Switching up the gears

Greetings and salutations,

I’ve been busy doing a bit of tinkering.  I want to make this blog more structured and interesting. It will help me keep on track too.

Sundays will be Ravn’s Weekly Round-Up

This will be a weekly report of current events (similar to my Reflection posts) as it pertains to me personally and also nationally/globally.

Tuesdays will be SHTF Fitness

This will be an update posts on my journey for top physical condition and also anything regarding fitness/nutrition and its relevance to prepping.

Thursdays will be Practical Skills Cultivation

A post about various survival and practical skills being utilized. Working with your hands, foraging, starting a fire, building, gardening, sustainability,  etc.

Fridays will be Folk Remedy Friday

This will be about growing herbs, making my own medicines, experiments, etc.

Saturdays will be Stockpiling Saturdays

A post about my progress in stocking up on food, water, and other miscellaneous supplies.


That is my rough draft and brain storm as of right now.  If anyone has any suggestions about what you’d like The Transgender Prepper to write about feel free to comment below.

Take care,

 

Ravn Thor

 

Climate change, why is this even a debate?

When it comes to discussing climate change, too many people in positions of power will start off by saying, “Now I’m not a scientist but…”

Donald Trump believes that “nobody really knows” if climate change is real or not.

The fact is that 97% of climate scientists, along with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and more than 30 professional scientific research societies, agree that climate change is happening because of human actions and that we are in serious trouble if we don’t do something about it.

97% of climate scientists that have dedicated years of study and expertise in this field are not ‘nobody’.

There’s a certain ideology that is present within many climate change deniers. Anti-Intellectualism :

Anti-intellectualism is an attitude that minimizes the value of intelligence, knowledge, and curiosity. Anti-intellectuals believe that science, expertise and “book knowledge” are less valuable than “street smarts” and “common sense.” They also believe that they don’t have to read anything about a field of knowledge before dismissing it with their own “theories”.

What is anti-intellectualism

  • Believing that academics or experts (even in their fields of expertise) aren’t worth listening to because they lack “common sense” or are “out of touch.”
  • Believing academics are “others” and have little concern for the common people. (One must wonder why they are in academia, then.)
  • Pushing conspiracy theories around places of higher education.
  • Believing academics are “elitists.”
  • Believing academics promote “sinfulness” or moral degeneracy.
  • Going with your gut over the advice or studies performed by various experts, because you see it as superior.
  • Not understanding or checking the arguments of experts before dismissing them.

They try to come off as skeptics but in reality they are just denialists. Pseudoscience and antiscience pose as if they are legitimate or hold equal footing.

In a previous post I discussed the topic of the media.  In a lot of ways I find media responsible for legitimizing the spread of pseudoscience and antiscience under the guise of “balance.”  However, this quest for ‘balance’ actually only create false balances.

How is it that 97% of scientists agree that global warming is real compared to 3% of scientists (who, by the way, are employed by the oil industry or through the “think tanks” those industries fund), hold any sort of balance to each other? When the media gives equal airtime to them it makes it appear as though they do.  This is dangerous because it creates bias.

Journalistic Balance as Global Warming Bias

Creating controversy where science finds consensus

One study analyzed coverage of climate change in four influential American newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and Wall Street Journal) over a 14-year period. It found that more than half of the articles discussing climate change gave equal weight to the scientifically discredited views of the deniers.

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There is a difference between Climate and Weather.

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.

So just because it was -25 degrees and snowed 2 feet in your neck of the woods doesn’t invalidate the fact that climate is changing and getting warmer.  Warmth increases water vapor into the atmosphere which therefore spells a recipe for unpredictable and violent weather patterns such as an increase in snow fall, stronger hurricanes, and so on.

How Climate Science Became Politicized

“It’s the trend that I find in some ways the most disturbing, because in the end, the climate system doesn’t care whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Leiserowitz told LiveScience. “It’s not like the floods are only going to hit Democrats and not Republicans or that the droughts are going to impact liberal farmers and not conservative ones. In the end, we all will suffer together and in the end, we’ll all have to solve this together.”

What are some things we can do?

