Thursday, August 27, 2015

Not About Racism, Not About Guns, It's About Mental Illness

Anchor Parker, and Cameraman Ward, in happier times.    I have not published the photographs of the killer because I don't believe we should glorify what they have done to others who may be mentally ill.

        I have so little confidence in standard American news that I wasn't watching so I didn't hear about the on air Roanoke area shooting until Euronews brought it to me.  It was surreal to see such a thing announced by a European news outlet speaking of an area I recognized,  not all that far from where I live. Smith Mountain Lake is a lovely area.  Of course, the Euronews has an agendic spin......... Implied is "See what happens when mere humans are allowed to have guns?".   My answer would be, "why in the US, where police often can't get out to such a vast area, would you ever have a remote broadcast without having your own handgun ?"  I live in this area, and in all honesty, if I can't go somewhere with a concealed weapon, I won't go there.  A high end jeweler at Christmastime last year was upset when I rang the bell to enter, and when I saw the handguns prohibited sign returned to my car. She followed me out to the car thinking that I had waited too long to have the door opened. I told her that I have a concealed weapons permit and it would be unsafe for me to leave my weapon in the car, security system or not, so I won't ever be able to shop in her store. It is not safe for most women to be out in the world without a weapon, and without sufficient training to use it properly. We hear about mentally unstable people who use guns to murder people in an active shooter scenario. We don't hear about the ever growing number of abductions, rapes and murders that are prevented when the potential victim pulls a weapon and improves or equalizes their own chance of survival.

                      The assailant in the Roanoke shooting was named Vester Flanagan.  He had worked as a a television announcer a few years ago at the station in question, and used the on air name Bryce Williams.  From information he faxed to other news outlets in advance of the shooting, he felt that he had been fired a few years ago from his television job as a result of prejudice against gay men and against blacks.(His words, not my own)  Several sources claim the man "had anger issues".   Apparently, although the man in his early forties had worked in other jobs since, his firing was a festering wound which furthur deteriorated his mental state.  News reports say that  he bought a gun a couple of days after the Charleston church shooting, and his statements indicate that he feared attacks against blacks.  How ironic that a man who said he feared racial violence killed a twenty-four year old young news reporter and a twenty-seven year old cameraman who are reported to have been the very best of friends. He perpetrated the very type of insane violence and injustice he feared !  He also shot the woman they had been interviewing, in the back.

                    Mental illness isn't confined to people who have been fired from a job. It isn't confined to gays. It isn't confined to blacks. The internet age may enhance the mental deterioration of some of these mentally ill individuals as it may leave them less actual contact with other human beings.  Years ago, a withdrawn or persistently angry person would have had contact with a friend or relative who would have told them it was time to get help.  The internet may add an extra veil for these people, sometimes even validating the mentally unhealthy perspectives and disordered thinking they usually exhibit.

                 It's ironic that our first biracial president has done more to underscore racial differences than we could have imagined.  In many parts of Virginia, whites and blacks work together well. Biracial families are common, although the white spouses are often targets of nasty comments by black women who think the pool of black men should be left for them.  Mr. Obama has had even those who were adapted and thriving wondering if racism has impacted their lives.

                 The answer is not to furthur restrict guns allowing the very people who need to protect themselves to have fewer options.  Perhaps the answer in this case is to educate employers that when you fire someone, that a security contractor should speak with them in a terminal interview.  People who perpetrate violence either just after a firing or some time after are usually assessed at high risk for doing so IF they have come to the attention of s savvy security contractor. The field is called protective intelligence and threat assessment. People who are going to act out after a firing usually give pretty clear indications that they aren't operating normally.  The fact that when fired, Mr. Flanagan or Williams if he is on air, wouldn't leave the premises until the police were called to escort him.  This was a bloody red flag.

  One of the best companies for threat assessment work is:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When You Talk About Preparedness With Children

Photo:  ten year old boy  )

              I have long said that children should be incorporated into your routine preparations for everything from Winter weather to earthquakes etc.  When approached positively and included, even the most sensitive child will get the message that mom and dad love them so much that every reasonable effort is being made to keep them safe and that everything will be okay. Children should not only know something about preparedness, but they should know that their parents have contingency plans and that the unexpected would not leave them without food or alone without adult supervision and protection.

