Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What will you give me for this list of great bartering websites?

Historically, the act of bartering has flourished in times of monetary crisis, such as when the currency in a country has become unstable (e.g. Hyperinflation or a deflationary spiral) or currency is simply unavailable for conducting normal purchasing transactions.

It should come as no surprise then, that the number of people using bartering websites has exploded as of late. With more people struggling financially, families are avoiding the department stores and shopping malls and doing their shopping right from their home computers. Of course, in most cases, you can't really call it shopping, because there is no money changing hands.

The benefits of bartering are many and the internet has made it quite simple to find just about anything that you might want, as well as find someone else who is willing to take what you have.

I'm not just talking about books and DVDs. People are willing to barter just about anything. Clothes, vacation homes, laptops and more. I recently saw someone who had a craving for some fresh, homemade cookies and posted an ad, looking for someone local to make and deliver them to her.

You don't have to just barter items. In fact, bartering with your skills can be even more valuable. With the real unemployment numbers hovering above 20%, there are a lot of people who have a lot more time on their hands, than they do money. An out-of-work mechanic can work out a deal to fix someone's brakes in return for haircuts for his entire family. Someone who is trying to get a new business off the ground, and has very little time to clean their house, or maintain their landscaping, can barter their professional services for maid service and lawn care. It's really a beautiful thing when you think about it.

I've scoured the web and have listed some of the many sites that I thought were worthy to check out.

Link what you have with what you want and BarterQuest will help you find someone to trade with.

Most people have now heard of this site, which means there are tons of listings for all sorts of things. Buy and sell pretty much anything, including professional services.

Freecycle allows you to donate items, as well as get stuff for free in your town.

A site where you can buy, sell, and trade clothing, movies, sporting goods, and more.

Trade away the stuff that you don;t use anymore for some stuff that you will use. Earn credits when someone wants something you have and then use your credits to buy something else that someone else has listed.

NeighborGoods allows you to share stuff with your neighbors. From Tools to musical instruments, you can borrow what you need and lend others what they need.

Trade your clothing, accessories, books, and more with others online. This site allows you to join groups where you can also socialize and get fashion, book and green living tips.

ReUseIt Network
A network of sites all around the country where you can find people nearby who want to give stuff away, instead of throwing it away.

Stuff Pal
Still in its BETA phase, this site lets you lend and borrow stuff with your Facebook friends.

Swap, sell, trade of buy. You can find everything from products to car pooling offers.

A great online Swap meet.

A free online swap meet where you can even create a wish list of the things you are looking for and then get notified when any of those items become available for swapping.

Works on a point system, where you give away what you don;t need and use your points to buy the stuff you do need.

Create an ad for the item you wish to get rid of and then wait for someone to reply. Offers to buy and sell items are based off the actual values for items.

A smart concept that allows you to trade your stuff for other people's stuff. Used books, video games, etc. When you're done with your item, trade it for something fresh.

Another free site where you can barter, swap, trade, buy, and sell your unwanted goods.

A very good site where you can list what you have to offer as well as what you'd like in return. You can localize your search and find people willing to barter services such as haircuts, etc.

White Willy allows you to barter your stuff, in the spirit of white elephant sales. As of March, 2012 this site was still in BETA stage.

Zaarly Post a listing of anything you are looking for, along with the price you are willing to pay, and people from your community can respond.

Rent anything. From cars to tools to vacation homes, this is a great way to rent what you need instead of having to drop a bundle to own it.

In addition to all of these websites, there are also plenty of sites dedicated to the bartering of specific categories. (e.g. media, clothing, travel, services and more)

Right now, while much of the junk in your home still has some value, I encourage you to start playing around on these barter sites to see what great deals you can walk away with. I promise you, it will give you all the satisfaction of finding a great deal at a garage sale, and possibly more.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Titanic in 3D: What Americans should learn this time around

This April, 2012, James Cameron will be re-releasing his epic film, Titanic, in 3D. Spoiler Alert: The ship still sinks in the end and almost everyone dies.

