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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Anarchism


Laws and Lawlessness

It was a tragedy that simply can’t be explained in simple statements or simplistic thinking, with very young people dead because of one man’s problems with life.  He killed his mother and stole her weapons and did the unthinkable, and the only way that could have been prevented would be a complete restructuring of our constitution and its attendant amendments.  There are limits placed on all the amendments, including those first ten that represent our way of life more directly than anything else ever written, but there has never been a call to eliminate one of those most important ten, and there shouldn’t be now.

Citizens of the United States enjoy a way of life envied by most of the other peoples on the planet because of the structuring of our constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a political system free of most of the problems faced by other countries.  Corruption will exist in any society that is as free as ours, and it’s laws and rules that are supposed to control those that don’t play well with others, but today, laws, rules, ethics are products of yesterday, not holding any meaning today.  When one looks at the deteriorization of our society, the first word that comes to mind is rampant anarchism.

When two thirds of the attorneys smoke pot and snort cocaine with apparent impunity, someone should recognize a serious social problem.  This isn’t a question of whether pot should be legalized, it’s a question of those sworn to uphold the law flaunting the law.  Without the rule of law, there is no society, and those of us of a certain age can remember in civics class an instructor saying over and over, “If you don’t agree with the law, work within the framework of government to change that law.”  Laws are changed through social pressure, through politically active individuals and groups, and through increased knowledge of a subject.

A perfect point of fact, the recent legalization of pot in some communities and states.  The problem being, it is still a federal issue, and in order for that law to be fully realized, there will have to be more political activism.  Not just ignoring the law, flouting the law, denying the law.  That is not the American way, it is lawlessness, anarchism.

We have become a nation of lawbreakers and don’t seem to understand the consequences that is having on so many people.  With a wink or nod, illegal merchandise is transferred from one to another, one or both of whom are sworn to uphold the law.  Joe citizen sees this and says, “good enough for him, good enough for me.”  Cops on Nevada’s highways break the law everyday by intimidating people into letting them do illegal searches, that is, searches without a warrant.  Dogs are trained to “sniff out” drugs by way of a hand movement, thus setting up the warrantless search, and most of the time, guess what?  No drugs.

If those charged with maintaining the peace, upholding the laws of the land won’t, why should John Q. Citizen?  There are controls on the First Amendment, think “don’t yell fire in a crowded theater.”  There are controls on most of the others, and it is possible that some other controls might be needed, but when a vast number of people simply don’t give a damn about law and rule, what would another rule actually mean?

The Justice Department through the ATF sold illegal guns, federal agents died as a direct result of the sales, and the Attorney General is still in office.  The reasons for each of the amendments called our Bill of Rights have been debated for well over two hundred years, and often, it’s the second amendment that seems to be most difficult for many to understand.  It’s one of the strongest reasons that our shores have not been invaded, and it’s one of the strongest reasons our government actually responds to our wishes, most of the time.  Our government is our people, and our people are letting themselves down by way of losing the concept of a society determined by the rule of law.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

First Solstice, Then Christmas


“The days dwindle down to a precious few,” the song tells us, as the sun seems to have been doing for a few months now, leading up to the time when the sun will be giving its warmth and life for the least amount of time in a day.  That time, they tell us, will be 11:11 a.m. GMT on December 21.  Winter has arrived.

It’s almost a contradiction, for as the days grow longer, they also grow colder, and the icy blasts of old Jack Frost cover our souls, forcing us to stand ever so close to that roaring and spitting fireplace.  The ancients celebrated the winter solstice as a beginning; Mr. Sol would be with us a little bit longer each day.

We recognize the winter and summer solstices, the spring and fall equinoxes, mostly because of our Neolithic relatives thousands of years ago.  It was during the Neolithic age that agriculture came into being, and with it a sense of weather patterns.  Knowing the length of the day and placement of the sun in the sky were essential to timing for planting, tilling, harvest.

There were parties and celebrations leading up to the solstice thousands of years ago, because many believed if they didn’t coax that sun to stay up longer, it wouldn’t.  Then when it did, well, it’s time to celebrate that fact also.  One legend dating from the time of Mesopotamia says there was a twelve day festival.  No indication that turtle doves were involved, or dancing girls, but they probably were.

The science of the seasons can be quickly explained by simply stating that our planet’s rotational spin is tilted, thus the northern half gets more sunshine some of the time and less sunshine at other times.  If you must know, the angle of tilt is 23 degrees and 27 minutes off perpendicular.  While we’re chilling, Sydney’s baking.

The importance of the winter solstice today doesn’t relate to planting of crops or dancing to force the sun to stay up longer each day, but rather, it brings on the Christmas season.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

The Legend of Santa Claus

Who is this spirit so closely associated with Christmas?  According to legend, there was a man who became Saint Nicholas, and he lived in Asia Minor during the 4th century, A.D.  Traveling through Egypt and Palestine he became known for his extraordinary kindness, in particular his penchant for giving gifts to needy children.

St. Nicholas became Santa Claus, but not before the concept was splintered into many variations among European churches.

This jolly old elf eventually made it to these shores during colonial times, and of course, now Santa Claus in known more as a vehicle for driving retail sales from a week or so before Hallowe’en until moments before the end of Christmas Day.

It was initially his spirit of giving that brought forth what we so look forward to each year, a visit from St. Nicholas.

One must eat well during these delightful times, it’s cold as all get out, one can get chilled to the bone, so let’s have a real feast.  A few years ago I published a holiday cook book, and this was judged by many to be the best offering in that little tome.

Johnny’s Oyster Roast

Notes: This can be a first course at a long and involved holiday meal, it can stand alone as a light, late in the evening meal, or, if served in small bowls, can be a hot appetizer.

The recipe is slightly involved, so make sure you really want to take the time to do it.  You’ll be rewarded !

