Discussions

AT, nice post! “…Whether we’d be able to get groceries or have functioning public utilities would be another issue.  I work in healthcare and would have a hard time leaving town in the midst of a regional disaster, but I would try to get my family and our camper over the mountains to Reno or somewhere…” The nature of a disaster as described in the study would mean infrastructure, power and supply are smashed for a long time. The human misery would be hard to imagine. Getting out of Dodge at the first sign of danger would be prudent. It might even be a good idea to store a few top-lock 55 drums with spare clothes and shoes/boots in a tiny storage rental in Reno in the meantime. “…I work in healthcare and would have a hard time leaving town in the midst of a regional disaster…” This really hit home for me. I respect you greatly for this. Healthcare devotion to patients, team, duty and mission is a hallmark of the industry in this country. COVID19 saw turnover rise in healthcare and that’s not unexpected, after all, healthcare is a reflection of society. I have seen so many small acts of heroism, duty and empathy among healthcare workers that it has left deep impression on me. I have recently left my job working in a military hospital after many years. I am not a soldier, a veteran or clinical. I was a civilian in a leadership position in IT (or IMD, as the military calls it). I believe there would be an overwhelming response to a disaster in the Central Valley from all over this country. It would focus the nation on the best of Americans and our love of country. That being said, after the initial response, some very hard decisions would have to be made by many people in that area. Right after Katrina I read an excellent blog by a young man and his escaping the storm with his wife. They went to her aunt and uncles’ home in Houston. What was notable was his discussion of their decision to start over in Houston after they realized the full extent of the damage in New Orleans and the lack of jobs. He spoke about putting together all your stuff to start over again professionally. Documentation of licenses, certifications, and training to get a similar job in your new home. https://tinyurl.com/53umcna5

Eric, Test your outlet to confirm it’s grounded. Someone in Home Depot can show you a tester to buy to test yourself. An electrician can also do these tests. CAUTION. If you have no experience doing this you should hire an electrician and have him show you how to test. SAFETY FIRST. My reference to grounding problems was in a commercial setting. In one, a powerful lightening strike near a data center did significant damage after a multi-million dollar IT/Power upgrade. My employer had purchased the building a few years earlier and the building was about 50 years old, but in otherwise excellent condition. We hired a forensic electrical engineering company to determine root cause. They found that over the years, multiple electrical upgrades and expansions had been done but no overarching review of the building’s power distribution had been done. One of the major problems found was faulty grounding. In another, after a new hospital had been built there were ongoing odd electrical problems – like cipher locks would fail on many doors after rain storms. Grounding faults were to blame. In that same hospital, we had commercial UPS units in all the data closets throughout the hospital to maintain network uptime before the diesel generators spun up if the power failed. The UPS’ were on the network and reported all power faults. We saw brownouts daily. No damage to our equipment but brownouts will cause significant problems to electrical equipment over time and can cause failure well before the expected lifespan has been reached. A brownout is a dip in the power level but not a failure (blackout). Brownouts damage electrical equipment, especially electrical motors and insulation. While that hospital had (3) enormous generators to maintain power in the event of a blackout, they did not have a line conditioning system (sometimes called a Liebert system) to filter out the brownouts. The root cause of the brownouts was dirty power from the provider. They were not very helpful and the hospital has to build a line conditioning system. IMO, the hospital should have known better when they built the new building because line conditioning is well understood.

The practical side of this question has been driven home by a very nice summary of the risks of the current brinkmanship between China and the US over Taiwan. I read this article early today and have ordered Dalio’s book. https://tinyurl.com/mh2dcy69 The risk to consumers is considerable if China were to simply blockade parts of Taiwan for a period of time. It would harm their manufacturing capacity, especially chips. At present, there is no easy place to buy chips if Taiwan’s manufacturing capacity was significantly constrained. But what do I do now? Gideon’s ideas are all good but I want to find a way to rank the priority of simple actions I should take. Mine may be different from yours but there must be a framework to come up with a plan. For example, my wife had surgery recently and she had a ‘wound vacuum’ attached for the first week of recovery. That thing went through (6) AA batteries every single day! My inventory dropped (42) batteries! Thankfully I had them and just as thankfully I can replace them but it got me thinking after reading that article: do I really understand all the things I use that are dependent on batteries? Do I have them prioritized? Why haven’t I bought rechargeable eneloops with redundant charging systems? What won’t I be able to do once my batteries run out and I can’t replace them either due to inflation costs or unavailablity? And batteries are only an example that occurred to me this morning. I work from home full time now. What if my router fails? Can I find another? I know having spares is important but I am asking if anyone has a framework for deciding what to buy next in light of rising inflation and inventory shortages? BTW, I have written about this before but it bears repeating; Admiral Stavridis’ (RET) book ‘2034’ will give you a very good idea of the Taiwan situation.

