Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Biography of the Day: Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, 1856 – 1943, was a complicated genius whose work, among other things, made possible our commercial AC electrical supply system, wireless communication, radar, remote controls, wireless power transmission, and spark plugs. Born in Serbia, he finished school early and went on to study electrical engineering in Austria. After three years, he dropped out and cut relations with his family. His friends believed that he had drowned. He moved to Slovenia, suffered a nervous breakdown, briefly attended a university in Prague, then went to work as an engineer in Paris and finally the US.

Offered a great deal of money to solve a problem for Thomas Edison, he did so. Edison broke his word and refused to pay him, so he resigned and worked for a time as a ditch digger as he continued his experiments. One of them was seized and torn down because of suspicion that it was being used by German spies. He once ripped up a Westinghouse contract that would have made him the world's first billionaire, because he thought that power should be free, and because he didn't want to deal with creditors if Westinghouse went out of business. He and Edison feuded until the end of their days, and it probably cost both of them Nobel Prizes.

Tesla was a sickly man with many quirks and phobias. He was fastidious about cleanliness and had a pathological fear of germs. He wore white gloves and declined to shake hands. He was physically revolted by pearl earrings, and obsessed with the number three (he circled buildings three times before entering, and wouldn't stay in a room without a three in its number) and with pigeons (he fed them daily with special seeds). He spoke eight languages, was a connoisseur of art, poetry, philosophy and food, was passionate about billiards, chess and cards. He was "sweet, sincere, modest and generous". He openly expressed disgust to overweight people, and sent employees home to change if he didn't like their clothes. He was painfully introverted, and yet a great showman. He memorized entire books. He never slept longer than two hours. He often spent more than two days straight at gaming tables, and once worked 84 hours without sleep. He was ambivalent about women, and none played a part in his life aside from a mysterious relationship with the daughter of J.P. Morgan. He claimed that chastity was an important component of his scientific abilities. He believed that man's sense of pity interfered with the workings of nature and advocated sterilization of the unfit to offset it.

In middle age, Tesla became a close friend of Mark Twain, who spent a great deal of time in his lab. In his later years, he became extremely sensitive to light and noise, converted to vegetarianism, decided that women were the dominant sex, and predicted that humanity would eventually be ruled by "Queen Bees". He believed that he was visited daily by a specific white pigeon that gave his life meaning. When it died, his work stopped.

Tesla died broke in a NY hotel room. His pallbearers were Nobel Prize winners. The US government seized his private papers and classified them Top Secret. He had been involved in a lawsuit claiming that he had invented the radio, not Marconi. Shortly after his death, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who imports food and who exports it?

This information was condensed from a report by 'Stratfor Global Intelligence'.

Corn, rice, wheat and soybeans are the world's most important food staples.

Corn and soybean exports are dominated by the Western Hemisphere, and wheat by the Northern Hemisphere. Asia accounts for most rice, which is the most easily destabilized of the key staples due to its sensitivity to rainfall.

Ninety countries import corn, but only four export it in significant quantities: The United States, Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine.

The largest rice producer by far is China, but they consume most of their production domestically. The top exporters of rice in order of rank are Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan and the United States.

Most of the wheat export market is dominated by ten entities: the United States, Australia, Russia, Canada, the European Union, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Turkey and Uruguay. China is by far the largest producer of wheat, but as with rice, consumes almost all it produces.

The US, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina are the largest exporters of soybeans. China imports more than 60 percent of globally traded soy, and has been stockpiling in anticipation of future supply fluctuations.

Reading between the lines here, it's easy to see that America still "feeds the world". It's also easy to envision domestic unrest in import-reliant China when future food shortages and price increases occur.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Actual Emails from a Crazy Stepsister:

"Sending God's Peace, Love and Forgiveness to open the hearts. Remember healing begins from within...when there is forgiveness, love moves in, when there is love, peace fills you ♥ Be open to receive...This is your gift!

Meditation to open your chakras with energy ♥ Enjoy

Imagine your energy body… see the energy flowing up and down your spine through your chakras.

