Monday, July 31, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #154 - The Legal Episode

This week we discuss the exciting legal cases Norman vs. Florida, Wrenn vs. District of Columbia, and Kat Von D vs. Dita Von Teese*.

* Sean says I couldn't talk about Dita Von Teese in the intro because we didn't talk about her in the actual podcast, but I showed him!
  • Gun violence!  Beth hates that term. She's going to tell us what's wrong with it, and what we should call it instead.
  • A woman is arrested after robbing a Charlotte bank. Who was she? Sean checks her permanent record.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return next week.
  • Miguel talks about Kat Von D, Contract Law, and why letting your politics interfere with doing the right thing is unacceptable.
  • Florida Carry is assisting with one of the next possible Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment, Norman vs. Florida. Here to talk about that case is the lead counsel, Special Guest Eric Friday, of the law firm Kingry & Friday.
  • Tiffany is a busy lady who’s on the move! But even though she’s in an airport about to board her flight, she still takes the time to talk to us about the momentous Wrenn vs District of Columbia decision.
  • Did you know that you can rewrite your brain's conditioned responses to stress? Erin tells us how to hack your brain.
  • When interviewed about Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts piles it high. Weer’d takes on the lies in part two of her interview on the Hellbent Podcast.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the GBVC Radio Group on Facebook. Join us! and subscribe to this podcast on your smartphone!
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Extinguishing Conditioned Responses
Back in June, I talked about PTSD and conditioned responses and I said that the reason so many people have flashbacks after a trauma is because nerve clusters in the brain fired during the event, permanently associating a specific sensory stimulation with the trauma. This week, I’m going to talk about how you can break that pairing.

This first thing you need to understand is that these conditioned responses are perfectly normal, and are in fact deeply rooted in prehistoric survival traits. For example, let’s say that you were attacked by a crocodile while swimming in a lake, and although you managed to survive, your brain now associates the sound of splashing water with a crocodile attack.

This is your brain trying to protect you. It believes that if you stay away from splashing water, then you won’t be attacked by a crocodile again. This makes a fair amount of sense, but unfortunately, not all conditioned responses make such sense. In one instance, a victim of child abuse associated the sound of rattling keys with impending sexual assault, because the keys announced that her father was home.

What is important to keep in mind, though, is that you are not broken or crazy for associating events or having flashbacks; this is your brain trying to warn you of danger to keep you safe. “Learn this to save your life,” your brain is saying.

The next important thing to know is that talking therapy doesn’t help for severe anxiety disorders like PTSD, and can in fact make things worse. In the early days of the Vietnam War, psychologists encouraged veterans to tell their stories, to “get it all out”, in the belief that this would unburden them. The results were catastrophic and resulted in suicides as the veterans were forced to relive the horror over and over. So don’t ever let anyone make you talk about it unless you are 100% ready.

The next step is to realize that if your brain can be programmed, then it can be un-programmed in the same way. Micki Glenn, the victim of a devastating shark attack, was quite understandably terrified of pictures of sharks. To combat this, Micki’s husband put a close-up image of that very shark -- he photographed it before it attacked her  -- on her computer as the screensaver. Every time Micki walked into the room, she had to confront the face of her attacker. This resulted in an anxiety response, but through breathing exercises she would calm herself and then force herself to look at the picture.

Over the course of several weeks, Micki was gradually de-sensitized to images of sharks. She systematically re-wrote a new memory over the traumatic one. This new memory said “Seeing a shark does NOT feel like pain and terror; it feels like walking into my office.” This process is called “extinguishing a conditioned response.”

At Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, there is a sophisticated virtual reality system called CAREN Dome. CAREN stands for Computer Assisted Rehabilitation ENvironment, and it helps veterans overcome PTSD from ambushes and IED by replicating a lifelike Iraqi village.

At first, the street is completely clean, with nothing on it that can set off a panic attack. Then the technician starts to add gradual details like people or trash until, eventually, the soldier can comfortably walk down a chaotic street. This process often takes years, but it does work.

Next week, I’ll bring this series to a close as I detail other ways people successfully cope with trauma and learn how to survive their survival.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Protect Your Preps

Let's talk about protecting what you have.

Just because is prep is frugal doesn't mean it has no value. We put our time and energy into it, so we have the right to protect our investment.

Protecting those preps isn't always an easy solution. I'll let you know how it turns out next week!

Handsome devil, ain't I?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Basic Types of RVs

While looking for my RV, I had some choices to pick from. The variety of camping trailers and self-propelled campers is kind of mind-numbing for some, so I'm going to list most of them and give some of the pros and cons from a prepper's perspective. Here's a link to some common terms used when describing campers.

Campers break down into two major groups, towed and self-propelled. Each of these groups has many sub-groups which are further divided by manufacturer and floorplan. I'll start small and progress through the sizes.


The simplest form of camper is the tow-behind hard shell. Often referred to as a “turtle”, these are a good choice for using when travelling solo or with a significant other because they rarely have accommodations for more than two people. 

Generally weighing less than 1200 pounds, they can be hooked up to any vehicle with a trailer hitch. The newer ones have more amenities than the one we had when I was growing up, which was little more than a rolling bedroom. These days you can find them with cooking equipment and heaters.

Easy to move but with limited interior space, “turtles” will keep you dry and protected from bugs quite well for a long time. They have very few moving parts, so maintenance is simple. Keep the bearings greased and the tires in good shape, and they'll roll for a long time.

