Monday, January 31, 2011

Prepare: Your kids and their future

Our children are facing the most unknown future in the history of our country. They have no idea what their adult life will be like or what kind of shape the country will be in when they become adults. How are you preparing them for this future?

When it comes to education "good enough" never is. Stop thinking the local public is preparing your children to compete and succeed because it has some meaningless blue ribbon handed out by a state agency. Stop thinking that honor roll or comparative test score has your kid on the right track to succcess.

Stop assuming that if your kid is reading Harry Potter for the fifteenth time its "good" because he is reading a book instead of watching television or playing video games.

Stop assuming that if your child uses the computer to watch videos, play games and make friends on Facebook he or she is "tech saavy" enough for the twentyfirst century.

Stop assuming that if your kid plays soccer once a week he is getting enough exercise to build muscle and endurance and avoiding childhood obesity.

Stop assuming that "juice" boxes and fruit chews are part of a healthy diet and "Sprite" is okay to drink because it really isn't soda like Coke or Pepsi.

Stop assuming that those friends are a good influence because their parents attend the same church as you do or because the dads work together.

Here's the deal:

Your child is not only competing against the kid down the street or some kid in another state for college admission or a job someday.

Your child is competing right now against millions of children in China, India, Vietnam, Africa, and South America.

Your child is competing with these children for a limited number of seats at the best universities in the United States.

Your child will be competing against these same children for jobs and for the location of those companies which provide those jobs.

Your child is competing against these same children ultimately for his or her lifestyle including their home and future.

The rest of the world is enjoying economic success much like the US did over the past 100 years. And they are not happy with what they have received thus far.

They want their own comfortable house with two cars in the driveway, air conditioning and heat, running water, television, internet and telephones. And they need a certain financial means to achieve that lifestyle and the only way they can get that is by removing the same future from your kids.

They want your kids to live in a tin roof shack in a endless urban slum because, frankly, they think the USA has had it good for too long. They think it is their turn. And they are quite willing and ready to do whatever it takes to be number one or at least one number higher than the USA.

Your kid is going to be the victim in the end.

So, what are you doing to prepare your child for this future?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Prepare: I love rice

Here's a quickie..

I love rice. Right now, the rice cooker has two and a half cups of Jasmine done and ready to eat. I am going to have two big scoops with some left over chicken stew thing on top.

I can live off rice and just something simple to top it off. You can serve rice with:

- A can of chunky soup over a big plate of it. Serves 2-4.
- A can of creamed soup.
- A can of tuna fish and some lemon or garlic salt.
- With a simple boullion over it. Get some cubes now.
- With any meat dish and make it go further.
- With steamed vegatables.
- With just seasoning, butter or anything.
- With the good old standby, beans.

Rice takes one plain old can of something and fills it out to be a real meal.

I make rice in a rice cooker. It's my second one and it runs on very little electricity. You can make rice in a pot with boiled water and a good fitting lid in about twenty minutes.

Instant rice is handy, but I like to buy 25 and 50 pound bags of rice and store them. They last for years and are always handy.

Rice is eaten around the world, but its still relatively cheap. I like to buy it at the warehouse store but also at the Asian market.

Get some rice today. A fifty pound bag has over 400 servings. That's a year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Prepare: Caring for the elderly post-SHTF

There's a lot of talk these days in the US media about Social Security, medicare, the retiring boom of baby boomers (now senior boomers, I guess) and the expected growing cost to the national budget. I listened to a polician lately who said that entitlement cuts, namely SS, Medicare and Medicaid, were coming simply because there was not enough revenue and too much debt.

In the old days (circa 1970's - 1990's), "seasoned citizens" could look forward to selling the family home and moving into a senior community complete with golf, swimming, indoor activities, quasi-independent living and onsite medical care. They would finance this with a lifetime of savings, investments, possibly private pensions and a monthly social security check. Medical care would be paid for with Medicare and ancilliary insurance. Life was good.

Nearly all of those options are in danger or gone. Investments were wiped out in the financial crisis. Savings were not enough to make up the shortfall. Homes could not be sold in a down market and they were worth less than expected. Retirement homes and communities raised rates or closed altogether.

And now, Social Security and Medicare are in danger. End result? Many of us can expect the possibility that our elderly parents may come to live with us in their golden years rather than puttering around the links and shuffleboard court.

In my family, its already a reality. Mother is living with sister and FIL and MIL are moving in with BIL. Fortunately, both have adequate savings and investments to meet their needs, but not enough to go full bore in a retirement home. They are saving for that in the event catastrophic illness, ___ forbid, happens.

