Sunday, January 17, 2021

The COVID-19 Vaccine Explained

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This is an informative post, not a political post. 

If you're like me, you have some questions about the COVID-19 vaccination, such as:
  • How can it work? I thought viruses mutated and that's why we can't vaccinate against them. 
  • What is mRNA and what does it have to do with a vaccine?
  • Will this vaccine affect my DNA at all?
I am neither a doctor nor a scientist, so I cannot answer these questions for you myself. However, I know several doctors and scientists, and I am able to present to you some information about the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine that will allow you to make an informed decision about whether or not you want to take it. 

I have two ways to explain it: the short, colloquial version, and the more in-depth version which is less conversational. 

The Colloquial Explanation
These are a series of Tweets by a Canadian physician. I know that Twitter is not peer-reviewed so I asked my Doctor of Microbiology friend to look at them and she said "Other than one typographical error it is correct."

NOTE:
This is where the typographical error lies. "COVID carries its genetic material as RNA, not DNA," says my friend the Doctor of Microbiology.  I asked if this changed the information at all, or if it was simply a case of strike the word DNA in this Tweet and replace it with RNA? "Strike and replace," she says.

In fact, the person who originally tweeted this admitted and apologized for the typographical error as well.
 

The Technical Explanation
The more in-depth and less colloquial version is too large to post here.  Cedar Sanderson, author and scientist, explains it in this post on her blog

Now You Know
And now you can make an informed decision whether or not to get vaccinated

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Hyperinflation

Depression is the loss of currency in circulation (such as when a stock market crash wipes out 20% of the money). Inflation is the loss of value of that currency already in circulation. 

Anyone who has paid bills for more than a few years or is on a fixed income knows what inflation is: currency loses buying power over time. This can work to your advantage if you're looking at a large long-term loan, since the monthly payments are fixed and the buying power of that fixed amount will decrease over the life of the loan. For example, if your mortgage payment is $1,000 each month you'll have to work a certain number of hours to earn that $1,000. 20 years from now, with low to moderate inflation and wages that keep up with that rate of inflation, it will take you fewer hours to earn $1,000 to make the mortgage payment. That frees up your time and money for other things, so it actually costs you less each month.

Inflation is part of our current monetary policy, and a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to manage it and keep it under their control. Too little inflation and the economy enters a depression with banks and businesses going out of business because they can't make money by borrowing or lending; too much inflation and the wage increases don't keep up with costs and people start to go bankrupt, starve, and are forced out of their houses. However, the real boogeyman in economic policy is hyperinflation.

Hyperinflation is defined as a rate of inflation that exceeds 50% increase per month. We normally see a rise of a few percent per year and can usually adjust to that, but 50% each month means that costs are rising out of control. Imagine paying $500/month for food in January, but in February the same amount of food costs $750; by March it's $1125, and by July it's $5695. By the next January, that amount of food will cost almost $52,000 -- over 100 times as much! That's the minimum of what is defined as hyperinflation; there are examples of much worse in history.


Causes
Hyperinflation has been caused by a few different things or combinations of those things over the centuries:

Loss of Faith in a Currency
If people lose faith in a currency that is not backed by tangible assets (e.g. fiat currency, like the US dollar), the perceived value of that currency drops and people treat it as worthless. Those people start to hoard things of value, like food and materials, which slows the economy and creates more loss of faith, which begins a downward spiral. Wage and price control efforts by a government may help but are often seen as desperate moves, which instills fear and leads to more hoarding.

People all over the world have used the US dollar as a reserve currency for decades because their local currency wasn't as stable, but that is starting to change.

War
If a large portion of the available currency is sent offshore to fight a war or to pay for damages after a war, it is common for a nation to crank up the printing presses and flood the market with worthless paper. The excessive war reparations imposed on Germany after WW1, coupled with the destruction of a large chunk of their means of production led to hyperinflation, which led to the conditions that made WW2 inevitable. When people are carrying cash around in wheelbarrows to buy basic foods, and the central bank is only printing one side of the currency to speed up the printing process, you know you're in hyperinflation.

