Monday, 9 December 2013

The Thing About Paraffin Wax

... in a SHTF / TEOTWAWKI scenario is that unless you've stocked up on candle-making supplies, you won't have any... Also, by the ethos I promote, if you aren't going to be using it in your day to day living right now, then why are you stockpiling it?

The only two reasons that I might stockpile a thing like this would be if I used candles for light now (I don't) and hoped to avoid the inevitable by having plenty of materials on hand to make more (which is a useless prep anyway) or if I figured that I could simply not do without candles if an event happens. (Which is the same useless "unprep" prep thinking.)

See, if I decide that I don't need or need to use candles right now, then I must have a way to continue to live the same way when an event does happen. It's all very well to say I'll have LED torches for a long time to come, but every prepper instinct in you is yelling out "you'll run out of batteries, you idiot!" isn't it? Yeah, because batteries have a shelf life, and keeping more batteries is just keeping a whole bunch more of toxic chemicals and metals that'll turn into ballast one day long before I can use them. Probably the day before that SHTF... And of course, once they're gone, they're gone. No handy hardware store to go get more...

So I'd have to be rotating my way through battery stocks right now in order to use up the oldest stock and keep newest stock in my stash. But am I really using my LED lights as my sole light source right now? Of course not. So I'll use fewer batteries than I'm putting is stock, and that means that no matter what, my pool of stock will gradually get older and older.

THAT right there is why I use the "right now" approach to my prepping stores. If I'm not already using it, then my stockpile will gradually experience age creep, and end up useless to me at the end of its service life, which is generally going to be the exact time I'll need it.

Paraffin wax has no such short use by date, really - you can wrap  brick or two in plastic and mylar, box it up, and store it for ages. However it suffers from the second problem of stockpiling, it uses up space and money you need right now to build up stocks of more useful supplies. I'd prefer to buy more medicines or foodstuffs thank you.

So while in principle I find this article to be a handy resource, and will maybe even make a few paraffin wicks out of a few old tealight candles, I won't be relying on these at all. After all, I don't use them now, and if I figure to rely on them in a disaster, I'll eventually run out and then have to find other ways to achieve fire anyway.

So What's The Alternative?
Well, I already make beef dripping and heat a fair bit of that into tallow. For general household use, and still perfectly good for cooking. Tallow... That's what they used to make candles out of, in the good old days before paraffin factories and being fussy about smells...

So I'll keep making my tallow and lard and other rendered clarified fats, and know that besides using this skill right now so that I'll always be proficient at it, that I'm sure to have a bit of spare animal fat around after my stock of tallow (which actually has a useful life close to that of paraffin, and is edible in all that time besides) is exhausted. And because I use those fats on a daily basis, I also know that my stockpile is well rotated and fresh.

Another word about lard, dripping, and tallow: It preserves finely shredded meat just perfectly. Check out "pemmican" online. So I make the odd pemmican right now as well. Because this way, I'm getting an idea of how long pemmican stores for, how to make the best pemmican, and - much much MUCH more importantly - if I ever need to subsist on it, I'll already know the best recipes to use, my body will be used to having a rich protein source like that in my diet, and it won't be yet another thing I have to learn at the worst possible time when I need my energy and resources for dealing with the stuff you can't plan for.

And I think I may have mentioned tealight candles - now there is something I do stockpile, because we use them all over the house right now to save a bit of energy, they cast enough light to be useful, a pack of 100 costs a few dollars, and they have the same shelf life as paraffin wax. In a SHTF situation they'll be used as much as they are now.

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

New Free E-book, "The Pensioner Prepper" out!

New Free E-book, "The Pensioner Prepper" out! Follow this link to the download page. Or read the transcript right here:

Pensioner Preppers
- an ancient "new breed" of survivalist.

With the statistic that our population is tending to consist more and more of older people, it's time to put vanity aside and admit something to ourselves - we are not getting any younger. Despite claims that medical science claims to be enhancing and extending lives, they seem only to be doing one of those things. That means that we have a situation here, where we live longer, draw pension longer, and need more care for longer. We need to break out of that mold.

My spouse and I have both known the health decline, and we've both done something about it. We hope there's no "Stuff Hitting The Fan" (SHTF[Note 1]) or "The End Of The World As We Know It" (TEOTWAWKI[Note 1]) event in our lifetimes, but we intend to be in the group that survives if it ever happens. We've both faced debilitating illnesses and lost some functionality because of them, but we've also regained some health that our doctors were busy telling us we would never regain, by changing our lifestyles. They say that as we age, we'll lose mental acuity and survivability - we say that wisdom and preparedness will overcome youthful enthusiasm every time...

So allow me to present this series of e-books on doing things smarter rather than harder, healthier rather than convenient. (Yes, you read that right - making things easier, but more things to do. Variety is the spice of the PP life.) We've both learned a fair bit about that, and I'm sharing.

We're The People Our Parents Warned Us About - No, We're Our Parents Now, Actually!

The most important thing to realise is that "they" won't fix everything. "They" aren't going to be interested in you or me when there's a rich banker or some famous starlet to rescue. And "they" will for sure not care if a pensioner couple here and there just stop costing "them" a pension or gratuity... We have to be prepared to fend for ourselves, as far and as much as our resources will allow us to. And then be prepared to go farther and more, when an event happens...

One of the first things to go if there is a disaster event, is the availability of regular medical aid. With medical services stretched thin, there just won't really be time to fill out your prescription. If the event is a long one, then you're not likely to be able to refill prescriptions for weeks, maybe months. It's best to be off as many of them as possible, when you understand this, and be on minimal dosages of others where possible. Also, study herbal lore and folklore and alternative medicines. You may find that the iodine in seaweed will work almost as well as the iodine tablets you take for thyroid, or at least allow you to eke your supply out to years rather than months.

Have you thought what might happen if you have temperature-sensitive medications and then the power goes out? For a month? Six months? Everywhere? These are some of the additional problems we need to be mindful of, of having a store of medications we can't do without, and having alternatives for those that we can replace in any other way or fashion.

There's also the issue of just doing general everyday things. We're used to flicking on the light on a dim staircase where a younger person's eyes are still able to see fine. Turning on the a/c instead of jumping in the pool for a cool-off and then finding a shady tree. We'll take the car to go a quarter mile to the shops, and then wonder why we're out of breath climbing the stairs. (And this one I can definitely offer my opinion on, for reasons I'll explain later.)

Working in the garden or doing other jobs, become more taxing as we age. The alternative to either being young again, or else having done it all one's life and thus knowing every shortcut and labour-saving trick, is to have a well-tuned mind and putting it to use solving these kinds of day to day problems. A little ingenuity can go a long way.

And when something unexpected comes along, we're even more at a disadvantage. You need to be able to think, and to think fast, and solve problems. The best way to develop such skills, is to exercise them as often as you can. When you see someone doing something, work through the steps they use, understand why they do the things they do, and then try to devise a more efficient way that you'd use. Imagining these kinds of things lends you mental flexibility, so if something untoward does happen, you'll be able to work it out as you go, and save some hassle and exertion along the way.