If you want a bit more space, the next size up is the “pop up” or tent-trailer design. The small ones often open from only one end, deploying a canvas or nylon tent structure to create a sleeping area. Larger ones will have a central roof that moves up, exposing tent-like walls and shelf-like tented platforms that slide out each end. 

Because of the canvas or nylon tenting, this style is not as waterproof as a hard shell trailer, nor are they good at holding heat in or out. The life of the trailer is determined by the life of the canvas, which may last up to 20 years with good care. 

The popular Coleman pop-up campers have been around since I was a kid, and we spent a lot of summers living out of one. The slide-out shelves provide a roughly queen-sized bed space on each end, large enough for four people to sleep on. Inside the central area is a propane stove, small sink, ice box, and storage areas. Some floorplans will offer a table that folds down to make another bed, bumping the sleeping capacity up to six. Folding couches are an option that can increase bed space to eight people, which is usually too many in my opinion. Fairly light, these can be towed behind most rear wheel drive cars and pickups. Maintenance on the tenting and the various cables that move the roof and shelves can be a pain.

Need more room to stretch your legs inside? The next step up is a conventional tow-behind, with more options and floorplans than you can shake a stick at. Most of them will sleep 6 to 8 people in moderate comfort, while providing larger cooking and storage areas. Most of them will come with air conditioning and a heater, as well as running water from a 20-30 gallon fresh water tank and 12V DC pump. The sink may empty into a gray water tank, or it may just drain to a hose outside on the ground. Larger ones will have a simple bathroom with a black water tank to hold the waste until you get to a dump station (larger campgrounds and some Interstate rest areas are good places to find dump stations). 

This is about as small as you'd want to go if you're travelling with children in wet weather. Trust me, having two or three kids cooped up in an 8 by 8 trailer for a day or two will make sleeping in the rain look good. Having 20 feet or more of floor space to spread out in allows more breathing room and a lot more storage space than a small trailer.
Have a big family, or just want to take a small house with you? Now we're getting into the fifth-wheel trailers. Rivaling motor homes in amenities, you can get anything you want in a fifth-wheel, literally anything you can afford. Hot tub? I've seen them. Full bar? Yep. Nothing but beds? Those are called bunkhouses and can sleep up to 20 (common at remote construction sites). Want to take your snowmobiles with you but don't want to haul two trailers in tandem? Those are called toy haulers and will have a platform for loading your ATVs, personal watercraft, or snowmobiles on.

The floorplans are versatile because most of this class of trailer uses slide-outs to increase the floor space once you've reached your destination. Imagine being able to push your living room wall out 2 to 4 feet to make room for a larger couch and you get the idea behind slide-outs. The downside is that during travel, the slides are retracted and take up floor space. You're also going to need a good-sized (¾ ton or more) pickup with a fifth-wheel hitch in the bed, which eliminates using the truck bed for storage. Slide-outs use either a cable system or gears to move, and the overhanging weight will require the use of stabilizing jacks under the trailer to keep it from tipping over. Maintenance is key to keeping everything working properly.

The smallest of this class is the pickup camper. Usually something that slides into the bed of a pickup, with a portion protruding over the cab of the truck, this class of camper is akin to the “turtles” in amenities and floor space. Low-profile models will have a roof that hinges up or rises to expose a canvas wall similar to a pop-up camper. The lower profile reduces wind resistance and increase your gas mileage.

Beds are usually over the cab of the truck (very limited head room and not a good choice for claustrophobics), a table that knocks down to form a bed, and maybe a bench that can fold out into a bed. Propane stoves and small sinks are common in the older ones; the newer ones can have a bathroom (with clean, gray, and black water tanks), refrigerator, and queen-sized bed. They won't fit in short-box pickups and many of them will extend a couple of feet out the back of the bed of a full-sized (8 foot bed) truck. 

You're carrying your home with you, but it's hard to leave it somewhere if you want to go shopping without it. Watch the weight if you're driving a ½ ton pickup, as some of these are over 1500 pounds when empty. Low maintenance and sturdy, they'll last a long time.

Motorhomes come in three sizes, commonly called classes, and the classes are a bit confusing. All three classes come with the basic stove, sink, beds, and at least a toilet. Most of them are self-contained, meaning they don't need to be hooked up to any utilities. They carry their own water, waste storage, and power generation. The variety of floorplans and the quality of the interior designs is amazing.

Class C is in the middle, and is a van that has been chopped off behind the driver's seat and had a pickup camper melded to it. Lengths run from 20-30 feet. These are easy to spot because of the bed space that protrudes over the driver's cab (which is obviously a van front end). They are moderately comfortable to stay in, but not the most comfortable to travel in. Fuel mileage and power usually suffer from the high roofline and extra weight being added to a standard van. They don't handle cross winds very well, and they tend to waddle down the road if the suspension is worn or wasn't designed properly.
Class B is the smallest. It's basically a conversion of a standard, cargo, or high-capacity van. The roof is usually raised to provide headroom and windows are added and moved to fit the floorplan. It normally sleeps 2 or 3 people, is comfortable to travel in and is designed for short stops on long trips. Models that start as cargo or high-capacity vans have engines and transmissions better suited to handle the extra weight, so handling and fuel mileage aren't as bad as a Class C.,38,58784,1990-Airex-Class-A-33-foot--bartlett-.htm
Class A is the big boy league, with some being built on stretched out heavy van frames, others using a fire truck chassis, and the really big ones starting out as a bus frame or custom made. Lengths vary from 25-50 feet.