Economic Turmoil
If the central bank loses control, or even the illusion of control, over a currency people tend to shift their purchasing and savings habits, which can further push the economy towards collapse. Bank failures are another form of turmoil that can mess things up and kick off hyperinflation if the central banks start printing money to cover the losses.

Theft at High Levels
If a government or the people in it start to rob the treasury for their own uses, they usually do it in style. When billions of whatever currency start to disappear, that currency either fails or the printing presses get cranked up to cover it. Either way, more money is created out of thin air that undermines the value (perceived or real) of the currency. Yugoslavia ran into this in the 1990s when the leader had the central bank write $1.4 billion in loans to his friends. The bank then started printing huge piles of money to cover those loans, which were never going to be paid back, and to cover the operating costs of the government. Inflation increases hit 300 million percent per month before the new government seized control of prices and wages (causing massive shortages of food and fuel) before they eventually adopted the German mark as a national currency.

Effects
Hyperinflation has several effects on the population and economy

Hoarding
Once currency loses value, people start buying more durable goods to avoid having to pay more in the future. Eventually this spreads to consumables like food. Increased demand without increased supply drives prices up, which increases inflation and causes more hoarding, so the spiral continues.

Loss of Savings
If you have money set aside for retirement or college, that $100,000 dollars can lose its value quickly. At the bare minimum hyperinflation rate of 50% per month, $100k in January will be worth $1k in a year's time. People stop saving because it's a losing game, which leads to...

Bank Closures
Banks lose huge amounts due to their loans becoming worthless, and with nobody putting anything into savings, they run out of money to lend for new loans that will never bring a profit. Banks go out of business, which curtails production since most businesses rely on revolving debt to operate. The mortgage industry will collapse as well, which will further wipe out investment and savings. Legal title to real estate will be a mess until things get sorted out, but expect a wave of foreclosures and evictions in the early stages.

Barter Replaces Currency
People begin to trade with each other, exchanging tangible goods instead of paper or digital cash. This leads to an “underground” economy that doesn't send taxes to support governments and all levels, leading to reduced government services.

Government Contraction
With less coming in from taxes, and whatever does come in losing its value before it can be spent, governments start to shrink. The early cuts will be to maintenance and services, but eventually they will have to start letting employees go, which adds to...

Massive Unemployment
Banks are closing, businesses are unable to produce anything, governments at all levels are shrinking, and that means there are going to be a lot of people out of work. Those with no practical skills or training that can be bartered for food will soon be hungry and living in the streets.

How You Can Prepare
Preparing for hyperinflation isn't easy; it is one of the major SHTF scenarios just short of TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it).

  • Cover your basics of water, shelter, and food for as long as you can and work towards ensuring a continuing supply of them. This is not one of the short-term emergencies like a hurricane that is going to be cleaned up with outside help within a few months; most cases of hyperinflation drag on for years and there are a few cases where it's been decades.
  • Don't count on outside help. The USA has always been the one to help others recover, and there are no countries capable of helping us in any substantial way.
  • Learn to barter and have skills or stored goods to barter with.
  • Accept the fact that anything you can't lay your hands on is out of your control. Yes, you may have money in a savings account or IRA, but that money can disappear faster than you can blink. 
  • Budgets become guidelines, since you have no control over what your money is going to be worth. Saving cash will be futile; it will be better to spend it on something durable or tradeable.
  • Owning land is a good idea, but you have to be able to be on it to use it. Mortgages might get messy, deeds and titles might go missing or not be accepted by a government, travel is going to be difficult, etc.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a job, get paid every day. At the minimum 50% per month inflation rate, waiting two weeks for a paycheck means losing 25% of your money. In the really bad cases, wives would meet their husbands at work on payday and take the money immediately to the store. Waiting even a day could wipe out a good chunk of your earnings.