Also, use that increased mental acuity to imagine the things that you might face, in your situation, if the lights go out one morning and stay out for several weeks. Imagine what might transpire if a storm or flood takes out everyday life for ten days. What about an earthquake?

Think about the best way to disguise the fact that in a world temporarily and locally gone a bit mad, you have drugs. There are addicts out there that will happily steal your prescription painkillers (and think nothing of injuring, maiming, or killing you in the process) if they have any idea that you have a stock. And if some thief does come for your supplies of whatever, do you have a sacrificial stash as well as your real stash?

The saying used to be that people don't naturally want to kill or be evil. Over the last four decades, that has slowly fallen from the popular viewpoint, and is borne out by statistics of violent crimes. People are bastards, pure and simple. Giving up one's sacrificial stash may ensure one's safety. or it may not. Make no mistake, life and death for the aged is a far more precarious proposition than that of a younger person.

So yes - we're in a far different situation than the preppers who seem to be all the rage these days. And just being aware of it makes our situation that little bit less so. So in this e-book (or blog article if you're reading this online) I'll revisit the above scenarios and add a few more that need serious thought.

The Issues.

To be honest, an older prepper faces a much steeper entry curve to survival in a SHTF event. We're behind the bell curve in fitness and health, our eyesight is generally not so wonderful any more, and let's face it, 200 years ago any one of a dozen geriatric diseases would have already taken us out. Trust me when I say that an event will definitely test us, and continue to test us for as long as that event transpires. Events morph. They change fluidly from one moment to the next. One day, everyone's still civilised and polished, the next, they're so hungry they'd kill you for the bowl of rice on your table. The day after that, they'd kill you for a long pork rump steak out of your leg...

And the issues of currency - not money, but freshest stock first. What's the use of having 50kg of fine white flour if you have to unseal it all at once, two days into the event, and by six weeks there's weevils in it? (Do people even remember flour weevils? They're yet another species we've brought almost to the brink of extinction. Makes you think...)

Generally there's only the two of you at home. You can use maybe a kilo of flour per week, if you have plenty of other sources of nutrition then maybe even just a half kilo a week between you. Caching your goods in month-sized batches makes a lot of sense. That is, wrap individual paper flour bags in plastic and store them, leave pasta in the cellophane packs, wrap those, and cache them.

So the currency issue gets resolved by doing this. If you're prepping properly, then you won't be caching things you don't use in everyday life. So storing it in small quantities makes far better sense. To go back to the example of flour: If you don't use flour, why are you caching it? Do you think that somehow, magically, you'll learn to love flour and use flour and live on flour happily? Probably it would just add to the misery of post-event life.

Store only what you generally use, then there's every chance that as you buy new stock and add it to the cache(s), then all you need to do is take the oldest package and use that rather than buying a new fresh one and using it directly. The stock gets rotated, and you can be sure the cache stays fresh and useable. As to locations, having a dozen caches spread out all over the place is better than having a dozen caches' worth in one location, unless this major cache is in a very secret and well hidden place.

I for one couldn't shinny up a tree, inch out along the branch, and then scramble into the old dead hollow tree every few weeks to get the next few weeks' worth of stores from my cache. I need a solution that keeps the cache(s) close to hand. HIPS[Note 1] is one such answer. By hiding caches in plain sight that makes it easier to access our stores. By splitting into sensible portions, we preserve currency and perhaps ensure a longer usefulness out of our stores.

That also makes certain HIPS problems less devastating. (Okay okay - I couldn't resist the pun... %) Hiding In Plain Sight is one way to conceal your stash - buckets of flour and pasta and rice on the bottom bookshelf behind the end table and reasonably out of sight. HIPS caches make good sense because often they will be overlooked by scavengers, and the cache is generally close to hand for when you need it. For us, the advantages are that our stores are to hand and not physically difficult for us to get to. And by portioning, we reduce the impact that a discovered and raided cache would have on us.

It's a bit devastating if someone does find and raid your HIPS cache. If all of your flour is in one spot, then if someone finds the cache all your flour is gone. If you'd been packaging it in smaller quantities and rotating the stock through the caches to your kitchen, you'd have only lost a month's worth or so. So why use HIPS then, aside from making it easier on ourselves? Well, if someone does find you and turn your location over, they'll find the plain sight stash and probably be satisfied that they got it all. Your better-hidden caches might survive. Plan on this happening, and you'll be ahead of the game.

Now it's time for another observation: An empty nest is still a nest. The chicks may have flown, but it's full of trinkets and memorabilia and things of sentimental value. Don't let it hold you back if your intuition tells you it's time to bug out. You could die holding onto a photograph that meant a lot to you. But you'd be dead. Better to leave those things, not to dig yourself in if your location is a hotspot, and hope you can come back to the treasures later. Make this accommodation with your heart now, before push comes to shove. If it never happens then that's good. But if there is an event, you'll have done all your agonising already and not let sentiment slow you down.

Note 1 -
Acronyms are a big part of the prepper folklore. I use them in this book because I'm lazy, and I want to appear savvy and smart. Also, to prepare you for the jargon you may hear if you ever find another prepper or go to their websites. Here goes...

  • SHTF = Stuff Hits The Fan. A SHTF event is one where the manure has hit the fan.
  • TEOTWAWKI = The End Of The World As We Know It. Pretty self explanatory.
  • OPSEC = a term preppers borrowed from the military and meaning OPerational SECurity. The art of hiding all the little details as well as the big plan. General security of an operation, and for preppers that means their survival plan.
  • HIPS = Hiding In Plain Sight. Just what it says. Sometimes, the most blindingly obvious hiding spots are the ones overlooked.

This document is written and published by RO (Ted) Russ and is protected under world copyright. The document is freely available, free to read, and free to distribute, provided you do not alter it in any way, and do not profit in any way from copying and redistributing it. If I find out you're down doing the wrong thing by me, I will do a Liam Neeson on you.

If this document or any of the series was useful to you, entertaining to you, or made you more aware, you can feel free to donate any sum you like at my Paypal using the donation link below or just pay to my Paypal email address - all donations cover my work and time on these books for the last seven years, using myself as the guineapig for each and every stage, and all donations will go towards my retirement farm. (Seriously, I am hoping that your response to the series will allow me to retire to my dream farm hidden away in the country. Is that any different to asking for Kickstarter funds or a Kiva loan? And this way, you get useful information, a warm fuzzy feeling, and the fact that I'll keep on writing for you... %)

Please follow this link to donate on the OFTHA website.
This ebook is part of a series which is a complete re-write of The Body Friendly Zen CookBook which I first published in 2007 as an online e-book. This reprint has been made into several smaller sections, or the whole book is also available at the site where you got this as a single e-book.

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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Aquaponics Progress Report

As some of you know by friending me on Facebook, I've now assembled three different aquaponics systems but never got the chance to put the first two into production due to moving. The third system though, that has been full of water for almost three months now, and I've managed to conduct a few studies along the way.

