Wednesday, February 4, 2009


[Editorial note(s):
  1. It appears I am now taking requests. I would explain, but I won't. I could say it's a long story, but it isn't. It's just not a particularly good story.
  2. I never miss an opportunity to plug the band Apocalyptica, so I was sneaky on putting that in the title, though it has no bearing whatsoever on the rant. If you've never heard Metallica played on the cello, your life is incomplete. I don't care what your musical tastes are, you'll like it. I promise.]

Self awareness and evaluation time: I've been living off the grid[1] for two and a half years -- living in a 600 square foot metal tool shed in the woods in the middle of nowhere with the wife (Ellie May), 2 shelter rescue dogs and 3 bulimic cats. My threat level with the federal government has officially been downgraded from "unibomer wannabe" to "mostly harmless." At at some point I start to wonder: Who's the crazy next door? No, not next door in the physical sense of the word.[2] But, you know, in the general area. Out here in the country, it's an odd mix of tin sheds (me), 3 bedroom brick affairs, monster doctor/lawyer houses, geodesic domes and the occasional tar paper shack meth lab.

I was driving by "never smiles or waves scary Viet Nam vet guy" as he painstakingly hand watered the drainage ditch.[3] And I started to wonder: how many tightly wound nut jobs live within a 5 mile radius -- ready to go sproing at any moment. Sure there's a Google API plugin to find the nearest sex offender... But where's my Ruby Ridge Google? I want a map with a little confederate flag markers and a satellite view where I can zoom in and see the catacombs of broken school buses buried in the back yard.

The funny thing with these people is that, while they are all waiting on the impending doom of the next disaster, they're not all waiting on the same disaster. You've got your basic "housing market/stock market crash" guys, "racial riot expectations/Klan" folks and your basic "impending nuclear holocaust/terrorist briefcase dirty bomb" guys. They all have 6 months of food and a 55 gallon drum of gasoline stashed away. They're just waiting on different disasters. But the sad truth here is: There has always been some fire on the horizon. There has always been impending doom. Yet, mysteriously we still keep chugging along.[4]

And I do mean always. Just in the last fifty years, I can name a multitude of them off the top of my head: the cold war, the bay of pigs,[5] the Carter energy crisis, Reagan's star wars, Y2K,[6] the expected tribulations following the imminent second coming of Jebus,[7] asteroid strike, Mel Gibson, global warming, nuclear war, Islamic terror... I could go on, but I had to take a breath. It makes me wonder a few things, though.

First of all, what's the payout for all the hoarders and woodland creatures? Sure, they see it as insurance of sorts. And to some degree I understand that. I live within the last mile (literally) of a power line branch. I understand I am last in line for power restoration when a disaster occurs. I understand the need for a generator, a garden and a little bit of food. But the idea of hoarding a 6 month supply of food and a big sack of real gold just doesn't reach me. That food is just not likely to last and will have to be constantly replaced. Let's say you spent $10,000 on food for the coming apocalypse in the late 70's. Then assume, instead you put it in the stock market. It would be an underestimate to say it would be worth almost $100,000 some thirty years later -- even in today's down market.[8] And if the apocalypse comes and you really have a large sack of real gold, you may find it extremely difficult to defend or find the government may want to take it. Your best bet here is to just have a skill and a willingness to trade it.[9] But isn't that pretty much true all the time?

But most importantly I want to know: how do I make a big sack of cash off of these folks? Selling freeze dried banana chips in bulk isn't my thing. I am unlikely to open up a gun store. The school districts have the lock on broken down buses. I fear that the reasonable, rational model may win out again here. I suspect the way to win in castastrophear is to buy into widely diversified mutual funds. "What?" you say. "You're a crazier than a commune dweller. The market is sunk." Precisely. And here I sit without a real income. One lowly Unix administrator in a county that has 15 Unix systems -- 2 of which are mine. It's time for me to find an income stream or two and sink a big fat wad of it in the market. Remember: the goal is actually to buy low. So what if it tanks a little more. Low means its on sale. Turning it down would be like saying "I'll buy the Costco tennis shoes if they ever get up to $30 a pair. I don't want them at $14."

Besides, Ellie May wants a real kitchen. And I don't get home made pie crust until then.

  1. Well, socially at least. Not physically.
  2. That would be (a) "Have you found a spiritual home guy" and (b) the "everyone move in with grampa before he croaks" family. I guess in 30 months I should know their names, huh?
  3. Yes, I am serious. He does it absolutely every day. No, I don't know why he does it.
  4. At least here in US... There's poor bastards in forever unstable lands that mark time by when the next mortar round falls. Whistle. Boom. -- Ooh, tea time.
  5. Mmmmm. Pork
  6. Y2K was my personal fave! As a geek that expected a big fat lot of nothing to happen, I enjoyed the biggest paycheck of my life for the least amount of work. We weren't even allowed to touch anything for a month before because we might break it. The real scare comes in 2038 and no one will hype that one.
  7. And why in hell would you worry about the problems of the second coming? Is it because you have enough faith he's coming back but afraid you chose the wrong flavor? Are you afraid you picked a dunking when you should've gotten sprinkles?
  8. This is such an underestimate. This just follows the Dow 500 price without dividends. Reinvested dividends would make this figure huge, but computing that sounds like work.
  9. I can see it now. A post nuclear world and there are bands of IT directors wandering the countryside seeking Perl hackers.


Og Make Blog said...

Footnote 3: He's keeping the tadpoles alive. No, wait, wrong time of year.... maybe you should tell him. Just don't cross his moat ....

Anonymous said...

Now I know why you were up in the above-the-garage attic.