Use the refrigerated bottled oysters and drain them over a sieve, reserving the liquid.  Do this first as you’ll need some of the liquid for the glaze.

Glazing Sauce
Pour about a 1/2 cup of oyster liquid and fill the cup measure with milk.  In a 10-12 inch frying pan over high heat, stir 2 tbl butter and 1/4 cup onions, minced, for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in 2 tbl flour, 1 tsp dry mustard, and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg.  Return the pan to high heat and stir until flour is pale gold, 1-2 more minutes.  Remove from heat and add the oyster liquid and milk mixture along with a 1/4 cup whipping cream.  Whisk over high heat until boiling, and continue to boil, whisking often, until mixture is reduced to about 1 cup.  Scrape into a bowl and let cool.

Oysters
3/4 cup coarsely chopped bacon
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper.  Red, Green, or mixed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme
8 ounces spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1 jar shucked oysters, drained (see notes)
1 cup glaze
2 tbl dry white wine (not cooking wine, use the good stuff)
1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

In a 10-12 inch frying pan, crisp the bacon and remove to paper towels to drain.  Save about 1 tsp of the drippings and add the bell pepper, spinach, onion, and thyme, stirring over high heat until wilted and most of the liquid is evaporated.

Return the bacon to the pan, mix, and add whatever salt and pepper you like.

Lift the oysters from the sieve, and at this point you may wish to cut some of the larger ones into bite size pieces.  Divide the oysters into four shallow ramekins, and put them put them into a baking pan that you can fill with water.

Spoon the spinach mixture equally over the oysters.  In that same 10-12 inch frying pan, add glazing sauce, lemon juice, and wine, and whisk over high heat until bubbling.  Spoon this equally over spinach and oysters, sprinkle cheese over the sauce, and bake in a 450 degree oven until tops are lightly browned and bubbling.  About 7-10 minutes.

This is best served right in the ramekins, with a nice cold white wine to wash it down.  Some John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, or Aretha Franklin fills out the recipe.

If you can tear yourself away from the board, do you know why we hang our stockings by the fire, other than to get them dry and warm, that is?

The Legend of Christmas Stockings

The legend of hanging stockings by the fire on Christmas Eve dates back to the 1800s according to most who have studied this strange habit.

Do you hang your stockings?

It seems there was a young man who had three daughters but very little money, and on one particular Christmas Eve, his daughters had washed their stocking and hung them by the fire to dry.  It was the custom prior to washers and dryers.

The legend insists St. Nicholas heard the plight of the daughters, and that they might not get Christmas gifts.  He ventured onto their roof and threw three bags of gold coins down the chimney, and lo and behold, those coin bags landed in the girl’s stockings, one, two, three.

It wasn’t too many years later that children in Holland learned to leave their wooden shoes outside in hopes the jolly old elf would fill them with gifts and treasures.

I believe.  Do you?  Deep philosophical thinking like this makes me hungry.  Try this one on for size.

Eggnog Bread

Note:  This recipe will fill two aluminum loaf pans.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup dairy eggnog
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease bottoms and sides of bread pans

Beat eggs, sugar, eggnog, butter, rum and vanilla until well blended, add flour, baking powder, and nutmeg and stir until everything is moistened.  Don’t over stir.

Pour into the bread pans and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool, and remove from pans.  Let bread cool completely before slicing.

Uh, Oh … Have you sent out your cards?

The Tradition of Christmas Cards

The tradition of sending Christmas cards originated sometime in the mid 1800s according to most who study such things.

A few people began designing handmade cards to be sent to friends and family,
but it was a man named John Calcott Horsely who is credited
as being the first Christmas card creator.

Horsely printed his card in 1843 for Sir Henry Cole, the friend
who gave him the idea in the first place.

The card depicted a typical English family enjoying the holiday,
as well as scenes of people performing acts of charity, an important part
of Victorian Christmas spirit.

The card was inscribed:
“Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You”

A thousand copies of the card were printed, selling for one shilling
apiece.  This is reportedly the first Christmas card to be produced and sold to
the general public.

I’ve taken a lot of your time and had a lot of fun doing it.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving


Some think of it in terms of a wonderful parade, others, a football game deep in the heart of Texas, while many more conjure sights and aromas of turkeys roasting with yams, and pumpkin pies cooling on an open sill.  For most, though, Thanksgiving in the United States is a time for family, reflection on our way of life, and gratitude for its bounty.  Grandma's house is still the location of choice.

Often we think of Thanksgiving as a purely American tradition but it is celebrated in some form or another in many countries around the world including Canada, Japan, and Liberia.  Festivities are also held in Brazil and Korea.  To dispel another historical myth, the first Thanksgiving in the Americas was celebrated in 1541 by the Spanish in the Palo Duro Canyon in West Texas.  It wasn't until 1621 that the Puritans, those of Pilgrim's Pride fame celebrated their Thanksgiving along with the Wampanoag Indians.

Thomas Jefferson would not allow for a Thanksgiving holiday, he said, because it was "a monarchical practice."  Jefferson fought against the concept of monarchy all his life and it wasn't Thanksgiving he was riled about, it was the practice of a presidential proclamation designating a holiday.  The traditions of his predecessors didn't have much impact on this thinking.  George Washington on the other hand proclaimed a Thanksgiving holiday in 1777 following a victory over the British, and the holiday was Colonies-wide.  This was the first Thanksgiving in the United States.

Today, even with our far flung economy spreading families in so many directions, it is tradition for children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and even good neighbors to get together at Grandma's and feast, chow-down, on turkey, pie, mashed potatoes, fruit salads, and don't forget the green beans with almonds.  It wasn't so in 1621.  There was no flour or potatoes.  There was no milk or butter since there were no domesticated critters from which dairy products might come.