Newer ones all have slide-outs, some as many as four of them, to increase the square footage. Prices on new ones start at $100,000 (and go up to well over a million), and used ones tend to hold their value if they are well-maintained. Smaller ones are normally gasoline powered, with the the Ford 6.8L V10 or the GM 8.1L V8 being common today (it was the Ford 460 and GM 454 for many years). The larger ones are have diesel engines, usually mounted in the rear (hence the term “diesel pusher”, since the engine is “pushing” the RV). Gas vs. diesel is almost as contentious and Ford vs. GM: gas engines are easier and cheaper to maintain, but diesels last longer; diesel fuel stores better than gasoline, but costs more; diesel engines create more torque, but in a narrower band (this is why a gas-powered pickup can get by with a 4 speed transmission, but a diesel works better with a 6 speed).

Last but not least is the catch-all category custom builds. I've seen everything from food trucks to Metro buses turned into campers. Some are well-done, others look like Bubba should have found a better tin shed to put on wheels. There are too many variables to cover here, but there are plenty of examples on the Internet if you're interested in exploring this option.

I have driven commercial vehicles for many years and recommend training, or at least practice, before a first-timer puts a Class A on the road. Having a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) helped when I got the RV added to my vehicle insurance. Most people aren't used to having their taillights 30-40 behind them or the shear weight of a vehicle this large. Stopping distances are on par with a tractor-trailer, not a car. Tires are normally duals (two per side) and need special attention paid to inflation pressure. My Class A RV has a “tag” axle to carry the extra weight. A tag axle is an additional axle attached to the frame but not the driveshaft; it carries weight but doesn't provide traction or braking. Tag axles also like to drag a bit if you turn too sharply.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Prudent Prepping: A Sparkie Conversation

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

I didn't get out camping earlier this year, due to California having too much rain (which is a nice problem to have, given our drought) and not being senior enough to get any time off around the holidays. Nowadays, I am fairly high on the chart due to attrition, but because people are not being replaced when they leave, it's still hard for me to get any time off because now there aren't any extra employees to cover my stores.

What this has done, though, is give me time to go over my camping gear. One item that I did not have in my GHB and buckets was a reliable backup fire starter. Fortunately for me, my local Gear Nut came to my rescue. What he doesn't give to his kid  in Boy Scouts, or the troop, he gives to me and I'm never disappointed. What was I gifted this time?

UST Sparkie Fire Starter
Two of them, as a matter of fact! I have one already in my backpack, along with regular wooden matches in a waterproof container, so this gives me one for my GHB and one to go somewhere else.

The Ultimate Survival Technologies website says this about the Sparkie:
  • Designed for precision – sparks can be directionally targeted
  • Ultra-lightweight, durable plastic stands up to rugged use
  • Flint rod collapses into the Sparkie plastic case for compact storage
  • Generates sparks three times hotter than a normal match
While I really like their larger Blast Match, the Sparkie fits perfectly into my budget and planned uses. I am now looking to add Sparkies to my buckets as the backup to the waterproof matches already in them.

The Takeaway
  • A reliable fire starter is a necessary Plan B.
  • "Two is one and one is none" can't be said often enough, and I'm embarrassed that there weren't backups in my gear already.

The Recap
  • Two UST Sparkies: free from a friend, but $6.77 from Amazon as an Add-on to a Prime order. 

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.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Be (Solar) Still

It's the height of summer, and it's been a scorcher. If you found yourself stranded where I live, you might not make it 3 days without water.

Running out of water doesn't have to be a death sentence, though. Using just minimal gear, you can pull water right out of the ground. In addition, the same technique can be used to purify questionable water.

All of this operates on the principle of distillation, but instead of using a pot and a stove, we'll be using the sun and simple dirt.

Building a Portable Solar Still
  1. Pick a site that gets full sun for as much of the day as possible. 
  2. Dig a hole 1-2 feet deep and 3-6 feet in diameter. 
  3. Place a wide-mouth vessel on the bottom of your hole near the center to catch water. 
  4. Cover the entire hole with a trash bag or other plastic sheet, anchoring the edges with rocks or dirt. 
  5. Place a small rock or weight on the plastic and over your catch vessel.
If the dirt in your hole is wet or moist
Just sit back and let the sun go to work. The plastic sheet traps heat in the hole, causing water to evaporate from the ground. This water condenses on the plastic, then runs down to the low spot created by the weight before dripping into your vessel.

If the soil is dry or you want to generate more water
You can give your still a bit of a kick start by adding green vegetation or brackish water to your still to be processed. You can also urinate beside your still and reclaim some of that water.