Before we go to the sepia toned idea of multiple generations living together under one roof, let's consider what that actually means.

First, check with some oldsters who actually lived that way many moons ago. My grandmother recounted to me thirty plus years ago before she died, of having an elderly aunt living with them in the old country around the turn of the century. The old woman had cancer which spread to other parts of her body. She literally "fell apart" over the years while confined to bed.

My other grandmother stayed at home in my mother's family house with aunt and uncle and over time, it resembled a mini-hospital with one room containing a full blown hospital bed, oxygen tank, wheel chair and other medical equipment.

There is nothing wrong with this and everyone agrees that they would rather have mom or dad at home and cared for regardless of the extra room needed.

Another point that comes up online and which is probably going to be a sore spot with some, is the truth about our elderly's abilities.

There are some who see the elder as fonts of homespun wisdom and skills long lost in today's modern world. Gramps knows how to trap, shoot, fish, build a cabin, and plow rocks into crops. Grannie knows how to quilt, make lye soap, make diapers out of sailcloth and dry, jerk and can a bear carcass in an afternoon.

While there may be some oldsters who have these skills, there are far more who were never exposed to such rustic activity and have no idea how to accomplish any of them. Demographics and statistics are on my side.

First, a 75 year old person today would have been born in 1935. They most likely were, according to census data, raised in a city or suburban environment. They became an adult in 1953 and spent their adult life in a world of television, space travel, jets, long distance telephone calls and microwaved food.

Hardly the Daniel Boone we like to imagine. Further, this same person grew up in a world with lifetime employment, company insurance, pensions, gold watches and government backed retirement plans.

While some may have opted for more austere professions and lives, most lived in cookie cutter urban homes, drove to work daily and vacationed in safe, family friendly destinations.

Again, we would be mistaken to think that Mom and Dad have the pioneer skills at the drop of hat which they can refer to and teach the "younguns" - simply put, it does not exist.

So, get ready for Mom and Dad, auntie, grandma, etc to move in. It could happen at any time.

Second, expect there to be more work taking care of them over time. They are family, so it won't be a chore, but just be prepared.

Finally, not all old people are a walking Carla Emery encyclopedia of country knowledge. Many will be as in the dark as most of the general population and worse, may have a harder time adapting.

Love and respect your elders. But please accept them as they are.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Prepare: 5 Reasons Food Prices Will Increase

Food prices are already higher. Just anecdotal evidence from a recent trip to a big box grocer (WallyWorld) showed prices increasing .10, .20 even .50 per item. This is big news in a recession economy like we have now.

5 reasons why food prices will only go higher

1. Oil and gasoline prices - Gasoline is over $3.00 a gallon and every expert and analyst says the price will only go higher. Like to $4.00 a gallon by summer and even as high as $5.00 per gallon by the end of 2011. Because analysts like doom and gloom, I am going to guess the price will be somewhere in between, but regardless, higher fuel prices spell higher food prices.

High gas prices effect the farmer who grows the food, the trucker who delivers it and all the people in the supply chain.

2. The illustrious power of the dollar - the dollar has been weakened in buying power for the past few years due to inflationary spending. The more debt our government creates, the more money it borrows and thus the more money it "prints" based upon that debt makes the dollar worth less.

Much of our food comes from other countries now. Even if we did not want to buy oranges from Chile, the demand for them still exists and if our domestic production does not meet demand, oranges must come from somewhere. When the dollar is worth fewer pesos, rubles, yen, etc, then the buyer must spend more dollars to get enough oranges. He then passes that increased cost on to the grocery store shopper.

3. Weather - Since a lot of food comes from other places, we are effected by their weather as well as ours. A hard freeze, flooding, monsoons, and other weather disasters all effect the price of the oranges mentioned above as well as wheat, rice, meat, etc. When a crop is destroyed, the remaining crop becomes that much more valuable.

4. Government - One government creates new regulations on the food production industry which creates costs for the producer who promptly passes those along to the grocery shopper. Another government puts limits on food exports because of prices and shortages, thus creating making the supply globally smaller and the price increases for all. Another government increases taxes on farmers or producers or grocery stores and the prices go up in another way.

5. Soil erosion, depletion and contraction - Poor soil management, overuse of fertilizers, overplanting, all lower the amount of available healthy soil for food production. Add to that government regulating the amount of land available for food or reducing irrigation to lands and you have the recipe for higher food prices.

All 5 of the above are happening right now, both domestically and overseas. Food prices will increase over the next year so....

If possible, buy extra at the store when possible and as long as you stay out of debt.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Prepare: Weevils in the flour

Today seemed like a nice day to bake a couple of loaves of bread. But lo and behold, there in the flour were lots of little pests, weevils.