              A couple of weeks ago, a little girl known to us heard from some family friends some really frightening extreme theories as to what might happen when Mr. Obama is due to leave the White House.  The little girl is young, sensitive, and bright enough to have an imagination.  She is now traumatized by the words of people who are adults.......and in her mind, should know what is going to happen.

Emmeline   ( )

             With this in mind, think very carefully as to how you present your concerns to children.  Consider their age and their developmental level.  Consider whether you are dealing with a child with a particularly vivid imagination or a child who has anxiety already from another source. There are some children who should simply know that you are gathering canned goods "in case the weather is bad and you can't easily get out to get food".  For some children, too much detail concerning future possibilities is clearly damaging.   As adults, we all know that financial collapse, job loss, the loss of a home, a house fire, are all possibilities. However, we make reasonable contingency plans and then we set these worries aside, for the most part.   A child does not yet have the ability to assess reasonable possibilities and stack them in order of likelihood.  In order to reach their adult potential, children need to have a period of time during childhood in which they feel safe, and as if "nothing could happen".

              Years ago in the nineteen-sixties, when I was a young child, we learned in school that Halley's Comet would be making an appearance in the nineteen-eighties. I was very interested in science in those years.  A short while after, I watched a television program which postulated that Halley's was actually solid and that next time it came to Earth, it would collide with it, and most probably end life on this planet. As a tiny child I lacked the skepticism and perspective necessary to set this aside.  For an entire week, I was quiet and depressed, thinking of the world ending when I would be a young adult. I remember thinking that my parents knew this and were just carrying on with life as normal for their children's sake.  Finally, on a Sunday morning I mentioned this to my father, who somehow resisted laughing out loud.  He explained to me all the reasons that Halley's decimating Earth was extremely unlikely if not impossible. Remember that children, even bright children can get mistaken impressions about the world.  Make sure that you have an ongoing dialogue with your child or grandchildren so that their mistaken or frightening impressions have a chance to be debugged.    Hug them and help them to see that every last breath of your own will be spent in helping them stay happy and healthy, whatever the emergency or inconvenience.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Adventures in Upcycling: Can You Build A Greenhouse Box ?

        This is not my own creation, but I love it when someone takes materials they have on hand and creatively meshes them to repurpose and then upcycle something that not only looks great but adds new possibilities and an expanded role from the original.      The owner of these left over windows took a rolling cart, and placed windows on three sides and a top with a wooden back and base. The top is a window which is hinged and therefore opens.  These pictures show the greenhouse box as a decorative item housing flowers but most of us would love to have one of these to grow tomatoes, lettuce or to lengthen the growing season for anything we routinely grow, such as herbs.  I suppose you could also grow sprouts the way so many of us do on a kitchen window sill.

           This miniature greenhouse is surprisingly large inside and this opens up a number of possibilities.

It's small size coupled with the wheels on the undercarriage mean that this particular greenhouse can be moved taking advantage of the light, or being covered or moved away from it when the sun is too hot, as is so often the case where I am.

Make sure you hinge a lid which is strong and make opening easy.

      Now, we have something to do with the older windows which are so often replaced with metal framed or double paned glass.

 This is not only a handy and attractive object to make or have yourself, but would be a wonderful gift to a gardener who has cut back as he or she has aged.

            Next time you are visiting a garage sale, a Goodwill store, or a Habitat outlet and you see wooden framed  windows very cheaply, you'll know what to do !   Best wishes in all your upcycling adventures.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Perhaps the Double Explosion in China Is More Significant Than We Were Told


 One of the reasons I have developed a skeptical and occasionally cynical outlook where news media is concerned, is through personal experience.  Whenever I have really known about a situation of circumstance in real life, the news, whether local or American national, has covered it with either an inaccurate spin or in such a way that a false impression is given.   Sometimes, the news appears not to cover a gangland style murder perhaps because it might adversely impact real estate values in an upscale neighborhood.  Sometimes, the news will sensationalize an occurrence that was actually simply a medical problem. Many times, there is something very significant going on nationally or internationally, and we hear absolutely nothing about it on American mainstream news. Events which don't support a mainstream media agenda aren't reported on, or if they are, are never updated.