The natives living on the east coast of North America only had dogs as far as domesticated animals go.  Bison and deer were never domesticated and the Puritans did not bring cattle, goats, or sheep with them.  The Spanish had a little more foresight.  One thing that survives unto today is Indian Fry Bread, and that was served.  Ground corn fried into a flat bread is a staple in many cultures in the Americas today as it was 400 years ago.

Potatoes were known in the New World but Europeans considered them poisonous, similar to tomatoes, and weren't eaten.  It's never really been determined why those early immigrants didn't bring farm animals with them on their journey.  Speculation of course abounds and centers on space.  In fact most of those that arrived on the Mayflower were not Puritans but were hired security people by the company that booked the passage.

That 1621 Thanksgiving table was filled with venison, probably fish from the streams and bay, wild fruit such as plums, and of course nuts from the great hardwood forests of New England.  Turkey?  This isn't known for sure since the Puritans called all wild fowl turkey, but it is safe to say there were ducks and geese on the board.

Those Puritans arrived in 1620 at what we now call Plymouth, Massachusetts and could very well have died of starvation that first long cold winter.  Many believe that is why the Thanksgiving celebration of 1621 was so important to them and why they invited their friends the Wampanoag to join them.  The Pilgrims learned well and survived on their corn harvests for years afterward.

Many religious organizations don't feast at their Thanksgiving celebrations but rather they fast and spend great amounts of time in prayer.  With so many lost during the previous year, Governor William Bradford had a celebration in mind with a bountiful harvest and plentiful game.  Massachusetts Bay was filled with lobster and clams, which had to be part of the feast.

Four hundred years from now what will be written about traditions celebrated in the early years of the 21st Century?  Shopping!  While Santa Claus, his elves and reindeer have been seen in stores well before Hallowe'en, it is the day after Thanksgiving that is now the traditional start of the holiday shopping spree, which is so much a part of our lives.

That started with Franklin D. Roosevelt during a period of economic disaster in this country and just prior to our entry into WW II.  He proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the next-to-last Thursday in November to, as he put it, "Create a longer Christmas shopping season."  Following public uproar over his move, Congress passed the Thanksgiving law, which dictates our holiday to be on the fourth Thursday of November.  It was the first time the holiday was decreed by law rather than proclamation.  Jefferson would like that.

Rivalries on the gridiron are traditions at the heart of many family celebrations.  A football game before the feast featuring clashes between college rivalries, tough contests between competing high schools, brisk fall temperatures, a taste of Apple Jack maybe, and that turkey is always slightly better.  Professional football teams have gotten into the mix including the Dallas Cowboys that have played a game almost every Thanksgiving since 1966.  They missed 1975 and 1977.  It was a bad turkey year?

Commercialism is never far from any American holiday and Thanksgiving holds up its end of the bargain with large parades in major metropolitan areas sponsored by such economic luminaries as Macy's Department Stores.  The Internet is filled with sites that discuss thanksgiving and its history and traditions, some even slightly irreverent.  Of all the holidays celebrated in the United States, Thanksgiving and Independence Day stand out as truly American.

No history of Thanksgiving is complete without a dose of Sarah Hale, editor of one of the first women's magazines in the country.  Mrs. Hale was constant in her efforts to create a national Thanksgiving Holiday.  After withstanding her efforts for years, President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863 finally declared a national day of Thanksgiving.  Mrs. Hale spent more than 36 years in her effort.

However you celebrate the bounty of our way of life, it was probably Theodore Roosevelt that said it best; "Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds."

This is the proclamation written by Abraham Lincoln, which many people believe was the intent of Congress many years later in creating the holiday by way of the law of the land.

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

The words that seem to be misspelled are the way the president wrote them, and in their day, were consdiered correct.  Gotta go, I smell punkin’ pie …

As always, have a grand holiday, enjoy good books, and stay regular.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012, My Final Chapter on the subject


The Republican party was kidnapped several elections ago by the rabid religious right, and this current debacle, Election 2012, is the final result.  The party, to exist in the future, will have to go back to its origins of fiscal conservatism, state’s rights, and minimum federal government.  Oh, my, doesn’t that sound familiar?  As if it came straight from the mouth of Ron Paul.

Yes, most of what Libertarians profess today is straight from the GOP play book of a couple of decades ago.  We need a strong military to defend our shores not change the leadership of other countries.  We need a federal tax code that can actually be understood by a high school graduate.  We need high school graduates that can read and write.  And we need a middle class that is not controlled by Homeland Security measures picked up in some third world dictatorship.

Our small business communities need to be able to operate efficiently and profitably with as little federal intervention as possible.  Those businesses need to be able to hire an educated staff, not a staff that knows how to cheat its way through federal tests.

It’s time for those that still call themselves Republican to divorce the party from those that have altered what Grand Old Party really meant.  Jefferson wrote about “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  He did not write about guaranteed happiness by way of federally demanded welfare, coupled with food stamps and federally subsidized housing.  To pursue that state of happiness was the goal, the American Dream, if you will.

Despite what some courts seem to think, our constitution was written in stone, in particular those first ten amendments, and if Libertarians had their way, and what the GOP should be striving for, is a federal government that follows the strictures of that magnificent document.  The GOP needs to spend a great deal of time during this next election cycle remembering what the party was, remembering names like Ike and Reagan, in the short haul, and do a little research on times before those Republican giants.

A marriage of Libertarianism and old world Republicanism, led by some brilliant young minds with elegant speaking abilities, and this old country just might find its way back to a position where the average Jack and Jill can hold their heads high.

The Old Guard of the current Republican party, and their lack of understanding what the party was and should be, led to this debacle.  Shame on you, and now, please stand aside and let the vigorous young bucks with strong Libertarian ideals take the podium.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Super Storm


After spending many hours watching super storm Sandy move up the coast, then make its turn onto land, I’m amazed at the after storm pictures.  No, not the damage, but rather, what appears to be a complete lack of understanding by the people who were affected.  There appears to have been little preparation, yet for days forecasters were calling this the most destructive possible storm to hit the east coast in a lifetime.