I pray that we never see hyperinflation here, but it is always a possibility with fiat currency and central banks. We're stuck with both.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Prudent Prepping: Battery Storage

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 

Due to Real Life interfering with my spare time, I had a longer than anticipated break from Blue Collar Prepping. Things have calmed down and I expect to be contributing on a regular schedule. What's going on? Keeping my disposable batteries organized.

While I do have several flashlights that have rechargeable batteries, there are still reasons for having standard alkaline cells at home. I keep them around for standard uses in remotes like TV, stereo or garage openers. I also have AA and AAA batteries in my various bags, along with small, cheap flashlights to use and, if the need arises, to give away. To keep them organized in a reasonable manner and not rolling around in a drawer, I bought several things.

From the Amazon ad:

  • Home Essential Battery Organizer: Rechargeable battery organizer can hold 54 batteries with a battery checker, with this box there is no longer to worry about how to organize messy batteries.
  • For More Type Batteries - It can hold 24*AA, 30*AAA, total 54 batteries, perfect for Energizer Alkaline Batteries, ACDelco, Panasonic, Duracell batteries.
  • Messy Terminator: This battery case neatly holds the batteries snugly in place within the foam pre-cut slots and keeps the contact ends from contacting each other, you don’t need to worry about that this foam will deform, Great way to organize your batteries easy for you to find whatever battery you looking for quickly.
  • Where is The Advantage: It is made of high quality plastic, more resistant and crashworthiness than acrylic, removable soft foam with pre-cut slots, easy for storing batteries, with clear design make it easy to see what you need, the most important, Having a lid that securely locks closed allows us to store the container flat or upright also attach with a clip convenient for hanging on wall.
The foam in the box has die cut spots for the batteries, but the 'plugs' are not removed, possibly because the time involved would be too costly. Regardless, the foam is dense enough that batteries don't move when inserted. 


Now that I have bulk battery storage sorted, what about carrying batteries in smaller, useable quantities? To do that, I needed to find a way to box the batteries before placing them in a ziploc bag and then into my bags. To do that, I bought an old favorite that our esteemed Editrix pointed me towards several years ago.

From the Amazon ad:

  • Package included:4 pcs of battery cases
  • Convenient and intuitive to use,can combine in row
  • Holds either 4 AA or 4 AAA rechargeable batteries
  • Colors: Clear, Pink , Blue, Green
  • Batteries are not included.
I've used these for longer than I can remember for small rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries (123 size) and now all the time to replace the now-discontinued cardboard box battery packages. Since these are not water resistant, let alone waterproof, ziploc bags are being used again. Putting them in a plastic case obviously makes the batteries more expensive, but I don't like the idea of letting AA cells rolling around in a baggie, even if I rubber band everything into a compacted shape. I like the ease of storing the bulk batteries and the peace of mind in having solid cases for the smaller quantities I carry.

Recap and Takeaway
  • One Battery Storage Box purchased from Amazon: $11.99 with Prime.
    • Pro: Solid and secure battery storage
    • Con: Not water resistant due to no gasket in the lid, but the box does seem to latch securely enough to keep dust and dirt out.
  • One set of Lovelybird AA/AAA storage boxes from Amazon: $6.99 with Prime.
    • Pro: solid, secure box that fit the batteries I use
    • Con: If these were water-resistant it would be better but the price obviously would be much higher. Other than that, I have no complaint. 
* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Heating and Eating When the Lights Go Out

A fascinating question was posed in the BCP Facebook group. At the least, it was fascinating to me, and based on the conversation there, it got the attention of a whole lot of other people as well. Paraphrasing, the question was "I have an all-electric house. How do I cook food and heat my home in the event of a power outage?" There are a lot of ways to handle these tasks, so lets break them down.

The first way to address a lack of electrical power is with electricity. I know that sounds trite, but it's true. I've talked about backup generators in the past, and they're the quick and easy way to power your house in an emergency. Another option is a solar array with a battery bank. Properly sized, either of these will keep you running when the grid goes down.