               On August 11, in Tianjin, China, two explosions occurred.  One of them, from video, looked an awful lot like a fiery mushroom cloud. The blasts were picked up by satellites orbiting Earth.  Tianjin is a port city which is home to more than thirteen million people. The explosion destroyed a building and left devastation for at least two miles from the initial explosion area.  At least a hundred and fifty people are dead following the initial blasts.  More than seven hundred are injured. Almost a hundred of them are in critical condition. The families of firefighters have reported them missing, yet the Chinese government does not yet know how many of them are dead or are injured.The government cannot yet offer an estimate of how many people from the area of the port are simply missing.  In addition, a number of large building have been destroyed.  Several thousand new cars which were delivered to the port have been destroyed. A large amount of imported goods and goods slated to be exported from the port have also been destroyed. The port has been closed in an attempt to prevent chemical spillage into the ocean.

                The official word is that the explosion took place in a company who transports a variety of dangerous chemicals.  The military has been called in to aid in the control of fires which have been burning now for two days.   Many of these workers are suited with gas masks.  They are also sampling the air and water in the region.  There are concerns that sodium cyanide gas from the explosion may drift from the region and injure or kill citizens in a broader area.

                Of course, my skeptical mind keeps going.  Were the Chinese really allowing tons of sodium cyanide and other chemicals to be stored in a center with seven million people in close proximity  ?   Was this a storage facility for the precursors of chemical weapons ?   China has recently had some issues with homegrown terrorists. Terrorists from other nations also have some issues with China, especially as they gather rare Earth metals in a number of African nations. Was this a terrorist attack ?  Would anyone really admit any of this, once they identified the cause ?  Is this a practice run for a terrorist attack elsewhere ?  Can we really believe very much of anything told to us via our largest news outlets ?

I am not the only one who thinks this doesn't add up:

Additional information:

                 Just outside the blast zone.   Photo:  Wu Hong /EPA as seen in the UK Guardian

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

From My Other Blog: On Loss and Grief

Peace comes once again.

 The loss of someone we love is a part of being human and it ultimately happens to us all.   These are some of my thoughts from another one of my blogs, on the process of the temporary amnesia we have following the loss of a child or a close family member.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Sugarless Treats Have a Place in Prepping


       Those who subscribe here and know me well know that I have said that I would not become a recipe blog.  There are lots of people, some of them friends who are excellent cooks and I think the recipes should be left to them.  This said, a lot of the things we discuss here, are, shall I say, "off-putting".  A lot of the news lately is discouraging, and this means that you at home, and I should find ways of diverting ourselves on occasion, and considering even just for a moment, more pleasant subjects.

                  As many of you know, one of my adult children has been a juvenile diabetic since age nine, and so we work hard to have at least some sugarless food here for her visits.   In addition, I have found that well made sugarless food can be quite pleasant for me as well.  Sugared foods can cause your own beta cells of your pancreas to unleash insulin, driving appetite, and leaving you seeking the same amount of sugar the following day.   I just keep refined sugars to a minimum because I feel better, when I do.

                  Yesterday, I modified a cake mix recipe in order to make some sugar free mini cupcakes.   The addition of the chocolate chips to the top, in lieu of icing, does make them very slightly sugared, but they are still very low sugar.

                  The reason this is important is that store bought sugar free baked goods are extremely expensive. Making your own and freezing them not only saves you money but it makes it more likely that you will eat properly, treat yourself when appropriate, and then be in the best weight and condition for hiking and the world's emergencies

These can also be iced, but I would not glop too much icing, even if sugar free type.