Maybe it’s a case of those of us that live in the west have a different view of what happens in bad weather, or possibly, the concept of a disaster is something that is more real to us.  Those pictures of people standing in line carrying empty gas cans after the storm, after the power had been knocked out, after the roads were demolished, are amazing.  And, some blaming the government. 

The winning of the west was not done by that breed of easterner.  Here in western Nevada, most of the time, we are aware of powerful storms bearing down on us for many days in advance.  It is a foolish person that does not fill the vehicle’s fuel tanks, does not fill any gas cans that are available, and does not prepare for a lack of water and food.  Disasters come from many angles, storms, fire, flood, accidents, and to not be even slightly prepared is not a mark of intelligence.

There is a movement today in which many people are calling themselves preppers, that is, they are preparing for major disaster even when no disaster seems imminent.  Canning and preserving enough food to last many months, preparing for a total lack of power by way of solar, hydro, or wind generation, and actually hoarding some items such as toilet paper, weapons, and ammunition. 

As we’ve recently seen in vivid television shots, people can become nasty very fast when they are frightened.  To wait until after the worst storm to hit the east coast in its known history, to discover you have no gas in the car or in the extra can, to discover you have no water, to not have candles or long life flashlights, there are no cans of meat and vegetables in the larder, can bring forth, first, extreme fright, then anger, then violence.

When I lived in central Nevada, it was a one hundred mile round trip to the nearest grocery store. You didn’t forget something.  It was while I was there that I learned the art and craft of canning and preserving.  It was during those wonderful years that I learned how to make bread, and Patty and I still make most of our bread, we can dozens of pints of veggies out of our own garden every year, grow our chickens and rabbits, and would not be considered true preppers by their standards.

Because of our chain saws and splitter, our wood stove keeps us pretty cozy in the winter, it’s been more than two years since the furnace has been lit, we have a generator for standby only, and since we rent this little plot, we can’t put up a decent solar array, we have back up in the event of a full power failure.  In the city apartments, this may not be feasible, in some communities, some of what we do wouldn’t be allowed, but to not be as prepared as possible for a disaster the size of hurricane Sandy is more criminal than stupid.

Winter is on its way, so now would be a good time for an assessment of your disaster supplies.  Gas, water, lights, and food should top the list, and there should be enough to last three or four weeks, if not more.  An interesting story came out of Bosnia during their problems a few years ago.  The one item that was worth its weight in gold, the one item one could barter with and get just about anything, was a roll of toilet paper.

Thanks for reading this little tome, read good books, and stay regular.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Come on Wind


Ever get yourself all in a twit and simply want to break out and do something, no matter what?  That was how I found myself one day recently.  All the political ads on TV were driving me crazy, too many commentators making too many comments, all the good guys making fools of themselves, all the bad guys saying all the wrong things, and then on top of all that, the wind was howling outside.

I searched my book shelves and magazine racks and the only thing I could find that I hadn’t already read was “War and Peace,” and I wasn’t about to tackle that monster.  I went outside to check on the kids, the horses were just as put off as I because of the wind, the goat was munching on something, and the chickens were hiding out.  The twit was getting serious, the wind was getting stronger, and the friendly neighborhood bar wasn’t open yet.

I stomped around the house, through the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room and found myself in the office, sitting at my desk.  OK, I thought, that’s about enough, and I started writing, a sure cure for my twits.  Wind, animals, wind, disruption, came together in a set or words that I ended up calling “Growing Cows Out of the Wind.”  I spent hours tweaking the little story, playing with it, and hours turned to days, and the story came together about a week later.

I always let Patty read my stuff, not as an editor might, but as one who enjoys reading.  I don’t write from a “literary” viewpoint, by any stretch, certainly not from the point of view taught in creative writing classes today, simply won’t.  My heroes are Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens and their ilk.  Annie Proulx is out of her mind and fun to read, and Hemmingway can teach brevity word by word.  And, levity is a key word in most of my stories.

Patty read the final rewrite of growing cows and said it was funny and she liked it, and I made sure all the letters that needed dotting were dotted and all the letters that needed capping were capped, and sent it off to Epiphany, the magazine that just published my short story “Moonbeam.”  Lo and Behold (I always wanted to say that), I got an email from the editor this morning, and they are going to publish “Growing Cows Out of the Wind” in their next edition.

So, as I’m sitting here this morning, the sun is shining, I have RFD TV on, so there are no politicians yelling obscenities, no commentators commenting, and no wind blowing, the horses are frisky, the goat is eating, and the chickens are running around with their heads in place, the only thing left for me to do is write this little tome for you.  So far this year, I’ve had eleven short stories either published or accepted for publication.  The best year of my writing career.  Come on wind, come on politicos, come on commenta    no not them, but all the others.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Politics 101


I’ve done everything possible to keep base politics out of this blog, but something interesting is taking place in this election cycle that I think needs a little closer look.  First and foremost, the concept of courtesy and respect have gone out the window.  When I first got into the journalism racket, that was prehistoric times, 1958 to be exact, respect for one’s office was required.  In an article on President Eisenhower, he would always be noted as Mr. Eisenhower or President Eisenhower, senators would be senators, congressmen would be representatives or congressmen.

I hear reporters talking about Obama this and Obama that.  We may disagree with the man’s philosophies in every respect, but he is the president and that office demands a level of respect.  The protocol is simple:  The person will be referred to by the highest office he or she has attained, thus Governor Romney, President Obama, Representative Ryan.

I have found it fascinating how people react to their own personal politics.  Most readers of this blog are aware that I tend toward a libertarian view with strong fiscal conservatism, and I still wish that Representative Ron Paul was the Republican nominee, but here is what fascinates me most.  Libertarians stand with pride calling themselves libertarians.  Conservatives shout it out, loud and clear, “Look at me, I am a conservative.”  But those of a liberal bent shy away from the label.  “Oh, no, I’m more of a centrist,” is what we hear over and over.  Or, they use little key words like ‘progressive.’