Visualize your chakras as lotus blossoms with their petals all upturned and the energy flowing strongly to the point between your eyebrows.

Feel this visual increasing the flow of energy within you and all around you.

Feel that it purifies the energy flowing through you.

Now see the energy flowing down to your palms and out to the entire world."
"Feeling so alive, so awakened....moving further into a spirit of love and compassion...Inner peace and beauty...join me in this place of Oneness, you arewelcomed here. Shanti Shanti Shanti."

"Everyday I am invisible to all forms of low energies and negative influences in all universes, dimensions and realities. Are you?"

"I'm loving the road I'm on with God...inspiring, healing, peaceful ♥ Are you feeling the love? Breathe it into your being ♥ Send love to your day ahead and remember to stop and catch the miracles."
"Any cancer can be cured in weeks. The quacks are the medical doctors that only see $$$$ for cures and treat symptoms, not the source of what caused the illness which is emotional and held in the cellular memory. if they really cared they would use eastern medicine's that are natural. Yes cancer caused by emotions (and poisions) and so are many other illnesses and it's not hereditary (western medicine doesn't want people to know, they'd lose a lot money). I know many who have been cured naturally with herbs and freed themselves emotionally and it hasn't returned, and I know others that haven't been freed emotionally and it returned elsewhere in their body because of anger that they can't let go ofEveryday I allow all my cells to be at the perfect frequency of health & natural balance, and in alignment with Source energy. (Repeat and feel your cells heal). Namaste."

"I am in perfect alignment with Source energy with the correct frequencies of health for my entire well-being."
"I've begun my journey, it is taking me to where I am suppose to be. My spirit soars. I hold my own key. I love."
"Everyday choose to vibrate at the high frequencies of love, peace, joy and gratitude. Love from the infinite-self to attract true love: You will allow the love of your life to enter into your reality, or it will further deepen the connection with the love you are with. If the one you are with is not aligned with your true self of purpose, you will joyfully attract one that is.To grow further into our higher selves it is necessary to learn all the lessons from past mistakes in all lifetimes no matter how hard it is. Through forgiveness and love you will rise. Peace."

"God is leading me further down my path...moving forward as a Holistic Health Practitioner and into Bachelor of Spiritual Healing. Peace starts within us- we cannot bring to the world what we do not have to offer. Tears."

"My birthing into my higher self rises me out of the waters darkness into the light where I love myself and all creation unconditionally. ~~ Namaste"

"My morning routine was postponed and I'm felt out of sync. Totally gave myself a crystal chakra balance to make up for it....Ahhhhh! To enhance your quality of life, bring your vibrational energy into alignment with source energy. To have a transformation of consciousness and spiritual awakening is through God's love, peace, bliss and freedom. The Journey of Awakening is awakening to your full soul potential and to your Divine magificence...do you choose to awaken? Until you accept responsibility for where you are, your life will not move forward.

You are where you are ––-emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally and financially––-because of the choices you have made. Isn't it time to find out how you can improve your life? Message me if you are ready for a complete transformation. Shanti"

"Allow me to introduce you to your greatest enemy....meet your ego. EGO- Edging God Out Meet the devil."

"It is said that one does not meet their Twin Soul or Twin Flame until they have learned many lessons of love, loss and forgiveness through close Soul Mate relationships, that the heart is made resilient and strong through pain and loss, and must be so to face the intensity of being with the other half of their soul. Peace ~ Shanti ♥"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Improvised Pack Frames

At one of Mors Kochanski's wilderness skills courses some years ago, I made an improvised pack frame from three sticks. Such a frame is an ancient concept that was re-invented by Mors' friend and mentor Tom Roycroft, who was an instructor at a Canadian Department of National Defense survival school.

'Ötzi the Iceman', the 5,300 year-old copper-age man who popped out of a glacier in the Italian alps in 1991, had something similar. His was a U-shaped rod of hazel with two cross-pieces of larch, bound together with grass string and with a hide sack attached.