On a macro level, weaning off of fossil fuels is in our best interest. It would grant us energy independence, protect the environment, supply an infinite amount of energy, and investing in greener fields such as solar and wind  would create more jobs.  There needs to be a tax on carbon emissions:

from an economists’ viewpoint, is that fossil fuels impose costs on society — “externalities” — that users do not share. These include the increased health care costs that result from fossil fuel pollution, or the infrastructure costs that are likely to result from rising sea levels.

“Taxes on externalities are not inconsistent with the free-market system,” Knittel says. “In fact, they’re required to make the free-market system achieve the efficient outcome. This idea that a pure free-market economy never has taxes is wrong.”

Some things we can do on a micro level would be to make a few changes in our lifestyles.

  • become informed, educate yourself
  • Be mindful of water waste, collect rainwater, etc
  • grow a garden
  • walk more, carpool, public transit
  • when you leave a room turn off the lights, turn off the furnace when going out, etc
  • eat less red meat, support farmer’s markets, eat local produce when you can
  • Vote for policies that ensure the protection of the environment
  • Waste less, recycle more

Preppers do quite a bit in becoming self-sufficient and sustainable. Having self-sufficiency, sustainability, and self-reliance is very empowering.  I have dreams of living off-grid and fully self-sufficient.  Little by little I hope to make that happen.

The climate impacts the whole world and is already starting to show it’s effects.  Climate change is not a question of faith, because whether you believe in it or not it’s still true.

Until next time,

Ravn Thor

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

-Aldo Leopold

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Deodorant

Transitioning really opened my eyes to how powerful hormones are and how the body reacts to whatever chemical combination is put into  it or is exposed to.  Transpeople, however, aren’t the only ones who (if they choose to medically transition) are exposed to different hormones.  Everyday, people are unknowingly being exposed to endocrine disruptors that effect the hormone levels and cause a wide variety of health problems.

A few chemicals that are found in our everyday items include:

BPA

BPS

Phthytates

Parabens

and the list goes on.

Endocrine disruptors “mimic or partly mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens (the female sex hormone), androgens (the male sex hormone), and thyroid hormones, potentially producing overstimulation.” source  This can lead to hormonal imbalances, obesity, reproductive problems, neurological and behavior problems, early puberty, and cancers.  Check out this entry in Wikipedia, skim through it and be sure to look at the bottom list of sources cited.

Endocrine disruptors can be found in cleaning products, plastics, cans, hygiene products and more.  While it’s difficult to completely eliminate these disruptors, you can limit your exposure to it.

One way of doing that is by making your own hygiene products.

Tonight I made my own deodorant using coconut oil, corn starch, baking soda, witch hazel, vitamin e oil, essential oils and some shea butter.  I followed a simple template at this website.

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I made a mixture of cedarwood, tea tree, patchouli, bergamont, lavender, sage, and rosemary essential oils to scent it.  It’s really fun to make your own signature scents.  I added witch hazel as a way to wick moisture away.

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I was really impressed with how it mixed!

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I recycled my recently emptied deodorant stick and it fit right in.  I tried it on and it felt kind of wet at first, but it surprisingly dried within a minute or two.

In the future I may experiment with more recipes.

Prepping for your body: Prepper Fitness

Taking care of the body is very important when it comes to prepping (and should always be important all around!).  When SHTF, being able to run, hike while carrying large amounts of weight, fight, lift, carry, work, etc a won’t do you much good if you’re out of shape.  You can get in shape at home or join a gym. Whichever works best for you!

Today I re-enrolled at my local Golds Gym. I’ve been weight training off and on for over 4 years. In college I had access to the fitness centers.  After I graduated I was enrolled at another gym for a few months until I lost my job.   It’s been about 4 months since I’ve been at the gym, however, I have kept up with exercising at home. Now that I have a stable income I decided it’s time to go back.

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This morning I got a complimentary fitness assessment and got a base reading of where I’m at currently.

Ravn’s Stats as of 2/7/2017

Weight:  129

Body Fat %: 18

I’m excited to see where I’ll be a month from now.  The trainer at the gym said that I’m what he calls a “hard gainer” and recommended I eat 6-8 meals a day.  I have a few meals prepped already.  Training really helps stimulate my appetite.  He also recommended that I cut down on cardio to maybe 2 times a week for 3o minutes.  I could be over-doing my cardio and burning off that hard earned muscle and setting myself back.  He advised I gain about 15lbs.  My goals are to gain that and then I’ll test myself with a weighted endurance hike in the spring.