Weevils are tiny insects which are herbivores and are comprised of thousands of different types. The ones I dealt with are known to me as peskus flourus or "Destroyer of Bread".

The flour was stored in a closed bag inside of a tightly closed plastic bucket (that's a pail to you northerners). Serves me right. Flour can go bad and the weevils came with the deal from the store I am sure of it.

I had two other bags in the same bucket sealed in the same way, regardless, all are outside now in the 30-something degree weather. They all suffered the same demise.

To avoid this same fate for your baked good supplies, freeze the flour for three days in the deep freeze beforehand to kill larva. Better yet, mill your own flour, but weevils can infiltrate wheat too, so don't get all smug you home grinders.

The good news is the other bucket of flour was untouched so this leads me to believe the bugs were in the original bag, were quite content where they were and never made it out into the bucket next door.

In hard times, weevil flour can be sifted and strained of bugs and used (extra protein!). But we still have the grocer opened nearby so I think I will skip that option for now.

Update - I made the two loaves of bread, weevil free, and they came out great. One is gone as of this AM. The other just got sliced.

The weevil flour is outside. Temps hit upper teens (F) last night. Ha ha, take that you pests!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Prepare: Winter Weather Survival Car Kit

This bad weather across the country has made it urgent to make sure you have a winter weather surivival kit in your car. A road closure, accident and iced roads can leave any of us stranded in a car or truck for hours while the temperatures plumet. Make sure you have your car equipped.

The key to surviving cold weather is to keep warm, hydrated and let others know where you are. When traveling by car, your shelter is provided; your in it. Now you need supplies to stave off the cold and stay alive until help arrives.

First, always have a cell phone, spare battery and charger. Also, it can't hurt to have an alternate form of communication such as a CB or handheld radio.

Before leaving, make sure the car gas tank is full. Stuck or not, driving will be slow and that uses fuel fast.

Now, make sure you have plenty of water. Too many think that dehydration only happens in warm weather and that is a hardly the case. Hypothermia is compounded by dehydration so pack at least a six pack of bottled water in the car.

Next, have at least one blanket per person. I have a micro fiber fleece which lives under the backseat of the truck year round.

Spare clothing such as a winter hat, gloves, scarf, socks, pullover shell such as a windbreaker, and long underwear. While many leave the house with these things on already, the office worker will probably be in dress clothes and having these spare things can mean a difference between life or death.

Pack food which does not need to be heated, lasts a long time and is high in fat, calories or both. Things like dried fruit, protein bars, canned fish like sardines, chocolate, pudding and crackers. Shivering exhausts energy. Remember, food is only good with plenty of fresh water. Don't forget that water.

Emergency gear like a shovel, flares, tire chains, windshield scraper, flashlight, windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, and oil should always be in the car regardless of the weather.

If forced out of the car, have the ability to make fire. Have at least one lighter, tinder (like old newspapers kept dry in an old plastic bag) and an alternate firemaking tool like a blast match or flint is handy. Remember, never have an open flame in a car - it could cause carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation.

The key always, is to stay with your vehicle as long as possible, as it is shelter and better than being out in the elements. And then wait for help. Finally, in wilderness or remote areas, never believe you can "hike out" on your own unless you are experienced in back country hiking and have adaquate supplies.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Annoying Parents and their kids (off topic)

This is off topic, but it's something which is bugging the heck out of me.

Here's the short list:

Three kids on my son's b-ball team were given iPads for Christmas.

Many of the same age children already have cellular phones.

The neighbor's ten year old is on his third cell phone. His twelve year old brother insisted that he needed an iPhone for Christmas this time.

Many of the parents I spoke with this Christmas were complaining that they could not figure out what to get their children as "they already had everything".  They were not lying as their homes resemble electronic superstores with all the flat screen, XBox, Wii, DS systems they have.

A dad called me and wants to take his son to a professional sports game and was rounding up other dads to do the same thing. His reason? "I promised him." The cost? About $100.00 - 150.00 per person base not including food, snacks, drinks, souvenirs, etc.

Another father wants to "reward" his son for attending all of his b-ball games this season by hosting a party at some indoor activity center. For attending the games.

We are talking about 9 year olds here.

I have no envy whatsoever for how much another family has in material possessions and spending money. The more money you have clearly means you are more successful at what you do and that's great, I am very happy for you.

And I could care less how you raise your kid, but don't try to drag me down your merry dysfunctional path.

Don't call me to validate your spoiling and over indulging by asking me to do the same for my kid. That dog don't hunt here.