I'm guessing the appeal of seeing the film in 3D will be that, this time, it'll look like the dead people are floating right at you. Nonetheless, I'm sure the film will make a gazillion dollars at the box office and Cameron will finally be able to make that “big budget” film he's always dreamed of doing.

Although I probably won't be going to see the re-make, I have to admit that I did see the original and actually recall being quite taken in by the story. I'm not sure if it was because I knew the story revolved around an actual real life catastrophe or because I have an unnatural fear of drowning, but I remember walking out of the theater with a deep feeling of uneasiness.

Almost 15 years later, I find myself still disturbed by one particular scene in the movie.

It wasn't a big scene. In fact, there's a good chance you won't even remember it, but let me describe it to you. The ship has just hit the iceberg, and within moments, thousands of gallons of water begin to pour into the bow of the vessel. People have been instructed to put on their life vests, and many of the wise passengers do so. However, even while the ship is destined to end up at the bottom of the ocean within an hour's time, most of the passengers are living their lives, business as usual. Music is playing, couples are dancing, drinks are would be a night that most would cherish for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, that only means about 45 minutes or so, for them to get all of their cherishing in.

Even with a sense of panic in the air and hundreds of passengers staggering around in their life vests, the majority of the passengers are either unaware or unwilling to accept the seriousness of what is going on around them. Consequently, they do nothing to prepare for the inevitable. In fact, the character played by Billy Zane becomes annoyed with all the people bumping into him and mocks them by saying, “...damn English! Always doing everything by the book!”

In the end, as we all know, the story doesn't have a happy Love Boat ending. There would be no open smiles on a friendly shore, nor would it be life's sweetest reward. For most of the survivors on the Titanic, I have to imagine that, as they watched their friends and family drown all around them, they had to be thinking to themselves, “How did this all happen? This ship was supposed to be 'unsinkable'”.

Now, in fairness to some of the passengers, they were sound asleep when the Titanic collided into the iceberg. I'm guessing most of them were abruptly awakened, but probably just rolled over and went back to sleep, thinking to themselves, “I'm sure there's nothing to worry about. This is the greatest ship to have ever been built.”

The reason this scene has left such an impression on me is because I feel like our country has hit a massive iceberg and the majority of Americans are still whooping it up on the dance floor.

Our country is teetering on the verge of an economic collapse, the likes of which most of us can not even imagine, and yet, for most of us, we are living life business as usual.

Here are the lessons we should take away from Titanic;
  • It is quite possible to feel like you are the “King of the world” one minute, and then find yourself at the bottom of the ocean, the next.
  • When those around you are strapping on their life vests, put yours on too. You can always ask “why?”, later.
  • Just because you still see people drinking and dancing, it doesn't mean all is well.
  • If you've been sleeping this whole time, wake up and get prepared! Those that remain asleep will be among the first to perish.

Yes, some will be fortunate enough to survive the coming economic crisis without preparing for it, but keep in mind that, sometimes, there are fewer life rafts than there are people, and not everyone will stay afloat.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bringing America to its Knees with an EMP Attack

By Alisha Venetis

About five years ago, my husband and I were in the investigative stages of having a stand-by generator installed on our home. I called a company that sold one of the more popular brands and asked if the generators would still work in the case of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack. The salesman was unaware of what that was, but said he would look into it and call me back.

A few days later he called back with a strange tone in his voice, wondering why I had asked this question in the first place. I explained that I have been studying the Middle East and was preparing for different types of disasters (natural and man made) and I believed an EMP attack was a real possibility.

I quickly understood why the generator salesman was acting so concerned. He explained to me that a few days ago they had received an updated warranty from the generator manufacturer, and in it, for the first time, was a disclaimer stating that their generators were not covered under warranty, in the event of an EMP attack.