A gym really works for me because it gets me out of the house and doing something constructive.  Going to the gym while being trans can be nerve-wracking though.  I pass as a man now, and so the locker room I use is the mens locker room.  I feel a bit of nervousness about it but so far I’ve not encountered anything.  Today I just used the entry way and changed my shoes. I show up already dressed for exercise.  I know you shouldn’t wear your binder when exercising, but I don’t have anything else to wear to hide my chest.  I really hope to get top surgery sometime in the near future.  I’d like to be able to shower right away after a hard work-out, but I’m still unsure if that would be safe there. I do believe there are private showers. I’ll have to feel it out some more and figure out what time of day is the least volume in terms of busyness.

For some folks a gym isn’t really their atmosphere, and that’s okay! There are plenty of different ways to get in shape! Whether it’s doing more outdoor activities or exercising at home, there’s something for everyone.

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When I work-out at home I use this doorway pull-up bar and resistance bands as well as some body weight exercises.  The pull-up bar was a great investment for me because not only can you use it to do pull-ups, but you can use it for sit-ups, push-ups, and dips.  Resistance bands are pretty inexpensive and there are numerous exercises you can do to really feel the burn.

On top of building your body you must fuel your body right too!  I have cut alcohol completely from my diet, and four years ago I quit smoking. I continue to eat clean, but I do treat myself now and then. In the past I had restricted myself too much to where it was unhealthy.

I wrote an article about fitness and nutrition that got published in FTM Magazine: Embodiment and Empowerment through Exercise and Nutrition that goes through some of the things I do and eat.  I also am an avid reader of this website: Muscle For Life.

Having a strong and healthy body is vital for living in the apocalypse or encountering any kind of emergency situation.  If you can think through scenarios but your body doesn’t follow through with the kind of strength, endurance, stamina, and energy it needs, then your chance of survival diminishes. You could really endanger yourself and that of your party.

Until Next Time,

Ravn Thor

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”  -Jim Rohn

 

Refusing to be a Sitting Duck. Defending oneself if you can’t own a firearm.

I have been working on this post all week, and then this happened:

House rolls back Obama gun background check rule

“The Republican-led House voted Thursday to repeal an Obama-era regulation that required the Social Security Administration to disclose to the national gun background check system information about people with mental illness.”

“The rule sought to limit the ability of those with mental illness to purchase guns but drew criticism for casting too wide a net and not providing the opportunity for due process. Opponents of the rule, including the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, also said the broad range of reasons that could be used to designate someone for the SSA database include conditions that should not stop a gun purchase.”

I’m actually relieved about this. However, I have a lot of decisions and reflecting to do.

When people think of or hear about mental illness the first thought that comes to their mind is usually a dehumanizing one.  Media representations and stigma has created a complete misunderstanding of mental health and those who deal with it every day.

I need to lay down some facts and dispel some myths.

Mentally ill more likely to be victims, not perpetrators, of violence, study shows

 

Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact: The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.

I want to be able to protect myself. I want to be able to hunt for my food. After doing much reflecting and heated discussions with my significant other, this has lead to a bit of existential dilemma.

I mentioned in my first post about having bipolar disorder. Indeed, it is something I did not ask for, but it is something I have learned to cope with and deal with in a healthy way. I take my medication, take care of my body, I do not use drugs or alcohol, I go to the doctor and therapy.  I recently got a well paying job. I graduated college.  I am a productive member in my community and very involved.  I’m stable.  My partner has a .22 rifle and I have never touched it or sought it out because it’s hers.  I have shot guns before, as I have grown up on a farm.  I understand the responsibility of a gun and that it certainly is not a toy. It’s a tool. It’s a weapon.

Check out this study

 

Four assumptions frequently arise in the aftermath of mass shootings in the United States: (1) that mental illness causes gun violence, (2) that psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime, (3) that shootings represent the deranged acts of mentally ill loners, and (4) that gun control “won’t prevent” another Newtown (Connecticut school mass shooting). Each of these statements is certainly true in particular instances. Yet, as we show, notions of mental illness that emerge in relation to mass shootings frequently reflect larger cultural stereotypes and anxieties about matters such as race/ethnicity, social class, and politics. These issues become obscured when mass shootings come to stand in for all gun crime, and when “mentally ill” ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat.