First of all, you'll want to know if it works. Hell yes! HERE is a Youtube video I made just recently. If you note the difference in the cos (romaine) lettuce plants in the early part of the movie you'll see the difference in size.

Here's the interesting thing:

The small size of the plants, that was after around six weeks of running the system with seaweed extract and fish emulsion in the water. You can't use harsh fertilisers because they would pollute the water for the fish. And I wanted the system to have the nitrogen bacteria before I put fish in, so I let it run for long enough to be pretty sure that the fish emulsion was rotting to ammonia, and the ammonia was being converted by bacteria.

The larger size of the plants, that's only two weeks' growth after the first few fish were introduced to the tanks...

I'm pretty sure that the fish excrement is far better for the ammonia / nitrite / nitrate cycle than anything else, and that I'd luckily built up a decent colony of bacteria that must have been just under some critical mass. But the growth has exceeded my wildest expectations.

So the history of the system has been: Two weeks of running the system with water only, to iron out plumbing kinks and peculiarities. Two more weeks with only half the grow bed full of gravel, and plants in that half. Four weeks with the grow bed totally filled and a few more plants. And then two weeks with fish in the tanks and a HUGE growth spurt of the plants.

I can now honestly say that even a tiny system such as mine is, can produce a significant amount of plant growth, and a larger system would probably provide a significant proportion of one's vegetable requirements.

By the way, if you're in Australia, and more specifically in Victoria, I can now build you such a small system (250 litres - 600 litres) for around $400-$600 dry, depending on how large a system you want and how expensive the pumps etc that you want. ("Dry" means without gravel.) Shipping isn't really an option for something as bulky as this, so it has to be close by. Next project will be wicking beds, and I estimate around $250 for a pallet sized wicking bed.

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The Whole Disaster Thing 4

The Whole Disaster Thing 4 - Now What?

So now it's a few days after a SHTF event, you're travelling really well, got all your supplies worked out, able to replenish much of your consumables, you have tools and materials to build or do anything. What's next?

Well, have you actually thought what might transpire? Let's see - oh yes, the looters. Those people who feel that any excuse will do for just stealing and vandalising. There's a survival advantage to the vandalising, of course. If they are experienced looters and they destroy anything left over, then you won't have the left-overs. Since they're going to be better at looting, they'll outlast you.

There are ways to stop this cycle developing but that's a bit beyond the scope of my article. If you want to see more on the subject look up any military manual on dealing with use of deadly force. I won't condone this but neither will I dismiss it.

Our aim is not to become a looter target. Are you cooking up tasty aromatic meals every day? Stop! Are you keeping your environment lit with candles by night or are you revealing it with a smoky fire by day? Stop!

That much should be obvious if you're a prepared prepper. Let on that you're (comparatively speaking) sitting on Easy Street to such looters, and you may as well just hand over your stores. And maybe your life. Just stop.

As the event unfolds, there will be progressively fewer and fewer of these opportunistic arseholes around. They'll starve. Not nice, but then neither is stealing.

Law and order. The old style L&O will be out of touch, and probably be more of a problem than the situations they will try and retain control of. Best to avoid where possible. New L&O will come from good old natural justice instincts. But it'll take time to establish, so for the first few weeks consider yourself to be on your own.

So a few weeks in, mostly the people with good survival skills will remain. These are dangerous, because they didn't get that far by being weak or stupid. Unless you're very vainglorious, also best to avoid. But it will be harder now, because any signs of survivors will draw these people. Is your garden all neat and tended and watered and green in the middle of a desolate waste? Stop that.

Does what you do make noise, or scents, or visible signs? Be damn careful, or better yet, stop. Stop anything that draws attention. This situation will not last forever, eventually the banding instinct will kick in and groups will form again.

So be prepared to live very much under the radar for a while. I favour spreading my vegetables out among other plants, so the fact that I actually have a garden isn't obvious to anyone just walking past. I also know there are around one or two dozen edible species growing wild around here, so I can supplement my food with any of those.

The main thing is not to have obvious sources of food, warmth, medicine, or tools. The second thing is to fly under the radar like that until villages and communities form again. Third is to form or join such a community, and the best way to do that is to have some skills that are useful.

People that just had food stashed and lived off that and now have no redeeming skills, are going to be a drain on a community. Don't be one of these. People that can make and use tools and weapons, that can make meals and do something no one else can, will benefit a community, and you want to be one of these.

Communities are not necessary, but they are desirable. If you kept a CB radio and some batteries, this can be of help by listening across all the channels for a few minutes every day. (With headphones on of course so you don't get heard for miles around if there's static or someone else suddenly calling...)

Weapons. Whether for hunting, defence, or offence, I think this is very much your personal choice. I believe we have the right to defend ourselves in any situation, but to me guns are not the only defensive weapon, and your mind is still the best defence you can have. We have a right to hunt, but if we do, we'd better be sure to be good hunters than to leave trails of wounded animals behind us.

On the subject of defence I'll just say that bulletproof vests are generally not able to resist spears, knives, arrows and quarrels the way they resist bullets. The way they resist bullets often makes the wearer of such a vest a bit too cocksure of themselves. Guns eventually run out of reliable ammunition and then they're just clubs.

An intelligent person is generally able to avoid places where bullets are likely, and to be able to avoid being clubbed by a firearm owner who's suddenly desperate because they're out of magic bullets. So the best way to survive is not to be where the shooting is, and not to rely on a gun to protect you...

On the subject of bows and arrows. A lot of prepper blogs run articles about the survival value of archery versus gunfire, and most come to the surprising conclusion that archery is actually better because the bow and arrow are relatively silent, and as everyone knows guns will run out of ammunition eventually. What they're not considering is that arrows will run out eventually too, and no-one is a natural fletcher or even knows what to do once their bowstring breaks.

In fact, not everyone is a natural marksman with a rifle or a bow, and it's easier to sneak to within 100m of your prey than it is to sneak to within 40m. And I won't even go into the relative survival value of shooting three arrows into the air to attract a rescuer's attention versus firing three rifle shots...

For hunting, I know I'd like a rifle more than anything else. But we have strict gun control laws in Australia, and besides, there's nothing survivable about giving away your location shooting game. So really do give this matter a lot of thought.

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Analysis: Explosives in Western Australia, Revelations of Embassy Spying.


First, the Der Spiegel revelation that Australian embassies in Asian countries have been used for spying ops by the NSA. It's a move that seems designed to achieve several goals. Australia is collateral damage.

What does it achieve? Well, consider the timing. The States have just shown their disharmony and apparent dysfunction to the whole world. China has been watching, and apparently they are emboldened to make public their plans to nuke the States. Allegations that NSA used Aussie embassies to conduct spy ops from, just gives another reason for them to pick a fight.