Our president calls himself a centrist and then calls for a new world order, looks to change the first amendment, and simply won’t use the word liberal.  President Obama is as much a liberal as Representative Paul Ryan is a conservative, but won’t come out and say so.  At the same time, those that shy from calling themselves liberals will call a conservative horrible names and then take offense at being called a liberal.

In every political philosophy there are of course extremes, and in this election, no one can get away with trying to call themselves centrist, with the economic question and international relations getting the most attention.  Big spending or tight belts?  Speak softly and carry a big stick or give in to bullies?  Naive?  Maybe, but those two questions delineate this election, the liberal end far to the left and the conservative end far to the right.

See you at the polls.  In the meantime, read good books and stay regular.




Friday, September 21, 2012

Oktoberfest


The first few days of fall, trees rapidly taking on the colors of the season, the sun slipping out of sight way too early, mornings indicating those longer nights, and at times, even a light jacket or sweater might come in handy.  These are the days leading up to the long, dark, and cold days of the hiemal season, when snow flies in our faces, when schussing is an act not just a word, and when walking one must be aware of the dangers of participating in the world famous Comstock two-step, that is, going kerplop in front of your neighbors and friends.

One of the grand pleasures of early fall is a celebration that started back in 1810, called Oktoberfest.  It is the national holiday in Munich, the capital of Bavaria in those days, and was the original wedding reception for Crown Prince Ludwig following his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hidburghausen on October 12, 1810.  The open fields, almost at the gates of Munich were named in her honor, Theresienwiese, and the locals today call the area the Wiesen.  Ludwig went on to become King Ludwig the First.

The first question many people as is why is Oktoberfest celebrated in September, and there actually is a reasonable answer.  Relating back to that marriage, Oktoberfest started out as the sixteen days leading up to the first Sunday in October.  It’s that first Sunday in October that determines the dates for each year’s celebration.  Over the years, there have been times when it was seventeen days, and years when it was eighteen days, but that first Sunday in October is the date of reference.  This year, Oktoberfest is September 22 to October 7.

And the spelling?  Oktoberfest is the German spelling, and you can bet in Munich it will not be spelled in English.  They say as many as five million people will be on hand for this year’s event.  More people at Oktoberfest in Munich than there are in Nevada. 

Oktoberfest is a fair, there was horse racing in the past, there are grand agricultural exhibits, and more food than a gourmand can ever conceive having set before him.  Sausages, of course, fish, ham, roast beef, and you can bet a barrel or two sauerkraut.  You have to know that Oktoberfest Beer flows as water over Niagara.  And, dear and gentle folk, there is a reason for that special beer.

Those that run the show in Munich have rules on what kinds of beer can be served during the celebration.  Beer must be, at a minimum, six percent alcohol, that is, twelve proof.  It must be brewed in the city, and only then can it carry the dignity of Oktoberfest Beer.  Among the breweries most known in this country are Spaten, Paulaner, and Lowenbrau, and the term Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers.

Most beer in the 1800s was brewed in the spring when the weather was cool and developed its alcohol content before summer heat could spoil it.  A natural preservative, if you will.  There was a large effort, according to one myth of the times, to get the barrels down as much as possible before winter set in.  In the early spring, the barrels would be emptied, and that beer is called Bock.

So, gentlemen, put on your lederhosen, ladies don thy dirndl skirts, we must all wear our tirolerhute, that is, Bavarian hats with their tufts of goat hair, don’t become a birerleichen, that is drunken fool, and heist a pint or nine.  To Ludwig!  To Theresa!  To Beer or not Beer, the question remains.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Mystery Novel


I finally finished my latest genre specific novel, and have put together an outstanding query letter, and will be sending that out to potential publishers and agents over the next few weeks (Be Prepared, Oh Mighty Agents and Publishers).  It’s called “Blood of Many Nations” and my lead man should have been working in the 1930s as a hardboiled private dick, but is trapped in the 21st Century where he has to deal with such things as the Miranda rule, civil rights, and compassionate judges that re-write the constitution.  He doesn’t do well in these things, but he does solve the cases, and in his opinion, and his opinion is the only one that counts, that is the his sole job.  I named him Simon Sol Dorsey, and along with the novel, I have five Dorsey short stories that I am working to get published.

We don’t have the pleasure of the old pulp detective and mystery magazines anymore, and the market is very limited.  Mystery and Western novels sell well, but there is a very limited market today for Mystery and Western short stories.  I’ve been very lucky to get my western short stories published, in book form by Bottom of the Hill Publishing, and in  story form in Imitation Fruit and Rope and Wire, Internet magazines.

One of the stories in Rope and Wire featured a U.S. Marshal by the name of Jacob Chance that I called “Four Corners.”  It has been well received and my next big project is to create a Jacob Chance novel.  These projects pretty much keep me off the streets and out of saloons --- hey, maybe that isn’t the best thing here …

It took almost three years to write “Blood of Many Nations”, my little gem (those are my words), and I hope some day soon you will have a chance to get down to Sundance Books and buy a copy or nine.

In other news around the J-P Ranchette, we had a coyote visit the other morning.  Found him eyeing the chicken yard when I went out to feed.  I yelled at him, chased him off, threw a harmless rock at him, because that’s about all you can do.  Too many people around here, so I couldn’t shoot him.  Sure would have made a fine cape for my Mountain Man expeditions regalia.  With the rabbits and chickens we have, it’s amazing that we don’t have more of these little varmints running around.

Chickens, goat, and horses really don’t like this very hot weather we’ve been having.  Reminds me, I sent a photo off to a farm journal recently that shows my big Poco Rojo standing in the middle of a blizzard, covered in snow, with his warm, dry, open stall twenty feet behind him.  The caption reads, “You can lead a horse to water, but you sure as hell can’t make him drink.”  Haven’t heard back from the editor on that one yet.