The Extreme, Fixed-in-Place, Solar Still
If you have the time, energy, and materials to make this, you will find it much more efficient than the portable version above. The Extreme Solar Still comes from a March 2012 Survivalblog aricle by Jim B.
 When laying this shell shape out on the ground in the size that you would need, you will have to make sure that the top rounded side of the shell points away from the sun’s tracking through the sky. In North America that would be to the north. 
The top rounded section, or north side, would function much the same as the conventional still with sloping sides with approximately 25-45 degree angles, to as deep as you need the hole. The slopes would end not in the center, but on the bottom side of the shell shape about three quarters of the way down from the top, on the south side.  
The bottom of the hole is not one level. At the bottom, the “tail” end of the shell is a raised shelf. This shelf will hold the catch pot.
The added vegetation makes two things happen. First, it will add more moisture to the distillation process, and second, it will help the bottom of the hole to be a darker color, if you have a light soil. Dark colors absorb more heat. This is also the time to add any other items of moisture. 
The second thing that you should add is small rocks. Not too small, about fist or palm size or bigger, and flat if possible, any shape is okay if not. The ideal rocks would be very dark river rocks about 4-6 inches around and 1-3 inches thick. [...]The rocks should be placed along the inner sides and bottom of the still. They serve two purposes. The first is that they collect heat, being a darker and a denser material. And second, they hold that heat past the time when the sun drops below a level that hits your solar still. This will change the name of your solar still to the “stored heat radiation still”.
Not everyone will be carrying a length of tubing long enough to reach comfortably from the top to the bottom of the still and also be secured. Not having to open the still after its closed, however, will help with maintaining continuous heat trapped in the solar still. Any loss of heat will take a period of time to regenerate. 

While not a long-term solution, a solar still can generate 1.5-2 quarts of water per day if you provide moisture for it to distill. It can keep you alive for quite a while after running out of the water you brought, with minimal effort on your part.

There's water, water everywhere, so find a way to drink.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #153 - First, Do No Harm

Actions have consequences.
  • Beth has had enough of the madness! Yet another woman has been shot, by her own gun, from inside her purse. This kind of tragedy is 100% avoidable if you use your brain and follow the do's and don'ts of purse carry
  • An assault suspect is found dead in the basement of a Winston-Salem home. What killed him? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Just this week, a guy sneaked into the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather press conference with badges he cloned from images on Facebook. Barron tells us how it’s done
  • Miguel is on assignment and will return next week.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the third of a three-part interview series, Charl explains the Christian justification for self defense.
  • What is your calling? Do you know? And are you really being honest with yourself about what your true calling might be?
  • Tiffany salutes those who answer the call of law enforcement, but she also has a warning for those who only do so half-heartedly.
  • Erin breaks a promise this week, but it's so she can explain something you'll need to know for next week. Are you primed for an emotional reaction to stress? Erin explains what that means.
  • Shannon Watts does an interview about the Origins of Moms Demand Action... or at least, how she CLAIMS it happened. Weer'd explains what’s truth and what’s fiction inside Shannon Watts’ mind!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for The Lawdog Files, on Amazon for Kindle.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Emotional Priming
Last week I promised that I would talk about PTSD and ways to break the cycle of flashbacks. However, I’m afraid that I have to postpone that segment for a week, because I need to talk about emotional priming first. 

Put simply, witnessing trauma is itself traumatic to the viewer. This is because humans have structures in the brain called Mirror Neurons, which fire when performing an act but also when seeing an act. This is why you have the urge to yawn when you see another person yawn, why you often vomit when you see or hear or smell another person vomit, and why you wince in pain when you see another person get hurt.

 Mirror neurons are essential to our development during childhood because they are how we learn. “Monkey see, Monkey do” isn’t just a childhood taunt; it’s literally how we and other primates, learn. It follows, then, that if we witness something horrible that happens to another person, our mirror neurons simulate that sense of horror, that pain, that shock within us. And while the sensation isn’t as vivid, it’s still real, and therefore it’s entirely possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder from watching tragedy happen to another person.

In other words, PTSD can be considered an environmental or occupational hazard as much as a psychological one, especially if you work as a first responder. This means that you are more at risk for developing PTSD if you’ve already been exposed to extreme stress one or more times, and this vulnerability can last the rest of your life. This is what is known as being “emotionally primed” for PTSD. 

Think of your mind like a plate. Each traumatic event you witness is a crack within that plate. Some cracks are minor, but get enough of them, and the plate will fall apart. Get a single big crack, and the plate will fall apart.  Unlike bones, which can heal over time and become stronger, the mind retains the memory of the horrors it sees and this can make it weaker, more prone to injury. This explains why so many first responders take up unhealthy habits in their desire to forget what they’ve seen. They’re trying to erase those memories, to heal the cracks in the plate of their psyche. 

So if you have witnessed anything truly horrific or traumatic, I urge you to seek counseling from a professional. Not because you are crazy, not because you are broken; think of it as preventative maintenance. Just as you see the doctor every 6 months for a physical to keep on top of how your body is doing and to get ahead of potential issues so too should you see a therapist if you have a history with trauma, especially chronic trauma. A professional will be able to detect patterns of unhealthy behavior and poor coping mechanisms, and hopefully will help de-prime you so that you don’t suffer PTSD. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Preventative Maintenance Is Affordable Prepping

If you really want to be prepared, avoid some dangers, and save money, then you really need to take care of your stuff.

In this quick video I show you some things to look out for, as well as give some suggestions on where to spend your money to take care of the stuff you have!

Be good. Be safe. If you can't be safe, be good AND dangerous!

Happy viewing and I'll see you next week!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Avoiding Craigslist Scams

I've been thinking about buying an RV for quite a while, and I finally accumulated enough money in my savings account, so I started looking around to see what prices were like. I'm not looking for another bug-out vehicle; just something that I can load the wife into and do some travelling. It'd be nice to see friends who live in other parts of the country while maintaining control of my own security and being able to travel with things that would be difficult to take on an airplane. (Spam cans of ammo are heavy, firearms don't always make it to their destination via the airlines, and I trust the TSA about as far as I could throw one of them.) Having optional living quarters is also comforting when I start thinking about the various disasters that could keep me out of my house.