Its other purpose is to slap a media manipulator where it hurts. No big secret that it was most likely only due to the support of Murdoch's media that Abbott got into power. Murdoch's "Little Tony" is a standing joke in Australia. And no matter that it was Labor in power (or even as far back as the last Liberal government) at the time these alleged spy ops took place, it's the current government that will bear the brunt and the ire.

Der Spiegel is not a Murdoch property. They have no reason to like the States, or Murdoch, or Abbott. Australia will just be collateral damage, and in fact if we wanted to be shut of the Mad Monk then they are ironically one of our best allies.

Also, in regard to Mr Hockey raising the debt ceiling. That might be to show China that we're tough and can afford to borrow high. Maybe we're playing a game of bluff to look like a less soft target.

Now the second thing, explosives found a few hundred kilometres south of Perth in Western Australia. Police initially presumed that the crystalline substance was to be used to make drugs, and drove it back to Perth to their labs, where it was discovered not to be a precursor because a careless officer got acid burns from not using gloves to handle it.

This sends up a few flags. First, the packages were found in a bay, implying that it was in the water. This is borne out by the fact that police divers then went along with dogs and men on foot to clear the area. Was this going out or coming in? Important distinction...

Secondly, there were two packages, the second one found after they wised up to what the first one was. The amount quoted in the news is 3kg but it's not clear if this was per package or in total. It's the difference between one backpack bomb and three, so it's kind of important.

Third, why was the substance not properly tested at the scene - I presume there are tests that should be carried out? If the Police went to that location expecting to find drug precursors or drugs, then it's a safe bet that there were actually also drugs moving through that area, which makes it a bit of a hotspot, and the Police a bit slapdash in the execution of their duties.

The substance was identified at TATP (also known as TCAP) and this is something you can make in a garage with a handful of chemicals and a good ice bath. It's also pretty unstable so you wouldn't want to transport it around too much.

It's a terrorist explosive of choice because it's so easy to manufacture, so it is probably connected to terrorist activities. But that creates another question - why Western Australia? The population density makes it highly unlikely that one or even three IEDs would produce as large a statement as most terrorist organisations would like. It's not newsworthy and there are few historic landmarks to blow up.

It does however make it appear as though the explosive might be related to political situation, perhaps a response to the recent actions of the government against boat people. If that's the case, I suspect that rather than civvie terrorists, these could be the actions of the military of a nation we have ties with.

It could also be in response to the embassy spy ops allegations. But actions like this will definitely hurt the current government, and perhaps picking a low-value target like that is meant to send a message.

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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Whole Disaster Thing 3

The Whole Disaster Thing 3 - Important Supplies

Most people think that they can buy a gun and perhaps a few tinned meals, stuff those into a closet, and be prepared. I call bullshit on that. Sorry, but that's a terrible plan. I don't plan to live like that.

First up, my pantry IS my store of food. I have extras of everything, but it all gets rotated and it's what I'd normally eat. I have tinned and dried beans and soups and pasta and rice and beef stews and whatever else - but if it doesn't get eaten in the course of normal living, then it's out. Why should I store a tin of Andalusian Otter Noses fro three years, and then discover when I'm forced to eat it, that I don't like Andalusian Otter Noses and also, they're spoiled after all that time?

Same with water, another often overlooked supply. We've just been through, in the last post, why water is important. More importantly, I have two type of water around. I have drinking water, and I have general purpose water, which can be boiled and filtered to make more drinking water. Lots of GP water, and enough drinking water for a few weeks at least.

So how do I manage to do this?

Firstly, my pantry is spread out around the place. There's a pantry cupboard in the kitchen where day to day use things are stored. There's a kitchen buffet unit that holds tinned goods that have been bought surplus to requirements, extra jars of pickles and ferments and preserves are stored. The way I keep track of what's oldest is simple - I push the newest items in at the back, meaning the oldest ones end up pushed to the front of the shelves.

There's stuff in the fridge/freezer combo that I'm using currently, and a small chest freezer where I put surplus, oldest items underneath. It means digging a bit when we buy extras, but it's so worth it  right now. By that I mean, I know stuff in the freezer may only last up to four days under ideal conditions if the power goes out - but right now, we can afford to buy more of other things because I bought when things were cheap and we won't have to buy some cuts of meat for months now, as long as the power holds. All the money I'd have put into meat, can now buy rice, pasta, extra soap and shampoo, and so forth.

It's worth stressing that. By being frugal in my shopping and being able to store what's cheap now, that gives me a few extra dollars over the next few weeks to buy other things and get stocked up ahead of time Also, frugality and storing has one other benefit that's not immediately obvious - saving you money.  
As your stock builds up, you won't be needing to buy coffee (for example) when it's $15 a jar, and can buy two or three or even more when it's on special for $8 a jar. That means that on the next few jars of coffee you've saved the difference of $6 per jar. 
Buy your usual five bars of soap when it's 25c a bar instead of $1.25 and you've saved $5. Buy your usual $6.25 worth of soap and you save the next five periods' worth of having to buy soap, in other words you've saved $20 that you can spend over the period to buy other things. 

So my pantry spreads out through the house a fair bit. When we buy something new, it goes to the back of the queue. The kitchen buffet isn't the end of it. Some larger bulk items (bags of flour, salt, rice, and other dried goods, are stored in bins in the shed. It's not ideal, but it means I bring in a bag of rice when I'm almost out, fill the pantry rice bin, and stash the rest of the bag in the buffet.

Having an interest in sausages and cheeses and so forth, I make dried and smoked meat products and some cheeses, and they also get stored in the fridge or the pantry. I don't, for example, make a ton of pemmican-like meat, nor do I make sausages I won't use in the next few months. But I keep on making those things and using them. We enjoy foods made with those products, and they'll provide meat and dairy for a few months if we need to establish new resources.

On a practical note, that means that we can live as we always have for at least a week until the perishables run out, then a month or two at a comfortable level, and then maybe two more months at a survival level. If I wanted to, I could eke that out to eight months tops. But in between, I've also got a garden, and chickens, and rabbits. By laying in a longer "tail" of dried goods, I could make our supplies last even longer.

That leaves water. Water in our area stops less than a day after the pumps stop filling the head tanks. I currently have a few 200gal tanks collecting rainwater, which is drinking water if you need it, but of that I only keep a few litres in the house for cooking and drinking at a time. The overflow goes into 18gal barrels and the aquaponics system. Some of the 18gal barrels feed water to ollas and wicking beds, some feed to the aquaponics system to replace evaporation losses, and some is drinking water for the chickens and rabbits.

In any case, it means that there is just short of 2000gal around the place on average, and much of it replaces itself with rainfall. Pumps around the house are built on the "slow but patient" principle so that gusts of wind, good days of solar power, and good rain flows, all pump a small but steady trickle of water uphill.

These aren't done as a prepper measure, by the way. It just so happens that there will be water if an event does happen, we do actually have resources. The main reason for building this has been that we are pensioners, we can't afford a huge water bill nor a huge energy bill for pumping water uphill to working height, but we need working height water to water the gardens, water the chickens and rabbits, and instead of relying on a pure electric (and expensive to run) pump for aquaponics, I've designed a system that uses a head tank and a sump tank to maintain water pressure when the windmill or solar powered pump stops working.