This one's made from three Moosewood, or Striped Maple sticks. They're easy to work when green, and become quite strong when dry. You can see how the rope is routed to form shoulder straps and then hooked around the bottom corners to form a waist belt. This frame worked pretty well, but I thought it could be improved.

Here's version two. I found a nicely-curved persimmon branch (one of my favorite woods, beautiful as it ages and darkens) and a couple straight black spruce saplings. When I lashed them together with constrictor knots, I left the ends long to facilitate lashing on loads. The side sticks protrude enough beyond their lashing at the top to hang a canteen, pot or jacket from. A small crosspiece allows some adjustment for the shoulder 'straps' and adds strength and rigidity. My hiking staff (or any stick) fits in the small triangle it creates for carrying over-the-shoulder like a hobo's bindle-stick for variety. Haven't tried a tump-line, but that would undoubtedly work, too.

Here it is with my hiking staff run through the top triangle and propped up on a tree branch, ready to have a tarp thrown over it for a very quick shelter. Between the carrying rope and the lashing lines, there's plenty of cordage to secure things.

Ready for a hike with a wool blanket, Tyvek ground cloth, and an aluminized G.I. casualty blanket wrapped up in a canvas 'Zeltbahn', and with a teapot hanging on top. (A Zeltbahn is a triangular German shelter quarter that also serves as a poncho.)

If you load it so that a soft "bubble" protrudes on the inside, it's more comfortable against your back than just the sticks. Padding under the shoulder ropes also helps - I used an extra pair of socks on this hike.

I'm pleased with this, although I may make a third one just to refine the dimensions a bit more and to shave off a few more ounces with smaller-diameter sticks. The frame, groundcloth, tarp, wool blanket and aluminized blanket all together don't weigh much more than my winter hiking boots, and with a few Balsam tips as a mattress and a fire in front would make a very cozy shelter. I'll do an overnight in the near future and report back.

The Most Dangerous Cities

According to the US Department of State, the ten most dangerous cities in the world in 2011 were:

1. Bogata. Kidnapping and drugs.
2. Juarez. Closing in on 3,000 murders per year. Used to be a fun place to visit when I was in flight school just yesterday.
3. St. Louis. We made the top three! USA! USA!
4. Port-au-Prince. The entire city is literally controlled by criminals. Been there many times, wouldn't want to get caught out after dark without a platoon of Marines.
5. Mogadishu. Banditry and rival warlords.
6. Caracas, Hugo's socialist paradise. It actually used to be a lovely city, now that hostility to Americans is officially encouraged, I don't even leave the hotel.
7. Port Moresby. As if the tsunamis, earthquakes and landslides aren't enough.
8. Grozny, Chechnya. Still rubble after the Russians destroyed it in the 1990's.
9. Santo Domingo. This one surprises me. They'll steal anything they can lift, but I've never felt personally threatened there.
10. Muzaffarabad, Kashmir. When the Pakis and Indians go at it with nukes it'll move to the top of the list.

According to the FBI's annual crime statistics report for 2010 (2011 hasn't been published yet) the most violent cities in America are:

1. Flint, Michigan
2. Detroit
3. St. Louis
4. New Haven, Connecticut
5. Memphis
6. Oakland
7. Little Rock
8. Baltimore
9. Rockford, Illinois
10. Stockton, California

I've been to fifteen of the above twenty cities. I've spent many days in seven of them. I lived for a decade in one of them. I have memories of standing on a hill in Stoney Creek park with my dad and watching Detroit burn during the riots of 1967. One of my best friends lives in St. Louis and I visit him at least once a year. We stay clear of East St. Louis, the rest of the city isn't bad. My job regularly takes me to Port-au-Prince, Caracas and Santo Domingo. I'm surprised New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia didn't make the lists, they've tingled my antennae as much as anywhere else. What they all have in common is a criminal, ghetto culture that's deliberately and actively hostile to Americans and/or whites. I wouldn't live within a gas tank's drive of any of them, even if it meant taking a low-paying job. Things can only get worse as high unemployment rates linger, inflation decreases purchasing power, welfare programs go broke and our leaders all the way up to the president encourage class envy and a sense of entitlement.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Simple ways to use whole wheat berries