There are 2 ways to approach preparations for ongoing inflation. The first is what everyone is talking about – buying stuff we use or need before the price rises. Most preppers are doing this unwittingly because we have a larder for the times when we cannot buy important stuff AT ANY PRICE. We are preparing for unavailability due to store inventory or we can’t get there – think blizzard or hurricane. The second is buying stuff OTHER PEOPLE use or need before the price rises. This second kind is not buying 4,000 rolls of toilet paper on Amazon. It’s about buying things wealthy people will want. This gives you much greater bartering power. Twelve years ago I was very interested in ‘coming inflation’ after reading Jim Sinclair’s website. At the time, Warren Buffett had recommended that the chiefs of several European banks read When Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation, and Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany by Adam Fergusson. A reporter heard about this recommendation and asked Buffett about it and he said he never heard of the book. To me, that meant it was true and I really wanted to read it but Amazon wanted $600 for one used copy. I eventually found it through an inter-library loan. It is an extraordinary book about the economics, finance and human experience of life during Weimar inflation. It has been reprinted and you can get the paperback for $14 at Amazon. I already ordered my copy. The book tells the story, among many others, of 2 women that survived the massive inflation by selling things. In one case, the widow lived on the sale of good wine and liquor from her husband’s collection. Another widow lived on her husband’s cigar collection. The lesson for me was to buy pipe tobacco (more useful) and cases of liquor. My wife and I don’t smoke or drink so we won’t waste the profit. YMMV.

I hope this study is more informed and accurate than Paul Erhlichs’ Population Bomb in 1968 or the Limits to Growth in 1972. Like many movements, environmentalism is often hijacked by non-scientists for other reasons. This is a shame because all of us really can do more to protect and manage our environment for the better. The difficulty for the average person is to find a reliable source of information and make up their own mind. I am wary when someone tells me ‘the science is settled, all scientists agree, you just have to vote for this new thing’. What I hear is someone unwilling to have dialogue, to be open and transparent, to engage with their detractors with good will and integrity. One of the people I trust for much of the information I need about environmentalism and environmental engineering is Dr. Vaclav Smil, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of over forty books on topics including energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canda and a Member of the Order of Canada. I don’t agree with all his conclusions by a long shot but I trust his figures, math and integrity. Below is a snip of his recent writing on carbon in our atmosphere: ‘At the beginning of the 19th century, when the United Kingdom was the only major coal producer, global emissions of carbon from fossil fuel combustion were minuscule, at less than 10 million tons a year. By century’s end, emissions surpassed half a billion tons. By 1950, thy had topped 1.5 billion tons. The postwar economic expansion in Europe, North America, the USSR and Japan – along with the post-1980 economic rise of China-quadrupled emissions thereafter, to about 7 billion tons of carbon by the year 2000. In the two centuries between 1800 and 2000, the transfer of carbon from fossil fuels to the atmosphere increased 650 fold while the population had increased only sixfold! The new century has seen a significant divergence. By 2017, emissions had declined by about 15 percent in the European Union, with its slower economic growth and aging population and also in the United States, thank largely to the increasing use of natural gas instead of coal. However, all these gains were outbalanced by Chinese carbon emissions, which rose from about 1 billion to about 3 billion tons – enough to increase the worldwide total by nearly 45 percent, to 10.1 billion tons. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon have increased from 180-280 parts per million 800,000 years ago ranging from 275 ppm in the early 1600s to about 285 ppm before the end of the 19th century. Continuous measurements of the gas began near the top of Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, in 1958: the 1959 mean was 316 ppm the 2015 average reached 400 ppm and 415 ppm in May 2019. Emissions will continue to decline in affluent countries, and the rate at which they grow in China has begun to slow down. However, it is speeding up in India and Africa, and hence it is unlikely that we will see any substantial global declines anytime soon.’ Dr. Smil says that the quickest way to reduce atmospheric carbon load it to significantly reduce the size of homes throughout the world and dramatically improve their insulation. This would drop the fossil fuel used to heat and air condition our large homes. How many of us are willing to cut the size of our homes or apartments 35-50%?