If you're not capable of generating your own power, you'll have to look at other means of heating. Lets start with cooking, because why not? If your home has a wood burning stove or a fireplace, congratulations, you can cook like your grandparents or great grandparents, and heat your home at the same time. This is winning all around. Simply heat food on the hearth of your fireplace or the top of your stove. It won't be gourmet, but it will be hot. Make sure that you keep your chimney or flue properly cleaned and that you have adequate fresh air, otherwise you can succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning with no real warning.

If you don't have wood burning heat available to you, then things get a bit more involved. A propane barbecue grill can be pressed into service to cook most things. Charcoal will also work for many things, but it's not as convenient or easy. If you live in a place where a full-size grill is not feasible, tabletop models that run on small 1 pound propane cylinders are available and affordable. They're designed for camping, and they excel at it, but riding out emergencies looks a lot like camping at home. I've personally used the model linked for decades, cooking everything from burgers and hot dogs to soup and breakfasts.

That covers cooking. Now lets look at heating your living space. If you're stocking propane bottles to run a tabletop grill, why not use the same bottles to run your heater? Mr Heater makes a unit that will heat a medium-sized room off the same 1 pound cylinders. It won't heat your whole home, so you'll have to gather in a single room to stay warm, but it will keep that room comfortable.

Burning any kind of combustible material inside requires that you have plenty of fresh air moving through, otherwise you have the same carbon monoxide issue that I mentioned above. Make sure any heater you buy specifies that it is safe for indoor use. In addition, you should have a carbon monoxide detector in your home as a matter of general safety, and make sure that it is in good working order and has fresh batteries, just like a smoke detector.

It's cold outside. It doesn't have to be cold inside.

Lokidude

Monday, January 11, 2021

Home Hot Water Canning: How To Do It

Hello again. In this post, I’m going to talk about prepping your canning jars and lids, as well as walk you through the actual canning process.

For this example I’m going to be processing tomatoes, a high acid food perfect for hot water canning. However, to be on the safe side, an additional acid such as lemon juice (1 tablespoon per pint, 2 tablespoons per quart) or citric acid (¼ teaspoon per pint, ½ teaspoon per quart) should be added prior to canning. This increases the acidity (lowers the Ph) and helps prevent the growth of botulism or other unpleasant organisms.

Examine Your Produce
Before getting started, examine all the tomatoes for blemishes, bruises, or other damage and cut out bad spots if necessary. Any tomatoes that are over-ripe or have even the slightest amount of mold should be excluded from canning. They may still be perfectly fine to use in regular cooking, but the requirements for proper canning are pretty stringent.

Blanching the tomatoes (dipping them in boiling water and removing the skins) can often result in a better product, but is also a lot more work. I’ve canned whole, blanched, diced, and crushed tomatoes; the easiest by far was running them through the food processor and canning the result. However, consider what any recipes call for and choose accordingly. 

You also need to decide between hot pack and raw pack, also called cold pack canning. The difference is simply whether the contents are raw but room temperature (such as fresh or blanched tomatoes) or cooked and still hot (such as stewed tomatoes). Again, personal preference and ultimate use will be deciding factors.

Once the contents and method have been decided, it’s time to move on to the next stage.

Examine Your Equipment
The first equipment check to be made when getting ready to can is to examine the jars, making sure they don’t have any cracks or chips. 

Then, wash the jars in hot water and dish soap. If you have a dishwasher, it may have a sterilize setting.

Next, open a fresh package of lids and wash them as well. It’s important the lids not be boiled, as this can soften and weaken the ring of sealant around the edge, preventing a good, airtight, seal. This is why lids generally cannot be reused for another cycle of canning.

Start Your Engines (Process)
Place the canning pot on the stove top, fill it part way with water, and turn on the heat. Remember, the pot needs to hold enough water to be at least a couple of inches above the top of the jars when boiling. 

If you have a glass-top stove, be cautious; the size and weight of a large canning pot full of water and jars may damage or break the cooktop. Consider using a smaller setup if this is a concern.

Preheat the jars by soaking them inside and out with hot water. Not doing so increases the chance of jars cracking or shattering when plunged into hot water.