I think wheat is the most bang-for-the-buck as far as storage foods go. It's not just the "staff of life" and all that, it's inexpensive in bulk, versatile and easy to store, and with a longer palatable shelf life than almost anything but sugar and salt. Wheat does not need to be stored in a low-oxygen environment, but a couple weeks of such an atmosphere will ensure that no bugs are present. We pack ours in PETE bottles with oxygen absorbers.

I love fresh, hot bread, but hand-grinding wheat berries for flour is labor-intensive, time-consuming work.

So I've been using them in three additional ways:

Soaked overnight like beans, then baked into a bannock, usually along with rolled oats, too. Really good.

Soaked overnight, then boiled. An alternative to rice or barley. Tasty side dish with a little sea salt or hot sauce.

Sprouts. Soak and drain, then rinse a couple times a day until they germinate. Supposedly spouting enhances the nutritional qualities of seeds. If nothing else, it's variety.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Portugal raids pension funds to meet deficit targets"

That's a headline from the UK Telegraph, 2 Dec 2011
Why wasn't it front-page news all over the world? Why isn't Lisbon burning? Are the citizens of Portugal as oblivious to what's going on as we are? Maybe they just don't speak Bureaucrat, so I'll translate:

"The cabinet agreed to transfer the assets ... to the state balance sheet"
The people who actually owned the assets didn't agree. They weren't even consulted.

"The assets will be used to bridge a gap needed to meet the fiscal deficit target..."
I'd like to use someone else's assets to bridge a gap in my fiscal target, but I'm afraid of going to prison for what is commonly called "theft".

"This measure is more than sufficient to meet the budget deficit goal in 2011," said Helder Rosalino, secretary of state for central administration…"

Thanks, suckers.

"Portugal said it had informed the EU and IMF and assured them it would be a “one-off”. However the 2010 budget was met by shifting three pension plans from Portugal Telecom on to the public social security system."
They pinky-swear they'll only make you bend over once, even though they've already done it twice.

"The liabilities don’t count, yet."
This is what in the private sector is known as "accounting fraud".

Pay attention, Greece and now Portugal are traveling a well-worn path, and we're not that far behind them. Our national debt is now greater than our GDP, and if you pay income taxes, you are now a minority. 51% of us are riding in the wagon while the other 49% of us pull it. I've lost hope that we can avoid an economic disaster; the only question in my mind is how long we can put it off.

Use the time you have to learn as much as you can about being self-reliant, and to put away the things that will be more valuable than hyper-inflated dollars.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Natural Sea Sponges

Started using natural sponges decades ago for cleaning horse tack. The softest and most dense are "silk" sponges from the Mediterranean. Caribbean silk and 'wool' sponges are pretty good, too, and less expensive. Then I gradually started using them for washing cars, and in the shower. Now I like to take one with me on camping trips, for bailing the last bit of water from a kayak or canoe, for bathing and then drying off, for applying white vinegar as a deodorant, for mopping up spills in a tent, etc.

They have a place along with clear plastic bags for procuring water in a desert. I've collected dew a few times just for giggles. Try it, it's surprisingly efficient - only a few minutes to fill a cup.

Sea sponges weigh less and are more versatile than towels. They feel better and work better than synthetics. They can be sustainably harvested. The only downside is that good ones are pricey. If you shop around on the internet you can find decent deals, but there are some retailers who are unscrupulous about grading. And of course you can't personally pick out the nicely shaped ones. If you get a color choice, go for dark. Light means bleached and therefore less durable.

We're hoping to take a vacation in Greece during the "window of opportunity" between when the Euro melts down and the dollar does. I'm nursing a fantasy about bringing home a suitcase full of perfect hand-selected specimens.