That’s abut it for this time.  Have a great day, read good books, and stay regular.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ah, Politics!

When you’re sitting at your favorite watering hole, whether it’s a neighborhood dive or an elegant cocktail lounge, it’s best not to open discussions on politics or religion.  So, I guess I’ll break one more little rule.  While this blog is not designed to be a forum on politics, rather an opportunity for me to vent, rant, and promote, this year’s election campaigning screams for comment and commentary.

There have always been those that would rather be nasty than accurate during the election process, and often all sides carry the guilty flag, but it seems when names are not associated with accusations, the filth is rampant.  When PACs (Political Action Committees) put their advertising up, it is under a name that simply can’t be traced without help from James Bond, and these committees aren’t held responsible for what is said.  No one is.

That’s the rub, and while I am generally one of those people that condemn more and bigger government, this is a time for just a little more government.  My philosophy on new laws, new government intervention comes down to a simple question: is what’s being proposed really a function of government?  In this case, I feel the answer is a resounding yes.

Of course there is one very large problem with this.  Election law is written by those that have their jobs by way of elections, and elections today are more often won by those that have or spend the most money.  Ergo, election laws will always have major flaws benefiting the electee.

It would be easy at this point in this little tome to use the word naive, but just a few years ago if someone had told you that corporations should be treated as individuals, you probably would have scoffed.  And here come nine people, most often not referred to as being naive, that is, the Supreme Court of the United States, making that the law of the land, thus opening the door to unlimited spending by unknown people who cannot be held responsible for lies, distortions, or slander.

It’s taken us almost 250 years to get mired this deep in the slime of gutter politics.  The interesting part of the current situation is based, according to SCOTUS, on the First Amendment’s right to free speech, guaranteed by the constitution.  But that guarantee is to the citizens of the U.S., and international corporations are not citizens.  They can’t vote.  They don’t hold driver licenses.  They don’t hold Social Security cards.

At least, for those of us that take the time to read what the individual politicians have to say, and not be swayed by million dollar PACs, this election could prove to be pivotal in many respects.  It is more clear cut than in years past, partly due to the liberal wing of the democrat party and partly due to the Tea Party wing of the republican party.  In years past, liberals were led by Lyndon Johnson, the giant of arm twisting big, bigger, biggest government.  The conservatives were led by Ronald Reagan, leader of small, smaller, smallest government.

The art of politics has been tainted by religion and the rabid religious right has been trying for many years to forcefully take over the republican party.  It’s the influence of people like Ron Paul, and now Paul Ryan that is bringing more political philosophy to the table and less religion.  On the liberal side, those most considered liberal are hampered by many that are afraid of the label.  They want to be centrist.  Being centrist is what kept John McCain out of the White House.  It is not the best bet for either Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney.

Without the slime and slurry, these next few months need to be an open debate on the benefits of conservatism versus liberalism, a real political dog fight, in which the philosophy of big government is explained by one side, and the philosophy of small government is fought for by the other.  All four men, Obama, Biden, Romney, Ryan are excellent debaters, all four would hold their own in any forum, and that’s what needs to happen.  CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and all the others need to shut the hell up and let the politicians have at it.

And the congress needs to take a long hard look at just who is a citizen of this country, individuals or corporations.  And the nine members of SCOTUS need to read the constitution, word for word for word.

Well, that’s it for this edition.  Read good books and stay regular.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reno, then and now


Taking a tour around Reno today, downtown, the Virginia Street corridor, Fourth Street, one can understand why the New York Times and Los Angeles Times ran the articles they did.  Someone has a very good memory.

It wasn’t that many years ago that Reno was home to major showrooms, big gaudy casinos, nightlife that extended past sunrise, and a plethora of the world’s finest entertainers.  Or, you know, maybe it was many years ago.  Today, we have climbing walls that are supposed to draw thousands?  As Sammy Davis did?  We have white water that is supposed to draw thousands?  As Liberace did?

Ed Ames, Burl Ives, Sammy, Lee, Jimmy Durante, Rowan and Martin, Red Skelton, my goodness, these major superstars in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, even into the early 1970s, came to town for two week stints, two shows a night, dark one night a week, and the rooms were full.

Men wore coats and ties, women wore cocktail dresses, lines formed after the cocktail show at places like Kiah’s Squeeze Inn for early breakfast, and the party continued, maybe on the second floor at Harold’s, or the Basque Bar at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, after some oyster stew at John’s Oyster Bar.  Nothing wrong with a visit with Jack Joseph on the air live from the Waldorf.

Reno was a 24-hour town with the Riverside, Holiday Hotel, and Stein’s vying for the lunch and afternoon crowds, Charley Mapes enticing the early evening business crowd, and the Sword Room lively with sales people all the time.  Deals were made, broken, hearts were a-flutter, and casino operators stood by while the giants of the Indian nations put together casinos to rival those in the Biggest Little City in the World.

I was a part of that era, first as a radio type at the original KOH, an NBC affiliate, and did many interviews of major stars, like Cosby, Skelton, Liberace for NBC Monitor, a nationwide program with millions of listeners.  Then, I moved to John Ascuaga’s Nugget as publicity director and worked with Jim Thompson, the entertainment director and Fred Davis the public relations director.  Yes, Virginia, I worked with Bertha and Tina, sat in on rehearsals of the major stars, quipped and joked and laughed with Debbie Reynolds and Burl Ives.  It was an incredible time.

The only casinos left from the glory days are Harrah’s, Cal Neva, and the Nugget.  Sil Petrocini’s Palace Club is gone, Harold’s, Holiday, Riverside, Fitzgerald’s, Golden, all gone, along with the glitter and glitz, the real and the phony.  Card sharks and card counters are seldom seen, the guy with C notes showing in a brocade vest is gone, the lovely show girl with legs that long, is gone.

