Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surviving Lazy

Outside has the story of elite marathoners attempting to run down an antelope to verify a belief that men could run down the fastest animals on the planet. What the runners are really proving is how brain-dead stupid people can be. If ancient hunters had frivolously wasted energy simply running down a wild animal, we wouldn't be here.

The best way of surviving is to be reasonably lazy. Whether you are expending fossil fuel energy with machinery or animal energy with work animals or your own back, the less you use, the less you have to replace. In a survival or subsistence situation, avoid activities that are not a net energy gain whenever possible. You can also exchange the word "energy" for "money" or "resources". Don't expend resources where you are not getting back at least as much as you put in.

Humans turned to agriculture because it is lazier and more efficient that constantly roaming as hunter/gatherers. Horses, on the grasslands of the Great Plains, coupled with the presence of huge bison herds enabled the Plains Indians to survive and prosper. The horses could take advantage of the grazing while greatly reducing the expenditures of human energy required. Bison were a massive reservoir of food energy for the human hunters, as well as being a source of clothing and tools.

I like raised beds for gardening because I spend less time and energy cultivating and maintaining. In the same way, fruit trees, stawberries, blackberries, and grapes all provide high-energy food sources with a relatively low investment of energy. Livestock and poultry can make better, less energy-intensive use of marginal lands for grazing than can be gained from cultivation.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Small Stuff

For anyone who needs to carry a firearm, concealed or otherwise, under active and rigorous conditions there will always be trade-offs between the weight and bulk of the weapon and its ammunition with the power and lethality of the package. At the extremes I cannot always have a shotgun at hand while a pocket .22LR seems sometimes inadequate. I love the free market. Ammunition manufacturers are responding to the current American trend of smaller firearms for concealed carry and self-protection.

Speer/CCI has introduced its Gold Dot Short Barrel™ ammunition. Hornady is another leading manufacturer producing Critical Defense™ ammunition for smaller caliber weapons of minimal barrel length. These rounds are being produced in a number of calibers, but the one that fascinates me is the .22WMR.

In the past, conventional wisdom held that the .22WMR from a handgun was no more powerful than the .22LR from a handgun. Certainly the little magnum has always performed better from longer barrels. My own testing, however, not so much in terms of velocity but penetration, indicates that .22WMR from my Single Six with its 6 ½ inch barrel is roughly equivalent, if not slightly superior, to the best .22LR rounds from a rifle. Velocity information seems to confirm this.

If I were forced to defend myself with a .22LR rifle, I would choose a Ruger 10/22, and I would load it with CCI Velocitors. The muzzle velocity of this 40-grain round from a rifle is officially 1435 fps. Winchester Super X .22 magnum rounds from a tight 6 ½ inch Single Six will probably also run between 1400 and 1500 fps. While this is not as good as 4 inch .357 with 125 grain HP’s, it’s not exactly a handful of daisies.

But even the slim, light Single Six gets in the way on occasion. In fact, my regular defensive handgun, a .40 S&W, is no more cumbersome when I’m out in the field and only slightly heavier. It would be nice to have something still smaller that could take advantage of the .22WMR ballistic advantage. Unfortunately, when barrel lengths start dropping below six inches, velocity drops dramatically as well. The .22 magnum is also notorious for muzzle blast from a shorter barrel. And, finally, .22WMR bullets are constructed for best results at higher velocities. The Velocitors from a rifle might be a better choice than the magnum-loaded revolver despite the ballistic similarity just because the projectile is working more within its designed velocity boundaries.

What if someone redesigned the now nearly venerable .22WMR for maximum performance out of a firearm with a mere two inch barrel? That would be quite a package. The recently introduced Kel-Tec PMC-30 has a four inch barrel and a 30-round capacity in .22WMR. North American Arms has long produced diminutive revolvers for the rimfire magnum. Double barrel derringers chambered for this round are also available. Smith & Wesson makes small double-action revolvers for it. Except for the Kel-Tec, these are weapons you can drop in your pants pocket around the house, while working on the farm, in the yard or garden.

Manufacturers like Hornady and Speer have, consequently, developed short-barrel friendly .22 magnum cartridges to address the perceived market demand. Both the rounds listed above have muzzle velocities from sub-two inch test barrel of around 1000 fps. Muzzle blast and flash are reduced. Additionally, the projectiles are built for maximum performance at lower velocities.

We are talking about a very compact firearm that can consistently deliver performance equivalent to subsonic rounds from a .22LR rifle, but loaded with a projectile that enhances penetration and terminal destruction. It is a significant move forward in ammunition technology. This is not to say that anyone would deliberately choose to face a life-and-death situation armed with a miniature .22 WMR revolver. Their appeal and utility rests in their size and convenience. They are not a burden to carry, so a person is more likely to have the weapon when it is needed.

Ammunition like Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel and Hornady Critical Defense makes getting the best possible performance out of a pocket pistol a little easier and a little more certain.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lighten the Load

Instead of talking about the gear and goods we have or need to acquire, it might be prudent to consider all we have that we don’t need. From a material perspective, one of the things we need to get rid of is debt. At this point, the long-held belief that having a mortgage on a house is not really debt can be seen as the fantasy that it is. Unsecured debt is worse than secured debt but not by much. Given current circumstances, I would not go into debt for anything if I could at all avoid it. Unimproved farm land, depending on where it is located, might be the exception. Even then I would try not to borrow more than fifty percent of the value. That is, if I couldn’t put at least fifty percent down, I’d pass.