An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles; similar to lightening, but shorter, much stronger and faster. An EMP can be caused by nuclear weapons, radio-frequency weapons, or geomagnetic storms (often called space weather). An EMP terrorist attack, which has been called a weapon of “mass disruption”, can be triggered by the detonation of a nuclear weapon at a high altitude over the United States.

Most terrorism experts agree that an EMP is the biggest and greatest threat to America. It would likely render useless, not just all computers and small electronics, but all critical infrastructures, such as communications, transportation, banking, and food and water distribution chains.

A successful EMP attack could result in airplanes literally falling from the sky, streets and highways instantly becoming graveyards for inoperable automobiles and non-functioning traffic signals, and water, sewer, and electrical networks failing...all at once.

Without electricity, food would rot, health care would be reduced to its most basic level and, pretty much, your only means of transportation would be a bicycle. Rule of law would become impossible to sustain. Police departments would be overwhelmed and most civil service employees would not even show up to help, because they'd be at home taking care of their own families. Effectively, the U.S. would be thrown back to the pre-industrial age and life as we know it would be forever changed in a matter of seconds.

In 2004 and 2008, The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from an EMP, released a report, stating that an EMP attack could inflict severe damage on the U.S. and that an “EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences”. The commission was very clear as to what an EMP could do to America. “Should significant parts of the electrical power infrastructure be lost for any substantial period of time, the Commission believes that the consequences are likely to be catastrophic, and many people may ultimately die of lack of the basic elements necessary to sustain life in dense urban and suburban communities.”

Today, more than ever, the likelihood of an EMP attack is very real. Since an EMP attack can be executed with simple ballistics, this currently leaves about 30 countries the ability to launch an EMP attack.

North Korea currently owns a large arsenal of missiles and has been publicly testing its ballistic weapons. It has also been reported that Russian scientists have worked with North Korea and tested an EMP this year.

The most disconcerting of all the countries is the latest one to have joined the nuclear weapons fraternity; Iran. Iranians have already practiced in the Caspian Sea. Although we may look at their tests as failures, because their missiles blow up mid flight, to the Iranian regime, the tests are a success. The spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, once said “If the world's industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against dangerous electronic assaults, then they will disintegrate within a few years. American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat, nor would they be able to fire a single shot.” EMPs’ are so effective; it is believed that the USA has contemplated using one against the Iranians as well.

Although a few select sites in America have been safeguarded, including Air Force One and the U.S. nuclear weapons systems, most of our country remains highly vulnerable. Not only would most Americans not know what to do if an EMP occurred tomorrow, most have never even heard of an EMP and would not even know what it was that altered their lives, instantaneously.

Preparations for an EMP attack are very similar to those made for Y2K; essentially, learning how to live off the electrical grid. While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends a disaster kit able to sustain a family for two weeks, if expert predictions are correct, recovery from an EMP attack could take months or even years. Especially considering the transformers on our electrical grids are made in Korea and take two to three years to make.

A basic disaster kit should include:
  • Water – store one gallon per day per person. A non-electrical water filter capable of safely filtering other sources of water would be beneficial.
  • Food – canned foods, freeze dried and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking or water – and include a hand can opener.
  • Portable, battery-powered or solar radio and extra batteries – which would not be affected by an EMP attack.
  • Local maps and compass
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • First aid kit and manual.
  • Sanitation and hygiene items
  • Matches and waterproof container.
  • Extra clothing- especially if you live in an area that has cold climate
  • Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils.
  • Cash and coins.
  • Special needs items, such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solutions and hearing aid batteries.
  • Potassium Iodide tablets, to protect against a nuclear meltdown.
  • Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers.
  • Other items to meet your unique family needs.
  • Since power could be down for an extended period of time, a generator could prove useful.
Small electronics can be protected from an EMP by storing them in either a faraday bags or cages. Although it is not full-proof, many believe this is the best known safeguard.