Forager, I agree the chest freezer is a big concern. Almost all outages I have experienced have been less than 8 hours and all was fine aside from some relatively minor discomfort and loss of internet. I experienced a 9 day outage in December in NE Pennsylvania about 15 years ago. I had a wood stove and coal stove, plenty of food, flashlights, lanterns and fuel so we were ok. My well was down so I had to drive 20 miles to get lots of water. But folks without wood or coal were on the firehouse floor for 9 days…and I want to avoid that in the future. The non-electric natural gas heater would make part of the house tolerable in the dead of winter. I have a few hundred gallons of water and food so we would not be hungry or thirsty. I also have a battery powered ‘construction’ fan to circulate the heat to prevent water pipes from freezing. I need a few extra 40v batteries. Cooking: I will buy 2 more 20# propane tanks for my grill but my primary cooking plan will be a fire ring with 1/4 cord of firewood and a rocket stove. I would like to buy a 100# propane tank but need to learn how to properly regulate the flow to my grill. Comms: This is very important to me because I recently started working at home. I need to talk to my ISP about their planning and capacity to keep their POPs running on diesel – and for how long. I am also looking hard at installing a StarLink system as a secondary connection. My planning assumes my employer’s primary site is operational about 150 miles away. Telephony: If local cell towers are running on diesel backup for the duration I am good, but if they go down then the only solution is to setup a Yagi antenna and hope I can pull a link from further away. But back to your point about the chest freezer; the only solution to loss of food (refrigerator and chest freezer) is a generator with several days fuel. I will also very likely need the genny for comms. The choice of a generator has to be based on the electric outage I am expecting. Is it local or regional? If I plan for a local outage I can drive 50 miles for gasoline regularly but if it’s regional (200 mile radius) I have to store more or plan to cook all my meat. I live in town so I cannot store significant gasoline but I could store much for diesel…


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AT, nice post! “…Whether we’d be able to get groceries or have functioning public utilities would be another issue.  I work in healthcare and would have a hard time leaving town in the midst of a regional disaster, but I would try to get my family and our camper over the mountains to Reno or somewhere…” The nature of a disaster as described in the study would mean infrastructure, power and supply are smashed for a long time. The human misery would be hard to imagine. Getting out of Dodge at the first sign of danger would be prudent. It might even be a good idea to store a few top-lock 55 drums with spare clothes and shoes/boots in a tiny storage rental in Reno in the meantime. “…I work in healthcare and would have a hard time leaving town in the midst of a regional disaster…” This really hit home for me. I respect you greatly for this. Healthcare devotion to patients, team, duty and mission is a hallmark of the industry in this country. COVID19 saw turnover rise in healthcare and that’s not unexpected, after all, healthcare is a reflection of society. I have seen so many small acts of heroism, duty and empathy among healthcare workers that it has left deep impression on me. I have recently left my job working in a military hospital after many years. I am not a soldier, a veteran or clinical. I was a civilian in a leadership position in IT (or IMD, as the military calls it). I believe there would be an overwhelming response to a disaster in the Central Valley from all over this country. It would focus the nation on the best of Americans and our love of country. That being said, after the initial response, some very hard decisions would have to be made by many people in that area. Right after Katrina I read an excellent blog by a young man and his escaping the storm with his wife. They went to her aunt and uncles’ home in Houston. What was notable was his discussion of their decision to start over in Houston after they realized the full extent of the damage in New Orleans and the lack of jobs. He spoke about putting together all your stuff to start over again professionally. Documentation of licenses, certifications, and training to get a similar job in your new home. https://tinyurl.com/53umcna5