One won’t lose the beauty of the old neighborhoods, the magnificent Sierra Nevada as a backyard, the Truckee River meandering through town, those and our memories are all that’s left of the old Reno, and the new has little if any glitz and glamour.  When comparing then and now, then wins, and those of us that were part and parcel of then will never forget.

It’s the now that needs help.  Reno is no longer filled with bright lights and world class entertainment, but for some, there is enough grit left to keep the old girl alive, with manufacturing, with high tech, with transportation, and of course, with outdoor activities in the mountains, lakes, and rivers.  New, young, active leaders need to step forward, not with political ambitions, but with ideas and desire to make the town alive and keep it well.  Is bigger better?  Many today don’t think so.  Make what exists better, make it shine in the eyes of those that live here.

Well, that’s enough for now.  Remember to read good books and stay regular.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mid-year thoughts


Some mid-year thoughts from an old and wretched mind …

We’ve managed to pass the mid mark of the calendar year, we survived the Fourth of July along with the hottest week on record around these parts.  And what do we have to show for all that effort?

We have two candidates for president, neither one of which is qualified for the office (even though one is already there), we have a supreme court that writes laws (think corporations as people), and we have an attorney general that sells guns to Mexican drug cartels because that will force us to discard the Second Amendment.

Man, oh man, we’ve been busy little bees, eh?

On the home front, I just got another short story published, this one scheduled to see the light of day in October’s issue of Epiphany.  The correct name of the magazine is Epiphany-epiphmag.com.  It seems there is another magazine out there that calls itself Epiphany Literary Journal. 

And, I just got word from my publisher (Bottom of the Hill Publishing) that “Out of the West … Tales of the American Frontier” is still selling.  I enjoy very much writing traditional western short stories.  I’ve had two published recently in Rope and Wire, and have started putting together an outline for a western novel.

Which brings up an interesting thought.  I also enjoy writing classic mysteries and crime stories.  The market for crime/mystery novels is very strong, but for crime/mystery short stories it is almost non-existent, while the market for western short stories is rather broad, the market for western novels is limited.  There’s a bit of a conundrum for you.

You figure it out.

We feed our horses a combination of grass and alfalfa, and use the part of the meals that are discarded (manure for those out of touch with the natural world) for mulch in the garden.  What is happening this year is interesting.  Seems the grass seeds are not fully digested, and I am growing an amazing amount of highly nutritious grass in with my corn, beans, peas, and tomatoes.  Can’t grow grass in the areas of the rancho set aside for lawns and such.

Strawberries and JalapeƱos doing very well right now, grapes are struggling, and mama rabbit hasn’t brought us her new litter yet.

That’s about enough for right now.  As always, read good books and stay regular.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ramblings on a cold morning


Just some rambling thoughts as we near another glorious weekend in northern Nevada.

Harvey Whittemore indicted on federal election law charges for giving excessive amounts of money through the devious manner of using relatives and employees, while the Supreme Court allows corporations to act as individuals and give excessive amounts of money through devious … oh well, you get the point.

If a corporation can be classified as an individual, therefore be covered by the First Amendment, then any group, incorporated or not, should be.  That would include the Boy Scouts, the Ku Klux Klan, and of course, General Motors.  Oh, my.

And while we’re on the subject of good old boy Whittemore, do you remember that it was Harry Reid who had the U.S. Government officially move the official home of the desert tortoise so Coyote Springs could be built?  Who says the American dollar has no value any more?

This weekend, June 9-10, rendezvous in Carson City.  Next weekend, June 16, poker ride with the Back Country Horsemen in Red Rock area.  Following weekend, June 22-23-24, June Doin’s with ECV.  No wonder nothing gets done around the old rancho.  They named this place Cold Springs Valley, not for the cold water flowing from the natural springs that no longer fill White’s Lake, but for the damn cold, cold, cold climate.  How many times does my beautiful bride have to plant tomatoes this year?

I created a character, Jacob Chance, and made him a U.S. Marshal, and wrote a little short story about him that was generously published in Rope and Wire western e-magazine, and I can’t get the dude out of my head.  Now, I’m starting to put together what I hope will end up being a large novel about the dude.  If I get it done, and if I get it published, I hope you’ll buy at least one copy for yourself and another for a good friend.

Sad to have to say goodbye to one of my all time favorite writers.  Ray Bradbury died at the delicious age of 91.  It isn’t the extent of the vocabulary that makes a good writer, it’s how that vocabulary is manipulated.  He was a master.

Well, must be off now.  Time to replant something that froze last night.  Remember, read good books and stay regular.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Galena Creek Bridge


The Nevada Department of Transportation announced toward the end of May, 2012, that the new portion of Highway 395 from the Mt. Rose Highway to Washoe Valley would be open sometime in July, 2012.  There have been problems with the highway from its conception to today, and our old friend Washoe Willie wrote about some of those problems, in his own fashion, you understand, several years ago when I was editor of the Nevada Observer.

Washoe Willie has a distinct manner of finding newsworthy subjects on which to expound, tomes of virulent fun and games, laced often with demon rum or whatever else might be available.