As the discourse surrounding Iran and their nuclear threat to the United States heats up, one thing is guaranteed. If left to their own devices, Iran and many other countries in the region remain a clear and present danger.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Water...I Need Water!

How to Find Clean, Safe Drinking Water When you Need it.
You may recall that, a while back, in the city of Boston, a large water main broke and instantly left over 2 million people without safe drinking water. Over the next several hours and days, residents scrambled to purchase bottled water. Store shelves were literally cleared out within minutes and many of those who were lucky enough to get some water had to fight it out with the masses to do so.

As soon as people began to realize that there are other important uses for water besides for drinking, (bathing, washing dishes, cooking) not only did bottled water fly off the shelves, but so did items such as paper plates, disposable eating utensils and sanitation wipes.

Let’s suppose for a moment that you were among the many who didn’t get to the store in time to secure your family’s supply of water or disposable goods. How would you fare?

Here are some tips to ensure that you are you family can survive at least a few days on your own, without having to partake in the water riots at your local grocery store.

First off, you should already have a 2-week supply of water stored in your home. If you don't—start today! If you just don't have the space to store a 2-week supply, at least keep a 3-day supply for each family member.

Be sure to have enough for both consumption and hygiene, which for most people, is one gallon per day.

Although you can purchase food-grade water storage containers, it is much cheaper to make your own. Start saving 2-liter plastic soda bottles, thoroughly clean and disinfect them using 1 teaspoon on non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Be sure to rinse the bottles out thoroughly before filling them up with clean water.

Avoid using plastic containers that had milk or juice in them, because it is very difficult to remove the milk protein and fruit sugars from the containers, which can lead to bacterial growth when water is stored in them.

Okay, let's assume that you don't take my advice to store water and decide you're just going to wing it. Foolish, but you still may have options.

If you know that there is a good chance that your water supply is going to be shut off, you will want to fill up as many containers of water as possible. A few methods include:

  • Give your bath tubs a good cleaning and then fill then up with water.

  • Fill up cooking pots and any other storage container.
  • Inflate your kid's pool, put it in your garage and then fill that up with water using an outside hose.

Because you may not receive any forewarning about your water being shut off, you should not rely on these methods. Thus, the importance of storing water prior to an emergency occurring.

Alright, so let's assume that you get caught with your pants down, and have no water stored, nor were you able to quickly get some before your water supply got shut off. You still have some options.

As soon as you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines, or if local authorities advise you that there is a problem, you will want to immediately shut off your main water valve to avoid contamination of the water that is already in your home.

Here are the best places to find clean drinking water at home;
  1. Melted ice cubes from your freezer.
  2. Hot water heater. (Drain the water from the drain valve.) For under $6 you can purchase a water heater adapter, which will allow you to filter the water right from your water heater.
  3. Water inside your water pipes. Let air into the plumbing by turning on whichever faucet is at the highest point in your home and then drain water from the lowest faucet in your home. (Again, you must make sure you shut off the main water valve to avoid any contamination from occurring.)
Do NOT drink water from Water beds, toilet flush bowls or tanks, radiators or swimming pools/spas. You may however, want to use the water from those places for either laundering or hygiene purposes.
Whether you have stored water in your home or not, you should also have the following water purification products:
1. Water micorfilter. This is a great item which allows you to pump water out of a creek, pond, river, lake, etc to get safe, clean drinking water. Simply put one end of the pump in the water, start pumping, and the clean water will come out the other end. You can get one of these for less than $90 and it will get you up to 500 gallons of water before you need to change the filter.
2. Germicidal Tablets. Drop two of these is a quart of dirty water and within 20 minutes you will have safe drinking water. There are 50 tablets that come in a very small bottle, so it is great to have in your Grab and Go kit too.
Purifying Water
There are two other ways to sterilize water before drinking it. Unless you are 100% sure that the water you are about to drink is safe, you should use one of these methods.
  • Heat sterilization. Boiling water is the preferred method of purifying water because heat will kill all disease-causing-microorganisms. Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Pour the water back and forth between two clean containers to improve the taste. Adding a pinch of salt could also help.
  • Chemical sterilization. In the event that boiling your water is not an option, an alternative solution is to treat the water chemically. Plain household chlorine bleach may be used. Read the label first to be sure that hypochlorite is the only active ingredient. Only use a non-scented, non-soap bleach. With an eye dropper, add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water (16 if the water is cloudy), stir and let stand. After 30 minutes the water should taste and smell of chlorine. This means it is safe to drink. If the taste and smell has not changed, add another dose of bleach and let stand another half hour. If it's still bad, don't drink it.
You should also strain your water if it came from a river, creek or somewhere else where there is sediment. You can filter the water using a cloth or paper filter.
One Final Note
Water is crucial to human survival so never ration it. Be sure to drink at least 2 quarts per day, and then look for alternative sources if you run out.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Coming Downgrade of the American Lifestyle and How to Prepare For it

