Survivalism – ready for what?

Maybe it was hearing about Zombie walk yesterday in Dublin, or maybe it was worrying about the consequences of the US’ upcoming self inflicted economic meltdown, but I found myself reading about Survivalism on Wikipedia. This is the whole idea of being prepared for the worst if/when civilization takes a tumble. As a movement I guess the extreme is a paranoid stockpiling several years of food in his bunkers beside the gun collections as he waits for the end of civilization from one of various means (Y2K, nuclear war, peak oil, economic collapse, zombies, etc).

There is a more rational side to survivalism though. In a lot of places around the world people are advised to have temporary stockpiles for the worst. The standard seems to be to have a Bug Out Bag (BOB) good for you and your family for 72 hours. You would fill it with food, basic medicine, and nick-nacks like radio, flash light, batteries and so on.

Personally I have 2 questions about a BOB. What would I need one for, and then what should go in it? Living in Ireland we are pretty spoiled when it comes to the risks of the natural world. We don’t have to worry about earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, governmental instability or invasion. Our storms rarely cause much significant disruption and people tend to get good notice to be prepared. Can you remember the last time you had difficulty getting bread or milk after an Atlantic blow? It’s probably only snow that we need to worry about. It’s rare enough an event that if we get a big dump the country can go to pieces. And remembering the big snow of 1982 I can see how having 3 days of food stockpiled would remove one thing to worry about.

The next thing then is what to hold. I’d start by putting all my camping gear into one or two boxes, for quick transport to the car if I did need to do a runner. Then there is the question of food. You can get lists and so on talking about the general items – radios, batteries, food, drink etc. But the practicalities of it intrigue me. Take water – 3 litres per person per day for drinking, and 2 for washing. Family of 4 for 3 days – 60 litres. But can you really leave it there for 6 months without it spoiling? Then there is food. What would you pick that will feed you for 3 days, is not too bulky, is relatively easy to prepare, and will keep for about 12 months? The militaries of the world have done plenty of work there, and you can get MREs with enough food for one for a day or so for about €10, cheaper if you buy by the box. Except while I am not fussy I don’t think the ladies of my house would be too keen on eating that sort of food for 3 days. I can see my BOB containing pasta, cereals, tins, and dried fruit. Better make sure there is a good can opener, and plenty of loo roll in there too then so.

Women and girls.

I don’t know how much longer this will be accessible behind the Sunday Times’ paywall, but this is a funny and insightful explanation of how to handle women, derived from watching a 2 year old. I must remember this stuff for when Rosemary is a little older.

House keeping

If you are the attentive sort you will have seen some changes here this morning. I did a site backup last night and upgraded to WordPress 3.01. As I was doing some fiddling I thought I should tweak a few things. As often happens when you pull one thread you never know how much work you will end up with.

I started by installing NextGen Gallery to handle images. I want to move away from using Flickr and take greater control over my files. NextGen seems like the best tool to work with WordPress. It has a random image rotator for the sidebar, but getting it to work meant turning on widgets. And of course my old sidebar wasn’t compatible. A little work fixed that.

The biggest problem there was getting the formatting and style sheets sorted. I ended up using the excellent Firebug plugin for FireFox to debug what was going on. I wish I had a tool like it when I was coding web pages for a living way back when! The CSS reference site was pretty important as well.

With the formatting sorted, the only problem then was the quote rotator. It doesn’t have a WordPress plugin, and it doesn’t seem to be maintained any more. So I needed a new one. A quick search turned up Quotes Collection which has all the features I am looking for.

Thank to the joys of WordPress these things are all easy to install. The problem now is moving my content (150 quotes, 20 Flickr sets, and whatever other photos I want to move from my old hodgepodge of storage setups). That is going to take me a few days, but as I am off computer games for the month of August that should not be a problem.

The only thing I am missing now is my TripIt badge for the sidebar. I might work on that at lunch time.

My budget analysis – Part 1

Although I am living in Austria, I remain an Irish taxpayer, so I have been following the budget discussions going on back home. Over the weekend there was a report about Social Welfare, Education and Health to take the biggest cuts in the upcoming budget. I didn’t see reaction pieces, but I am sure the opposition wheeled out their usual condemnations of attacks on the most vulnerable, blah blah blah.