Rainwater is cheaper for us than several kilolitres a year of extra water usage, so we collect it. Because rain falls downwards, it ends up well below working height and that means we have to pump it uphill. Because electricity to run pumps isn't cheap either, I've built bubble pumps, windmills, solar powered electric pumps, and have the odd electrical and petrol pump I salvaged and reconditioned for those times when wind, sun, and rain have failed for too long a period. There's also a few human-powered vane pumps and the like which I'm keeping an eye out for, because it turns out that an exercise bike can be more than just a way to exercise...

That leaves sanitation. We're both prepared to use less washing water, uncomfortable as that might be. We're both prepared to nail the toilet door shut and use a long drop down the hill from us. Because, of course, if there's no water pressure, you have to resort to using buckets of water to flush with. And you really don't want to be doing that when the sewage backs up due to no pumping stations and not enough sewage flow in the system causes blockages.

The reason it's downhill from us should also be obvious - rains and groundwater move downwards, carrying our waste away from the house not to it. I know that a decent composting toilet could solve many of these problems but they are expensive to buy, fiddly to make and run, and so while I'd love one right now, it can wait.

Now as to what I consider to be important but often overlooked supplies. Do you cook with vegetable or olive oil? Consider an extra jug of each one you use, and remember to use them and rotate them regularly.

Pasta can be made if you have lots of flour. Flour stores well if you plastic wrap each package and freeze that for 24 hours or more to kill any weevils or other bug larvae that might otherwise hatch and eat your supplies. I suggest tight wrapping with kitchen wrap, then a few layers of black garbage bag plastic. It might be troublesome, but if you're diligent and have a year's worth of flour laid in, then you'll be glad of this when you open that package in a year's time and there are no weevils or sour smells in it.

Pastas and noodles store well the same way - bundle several packs together, plastic wrap and shock freeze, then store. Don't make any package larger then you'll use in six months, preferably less. And remember to stick to rotation, don't be tempted to open a just-bought package rather than open up a stored pack.

Now imagine that the shops remain closed. You're still able to live at your home, you've established some kind of water supply, there's still enough food in your store, and opportunistic scrounger packs haven't ripped anything off.

But after three weeks of dealing with balky hatchets and splintery wood, knives that you're not used to using for preparing animals and cutting forewood for cooking - you're out of band-aids. The pack that everyone has in the back of the cabinet in the bathroom is finished, you hunted down the cartoon character plasters that the kids had when they still lived at home eight years ago and finished those too, and now you've got this problem of no dressings, nasty infection, and inability to hold a knife or hatchet properly any more.

I'd say wash the cuts often with soap and water, but uh-oh - soap ran out a week ago.

So my "pantry" extends to the cupboard in the laundry where cleaning stuff is kept, the bathroom cabinet where basic medicines are kept, a medicine "chest" in a storage box, and the cupboard I built in the bathroom to hold spare towels, hygiene requirements, and toilet paper. I'm prepared for the bad old days when leaves would be pressed into service, or (ouch) bark chips, or whatever else came to hand. I'm okay with a splash of water and then wash my hand thoroughly. But until the TP runs out I know I'm going to prefer to use it...

Add soap, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, and some medical disinfectant to your prep supplies.

That leads to another thing. In a short SHTF event, where order is restored relatively quickly, you'll find uses for some things you never thought you'd need, and probably just be running out of them when your world stops rocking. But in a longer event, you'll find you're missing these items a lot. Kind of like band-aids and disinfectant.

That might include... oh.... say.... you know...  things like matches, lighters, bicarb of soda, caustic soda, bleach, kerosene, washing soda, borax, firestarter blocks, and more. I've used chlorine based bleach to kill bugs in drinking water, borax to keep ants out of areas (you know, like where you keep opened jars of preserved meat or whatever) and a firestarter block and matches gives a decent start to boiling a small saucepan of water for a hot drink, and is indispensable for starting a balky fire.

For longer (up to and including permanent) events, check your shed. Do you have some rolls of wire? Ropes? Collection of hardware bits if you're a handy person? Tape? Duct tape, electrical tape, gaffer tape? Are any of your drills crank-powered? Do you have a hand saw or two? Chisels? Spades shovels picks or mattocks? Because all those lovely electrical tools won't mean a thing if the power is out.

So once you have food and water requirements in hand, see how many of these less obvious ones you can think of.

For maximising your money, try this: Decide what you're buying each shopping trip, and when you've bought it, anything you got in bulk or on special, note down the amount that you saved over paying normal price on it. When you get home, put that amount of money into a separate purse or wallet. Next time you go shopping, use that wallet to buy items that you wished you could stock. Keep doing this and you'll be surprised by how quickly you'll accumulate stock.

Most of all - think about the things YOU and your family would miss the most, like best, and eat the most of. Build up a stock and keep it rotating, and it won't feel so much like prepping and more like saving money and buying smart...

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An In Betweenie Post About Democracy And Freedom

If these freedoms are curtailed - even just once, in any part of Australia - then they are not "freedoms" they are "benevolent permissions" and we're not in a democracy, we're in a dictatorship. And yes I'm aware that these have been curtailed during other governments but the fact remains that they have been, and therefore we are NOT in a democratic government.

Freedom of speech
Our voice - our press - kept out of TPP meetings. Our Navy muzzled and not allowed to tell us about asylum seeker boats. News blackouts. I think the Abbott government has pretty much gutted this one.

Freedom of association
Don't think so. Not when everyday motorcycle riders are being swept along with the bikies because they are apparently guilty by association, and not even association with bikie groups but just by associating with a motorcycle.

Freedom of assembly Ummm yeah so you have to have approval to congregate - that is still not "freedom of assembly" that is "bureaucratic approval required to assemble."

Freedom of religion
Unless that freedom is about having a "Merry Christmas" or a "Happy Easter" instead of a "Happy Non-Specific Public Holiday..." And with a rabid religious under-achiever as the PM, you have to wonder how long before anything but good old fundmental christianity will be condoned and eventually, permitted.

Freedom of movement
This is about the only one they haven't managed to screw the pooch on, mainly because the borders are HUGE and they know they couldn't enforce it if they tried. Also, with Abbott wanting to erase political State borders and put everything under one Federal government, it won't matter will it? (Wasn't that one of his aims? I seem to recall that it was.)

Five Freedoms here:

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The Whole Disaster Thing 2

The Whole Disaster Thing 2 - How It Can Happen.

Imagine this. You turn on the TV to catch up on the latest in the Middle Eastern situation. "Just like Saddam Hussein before him, the man who calls himself 'the prophet returned" has set light to the oil wells by which the countries that he considers to be his people have allowed Western morals and thoughts to infiltrate their religion and culture. Since he had access to nuclear missiles sold to his forces by many willing countries, his effect has been far greater..." 