And don't tell your kid to needle my kid into convincing me that he needs to have what Jr. has in order to be "cool". It won't work on me and only serves to make my kid feel bad (until I give him the talk about what a brat your kid is and learns to question your weak parenting).

Too many parents I know seem to think their children are little adults with whom everything is a negotiation. And with each negotiation, the kids expects a bigger and better deal the next time.

Further, too many parents act more like grandparents. They load the kids down with every possible treat and toy as if it were a perk of being a parent. (My personal theory on this is that too many adults wait until they are nearly grandparent age before they decide to marry and have kids, but that's another thing).

The end result are kids completely numb to anything special and expecting the whole world owes them something.

Let me clear about something. I love my kids. They have a comfortable life and have most of what they need at any given moment. They had a nice Christmas (it was tight, but we did the best we could) this year and were very happy. But they also understand that we aren't in the best financial shape we could be in and they need to be part of the solution and not the problem.

I also understand how it is being a kid and feeling stupid when it seems everyone else has the latest and greatest this or that. However, I love my kids enough to explain why they can't have this or that and it is because I do love them enough to say "No" to each demand and request.

But to all the spoiling, weak willed, enabling parents out there please, leave me and mine alone.  And learn how to say no.

That's it. We now resume our normally scheduled programming.

Prepare: Cities and Sieges

Ever read any history? Ever read about sieges? Do you live in a city?

A huge amount of the world's population lives in cities and surrounding urban areas. Big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris, Mexico City and so on.

During times of war, a common tactic of invading armies is to lay siege to a city rather than directly invade and fight house to house. The city instead is surrounded, shelled and bombed from a distance and entry and exit from the city, for resupply, is blocked.

The residents of the city are thus bombed daily all while rapidly running out of supplies. Eventually, the city surrenders en masse.

There are hundreds of examples of famous sieges in history. For those who are preparing, consider what it would be like if your home town was surrounded and cut off from the outside world.

Stories of survivors of famous city sieges tell us of what they ate after the regular food stores were depleted. Pets, birds, rats, sawdust bread and in some cases, each other. Ugh.

If you live in a city, have you considered what would happen if supply lines dried up and whatever you had in the house and surrounding area would have to suffice? Is there a water supply nearby? Do you have something to catch rainwater with?

Do you have a supply of ready to eat food at home now? Can't cook during a siege or the someone unwelcome might drop by and help themselves to all you have after they smell your food.

Is there anything around you which can be eaten? Do you have a garden? Are you growing something in it now? Are there any wild and natural edibles in your area?

What about animals and wildlife for food? I have squirells, rabbits and other small game out the wazoo where I live. You can also catch small birds or plink them for food. But those sources won't last long.

Do you know where some food might be hidden and overlooked by other survivors?

I would hate to be in a large city during a siege or if resupply had been cutoff from the outside world. There is not enough food to go around, producing food is difficult and there are too many who will take what you have, if anything.

If you live in a large urban area, think about it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Prepare: End of the World Date Set - May 21, 2011

A group out of Oakland, California has announced that the world will come to an end on May 21, 2011. They base their announcement upon mathematical computations gleaned from several locations in the Bible which resulted in this date.

They have a website - Family Radio - which gives more information and the formula they used based upon scripture.

I don't want to pass judgement on these people. I have heard two interviews in the same number of days with their spokesperson on the radio. He seems very rational and a reasonable fellow. None of that "fire and brimstone" stuff, rather, he answered questions calmly and based upon his beliefs.

You can't prepare for this sort of thing.

According to the Rapture concept, if you are right with God, you will be swept up from earth to Heaven. There is no reason to prepare for that type of event as you will need none of your preps.

If you are not right with God, there will be a period of tribulation which preps may help, but the world will be so awful, it may not matter.

So the short of the long is, if you want to prepare for this end of the world scenario, get right with God right away.

My own perspective on the end of the world, Bible style, is based upon two things. First, I can't find in the Bible where it says the world will end on Tuesday. Rather, it points to signs and reminds readers, "Get right with God now and live each second as if Jesus were about to return".

Second, a pastor I knew was once asked what he thought about Rapture theology. His response was similar and basically said, "I can't worry about the actual day and time or how it exactly will happen. All I can worry about is preparing my own soul and helping save as many others as possible. That is what Jesus is going to ask me about when I meet Him".

I don't want to start a big theological fracas over this. Read this group's link and judge for yourself. Same with your religious beliefs; I don't want an argument with you.

Either this happens on May 21 and if so, I will see you on the other side. Or the date is wrong and look for another fine post here on May 22. Take care,

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