Do you own anything that is high-maintenance? Anything that sucks up your time and resources? Anything that occupies your thoughts even when you are not working on it? No, I mean besides your wife. Is there anything you have that renders too much of your time unproductive? For me, sometimes, it is the internet. In fact there are specific sites that I go to – product reviews, anything with lists -- that just eat my time, and I have no idea where it has gone. I am taking those sites off my bookmarks. That doesn’t mean I will forget about them, but it does mean that I have to think about it a little bit before I go there.

Another monumental time-waster for most of us is television, still. You can waste plenty of time on broadcast television. I have several digital channels. Sometimes I’ll watch a few minutes of one show or another with my wife. What I no longer have is a satellite bill. I saw a few good movies on the satellite dish, but mostly I saw “Mythbusters”, “Dirty Jobs”, and the same stupid network shows that I could get on broadcast for nothing. I’m not suggesting anyone cut their cable or dump the dish but rather consider the value derived from it and exercise some discretion and self-control.

Perhaps you have an old car that’s a money-pit, or some “hobby” or habit. I am tempted to pick on golf – a game I have never played and only watched once because the beer was in the room with a bunch of golfers. Instead of taking up golf, I decided to give up drinking.

Again, I am not suggesting that people give up the things they enjoy or that we all renounce materialism and live like hermits. What I suggest is that we take inventory and look at the reasons we do things or have things relative to the cost of doing and having those things. Evaluate the benefits. If a person really enjoys golf and benefits from it physically and mentally, then he should continue it – while seeking professional help. We all need recreation – that is, a space and an activity in which we can rebuild ourselves. Anything that gets us off the couch and out in the open air is probably good. However I don’t want to spend money just to be trendy. It’s the reason I never have Starbucks unless somebody else is buying. I know how to make good coffee, and I can make it for a couple of weeks and drink all day for the price of a couple of coffee-shop double expressos. Don’t even get me started on all that sugary, foamy crap.

It’s like these cooking shows on television. Do you have to do all that? I eat to live rather live to eat. What’s with all the blending of flavors and presentation? I am either hungry and want to eat, or I am not. Would I rather have porterhouse than flank steak? Of course – all other things being equal. But, for crying out loud, burn the son-of-a-gun, let me eat it, clean up the mess, and let’s get out of the stupid kitchen. There is such a thing as the law of diminishing returns.

And, really, that’s my point. Some of the stuff we do just smacks a little too much of decadence. Not enough of us are educating ourselves, building our skills, improving our health, investing in the means of production, and engaging in actual productive work. I ain’t nobody’s mama, and it is not my job to tell other people what to do. We already have way too much of that from the state. I just want people to think for themselves about value and capital versus consumption.

“…let us lay aside every weight … and run with endurance the race that is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

All Your Pensions Are Belong To Us

Just in case you haven't seen this bit of government piracy.

Full disclosure: I stole my title from Denninger's comment section. By the way, if you are wondering, the "IRA" reference there is a double entendre.

There is a lot of money in 401k's and IRA's in the United States. I fully expect that at some point it will be confiscated. After all, those of us who were responsible enough not to blow all our wages on iPods, iPads, and leased Beemers should be willing to share with those who did. In lieu of reaping the benefits of our saving and investing, we will be given a monthly lifetime annuity payment which we will not, of course, be able to bequeath to our children or grandchildren.

This will be done to "save Social Security". The younger generation will rejoice -- for a while. The older people are too old to fight back. If we try to empty our accounts, we will simply be scalped for 40% after having made the sacrifices and taken the risks.

Welcome to socialism, suckers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


See Goldman's May 3rd and his May 4th posts on Inner Workings.

David Goldman is rather doggedly holding to his deflationary line. It is true that trillions of dollars disappeared in 2008 in the collapse of multiples. It is true that housing continues to deflate, or at least not inflate. It is true that banks are not anxious to make loans, and, more importantly, consumers are not interested in taking on debt, for the most part.

The reality is that food and fuel prices are rising dramatically and causing other costs to rise. The rise in fuel is a function of a deliberately weakened dollar -- with some speculation. Commodities have inflated because they are a hedge against inflation. No one is really making much money on them, and some slippage in gold and silver prices has occurred in the last couple of days.

The rise in prices for basic necessities -- food and transportation -- does have a deflationary vector to it. It puts pressure on people to spend less on non-essentials. The fear of inflation causes people who have cash to save more of it. Money is not being multiplied except in commodities.

Personally, I'm praying for deflation. Governments need to face the reality of "living within their means". Obviously, it is not politically popular or expedient to tell the truth. We can do our part by supporting those political leaders who show honesty and courage in dealing with the deficit realistically. CLUE: Giving away more money, making ridiculous promises, shredding the Constitution, and trying to shift the problem off to someone else two or four years down the road is not being honest and courageous.

Things You Never Knew You Needed

A bulletproof clipboard?

The last time I carried a clipboard was in maybe 1971. I suppose you could stick it in your laptop bag. Do you hold it in front of your head or over your heart?

"Come on, everybody! Get down behind this clipboard!"

If a person frequently carries a clipboard for some reason, it might as well be bulletproof.

Next up, bulletproof Bibles for preachers.

Bulletproof bedpans for orderlies.

Bulletproof aprons for chefs.

Bulletproof trays for waitstaff.

Bulletproof bling for pimps.

Call me when they have a bulletproof smart-phone cover.