You grab toast and boil the jug while the power's still on for the morning - power companies have got smart and are stretching existing oil-fired generated power with some tight rationing, so as to keep essential services on. The announcer continues.

"In an even that surpasses Chernobyl and Fukushima by a full order of magnitude, large swathes of the Middle East are now uninhabitable areas of melted sand glass. The radiation is expected to circle the globe over the next six months. 

"Meanwhile, closer to home, the last fuel tanker truck has stopped due to the need to conserve fuel, and deliveries of fuel are now at a standstill."

It's not a far-fetched scenario. In this situation, what will you do? Can you get to work by bicycle or on foot? Will work even have their doors open? What about shops? Have you got enough food to last a week or two of this while other avenues are found to bring food to your area?

A more pressing problem has also surfaced. The water supply has become a bit hit and miss. You've been doing the right thing and only flushing after number 2s, but it hasn't stopped others, because they hail from another State and they don't feel they owe this place a civic duty in times of emergency. The water supply is going to be gone in a few days according to reports.

What's the problem? The dams had plenty of water last time you went on a picnic out there, didn't they? And so they did. But it takes pumps to lift the water up to the height of the head tanks. Unless you're in a very lucky city in a valley under a dam. your water needs energy to lift to a useable height, and that takes fuel.

Lord knows how you'll take care of that whole flushing issue once water stops flowing.

It's also become a bit unsafe to go to work. There are always people who seize on the slightest excuse to start looting and stealing. (By the way, there's a good deal of evidence that seems to show that advertising and the sense of need it creates, fuels this looting behaviour. But I digress.) They also seem to see anyone else as legitimate prey these days, more so than before the Middle East situation.

If you knew a few more of your neighbours, you could form a pack and travel together. But this is the city, and your best friends live across town, out of town, and back home in the town you grew up in...

All of the above are problems you probably hadn't thought of, and don't really want to think of. It's okay - those of us that have, will be thinking of you. We won't actually help you, but we'll be thinking about you. Probably in the past tense. Sorry.

  • Don't forget that almost every war will start with attacks on utilities and infrastructure, and the military will have their hands full, emergency services will have their hands full, and even the local tradespeople will have their hands full.
  • We've experienced some devastatingly large fires here in Australia, and most have come under control mostly because they have either burnt themselves into a corner and then out, or because the weather changed to conditions less favourable to fire and more favourable to firefighters. I can only imagine what might happen on a day of gale force winds, with a major city directly in the path of one of these monster firestorms.
  • Even simpler and closer to home - you lose your job, your spouse loses their job, you haven't been able to pay water rates and energy bills, and now you're living primitive. This kind of a situation can last a few weeks, but in the economic climate we have where people outnumber jobs, it can quite easily stretch out into months or even years.

But imagine even a short glitch. Imagine fourteen days of problems. Do you think "they" will come along and fix everything that goes wrong in that fortnight?  Considering how emergency services are stretched when a disaster or multiple disasters exceeds 2% of the are of a country, how quickly do you think they'll be there for you when the whole country is in emergency?

I imagine that basic services will be restored on a sporadic part-time rationed basis within a week, but if you haven't thought about it, all the running water in the world won't save you when your toilet is blocked solid with shit and you can't get a plumber because a) the phones are all out and b) the plumber's busy trying to stay alive themselves.

This is why I follow prepper websites and read them. They're thinking about all of this stuff, and while their answer that works for them may not work for me, I can at least work out a strategy now while I have time to think. If I never need to use these strategies I can tell you I'll be very pleased, but if the time comes where I need to know about using a bucket outdoors instead of filling up my apartment or house with stench and disease, I won't need to come up with a strategy for crapping when there will be plenty of things that I will need to be devoting problem-solving skills to.

And lastly - even if it's only a week without power and running water, and everything is restored to normal after a week, I would still like to be able to continue with my life afterwards. I can imagine nothing worse than seeing my loved ones dying because I hadn't thought about how to keep a house sanitary without running water for a week. I'd probably hate having to recover from having an amputation because I stood on a piece of broken glass and then poisoned the wound with feces at home.

To me, these things make it worthwhile to think about things and have contingency plans. Continuing with my edict to keep things short and digestible, I'll continue with the next bit as a new post.

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Whole Disaster Thing

It's been a bit of a headfuck of mine lately. Every decade, every year, every month, even - we sail closer to a major world-changing event. What sorts of things am I thinking? Well, every year warmer weather. I don't give a rat's arse whether it's a natural cycle or we caused it, the fact that remains is that other temperature extremes in the past were not good for living things. Like us.

How about the fact that oceans are becoming empty of marine life, more acidic, more toxic, and full of rubbish? I imagine that a world where the marine life dies off or becomes too polluted to be useful as a food source would make for "an event" that could rock your world and mine.

Fukishima. (Bless you!) And Chernobyl. Two radioactive material spills that will keep giving us tainted air, water, food, and fallout for millenia. Suppose there was another few like that, and between them they left plumes that covered 75% of the globe? Is that SHTF (Shit Hitting The Fan) enough for you?

Oh yeah. Drought. We've just come off the worst years of a drought that has been steadily increasing in severity for the last 25 - 30 years. It may be a temporary relief, or it may mean a reversing trend. But it led to hundreds of farmers walking away from farms, and led indirectly to a rise in land baron farmers who now continue to ruin land. That's been pretty life-changing around here in Australia.

And I almost forget - how long would the world last if fuel stopped flowing?

So - the question isn't so much whether there are events that could cause a SHTF scenario, it's how long we have before they occur.

It's worth thinking about this. Not from a full-on prepper/survivalist point of view, but from the point of view of "would I manage, if this happened?" Would you?

And how have we come to this, that we're such an advanced civilisation yet we're seemingly more precariously balanced than our forebears from a few centuries ago were? This is a long convoluted subject that I could drag out into 10 - 20 consecutive blog posts but I can say it in three words "loss of community."

When communities got above village sized, we had two simultaneous outcomes. We gained in artifice and technology, and we lost the sense of tight knit community that smaller population centres have.

Over the next few articles, (yeah, I gave in to splitting this into more easily digestible chunks) I'll explore a lot of these themes.

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So today I discovered embeddable FB code. And it works. so wait for the embed to load, then continue below it.

Okay - that article above was all the result a bit of a think about what they wrote, what we waste, and how. And then I wasted the damn post by reloading a page instead of posting it. Mea Penis. I'm a cock. %(

Here I go, trying to recollect and recreate it from memory:

If you're reading this, there's every chance that you're part of the 5% - 15% of the world's population that has 85% of the wealth and food and good conditions. We should feel a bit smug and pleased with ourselves. After all, a huge chunk of the population suffers and dies from nutrition-related diseases and illnesses, the other 85% suffers from diseases related to famine and starvation.

Whoa. That didn't go quite the way you thought it was going to, did it? Surely that's... that's... well - it's wrong, isn't it? But sadly, I have to say it isn't. We're the pinnacle of civilisation, the acme of evolution - and we're starving to death because we process our foods and strip them of nutrition, eat an unbalanced diet because there's a surfeit of imbalance out there, and then die of totally preventable diseases like diabetes, heart conditions, blocked arteries, even some cancers.