 

Yet surprisingly little population-level evidence supports the notion that individuals diagnosed with mental illness are more likely than anyone else to commit gun crimes. According to Appelbaum,25 less than 3% to 5% of US crimes involve people with mental illness, and the percentages of crimes that involve guns are lower than the national average for persons not diagnosed with mental illness. Databases that track gun homicides, such as the National Center for Health Statistics, similarly show that fewer than 5% of the 120 000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.26


Gun crime narratives that attribute causality to mental illness also invert the material realities of serious mental illness in the United States. Commentators such as Coulter blame “the mentally ill” for violence, and even psychiatric journals are more likely to publish articles about mentally ill aggression than about victimhood.5 But, in the real world, these persons are far more likely to be assaulted by others or shot by the police than to commit violent crime themselves. In this sense, persons with mental illness might well have more to fear from “us” than we do from “them.” And blaming persons with mental disorders for gun crime overlooks the threats posed to society by a much larger population—the sane.

^these are all facts. Facts are still true whether you believe in them or not.

We(my sig o and I) talked about how my owning a firearm would up the percentage of endangering me-myself. I said that it was my choice and my right, and for every gun owner there is that statistic. I told her I trusted myself and that I do not want to be a target or a sitting duck. But my partner pulled this card on me: So, hypothetically, if you did own a gun, you would be ok with increasing my risk of danger?

I did not know what to say that.  She said that if I wanted to own a firearm that we could not live in the same house.

Her points are valid. However, so are mine. Since she already owns a .22, the percentage of danger to us both is already up, because, statistically speaking having a gun in the home increases everyone’s(in the home) chances of gun-related accidents.


I  really wish people would take a look at it from my perspective instead of quickly dismissing me with a label and think of me in terms of stereotypes. It’s frustrating to feel as though I have no right to protect myself at all, on top of my humanity being denied.

Seriously, who wants to be a sitting duck?? Who wants to be dehumanized and seen as ‘other’? Who wants to constantly have to be dependent on other people to ‘protect’ you? Do you know what it feels like to have your rights taken away? Your right to protect your body? When you did NOTHING wrong?  “Sorry, you’ve been diagnosed with (insert any illness here), and that comes with revoking your 2nd amendment right. And here is a heaping helping of stigma and dehumanization to boot! Have fun with all the people who cast you away as a miscreant of society, and be blamed for the majority of violence in this country even though statistically speaking it’s 3-5%….no one wants to own up to the other 95-97% so the finger will be pointed at you.” Furthermore, no wonder people who are struggling with mental health don’t seek out help when they should, because of losing these rights, and also being stigmatized, and dehumanized, and not ever taken seriously or seen as someone worth having around (seriously, people love to demonize the mentally ill and use them as scapegoats.). As far as I’m concerned, people with many diagnosis’ own firearms and they’re fine. Media sensationalizes. If veterans with PTSD can keep their guns, I should be allowed to prove myself competent and responsible to own one too, as it will be my right. And in some states, the ability to appeal and prove ones stability is possible.

According to this new overturning of the Obama Background check bill,  the NRA believes that the determination about who is mentally ill should be left to the courts. I would be okay with a grace period to prove my stability, and I’d even be okay with negotiating on someone else holding my ammo, as long as there is accountability and civility, equity  and humility about it, I’m willing to negotiate.

Anyway, I’m not really interested in this debate anymore. I haven’t made up my mind yet as to whether or not I would buy one now that this law about background checks will pass.  I’m not really interested in a handgun, but more so a rifle to hunt for food.

Anyway, this recent news totally sidetracked my main point of this post, which is how to defend oneself if you can’t own a firearm. (If you’re similar to me, or are a felon, or whatever, no judgement here).

Whenever I’ve talked to some people about mentioning ways to protect oneself without a firearm, I get instantly dismissed and told to just buy a gun. “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” they say. And they’re right. I’m pretty much screwed. Nobody seems to offer any alternatives however or gives much of a shit. You either can own a gun or you can’t and if you can’t then you’re ostracized and not welcome. That is just the worst feeling. But fuck what anyone thinks. I will find alternatives. My body is a weapon and so is my mind. There has to be some ways.