I like to base my opinions on data myself, so I have been taking to time to go through the Department of Finance’s own figures. I started with the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and I am in the process of working through the much larger Book of Estimates.

I am still crunching all the numbers, but I thought I would share what I have found so far. First up, receipts and expenditures:
Irish Goverment 2010 Receipts and Expenditure

Irish Government estimates for 2010 Receipts and Expenditure –

As you can see we are planning to spend around €50Bn this year, but will only take in about €35Bn. And that is before capital spending. So there is a massive hole to be filled there. The targeted cuts for next year are €3Bn which will still leave a huge gap. Next question, where is the money going?

This is a breakdown by government department/organisation. Most people can probably guess who the big spenders are, but did you know what proportion of the overall spending that represents?
Irish Goverment 2010 Expenditure estimates

Irish Government estimates for 2010 Expenditure –

Just 4 things account for 74% of all government spending. Personally I didn’t realise how big a chunk of the pie debt funding is (9%). If you look at the other 26% there are some big areas like the Garda Síochana €1.5Bn, Enterprise Trade and Employment €1.1Bn or Contribution to the EU €1.5Bn, but each of them is only 2-3% of the overall budget. Everyone loves beating up the residents of the Dáil for their spending, but the Oireachtas Commission’s budget is €118m or 0.23% of the overall state. If they were working for free the savings wouldn’t make a dent in the €15Bn shortfall.

Having had a first look at the size of the hole to be plugged, and where the money goes today, is it any wonder that “Social welfare, education and health to take biggest hit in Budget”?

Hopefully I will get part 2 of this analysis up in the next few days. I want to break out at a lower level where the money goes and split it into 4 categories:

  • Salaries & Pensions – how much goes on civil servants, doctors, teachers, nurses etc.
  • Administration – the cost of running all the organs of the state.
  • Direct Payments – how much is given to citizens directly as cheques.
  • Providing Services – the cost of running schools, hospitals, prisons etc.

I want to see this breakdown, because I am keen to see how much money theoretically could be saved by “efficiency”, versus cutting benefits and government salaries. Watch this space.

New quote

It is a while since I put a new quote into my rotator, but I found this one over the weekend:

All models are wrong, but some are useful

- George E. P. Box

As a person who started their career as an Engineer, and now is a business consultant who spends a lot of time in spreadsheets I can’t agree more.

Link changing

Why use TinyUrl to shorten a link, when you can use ShadyUrl to make it look dodgy?

It turned the link to this post from into–INITIATE-CREDIT-CARD-XFER– which is far more fun.

Power corrupts…

…because the powerful feel they are entitled to it. A report in the Economist on some interesting behavioural research.

I am shorn

I have just had my first Austrian haircut, and it didn’t go too badly. At first I had a bit of trouble trying to figure out where I could get my flowing locks cut. My wanderings around the city hadn’t shown me anything that looked like a men’s barber. The locals in work let me know that here hairdressers tend to do both men and women.

It’s a scary experience walking into a hair salon for the first time in your life, when it is in a foriegn country, and you don’t speak the language. I think it also was the first time (since I took responsibility for getting my own hair cut) I had to make an appointment to get shorn.

They did find me an English speaking operative, so that made the next hurdles a bit easier – explaining that, I don’t want a cup of coffee, or a hair wash, and you can put away the scissors, just bring the clippers. This didn’t cause the consternation I had feared (or seen when I asked for the same thing in Beijing a few years ago), but they didn’t understand me when I asked for a “blade 2″ cut.

After a bit of trial and error the two of us figured out that I wanted a 6mm top, and a 3mm back and sides (I need to remember that). Things went pretty well after that, and I was pleasently surprised that it only cost me €15 in the end. That isn’t too bad a price even by Irish standards.

Now I just need to make sure I keep my hat on at all times, as 3-6mm of hair is not sufficient for the -7°C cold we have here!

The Portable PC troubleshooting kit

Worth knowing about all of these. And I must check out Zback as a backup tool.


For when when I have an office to do it justice, I want a brass orrery.
Roy Mallett Orrery
The big one of course :-)

Here is another link to one.

Next »