Quite a few years ago now, I had the precursors to prostate cancer. I did research online, changed my diet, and within seven months, all signs of hyperplasia and high PSA and pains had disappeared. Both my GP and my urologist asked me to have a second test to be sure my results hadn't been mixed up with anyone else's.

I've made that information available at for free. Basically - "convenience" is your enemy and biggest cause of ill health. Nothing that's been processed to be manufactured in bulk quantities is healthy anymore. Buying and using any of those foods, including mass produced hamburgers and chicken portions, is you recipe for having a really really bad time, health-wise.

These days I'd rather spend an hour of my time cooking a meal from scratch than any other activity. I figure I can spend an hour or two a day making sure I have healthy food, or I can get prepared to spend 24 hours a day in a hospital bed for the rest of my life, starting a few years down the track.

Not to be a panic merchant, but yeah. So go like my page on Facebook about healthy food and eating, go to grab some of those epub e-books, and prepare to enjoy life a whole lot more.

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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Musings On Power.

Woke up to silence this morning - yep, the wild stormy weather (and a few flickers last night) should have warned us. Power was out. Again. Must have been out for at least 20 minutes because the UPS had run out of beeps.

First coherent thought: (right after "ah crap! power's out again!") "Bloody hell, Abbott's gone to Indonesia on a diplomatic visit, maybe we're at war as of overnight and we missed the news! How long would it take them to wake up sleepers in the country and sabotage our power before attacking?"

But then I decided to call the power outages line and found out that restoration time was estimated to be ten hours away, my survival instincts kicked in. I lit the gas, boiled a saucepan of water (no externally heated kettle you see) and made a coffee.

(For those wanting the Condensed version, power came on at 3:05PM in the afternoon, making this a seven to eight hour blackout as far as I can guess. Anyone wanting the ramblings, please feel free to read on.)

Maybe preppers aren't so strange after all. That thought came while I was writing on a paper exercise book with a pencil, trying to get my ideas down before coffee and the day's events wiped them all out of mind. (Anyone that knows me will know that writing as opposed to typing is not a common practice of mine. Times were desperate...)

But the ideas are all there. What if, came the thought, what if this happens one day and doesn't stop happening? What then?

I took stock. I'm probably a bit more prepared for this than many people, because of living out bush so long. But what would happen if the power did stay out? Well, for an average urban / near urban place, the water in the header tanks would last about a day or two. Then, there might be a backup generator or pump with fuel enough to keep up the pressure head for another few days to maybe a week. After that, the water stops flowing.

Given the same amount of emergency preparedness by the gas company, the pumps at the gas works might keep going for a similar length of time. After that - not even a bad smell...

And that's not the worst of it. Deep sewage is designed with a certain amount of continuous flow in mind. No water = no toilets flushing. You had thought about that, hadn't you? No water also means not so much dish washing or laundry being done. The ratio of liquid to solid sewage changes, next thing there are solid blockages everywhere and you can kiss that goodbye.

So you can say that within two or three days you'll be unable to use any electrical appliances, the fridge and freezer will be beginning to stink and the food will be spoiled, the toilet (if you used a bucket to flush) will now no longer flush, and whether you use electric or gas for cooking, you won't have a warm meal that day...

So now how do Kerina and I cope? was my next thought. And I realised that we're lucky. We still have the Super Magic Bus and it has a solar panel, solar battery, a small gas cartridge cooker, and would probably stay warmer than any room in the house with body heat.

But the thought wouldn't lie down and stay still. If it's longer? What then Mr Smarty-Pants? Huh? Huh?

I realised that we had quite a few resources here. Two vehicles with decent batteries, a solar battery, and some cordless rechargeable tools that would happily run off a 12V battery so I could make a reasonable cooking fireplace for when the gas ran out. Materials laying around that could allow us to pump water from the creek and up far enough that we'd have static water pressure. Enough water barrels and so forth that we could store water for a week at a time.

We had compost bins that could be half buried out the back and have a seat placed over them so our toilet needs wouldn't stink up the house and cause disease. I realised that with a bit of engineering, I could have a wood fired hot water system online in a week.

In the end, I think we'd survive, not because I'm particularly clever, but because I've read prepper websites, seen survivalist blogs, and somewhere in the back of my mind, retained some of the ideas there.

Now ask yourself if you'd fare well or fold out. Because this last week has been bullshit as far as electricity is concerned, two days with outages lasting over six hours, plus multiple flickers and outages lasting a few minutes.

You'd think that the electricity suppliers would have worked out by now that trees fall over, and actually used some of the "service fee" to clear trees away from lines to prevent them falling on the lines.

You'd think that the electricity suppliers would have worked out by now that power lines blow around and touch in high winds, and taken action to put spreaders on lines, to add in a few extra poles where the wire needed extra support.

You'd think, in short, that all these problems that happen year after year after year would have sunk in with these people by now and been acted on. The fact that they haven't done so just shows that we need to plan for one of those unthinkable long term blackouts, it's practically inevitable given the track record.

Once more with feeling then: Are YOU prepared for a many day power outage? I know I'll be thinking about it a lot more...

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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cyber Prepper 101

Quick! Your Facebook account's just been hacked and you're locked out of it, and to top it off, a malicious SMS has just erased your mobile.

In a situation like this, would you know anyone's contact details? Would you know what you're doing? In short, can you imagine anything worse? In short, are you prepared for a failure of online life? 

Why bother, is perhaps the first question you may be asking. Well, how about I give you a few thoughts I've been slowly mulling over, and then you decide?

1. Your Online And Mobile Accounts Are An Increasingly Tasty And Tempting Target.
As the number of users of online technology climbs, the sheer volume of targets makes the law of numerical statistics applicable. If hackers can successfully fool one tenth of a percent of the billions of users into revealing account details, or pay $5 for a packet of Viagra that never arrives, you just need to remember that 0.01% of 1,000,000,000 is still 100,000. If you only reach half a billion people with your trojan or your scam email, and one tenth of a percent of those strikes, you've still fleeced 50,000 people.

Also, because we're so increasingly an online society, your mobile phone and email and Facebook accounts will hold more contact details that hackers will exploit. Again, if they can just crack ONE account with all their phishing, that might now give them several hundred email and phone contact details of people that trust you and would probably open an email attachment if they thought you sent it...

2. The Amount Of Computing Power Available To Malicious People Is HUGE And Getting More Powerful All The Time.
There are cloud computing places that are super cheap to use and which provide a hacker with all the password-cracking power they need. There are small graphics-card array based supercomputers that can be leased, or built up by a reasonably savvy hacker. Any one of these advances in technology means that a hacker can be crunching away at more accounts per minute than ever before.

When you consider that some poor luckless bastard has probably had their bank or Paypal account hacked and is the one paying for the extra computing power, the hacker is not going to worry about computer CPU time costs...