We have some well-established camper sales lots in my area, one of them having been in the same location for almost 60 years. I know people who work (or have worked) there, and I have dealt with a few of the companies over the years while repairing campers for friends. Buying a new camper is worse than buying a new car: the market is a lot smaller and there is less competition, so the sales-weasels will try to get you to buy way more than you'll need. I looked at some of the new prices -- I can buy a house in this area cheaper than some of the 5th-wheel trailers go for, and I'd have to buy a better truck to tow it with. The new Class A (self-contained and self-propelled) campers all start at more than I paid for my last two houses combined.

I'm getting close to retirement age, and most of my money is tied up in trying to get set to survive living without a daily job, so buying new is not an option. (Give me a few more years and the house will be paid off and I will be debt-free.) If you have a few tens of thousands of dollars laying around or don't mind taking out a loan (neither fits me), then a new camper, trailer, or motor home might be an option. For me, I knew I would be buying something used, probably needing repairs, and I needed to keep the price below $10,000. I started with Craigslist.

Craigslist is easy to navigate and a lot of people like it because it's free. Most listings have pictures (this is important) and a price in the title, and the search function on the left-hand side bar gives options like min/max price and distance from your location. There are warnings about scams at the bottom of the page, but those don't go far enough. The scammers are looking for three things; your money, your contact information, and your personal data. If they can just take your money, they will. If they can't do that, they'll be looking to steal your identity or at least add your contact information to the files of other thieves. Some people are too trusting, and there are always jackals out there looking for some way to get money without having to work for it. Here's what I ran into and how I learned to avoid the scammers.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Nobody is going to sell a five-year-old RV for a couple of thousand dollars. Nobody is going to deliver an RV (more than a few miles) for free. One scammer told me they'd deliver an RV from 1200 miles away for just the cost of gas. That fails the smell test, since they'd be eating all of the lodging and meals for travel both ways.

Read the Ad Carefully
One of the warnings that Craigslist offers is “buy local”. If you are looking at an ad in a local Craigslist and it doesn't have at least a city listed, it's probably a scam. None of the sellers that I contacted who didn't have a location in the ad were local.

Compare Prices
Looking at other used RV selling sites will give you an idea of what RVs similar to the one you're looking at are selling for. There are so many brands, models, and options available that it is unlikely you'll find an exact duplicate, but you'll find something close. Rvtrader is a site with a lot of listings, so it is likely you'll find something similar to what you're looking at. RVT is another option with 100k listings for variety.

Look At the Pictures
If you see text over the picture that isn't advertising a dealership, it's probably a scam. I use a browser add-on called Tineye to reverse-search images that I find on the internet. If the same picture is being used for listings in multiple states, it's a scam. A lot of scammers grab pictures from legitimate RV dealerships and use them in their ads, so watch for other ads to pop up in the results. Google offers a reverse-search option for images that works, but isn't as convenient.

Sharpen Your Search Skills
There are a few online sources of average prices for used RVs, with NADA being the most respected. They are the “Blue Book” that you'll hear referred to in used vehicle ads.

If there is a phone number in the listing, look at the area code and see if it is local to the area. I'm in a fairly sparsely-populated state, so I only have to deal with a half-dozen area codes within 200 miles in any direction. A lot of larger cities have that many many area codes just within the city limits. Internet searches for phone numbers aren't very useful anymore, because they all want payment for any information and a few of the cell phone companies don't even release their data to the public.

Have a Good Spam Filter On Your Email
Craigslist offers an anonymous email option for contacting sellers; use it! Don't give out your actual email address until you have made some effort to make sure you're not dealing with a scammer. Spam filters and throw-away email addresses will give the spammers something to play with. Gmail actually does a good job of filtering out the idiots, and I've noticed that hotmail and yahoo are getting better.

Exchanging Money
Once the scammer has you hooked, they are going to try to get your money. Western Union, wire transfers, money orders, gift cards, and fake escrow companies are the options to look out for. They are all one-way transfers, which means that once you have sent it, the money is gone; none of these options give you any recourse if the deal falls through or the product isn't as advertised. PayPal may be an option, and offers some options for disputing a sale. Be aware that eBay does NOT offer an escrow service, regardless of what a seller may tell you! I've dealt with eBay for 20 years, three of them as a seller, and I know their services quite well. (Check their FAQ here.) A legitimate escrow service will charge a fee for their services, so if you use one you need to negotiate who is going to pay that fee.

I prefer cash, but that has its own problems. Carrying large sums of cash to a location of the seller's choice is probably not a good idea. Practice situational awareness, have someone else with you for security, and walk or drive away if anything looks wrong. Banks will ask a lot of questions if you try to get anything over $1000 out of your accounts, due to federal anti-drug laws. I have a 30-year relationship with my bank and my banker is used to me dealing in cash, but if I hit a different branch I have to answer questions before they'll give me my own money. I've only had to complain once in those 30 years and my banker took care of it for me.

Titles and Paperwork
The best bet is to get a “clear” title: no liens, not stolen, with all of the required signatures in the right places, and nothing erased or covered with white-out will make your visit to the DMV/county tax station a lot easier. Be sure to  check your state laws, since they vary so much, on the different types of titles -- here in Iowa we have regular, salvage, and “prior salvage” titles. Once a vehicle has been damaged to the point where repairs will cost 50%+ of the value, you can get a salvage title. With a salvage title, you can't get it registered (license plates) or drive it on the road legally. Once repaired and inspected by a state official, we can apply for a “prior salvage” title and get it plated. You will not be likely to get a loan on any vehicle with anything other than a clean, regular title.