Eric, Test your outlet to confirm it’s grounded. Someone in Home Depot can show you a tester to buy to test yourself. An electrician can also do these tests. CAUTION. If you have no experience doing this you should hire an electrician and have him show you how to test. SAFETY FIRST. My reference to grounding problems was in a commercial setting. In one, a powerful lightening strike near a data center did significant damage after a multi-million dollar IT/Power upgrade. My employer had purchased the building a few years earlier and the building was about 50 years old, but in otherwise excellent condition. We hired a forensic electrical engineering company to determine root cause. They found that over the years, multiple electrical upgrades and expansions had been done but no overarching review of the building’s power distribution had been done. One of the major problems found was faulty grounding. In another, after a new hospital had been built there were ongoing odd electrical problems – like cipher locks would fail on many doors after rain storms. Grounding faults were to blame. In that same hospital, we had commercial UPS units in all the data closets throughout the hospital to maintain network uptime before the diesel generators spun up if the power failed. The UPS’ were on the network and reported all power faults. We saw brownouts daily. No damage to our equipment but brownouts will cause significant problems to electrical equipment over time and can cause failure well before the expected lifespan has been reached. A brownout is a dip in the power level but not a failure (blackout). Brownouts damage electrical equipment, especially electrical motors and insulation. While that hospital had (3) enormous generators to maintain power in the event of a blackout, they did not have a line conditioning system (sometimes called a Liebert system) to filter out the brownouts. The root cause of the brownouts was dirty power from the provider. They were not very helpful and the hospital has to build a line conditioning system. IMO, the hospital should have known better when they built the new building because line conditioning is well understood.

The practical side of this question has been driven home by a very nice summary of the risks of the current brinkmanship between China and the US over Taiwan. I read this article early today and have ordered Dalio’s book. https://tinyurl.com/mh2dcy69 The risk to consumers is considerable if China were to simply blockade parts of Taiwan for a period of time. It would harm their manufacturing capacity, especially chips. At present, there is no easy place to buy chips if Taiwan’s manufacturing capacity was significantly constrained. But what do I do now? Gideon’s ideas are all good but I want to find a way to rank the priority of simple actions I should take. Mine may be different from yours but there must be a framework to come up with a plan. For example, my wife had surgery recently and she had a ‘wound vacuum’ attached for the first week of recovery. That thing went through (6) AA batteries every single day! My inventory dropped (42) batteries! Thankfully I had them and just as thankfully I can replace them but it got me thinking after reading that article: do I really understand all the things I use that are dependent on batteries? Do I have them prioritized? Why haven’t I bought rechargeable eneloops with redundant charging systems? What won’t I be able to do once my batteries run out and I can’t replace them either due to inflation costs or unavailablity? And batteries are only an example that occurred to me this morning. I work from home full time now. What if my router fails? Can I find another? I know having spares is important but I am asking if anyone has a framework for deciding what to buy next in light of rising inflation and inventory shortages? BTW, I have written about this before but it bears repeating; Admiral Stavridis’ (RET) book ‘2034’ will give you a very good idea of the Taiwan situation.

There are 2 ways to approach preparations for ongoing inflation. The first is what everyone is talking about – buying stuff we use or need before the price rises. Most preppers are doing this unwittingly because we have a larder for the times when we cannot buy important stuff AT ANY PRICE. We are preparing for unavailability due to store inventory or we can’t get there – think blizzard or hurricane. The second is buying stuff OTHER PEOPLE use or need before the price rises. This second kind is not buying 4,000 rolls of toilet paper on Amazon. It’s about buying things wealthy people will want. This gives you much greater bartering power. Twelve years ago I was very interested in ‘coming inflation’ after reading Jim Sinclair’s website. At the time, Warren Buffett had recommended that the chiefs of several European banks read When Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation, and Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany by Adam Fergusson. A reporter heard about this recommendation and asked Buffett about it and he said he never heard of the book. To me, that meant it was true and I really wanted to read it but Amazon wanted $600 for one used copy. I eventually found it through an inter-library loan. It is an extraordinary book about the economics, finance and human experience of life during Weimar inflation. It has been reprinted and you can get the paperback for $14 at Amazon. I already ordered my copy. The book tells the story, among many others, of 2 women that survived the massive inflation by selling things. In one case, the widow lived on the sale of good wine and liquor from her husband’s collection. Another widow lived on her husband’s cigar collection. The lesson for me was to buy pipe tobacco (more useful) and cases of liquor. My wife and I don’t smoke or drink so we won’t waste the profit. YMMV.