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Full tang katana, foam practice nunchucks(saving up for metal/wooden), machete, LED flashlight, aersol pepper spray, 600,000 volt stun gun, and pocket knife are what I have so far.

These are just ridiculous  and would be completely useless in a gun fight. It’s hard to not just throw up my hands and say “screw it, may as well not try,”  but that’s where I’m different. I’m resilient and my will to live is very strong. I’d rather do something than nothing. Sigh.

I’ve practiced martial arts off and on for 5 years. I learned Taekwando in college.  Where I reside currently there isn’t much around in terms of a dojo for me to learn.  I’ll keep my eyes open though, and I’ll keep feeding my head. Knowledge is a blade worth sharpening.
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I ordered a better one online, but it somehow ‘got lost’ in shipping. So I got a refund.  Where I live stun guns are legal and require no permit.  The other day I called around to 3 different gun stores to see if they had a stun gun—all three were sold out except for the last store I called. I drove 15min to another town that’s a sister city to my town, and got their last stun gun. According to the fella at the counter, he said they’ve been flying off the shelves.

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In one of my martial arts/self defense classes one instructor discussed how a high powered LED flashlight can be an effective weapon, especially when dark.  A quick blinding flash right in the eyes can give you an upper hand to stun(after blinding, use a move to stun them) and run.

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This pepper spray shoots up to 12 feet.  I’m also considering getting a canister of bear mace.

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Just a general pocket knife.  I’m going to look for something more tactical in terms of self defense.

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These are foam practices nunchucks. I’ve been practicing with them for a couple years. I will be upgrading to a metal or wooden pair in the future.

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Here is a full tang katana blade I bought when I was a teenager. You would think I’m a flippin’ mall ninja.  I don’t match the criteria though. I’m full well grounded in reality, and as I stated above these are pretty much useless if I faced an attacker with a firearm. you know, like in that scene from Indiana Jones.

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Here’s a pretty decent machete that will be good for camping at least.

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When in doubt, blow out an eardrum.

This is what I have so far in regards to weapons.  Exercise and building strong muscles, dexterity, and agility are also among the ways I can protect myself. Being faster and able to run can give me at least a small chance, and learning more self defense/martial arts.  Cameras and recording acts of violence  being committed are a powerful way of self protection in some situations. Using my mind and being able to read situations, how to avoid certain situations, evade, talk my way out of things, are also ways of self defense. i’m honestly not one to go looking for trouble or a fight, I’m also not interested in being a macho man with  ‘something to prove’ in a fight, I’m more interested in surviving and getting away. In my martial arts classes it was taught that the best thing to do in a situation is to get away as fast as possible. Martial arts and self defense aren’t like what you see in movies. And people who use it to talk tough are just  trying to impress and compensate for their insecurities.

The flight instinct is just as powerful as the fight instinct. It takes wisdom to know which one to use.

I have stated in previous blog posts that I plan on moving back to my college town.  When that time comes I will make my decision on whether or not to learn how to operate(taking numerous safety classes) and handle a firearm and purchase one for hunting and self protection. This will be my choice and my right. I do realize that there are perhaps other items/alternatives  I can use, such as crossbows, slingshots, or hunting-grade air rifles. Investing in a strong security system and reinforcing my home with cameras and security windows are other methods too.  I also acknowledge that forming a strong community is another way I can protect myself.  In a community everyone has a role to play. If I don’t have a firearm, a friend might and so do others, and that is their role, whereas I can be a Swiss Army Knife of skills that are just as important and useful.

Either way, my goal of this post is to try to create some bridge of understanding for people in the kind of situation I am in.

I refuse to be a sitting duck.

Until next time,

Ravn Thor

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. -Bruce Lee

 

 

Learning Folk Medicine

*Disclaimer: This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness. I am not a health care practitioner. Please discuss your personal health with a qualified doctor before making changes to your diet or health regimen.