Fill the jars using a food funnel, but make sure to leave proper headspace, which is the air gap between the top of the food and the inside of the lid.

For tomatoes, the jars should be filled to no less than half an inch of the top; I prefer leaving closer to an inch of headspace.

If using whole, quartered or diced tomatoes, add water or tomato juice to fill the excess space in the jars. Crushed tomatoes should be fine as is.

Use a plastic or silicone rod to work out any air bubbles in the contents. Wipe the top rim and threads to make sure there’s nothing that would interfere with a good seal.

Place the lids on the jars and screw the rings on, but not too firmly! If the rings are screwed on too tight, air can’t escape during boiling.

Now We’re in Hot Water
Place the jars into a canning rack and lower the rack into the hot (but not yet boiling) water. If necessary, add more hot water until there’s at least an inch or two of water above the level of the lids. Don’t pour the water directly onto the jar tops; try and pour it between the jars instead. 

Put the lid on the pot and turn up the heat. Once the water reaches boiling, start a timer; for sea level to around three thousand feet elevation, pints should be boiled for 40 minutes and quart for 45 minutes. As elevation increases, so does the time, since water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevation. For example, the recommended times for 3,000 to 6,000 feet of elevation is 50 minutes for pints and 55 minutes for quarts.

You can find more information regarding times, elevation, and much more here.

Out of the Water and Onto the Towel
Once the time is up, lift the jar rack out of the pot and, using a jar lifter, move the jars to a towel so they can cool. You should hear a pop from the lids as the jars cool. This is the sound of a good seal.

However, you should check each jar to make sure. Remove the rings and gently push down on the center of the lid. It shouldn’t have much give. If it pops in and out, the jar didn’t seal. Don’t worry, if that happens; it can either be run through again with a new lid, or you can put in the refrigerator and use it in meals. 

Repeat these steps until all the tomatoes are processed.

Storage
Once everything is done and the jars are cool, store them in a cool dark place until needed. Never stack anything on top of a sealed jar! This can cause problems with the seal.

Check on them occasionally to make sure none of the jars have leaks. When opening the jars, examine them carefully before use. If anything seems off, discard them! Botulism can kill in very small amounts.


Thanks for reading. Till next time. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

The ER Bag

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Over the past few months, my 81 year old mother has had increasing pain in her hip and leg. Now, when I say pain, I don't mean discomfort; I mean PAIN, the kind where all she can do is whimper and it tears my heart out to hear because I can't do anything about it. Last Wednesday night it got so bad that it woke her up around midnight and I had to take her to the ER. 

Because I have elderly parents and late-night ER trips like this are common, I have what I call an "ER Bag", which is a backpack filled with things that make spending interminable hours in hospital chairs a bit more tolerable. 

My bag contains the following:
  • A bottle of Gatorade and a granola bar
  • Pocket change for vending machines
  • Baseball cap 
  • Spare face mask
  • Earplugs
  • Hoodie
  • Small fleece blanket
  • Klymit Cush 
  • Power Bank
  • Wall Charger
  • 3 USB cords
  • Tablet computer with bluetooth mouse & keyboard
  • Ear buds
I'm probably forgetting something I will need in the future, but each time I go to the ER I add to this based upon what I wish I had with me to make me more comfortable. 

Because the backpack isn't full, I can also stuff things into it, like my mother's coat after she takes it off, or bottles of medicine that she's taking, or even her medical records if that's necessary. 

If you end up going to the ER a lot, I recommend you set up a go bag so that you can just "grab it and go" rather than having to take time to get stuff. 

As for my mom, first they gave her morphine which dropped her pain from an 8 to a 1. Then they did x-rays which determined nothing was broken (good) but couldn't account for the pain (bad). Finally they did a CT scan, which detected that something was encroaching upon her lower spine and that was causing the pain. The doctor felt she would probably need an MRI to determine exactly what it was (although she suspect spinal stenosis) but that would have to be scheduled through mom's primary care physician. 