Written by Alisha Venetis

A recent Reuter’s poll revealed some interesting insights into the mindset of many Americans today. A large majority (73 percent) revealed that they believe we are “off on the wrong track”. Nearly half of those polled (47 percent) also believe that the “worst is yet to come”. This is up 13 percentage points from a year ago.
Of course this all comes on the heels of the contentious congressional debt ceiling debate, the first credit rating downgrade in United States history, a two-week roller coaster ride in the stock market, and a jobless rate that is almost 10% and stagnant in many parts of the country. Some experts believe that number could be as high as 22-25% when you factor in the underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work, altogether.
Even more alarming is the recent CNN poll that revealed 48 percent of Americans believe it is likely that another great Depression will begin within the next 12 months. I believe these polls show there is a gut feeling across the country that all is not well here in the USA.
There are some truly eerie things happening across our country, right now, which in year's past, most Americans could not even fathom happening on our soil. We are coming apart at the seams as despair sets in, and as Gerald Celente has said, “when people lose everything and have nothing else to lose, they lose it.”
Some media outlets would like you to believe that things are getting better, but those also happen to be the same people who told us that America's credit rating would never be downgraded. Consider the following:
  • 44 million Americans are on food stamps and nearly half are children
  • It now takes the average unemployed American 40 weeks to find a new job.
  • Food and gas prices are soaring as paychecks and the housing market is crashing. Approximately 28 percent of all home loans in the United States are “under water”.
  • The number of Americans that are put in prison has nearly tripled since 1987. Today many felons are being released or never tried due to overcrowding and decreased man-power in states that are broke.
  • A recent report on crime named Detroit the third most dangerous city on the entire planet. New Orleans ranked ninth. On that same list are infamously crime ridden cities like Karachi, Pakistan; Mogadishu, Somalia, and Ciudad Ju├írez, Mexico.
  • Prior to 2011 many had not heard of “flash mob robberies”. This is where a large group of people comes together, often organized via social media or texting, and rob or mug a specific store or target. It is often difficult to identify the thugs due to the numbers, the swiftness and their covered faces. Today these types of flash mobs are in news headlines across the country- Chicago’s shopping mecca was dubbed “the Mugnificent Mile”, Philadelphia instituted a curfew, Los Angeles, Ohio, Milwaukee State Fair, Iowa and Maryland have all been targets of “flash mobs”
Will you be Ready When the Excrement Hits the Flabellum?
Although the outlook of our current economic reality is stark, we can never let our fears paralyze us from getting prepared. Being prepared for an economic crisis is no longer considered being paranoid; it's prudent.

