't in danger then we would probably rebound from it pretty quickly. In fact the stimulus package that Bush has planned would probably be enough to get everything turned back in the right direction just like it did the last time that he tried it. It aint gonna work this time. There are just too many things going wrong on too many different levels.

First of all the ethanol subsidies are hindering our foreign support. It won't be long before it's too expensive to help out other countries. I have no problem with that but, unfortunately, the rest of the world loses confidence in us when they realize that we can't spend our resources to prop up other countries. Not to mention the fact that they're increasing the price of food for American citizens. The price of wheat goes up so things like flour go up as well. The price to feed cattle goes up so obviously the price of meat will go up. Now think about all of the things that grain really affects. Give it a year. When people start to realize how expensive things are they'll be EVEN LESS apt to spend their hard earned money.

The federal reserve just keeps lowering the interest rate. This is great for US banks but it makes it less and less profitable for foreign governments to invest in us (ie loan us money). That leaves us with only one option. We have to print the money that we need ourselves. That will lead to rampant inflation. The Fed is in a really tough spot right now.

People are foreclosing on their homes in pretty large numbers. In some areas whole blocks are empty. Areas like this will be a haven for squatters and other criminals. Crime will start to pop up in places where it didn't exist before. People will start to get more desperate. This will all result in even further drops in home values.

When gas prices start to go up it will be harder and harder for commuters to get to work. They'll have to move closer to work to save on gas. Some of these people will just try to sell their houses but with everyone else doing the same thing they'll either have to sell it at a huge loss (resulting in larger and larger drops in property values) or they'll have to keep paying for their house while they live in a rented apartment. They'll also be able to foreclose as long as they don't change the laws on that, too (like they did on declaring bankruptcy on credit card debt). Either way you end up with the situation that I described in the last paragraph in most suburbs.

If things sink further than this then you'll really start to see TEOTWAKI at it's finest. The question is whether we'll be forced into this overnight or if we'll wake up one morning and go "holy crap that dude on the internet was right". Maybe something will happen that fixes it all and we'll end up just like we were five years ago (where the guys that actually worried about this crap really were paranoid :p). I do see a not so distant future where I put my gun in my pocket, not because it makes me feel better but because I feel that I may really need it. I just hope that I still have the right to carry that gun and that I can still afford to own my house when that time comes.