Low Sugar Cupcakes/Mini muffins


Box Pillsbury Moist Supreme Sugar Free Premium Cake Mix (Either Devil's Food or White Cake)

(Sweetened with Splenda)

¼ cup oil

2 small eggs

cup of water

Hershey's semi sweet chocolate chips      (I used ones that are 70 calories a tablespoon)

Mini cupcake cases (which I placed in mini cupcake tins)

Yields: About 43 mini cupcakes

  1. You will need to divide the cake mix in half. I did this using two bowls and a quarter cup measure, dividing a quarter cup at a time in one bowl and then in another and so on. Save one half of the mix in a freezer bag for next time, and mark it, as such.
  2. Place your cupcake cases in your tin.
  3. Then take your powdered mix into a bowl, add one quarter cup oil, then 2 small eggs. Then add first a half a cup of water and then an eighth of a cup of water. Mix on a medium speed for two minutes. It will become creamy.
  4. Now, heat your oven.
  5. Then fill each cupcake case with the batter, to about one half full using a small cereal spoon.
  6. Then, place three chocolate chips in each cupcake pushing them into the batter slightly. This is time consuming on numerous small cupcakes and this is why I had you set your oven later than we would normally.
  7. Place them into the oven for about nine or ten minutes. Check them often at the end of baking as they will over bake easily.

Made as directed here, each cupcake will be about thirty calories by itself and the three chocolate chips have added an additional seven calories.

A serving would be two cupcakes.

Each serving of two cupcakes 74 calories very little sugar, sodium and saturated fat in this sized serving.

I recommend that you make these periodically and freeze and label them as reduced sugar and with calorie counts. This way, you will have them available when you want one. It is possible to skip the mini cupcake cases if you have the mini tins and spray them with Baker's Secret or other low calorie spray. I think it's a bit neater to use the mini cupcake cases which are available at Wal-Mart.

Don't forget to make the remaining half a mix as mini cupcakes to freeze later. You may also ice these with a moderate amount of Pillsbury's frosting, and freeze them for later use. Don't forget to revise the calorie count if icing them.

I keep a “Mini Cupcake Kit” assembled which has the half mix of Pillsbury Sugar Free cake mix, the Hershey's semi sweet chocolate chips, and mini cup cake cases.

You can experiment with the two different batters by Pillsbury and different types of chips. The Hershey's chips are 70 calories per tablespoon so just be careful to buy some that are similar in total calories.

If placed in a tin these can be a wonderful birthday or Christmas gift to diabetics, or those watching weight, especially if you include a card with the calorie counts and specifics.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Picture Heavy Eye Candy for Preppers


      Well, it's now official.  Canada is in recession.  Greece is still navigating life on the fiscal brink.  Italy, Portugal and others are not far behind.   Puerto Rico is slated to default on its debt today.  No matter where you are the fiscal news is not good.  This said, most of those who are reading this blog have long recognized that financially a lot of the world has been functioning using smoke and mirrors for quite some time, and many of us have already cut back, sold what we could, paid off what was possible, etc.

                So now, the task for many of us becomes staying sane and sensible in an increasingly challenging world where job loss, the loss of homes by friends and family and other issues surface with some regularity.  It also means that we will need to learn to find solace and pleasure in simply inexpensive things, without eating ourselves silly.

                In keeping with a change of pace following all the negative and concerning posts necessity has caused me to bring to you of late, today I am posting some picture heavy eye candy.  I generally receive a lot of positive responses when I post pictures of cabins and cabin interiors as many people seem to find these inspiring and encouraging.

This is a nice functional cabin kitchen.

The same cabin has laundry facilities just off the dining area. This is unconventional, but works in small space.

This is a different cabin entirely, but a tranquil small bath nonetheless.

This is the master bedroom from yet another cabin.

Cabins don't need to impress anyone.  They need to be affordable functional systems for the families who occupy them, either on vacations, in emergencies, or as longer term living alternatives.

                    A cabin can be a place that you and your family move down to either because financially it would be a softer road to hoe, or even because your cabin could be a more favorable jurisdiction in which to homeschool.    Your cabin might be a place your father or grandfather passed to you.  It could be a place you built for simple weekend vacations.   It might also be a place to go where the noise of life itself and the stressors which accompany it may be muted.

                    Best of luck in navigating these times, and in finding simple places and pleasures which aid you and your family in the  recharging which is necessary in meeting life's challenges.  Have a great weekend.