3. That Of Course Isn't The Only Two Factors. How About Government Sponsored Hacking?
The biggie - if I were a terrorist country's government, I'd be hacking away at the big utility and government accounts of other countries like crazy. That's a given. Movie scriptwriters have had a field day with showing how vulnerable we are to a determined group of hackers.

But. Hackers need finance. The need money to pay for their computers, online time, cloud computing, and so forth. And the easiest way to get that is still to scam YOU.

So you can add government-supported criminals to the list of DIY hackers and the larger crime organisations that are using spam and phishing as a second income stream. It's all a bit bleak.

4. Never Mind Direct Hacking, Infrastructure Hacking Might Result In The Same Scenario For Us.
Even if these people never directly hack or phish you, there are ways their activities will affect you. If there's no electricity (to cherrypick the most glaring and obvious example) then your PC or laptop or mobile phone will stop working, the ISP server rooms and telecom exchanges and cell towers will go dark when their fuel runs out, and the end result for you will be the same - loss of all your contacts and data that's online.

A more subtle Infrastructure hack might see the telecom cell towers sending out erasure signals to all mobile phones. (Yes, it can be done.) In the ensuing chaos as everyone struggles to remember phone numbers and reinstate their contact lists, you can learn an awful lot about who's connected to who, which people are most likely to hold trust for you and so forth. You can, in short, build a social graph of trust connections. And then exploit those to extract more phishing info.

To a foreign government or body, these kinds of data could be invaluable for building up a plan of attack. For a large corporation, the data uncovered could lead to all sorts of advantages.

The Upshot Is That Your Account Is A More Valuable And Attractive Target To An Ever Increasing Pool Of Criminals Every Passing Day.

So that kind of says (to me) that no matter what, if I stay online and keep a mobile phone, then I'll begin to experience an steadily increasing number of attacks, of increasingly greater sophistication. It doesn't matter which web service I have an account on, it's going to be under more and more pressure from hacking. No matter how careful I am about email, there's going to be one that slips past my discriminating examination and gets opened.

Unless all our technology takes a quantum leap in security overnight, it means I'll almost certainly have some of my personal details (an account screen name and password, a UID and key, or other detail) stolen off some site or other and used to probe my other property online. My best hope is to present as little opportunity to the infiltrator as possible.

Strategies To Minimise Opportunity For Hackers And Phishers.

Make sure you at least have a different password on each site you visit. It's a pain in the arse but it's less of a pain than someone gaining control of every account where you use the same email, password, and/or other identifying information.

One of the strategies I've read about and to some degree implement is to have a different email address for every online property you have, and a different password, and a different screen name. This means that if a phisher gets your email address and password to a social networking site, their next standard procedure becomes useless. (The next standard procedure is to try that email / password combination on financial websites, other social networking sites, ebay and other retail sites, and any other site that might turn a profit for the perpetrator.)

If keeping all those email addresses and their passwords is difficult, I suggest getting a password keeping utility or a notebook. And then set up each email to forward a copy of any email it receives, to your favoured email provider. (It's important to only send a copy, becaue if your favoured primary email gets hacked, you still need to know what's been happening on other properties.)

In order to minimise the damage a hacker can do, list every property you have online. Do you have documents that are important and that hold other identifying information or other account details? Maybe those had better come offline onto a DVD or USB device and the online version overwritten with a less harmful one.

Are there documents and emails that you need and which would be quite disruptive if you lost access to them? Same for those. How about things you'd rather your family and friends didn't get to see? Save them locally and overwrite the online copies with less harmful versions.

Are your facebook contacts only available to you on facebook? Then you need to find a way to save them (and groups you're in, pages you follow, etc) somewhere else, preferably on that USB device.

All your email contacts, are they backed up somewhere? If not, find a way to back them up.

Now to your mobile - can you download the contacts out of it? If so, then do it. Do that for all the texts and photos, and while you're doing it, have a good hard think about the fact that a hacker can do that exactly as easily as you just did it...

One thing I don't advocate is the "change passwords often" policy. Change your passwords (and update your password keeper notebook or software!) as often as you think necessary, and as soon as possible after you regain control of a hacked online property.

But if someone is running a dictionary and brute force attack on one of your accounts, changing the password from "freebledweeble" to "@n0R@k" won't make a lot of difference unless you manage to change it at the precise instant before the brute force software decides to try "freebledweeble"...

If your passwords are good, and different on every site, then they can probably hold out as well as any other password.

So The Unthinkable Happened, I've Been Hacked. What Now?

This is where a little bit of preparedness can help. Those backups, they will help a lot. The recovery scenarios can be of a wide range, you can, for example, get the property back completely untampered. In the worst case, you won't even know you've been compromised, and frankly, any hacker that can do that is way too good anyway. Since you in this case have no way of knowing, then it follows it hasn't affected your life in any way. (Since any other scneario - "oh, my Paypal has been used to buy a laptop in China!" would lead you to the conclusion that you know the account's been hacked.)

The more common scenario is that the provider of the online property themselves will inform you that your account may have been compromised. In this case, change the password (through the normal channels, not through any claimed "online security review" link in the email or information. If the hacker has changed the password, use your normal channels to contact the provider and regain your property.

Once you have control back and are pretty sure you didn't just give the new password to the very hacker that compromised it in the first place, go and check that all your data are still there. If this is an email or social media account, check with your contacts that you haven't sent out any weird communications, and tell them all to ignore anything you may have sent during the period the hacker had control of your account. You may save someone else the experience.

In some cases you may get the property back with corrupted data. Some hackers will do this because it can often hide how many other people they tried to compromise. If you have backups, this will help you to recover your data and (if necessary) warn your contacts that they may also have been targeted.

In the case of the phone, check the manufacturer's website, they often have utilities that will help restore contacts and messages and data - if you backed them up, that is - and that should see you back in operation in very short order.

In the case of websites, I've found that many allow you to download and backup your data, but very few have a restore function... In which case, you're either stuck with manually re-entering and uploading all the data, or emailing their tech support to ask for a tool to restore the account.

In the most extreme of cases, you may never get your property back. The hackers my corrupt the account beyond useability, or the provider may not have any methods in place for returning / restoring accounts, or any of a number of other reasons. The point is - do you want such a piece of shit? If you do, and you can't get that same account back, then you may be stuck with making a new and almost identical account (remember to use a different email address to the last account, too) and repopulating that with the data you saved.


With an increase in the amount of computing power available to Bad People, an increasing reliance on online communications, data, and business, and an increasing number of people using these, it's inevitable that phishing, hacking, infrastructure and organisational network compromise, will all increase at an exponential rate.

This makes it very likely that at least one of a person's online properties will at some stage be hacked.

Therefore, it makes sense to ensure that one hack won't compromise all one's other online properties, by making sure they aren't all using the same email, UID, and password as their secure key.

The other thing we should aim for is that if a property is deleted or otherwise corrupted, that we have a backup recovery plan.

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