Any sale without a title is a problem. State laws vary, but to get a replacement title without a current registration in hand you're going to have to jump through some hoops. The DMV will have to do a title search, which gets tedious if they have to contact another state, and then determine that it wasn't reported stolen or totalled by an insurance company. Most states will try to contact the last owner to make sure it wasn't stolen. Then they will have to inspect it and issue a new title, which adds more delays. Unless you're buying an RV for parts, I'd avoid the hassles of buying one without a title.

I managed to find a motor home in my price range about an hour from home on Craigslist and will be writing more about it once I get it home. I need to get cash from the bank to pay for it, so it will be sometime this week before I drive it back and start working on it. It has some issues, but is mechanically sound and none of the damage is irrepairable.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Prudent Prepping: 6 Month Gear Check

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

My calendar alert went off, which means that now is the time to start looking at dates on my stored food and swapping out those things close to their sell by dates. After my food, I check everything that's kept in my GHB, my Buckets of Holding and my pantry shelves.

I do have a system that lets me see everything, but it does take a bit of time to go through all of it. I also have to set alarms before the regular 6 month check if I find items that will go past their dates, since all food I don't eat myself goes to the local Food Bank.

If my finances ever improve, some of my emergency food will rotate out and their freeze dried replacements will be at the top of my list. So far, I'm finished with the buckets, and the only things close to going out within two months are hot chocolate and canned chicken breast.

Canned Chicken Breast

The chicken I buy is Member's Mark Premium Chunk Chicken Breast from Sam's Club

From their web site:
  • ​Fully cooked chicken breast in water
  • Minimally processed
  • Contains only three ingredients, nothing artificial
  • 98% fat free
These are 12.5 oz cans packaged in a six pack, and I try to not buy more than one pack at a time to reduce the hit to my food budget. I really like the can size for because it gives me the option of eating the whole thing as a meal, or sharing it, or mixing it into other things.

Hot Chocolate

The other item that I originally purchased from Sam's Club is Land O'Lakes Cocoa Classics Variety Pack, unfortunately no longer stocked there. If I want to have an assortment of flavors, it appears I will have to order the same multi-pack from Amazon, and I really like the assorted flavors and pack count in the boxes.

From the Product Description:

  • 5 Delicious Flavors : Chocolate Supreme, French Vanilla, Arctic White, Mint and Caramel
  • Just add hot water!
  • Good Source of Calcium
  • Made The Old Fashioned Way, Like Mom Used To Do. We Put The Nonfat Dry Milk In So All You Do Is Add Hot Water
  • Total: 42 Servings, 5 Different Varieties, 6 Envelopes of Each Arctic White, French Vanilla and Caramel. 12 Envelopes of Chocolate Supreme and Mint
Since Mint is not a favorite flavor of chocolate, I leave it in the buckets and put another flavor in my GHB and on my pantry shelf.

There is some pasta, sauce, and a few other things being rotated out by the fall, so I've set alerts for this time every month up through November.
The Takeaway
  • Rotate food to keep things fresh.
  • Donate quantities that can't fit on my pantry shelves.
  • Keeping interesting flavors stocked for an emergency can reduce stress.

The Recap

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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Replace Your Lights With LEDs

I've recently begun converting the light bulbs in my house to LED. It's a quick, simple upgrade that any prepper could benefit from.

Why LED?
Just a few years ago, LED lighting was expensive, very niche, and tough to find. Even industry professionals were skeptical about LED for residential use, and for good reason, as manufacturers made huge claims that rarely came true.

Intervening years and economy of scale have since righted the course of residential LED lighting, and the cost of screw-in LED light fixtures has fallen almost to the level of a compact fluorescent light (CFL). Power consumption is roughly 10% of a traditional incandescent, or half of a CFL. In addition to the lower energy bills, many electric utilities are offering rebates and other incentives to convert to LED.

There are three other reasons that I am a fan of LED lighting.
  1. Heat: LEDs put out far less heat than the alternatives. This means less general heat in your home, but it also means less heat in your light fixtures and wiring boxes. Heat in these locations can cause damage to wires and fixtures, and sometimes even fire.
  2. Safer Construction: They usually use plastic instead of glass for the globe (something made possible by lower heat). They also don't contain toxic chemicals like mercury that can cause a health hazard when broken.
  3. Overall Quality of Light: Fluorescent lights have a pulsing strobe effect, which gets worse as they age. This is known to be a major headache trigger, even causing migraines in some people. In addition, it can negatively affect mood in people with certain mood or environmental disorders. LED lighting doesn't pulse and is just generally "cleaner."
Shopping for LEDs
There are two ways to convert to LED lighting. The first is to buy dedicated replacement fixtures, which are  painless to install and require little or no maintenance or work after installation. They are also quite a bit more expensive up front. From a prepper standpoint, it's best to look at these fixtures only if you have an existing fixture that needs replacement anyway, and if you have any doubt about your ability to replace a fixture, please call a qualified electrician.

The much easier way is to replace your light bulbs and fluorescent tubes with LED lights that install into your existing fixtures like any other lamp, and last an average of 8-10 years before needing replacement. Replacements are available for almost all lamps made in the past 30 years.