Please enjoy this in the manner in which it is offered.  That is, chaos within an active mind.  jg

Galena Creek Bridge Mystery Solved !!!
Work To Continue

by Washoe Willie

            The Nevada Department of Highway Safety (NDHS) has issued several press releases over the last few years regarding the problems with building the Galena Creek Bridge on Highway 395 between Reno and Carson City.  Not once have they told the real story behind the work stoppage.  Work has halted several times over the last few years, in fact one bridge building company actually pulled out of their contract with the state.  A new contract has been let, but it isn't certain that the bridge will ever actually be open to traffic.  This then is the real story of why the Galena Creek Bridge may never be built.
            The first recorded incident affecting the bridge construction time table occurred in 2003 when iron worker Terrance White walked off the job screaming about "the problem."  White along with many others on the project had been complaining regularly about strange sounds, about seeing shadowy figures, and hearing what sounded like growling.  The prime contractor said the men were making the stories up and refused to investigate.  Federal representatives refused to respond to our questions.
            White was arrested several weeks later when it was discovered he was on the job site without permission putting tape recorders in place.  "I'll prove to you that we weren't making these stories up."  White has been residing as a mental health inpatient in Sparks for more than a year.  "I've never told a lie in my life," he said at his last court appearance, "and I'm not telling one now.  There is something very dangerous at that bridge site."  He insists there is a conspiracy to hide the truth and the bridge will never be completed.
            It was after the prime contractor walked out on a lucrative contract that the full story came to light.  It may be that White and his co-workers did actually see or hear something strange.  E-mail was discovered on May 17th from an anonymous NDHS worker detailing the matter.  This reporter was able to get a copy of the e-mail.  This is how it reads.
            "Regarding the Terry White incident and the following problems with contractors, ironworkers, heavy equipment operators and others, NDHS personnel have found evidence of an entity living along the Galena Creek area, actually directly in line with the Galena Creek Bridge.  Workers have harassed the entity, thrown rocks at it, even taken shots with nail guns attempting to drive it off.  It won't leave."
            Representatives of the Nevada State Wildlife Preservation Agency have investigated the complaints and found bones and indications that something had a very large nest under a rock overhang in the area.  According to Wildlife Biologist Melanie Campbell, "This is a meat eating animal of some kind and the bridge workers must refrain from harassing it.  Prints and other information from the site don't look like bear, lion, or other large carnivores that roam western Nevada."
            In a highly secret E-mail from Campbell to NDHS engineers, the full story can be told.  For years those living near the Parker Ranch along Galena Creek have been harassed, sometimes molested by what is known as a Troll.  It is the Troll of Galena Creek, so often written about in the late 1800s that has disrupted the work on the Highway 395 bridge.
            One passage from the Pleasant Valley Register, a newspaper of 1866, reported the Troll had abducted an entire family that had been living along the banks of Galena Creek.  A further article in the Washoe City Bugle said the family, the father was unable to get work, had been surviving on marmots, jackrabbits, and snakes.  The Hiram Jackson family was found, injured but alive, several miles up the creek, in a state of mental collapse.  They never recovered their senses enough for a complete investigation to take place.  District officials sealed the records of the case, and it is believed the newspaper reports are all that is left.
            NDHS officials will not confirm nor deny these allegations, saying that work is resuming and the bridge will be finished.  There has never been a confirmed photograph of a Troll, but throughout history they have been known.  The Galena Creek Troll is not the only one known to exist in Nevada.
-end-

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Survival 101


Survival 101

Unlike many countries on this old world, the United States hasn’t been invaded for almost 200 years and for most residents, the concept of a tragedy that could totally interrupt lives comes from weather related problems, rarely lasting more than a week at best.  The devastation suffered by those living in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina is a rare exception.  Most problems that seriously affect lives are also generally localized with help not far away.  This leads to the questions: would you be prepared for something like a long siege following an invasion by a foreign country, or a civil uprising lasting a year or more?

Most of us are aware of lists of things we should have on hand in the event of a short term interruption of our lives, but what about the long term problems?  Experts, and those we’re talking about are survivors of long term problems such as the Bosnia war, the current problems in Afghanistan, and other places around the world, say some of the most important items to have on hand are the mechanical aides we find being replaced by electrical ones in most households today.

During such a catastrophe as an invasion or civil uprising, there will be nothing on grocery shelves within a day or two.  There will be few if any service stations operating, so fuel will be extremely difficult to come by.  Few if any general merchandise stores will be open, and those standing will probably have been ransacked within a day or two.  In other words, you will be on your own.  This is survival 101 and those that get a failing grade will die.

Can openers are the first to come to mind.  Hand cranked grain grinders would be on my list along with hand cranked meat grinders.  Food gathering will be high on many lists, and those that can prepare from raw grains, meat such as dogs, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, all kinds of birds, and the like will survive.  A well stocked pantry full of canned goods would also open you up to those that would steal and kill.  A rifle, shotgun, and pistol with a large stock of ammunition would be essential.
 
I would want access to good bow saws, axes, and hatchets, along with a bunch of very good knives, a sharpening hone, and some flint with a striking steel.  A couple of shovels, a couple of full rolls of duct tape, and several lengths of long rope would be essential along with a full first aid kit and sheets that could be torn into bandages.  For the long term, I think I would want to attempt to set up my quarters relatively near a water source.

Protection from good old Mama Nature is also high on the list, which would include heavy jackets, shirts, long johns, work boots, underwear, and socks.  One problem that will hit home almost immediately, you will probably not have access to toilet facilities or toilet paper.  Keeping a one to two year supply of such paper on hand would be out of the question.

Those that have survived this type of catastrophe say that bartering becomes a way of life, and scrounging for what we might consider necessities is almost a daily exercise.  Those that have items for barter find some good deals, these survivors tell us, and it’s the little things like toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, and canned goods that bring the highest bids.  And are the hardest to come by.

It’s terrifying to have to think about, but millions of humans have survived this type of human disaster just in the most recent 20 year period.  Those that lived in New Orleans were not prepared for the disaster that befell them, nor was their government.  In the event of an invasion or civil uprising, all government agencies will cease to exist, most facilities that we depend on daily will not be operational, and individually, we will be on our own.  And, here’s another bad part, you will have a very minimal amount of time to put your survival package together.

One survivor of Sarajevo was quoted as saying, “there is no luxury in war quite like toilet paper.  Its surplus value is greater than gold’s.”  Best bet?  Live near a well with a manual pump, raise goats and chickens, and have a store house full of toilet paper.  And, carry two big guns at all times.

As I like to say, read good books and stay regular.