The degree to which a person can be prepared, whether it is for an economic collapse or any other disaster, can span greatly. Many people are so well-prepared they are able to live “off the grid” and not rely on any public utilities. As a mother in a suburban neighborhood, that is not the case for me. Although, truth be told, my idea of “living off the grid” is a spa vacation in Fiji.
Here are a few basic starting suggestions for those interested in “prepping”. This list is far from inclusive; however it is a great starting point for an economic, natural or man-made disaster.
  • Get out of debt and reduce expenses by learning to live on less. In times of economic calamity the stress of debt can be debilitating.
  • Have extra money on hand (in small denominations) in case you can not access money from a bank or ATM.
Food, Water and Supplies:
  • FEMA recommends you have at least three days of food and water on hand, (a great goal for those just starting out), however most “preppers” say you ideally want one year’s worth of stored-up food and water. You can do this cost effectively by using coupons, going to discount grocery stores or even shopping for food at estate sales. You may not get your favorite food brands, but in times of crisis you probably won't care. You should, however, make sure what you buy is something you are willing to eat or you can barter with.
Another great option is to own freeze-dried food. Although you can cook with it in your everyday meals, the main reason you'll want to have some on hand is because freeze-dried food has a 25-30 year shelf life and takes up little room. (Canning is also making its way back into many household and is very easy to learn the basics.)
  • FEMA also recommends three days of stored water on hand in case the water source becomes contaminated. You can do this by buying extra bottled water or filling up specific water storage containers. There are also water purification tablets and filters you can purchase. The purification methods will disinfect almost any water and make it safe for drinking.
  • An emergency “grab and go kit” is important if you have to evacuate your home quickly. You can purchase these kits already assembled or tailor one to your specific needs. The important contents food, water, materials for shelter, first-aid kit, etc. Adding copies of your important documents like your passport, driver’s license, birth certificates and important numbers is another important way to be prepared. Extra clothing, a blanket, can opener, cutting tool and a fire starter are useful tools to add to your kit.
  • Make sure you have extra prescription medicines (if needed) and non prescription medicine like pain relievers and cold medicines.
Valuable Items:
Aside from the basics (food, water, shelter) there are items that you can be certain stores will quickly run out in times of economic distress. Many of these items have dual purposes for survival and for bartering. For example, one of the reasons gold is so valuable is its intrinsic value- there is a limited quantity, it does not easily get ruined and it is dividable. These items you may not be of use personally to you, however in tough economic times, these items become valuable and can be used for bartering.
  • Toiletries feminine hygiene, paper products, coffee beans, alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, ammunition, rice, beans, vegetable oil, baby supplies, laundry products and sewing supplies.
  • Some useful miscellaneous items would be a generator, cook stove, first aid kit and a survival reference book.
It is important to be prepared both spiritually and physically. According to a great book entitled “The Survivors Club”, by Ben Sherwood, there is strong statistical evidence that shows those with a belief in God have a much better chance of surviving in the most strenuous of circumstances, compared to those without faith. The next predictor of surviving, once the basic needs are met, is community.

Hopefully, we can be so prepared, both physically and spiritually, so that when disaster does strike, not only will be able to survive and thrive, but we'll be in a position to help those friends and neighbors who didn't see it coming.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How to Prepare for a Flood

With historic floods happening all along the Mississippi River and other places in the U.S., here are some tips that can save you money, heartbreak and perhaps even your life.

What to do Before a Flood Occurs
  1. Determine your Risk. Find out if your home or area is prone to flooding.
  2. Check Your Insurance. Ensure you have flood coverage if available.
  3. Have a Grab and Go Survival Kit. Include a 3-day supply of food, water, rain gear, warm clothes, a battery or hand-crank flashlight and radio, and a first-aid kit including any important medication.
  4. Have a Getaway Plan. Create a family emergency/evacuation plan, making sure you know where you can go in the event of a flood warning.
  5. Elevate your Stuff. Be sure your water heater, furnace and electrical panel are raise off the ground as much as possible if located in an area of the home likely to flood.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How Do I Prepare for a Tornado?

With record number of tornadoes occurring within the last couple of weeks, perhaps now is a good time for those of you who have never given it much thought, to review what to do in the event a tornado touches down in your neighborhood.