When purchasing LED replacement lamps, there are two unique things on the packaging to pay attention to. The first is if the package is marked as "dimmable." If you have or want a dimming switch in your room, you'll need dimmable lamps. Otherwise, they produce an undesirable flickering light.

The second unique packaging notation is the wattage. LED packaging usually shows two wattage ratings. One will be tiny, usually a single digit; this is the actual wattage that the light uses. The other will look more like the wattage you expect on an incandescent bulb and is called the "wattage equivalent", which is the size of incandescent bulb you would expect to replace and get the same amount of light. Swap these out like you would any other bulb and forget about them for a decade.

Save money, save effort, and possibly improve your health with LED lighting.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #152 - Facepalm, Give a Sigh, Everybody Roll Their Eyes

This episode is brought to you by the letters W, T, and F, and the number 8.
  • It’s more than just a mom’s dilemma: What do you do when you’re too busy to get to the range for some recoil therapy? Beth gives us some advice.
  • What kind of person cuts, strangled and tries to rape a woman? Sean takes a closer look.
  • What happens when an insurance company decides that they’d like to “help” their customers by sending them information on a USB stick? Barron facepalms himself so hard that he gets a concussion, that’s what.
  • Miguel wanted a break from ranting, so he pulled some books from his book pile. This week, he’s recommending two: The Siege and Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the second of a three-part interview series, Charl tells us how he went from being an ordinary young man to a responsibly armed citizen.
  • Tiffy’s back, back again. Tiffy's back, tell a friend. In this installment of The Bridge, Tiffany talks about that Dana Loesch video and what it means to her.
  • Following up on her segment on "proprioception", Erin explains how our brains think of loved ones as extensions of ourselves, and why losing them is like losing a limb. 
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part three of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
To Our Brains, Loved Ones Are Limbs
In last week’s segment about proprioception, I asked the question “if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being?”

And the answer is “This already happens. We just don’t realize it as such.”

The classic example is a mother with a baby. The act of bonding with that child produces critical changes within the mother’s brain, re-wiring parts of it. While it can be joked that we now have definitive proof that having kids causes brain damage, these changes are in fact vital for the continuation of our species.

When you think about an infant in a clinical, objective sense, what you see is a helpless bundle of needs that feeds parasitically, consumes resources and deprives sleep, and generally acts as a detriment to the parent. Without these changes to the brain, humans would not love their children as themselves, and we would see a huge increase in infant death.

But the fact remains that parents love their children as their own flesh, because their proprioception, their body map, has extended into the child. We see this most strongly in mothers whose arms ache to hold their children. As those children grow, the body map slowly changes to accommodate the growth; the need to hold morphs into a need to have them on your lap, which evolves into the need to hold their hand. This is why parents will forever see their children as, well, children; there’s still a part of them that years to hold us and cuddle us in the same way that those of us who have pets still sometimes wish our dogs and cats were still puppies and kittens.

But this proprioception of another as ourselves doesn’t begin and end with children. It happens with those we love, as well. When you think about it, sex violates the desire of the body to keep its DNA and fluids to itself, but in order to reproduce, we need to bypass this isolationist urge. Seeing our lover as a partial extension of ourselves is how our brains trick our body into violating one of the key principles of our immune system.

This is why losing a loved one causes an aching sense of absence that is above and beyond emotional pain; we are, quite literally, experiencing a phantom limb pain, except the missing limb is the person we lost.

This also explains why so many people seek out rebound relationships: just as a mirror image of the missing limb was able to cure phantom limb pain, so too does finding another person to fill the void of the missing relationship.

So looping back to my first segment on the topic a month ago, losing someone is like losing a part of yourself, which causes anxiety, which activates the rage pathway in the brain.

Next week. I’ll talk more about PTSD and discuss ways to reprogram the “fire together, wire together” clusters which cause flashbacks. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A little bit better every day

The whole point of prepping is to have a high quality of life, even in an emergency or after a disaster, but trying to maintain that level of preparation can be overwhelming.

In this week's video, I give a you a little advice on how you can stay prepared without making yourself crazy.

Be good. Be safe. If you can't be safe, be good and DANGEROUS!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Salt of the Earth?

On our Facebook page, someone asked Erin “What other inexpensive,yet hard to produce in the field, multi-purpose consumables should agood prepper stack deep in their pantry?” My reply was “Salt, unless you are near an ocean”. OkieRhio wrote a post about salt back in 2015, so I will try to avoid repeating what she said.

Salt is one of the most versatile commodities on the planet. It is used to preserve food, is a raw material for producing a bunch of other chemicals, and is essential for staying alive. Humans have harvested salt from the oceans for at least 6,000 years according to archaeological evidence, and it has been used as currency is several time periods (the “sal” in “salary” is Latin for salt - some Roman legions were paid in salt). Since there are about 35 grams of salt (1.2 ounces) in every liter (quart) of sea water, harvesting salt is merely a matter of collecting sea water and letting the sun and wind evaporate off the water. If you see gray or black pieces of salt, it is due to sediment (mud) formed during the evaporation of sea water. The dark pieces can be sorted out and discarded if you choose.

For Food
Common table salt is Sodium Chloride (NaCl) with traces of other chemicals that vary by location and method of processing. These trace elements may be called “pollutants” or “additives” by some writers, see my article on FUD for an explanation of that marketing method. The benefits or dangers of any additive is a specialized branch of medical research (toxicology) that I'm not going to dig into today. Just beware of paying too much for a cleverly marketed "miracle" salt that is 95-99% NaCl.