I hope this study is more informed and accurate than Paul Erhlichs’ Population Bomb in 1968 or the Limits to Growth in 1972. Like many movements, environmentalism is often hijacked by non-scientists for other reasons. This is a shame because all of us really can do more to protect and manage our environment for the better. The difficulty for the average person is to find a reliable source of information and make up their own mind. I am wary when someone tells me ‘the science is settled, all scientists agree, you just have to vote for this new thing’. What I hear is someone unwilling to have dialogue, to be open and transparent, to engage with their detractors with good will and integrity. One of the people I trust for much of the information I need about environmentalism and environmental engineering is Dr. Vaclav Smil, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of over forty books on topics including energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canda and a Member of the Order of Canada. I don’t agree with all his conclusions by a long shot but I trust his figures, math and integrity. Below is a snip of his recent writing on carbon in our atmosphere: ‘At the beginning of the 19th century, when the United Kingdom was the only major coal producer, global emissions of carbon from fossil fuel combustion were minuscule, at less than 10 million tons a year. By century’s end, emissions surpassed half a billion tons. By 1950, thy had topped 1.5 billion tons. The postwar economic expansion in Europe, North America, the USSR and Japan – along with the post-1980 economic rise of China-quadrupled emissions thereafter, to about 7 billion tons of carbon by the year 2000. In the two centuries between 1800 and 2000, the transfer of carbon from fossil fuels to the atmosphere increased 650 fold while the population had increased only sixfold! The new century has seen a significant divergence. By 2017, emissions had declined by about 15 percent in the European Union, with its slower economic growth and aging population and also in the United States, thank largely to the increasing use of natural gas instead of coal. However, all these gains were outbalanced by Chinese carbon emissions, which rose from about 1 billion to about 3 billion tons – enough to increase the worldwide total by nearly 45 percent, to 10.1 billion tons. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon have increased from 180-280 parts per million 800,000 years ago ranging from 275 ppm in the early 1600s to about 285 ppm before the end of the 19th century. Continuous measurements of the gas began near the top of Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, in 1958: the 1959 mean was 316 ppm the 2015 average reached 400 ppm and 415 ppm in May 2019. Emissions will continue to decline in affluent countries, and the rate at which they grow in China has begun to slow down. However, it is speeding up in India and Africa, and hence it is unlikely that we will see any substantial global declines anytime soon.’ Dr. Smil says that the quickest way to reduce atmospheric carbon load it to significantly reduce the size of homes throughout the world and dramatically improve their insulation. This would drop the fossil fuel used to heat and air condition our large homes. How many of us are willing to cut the size of our homes or apartments 35-50%?

Forager, I agree the chest freezer is a big concern. Almost all outages I have experienced have been less than 8 hours and all was fine aside from some relatively minor discomfort and loss of internet. I experienced a 9 day outage in December in NE Pennsylvania about 15 years ago. I had a wood stove and coal stove, plenty of food, flashlights, lanterns and fuel so we were ok. My well was down so I had to drive 20 miles to get lots of water. But folks without wood or coal were on the firehouse floor for 9 days…and I want to avoid that in the future. The non-electric natural gas heater would make part of the house tolerable in the dead of winter. I have a few hundred gallons of water and food so we would not be hungry or thirsty. I also have a battery powered ‘construction’ fan to circulate the heat to prevent water pipes from freezing. I need a few extra 40v batteries. Cooking: I will buy 2 more 20# propane tanks for my grill but my primary cooking plan will be a fire ring with 1/4 cord of firewood and a rocket stove. I would like to buy a 100# propane tank but need to learn how to properly regulate the flow to my grill. Comms: This is very important to me because I recently started working at home. I need to talk to my ISP about their planning and capacity to keep their POPs running on diesel – and for how long. I am also looking hard at installing a StarLink system as a secondary connection. My planning assumes my employer’s primary site is operational about 150 miles away. Telephony: If local cell towers are running on diesel backup for the duration I am good, but if they go down then the only solution is to setup a Yagi antenna and hope I can pull a link from further away. But back to your point about the chest freezer; the only solution to loss of food (refrigerator and chest freezer) is a generator with several days fuel. I will also very likely need the genny for comms. The choice of a generator has to be based on the electric outage I am expecting. Is it local or regional? If I plan for a local outage I can drive 50 miles for gasoline regularly but if it’s regional (200 mile radius) I have to store more or plan to cook all my meat. I live in town so I cannot store significant gasoline but I could store much for diesel…


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