We arrived at the hospital at 12:30. We didn't get home until well after 5 am. I'm mostly back to normal but I'm still not at my best mentally, which is why this post is shorter on meat than most. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Diversity

I know that the word “Diversity” has negative connotations is some circles, but it is a good concept for preppers to consider. I'm not talking about setting quotas on who you associate with; I'm thinking of a more basic concept of “not having all of your eggs in one basket”.

Five or so years ago I wrote a brief article on the basics of farming. I mentioned that monoculture farming was becoming the norm, and that it has the potential for becoming a disaster if a disease or pest affects a significant portion of the crops. The Irish potato blight is an example of monoculture farming gone bad: a fungal infection ruined several years' harvests because everyone was planting the same crop, most of it from the same seed supply. There were political and social aspects of the blight, but the lack of diversity in the food supply was a major cause of a lot of misery and disruption.

Avian flu, mad cow disease, swine flu, and a variety of other diseases have swept through regions and countries, wiping out entire herds of animals being raised for food. Modern transportation means we can move food around to replace those losses, but it also makes it easier for the diseases to spread. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an on-going threat to cattle and deer, with no cure and limited methods of prevention. Culling herds by killing any animal that may be infected is often the only way to stop the spread.

Current farming practices minimize the possibility of a recurrence of a disaster on that scale but can't totally eliminate it. Locally we're dealing with several invasive species of pests for which we still don't have a chemical solution, and the crops are suffering because of them. In harsh times we won't have access to all of our modern remedies, and crops/herds may fail completely.

Diversification in growing food means planting different types of crops, or raising different types of animals, to provide multiple sources of nutrition. If you're planning on growing your own food, or at least a majority of it, don't base your plans on just one crop. Yes, it's easier to tend to a larger field of all one crop, but if you lose it you have lost everything. Planting corn, potatoes, cereal grains (wheat, oats, barley, etc.) for a source of carbohydrates and also planting beans, peas, nuts, and hemp as sources of protein is a good example of diversifying your nutritional sources. Look at the pictures and plans for the gardens of ages past, and you'll see that the people who had to live off of the fruits of their own land tended to plant a varied mix of things to provide variety and reliability to their diet.

Diversity can also be seen in other areas of prepping:

  • There are very few places where one set or type of clothes will be suitable for the entire year. Having a mix of clothes gives you the options to blend your apparel to meet the demands of the season.
  • A prepper's library should be as diverse as possible. Reference books on fields of study that you have no interest in could be invaluable if you need to learn that field. Being able to share knowledge and pass it on to future generations requires a balanced library, you're going to need basic books to get people up to a point where they can understand the advanced ones.
  • Learning and study methods vary, you'll likely need to check out several different sources to find the ones that fit your personality. I'm one of those odd people who can read about a subject and grasp the concepts, but I know a lot of people who have to have hands-on experience before anything sinks in. Explaining a new or complex situation can often take several tries from several different approaches, so diversify your teaching methods.
  • Diversification is also key to fighting one of the worst things a human can have to endure: boredom. Bored people have time to get into (or make) trouble. Diversity of activities keeps the minds and hands busy, reducing the amount of time and reasons for trouble. Bored people complain and try to spread their misery, those of us who have or have had kids know this well, and adults are often worse than children.
  • Genetic diversity is a touchy field. It's okay to talk about it when dealing with crops and herds, but if you try to include humans you're likely to stir up tribal animosity and anger. I'm not going to get into “racial purity” or “miscegenation” debates, because all you have to do is look at the ruling families of Europe for the last few centuries and you can see that inbreeding is a bad thing. Inter-tribal marriages and “war brides” have been a way to ensure that “fresh blood” is injected into a gene pool once in a while for as long as humans have been walking this Earth. The research varies, but there is an absolute minimum number of unrelated animals required to reproduce without genetic defects. Livestock producers have been tracking bloodlines of their animals for centuries for this reason, which is how we have “thoroughbred” horses.


There are many other examples where diversity isn't always a bad word, but I think you get the idea. Remember to plan to mix things up once in a while to keep life moving forward.

The Fine Print


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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