If you're buying salt for table use, get a brand that has Iodine (I) added to provide a source of that necessary mineral. Iodine helps regulate your thyroid gland and its hormone production, and is lacking in most common in-land foods. Seafood is a good source of Iodine, but not all of us live near the oceans (and seawater alone doesn't contain enough Iodine to meet your body's needs anyway). Consuming the eyeballs of wild game is about the only reliable source of Iodine that I'm aware of for land-locked survivors. I pick up an extra one-pound container of Iodized salt at the grocery store when I need to restock the pantry, as it's fairly cheap and has no shelf-life. Bulk forms of salt can be ground as fine as you want for table use, and are a lot cheaper.

If you're buying salt for livestock (they need it to function just like you), the ubiquitous saltblocks are still out there. I suggest buying them locally at a feed and grain store since the shipping cost on them is horrible. White blocks are pure salt; the colored ones are mineral blocks that provide a source of trace minerals (amounts and types will vary). Pure salt is the same as what you'd get in the round cardboard containers at the grocery store, so it is safe to use in your food. If 50 pounds of salt is too much, check the local pet supply stores for the roundblocks designed for rabbits. A 3 ounce “wheel” of salt is easy to store and use, plus it won't spill. Regardless of which size you get, it's easy to store bulk salt when it is in a solid block, and shaving or grinding an edge will get you what you need to season your food.

For Chemicals
For chemical production, you can look for suppliers that can provide any quantity you need in a variety of forms and packages; 50 pound bags are common and cost less than $10.00. Most bulk salt is sold as a de-icer and may have additives, so read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and look for pure salt. De-icing salt that is advertised to work below 5° F is not pure salt.

Another source of bulk salt is your local grocery or hardware store (in most of the US). Look for softener salt, used to regenerate the resin beds of home water softeners. Solar salt crystals are usually the cheapest and are more pure than the varieties with chemical additives designed to protect a water softener. Rock salt is another name for solar salt; it depends on your regional dialect. A 40 pound bag of crystal or flake salt normally costs $5.00 or less here in the Midwest, but be warned, the pelletized forms usually have unwanted additives.

Do not consume anything that has “System saver” or “Resin Clean” on the label. The manufacturers have proprietary blends of additives that are trade secrets, so you have no idea of what they've added to the salt. In fact, I do not recommend using salt with additives for any food use, and any chemical uses would have to take the “adulterants” into consideration. At best you may end up with sludge in the bottom of your equipment, but at worst they may create explosive gasses. Do your research for potentially dangerous reactions.

Storing salt is about as simple as it gets. Since most of the salt sold in the US is mined from underground deposits, it should be obvious that it has an indefinite shelf-life. Those deposits were laid down a couple of thousand years ago (at least), so it's safe to let it sit on your shelf for a few more years. Keep it dry, since any water added to salt makes for a corrosive solution, but heat and cold - at least at the levels found in normal storage conditions - won't have any effect on it. You'd have to get it up to about 1500° F to melt it, so short of a house fire it will handle any heat you can give it.

Salt is cheap, easy to store, and is something that everyone physically needs to survive. Why wouldn't you have a stockpile set aside if you have the room for it?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Seeing Clearly

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

My job takes me to a different Big Box store every day, and if you pay attention, the only thing well stocked in every department is dust. With the many movements of pallets stacked high with concrete, units of drywall and other bulk materials, let alone sawdust from the lumber department, the potential of getting something in my eyes is there every day. Fortunately for me, I've never had to resort to one of the eyewash stations located around the stores, but I have washed my eyes out in the Men's Room on occasion.

I wear glasses, not contacts, so I do have some protection from things flying or rebounding into my eyes but dust is another matter. Moving boxes from upper shelves and 'diving' between displays to retrieve fallen product stirs up enough crud to coat my glasses quickly. I've neglected to add something for soothing my eyes to my EDC and GHB First Aid kits for a long time, but no longer.


From the website:
  • Offers the relief you need to help get you through your day
  • Delivers soothing comfort so your eyes feel moist and refreshed longer
  • Uses the original formulation that made the SYSTANE Family of Products the #1 Doctor Recommended brand for dry eye relief
I use these when my eyes get irritated, even if Dry Eye is not a problem I deal with. I also have to plan for the potential need to use these in a real disaster, to clear my (or others') eyes.

What I really like is the drops are in single-use tubes, so there is little chance of the product evaporating out of a bottle or becoming contaminated all at once.

Lack of preservatives is another thing that is not high on my list, since I don't use this regularly or wear contacts. One point in my favor is the fact that the tubes make it very easy to put the drops in, because I have always been very sensitive with anything or anyone getting close to my eyes. (I'm so bad it takes the Optometrist 3-4 tries to get a good glaucoma reading.)

What's more, these tubes take up very little space in my EDC first aid kit. I've mentioned that I have a bad habit of packing too much and carrying too much gear. With the small size of the tubes, 4 or 5 take up no more room than several alcohol wipe packets or a stack of band-aids.

The Takeaway
  • Personal Protection equipment won't keep all things out of my eyes.
  • I need to be prepared for getting crud out of my eyes on the job, as well in an emergency.

The Recap

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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Puppy Go Bag

We got a puppy over the Independence Day weekend, and now we're learning a whole new type of prepping. We're starting with the Puppy Go Bag.

Items mentioned in the video:


The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to