In a previous post I noted that in the first couple days of office, Dictator Cheeto signed an executive order to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Through my 20s I’ve been very interested in mind/body holistic health. I’ve studied up on nutrition and looked through what’s fact and what’s fad, and the same with alternative remedies.  In my arsenal of prepping I believe learning basic first aid and preventative medicine are vital tools. Keeping my immune system strong so it’s not susceptible to diseases is very important, because if I get sick I won’t be able to afford to see the doctor. And if I do go see the doctor, there is a good chance that doctor could cite “deeply held religious beliefs” and refuse to treat me. So it’s in my best interest to protect and empower myself to understand my body and keep it healthy.

Honey for a cough. The tried and true chicken noodle soup. Tea tree oil for a skin blemish. For a brighter smile brush with baking soda. What these things all have in common is that they can be considered folk medicine!

According to the World Health Organization, Folk Medicine is:

“the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.”

It’s very important to learn how to weed through all the snake oil. Just because blood-letting was once a practiced ‘traditional’remedy doesn’t mean it was ever a good idea.

“A man may esteem himself happy when that which is his food is also his medicine.” -Henry David Thoreau

My kitchen in a lot of ways is a mini apothecary.

A few staples that I keep in my kitchen are:

  • Garlic
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Green Tea
  • Ginger Root
  • Lemons
  • Raw Honey

Garlic

Garlic is one of the worlds most researched and important medicinal plants (and it adds amazing flavor to most anything!).

Best taken raw, the key actions of this plant is that it’s an antibiotic, anti fungal, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, supports beneficial intestinal flora, and is an amazing antioxidant keeping free radicals at bay. It’s excellent at preventing the common cold or shortening the length of time if you catch one.   It’s a real immune system booster!

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It also gives you an edge when dealing with not so nice vampires.

I eat about 3-4 cloves a day. I put it on most everything. Potatoes, rice, noodles, pasta, pizza, bread, salad, nachos, tacos, steak, soups, etc.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is an amazing spice to add to any meal if you need a kick but it also has some pretty nifty health benefits too.

Cayenne pepper helps fight inflammation and can give your metabolism a much needed boost as well as stimulate the circulatory system. It’s key component, capsaicin, is what makes this pepper spicy. High in vitamins A and C this pepper helps support the immune system.  The heat of this pepper also gives you a nice endorphin rush.
Since cayenne stimulates blood flow, it can be a useful spice to add more spice to your sex drive.

I love to use cayenne in many different dishes and I even like to put cayenne in my ginger lemon honey tea or even make a spicy hot chocolate.

Green Tea

Legend has it that in 3rd century China, Emperor Shen Nung was sitting under a tree boiling water and leaves fell from the tree into his kettle.  He took a sip and found it to be quite delightful, so resulting in the timeless tradition of drinking tea!

Tea is a stimulant with a moderate amount of caffeine which offers a nice pick-me-up(not as much as a cup of coffee though).  It contains high levels of polyphenols, which is an antioxidant that has been found to help weight loss,  and hinder inflammation.

Green tea is also good for focus and helping alleviate depression.  This is because green tea contains the amino acid L-Theanine:

“L-theanine is an amino acid responsible for increasing alpha brain wave activity, which promotes relaxation. In concert with the stimulant caffeine, this allows tea to induce a feeling of increased concentration over a longer period of time, compared to caffeine alone. Some tea merchants will tell you that tea “releases” its caffeine into the body more slowly than coffee, but in actuality, the effects of caffeine are being moderated by L-theanine.”

So besides getting really good focus and antioxidants out of green tea, there are even more benefits to your health:

“Studies have also shown that there are added benefits to tea, besides alertness. In a paper by Eschenauer and Sweet, it was concluded that “increased alpha activity in the brain induced by L-theanine has been associated with increased creativity, increased performance under stress, and improved learning and concentration as well as decreased anxiety.” [2] A 2001 study suggests that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine “improves the ability to multi-task and reduces task-induced fatigue,” [3]

I have around 2 to 3 cups of green tea a day. Matcha green tea contains even higher amounts of L-Theanine. I like to add matcha to my smoothies.

Ginger Root

There’s nothing quite like the zing of fresh raw ginger root! Ginger is anti-inflammatory and may even be used in place of aspirin to treat arthritic pain for those that can’t have aspririn. Personally, I can’t have OTC pain relievers because it flares up severe stomach acid distress.  Ginger has been a life savor for nausea and my aches and pains.

Ginger is also an antioxidant and can improve resistance during a flu or cold.

I like to add raw garlic and raw ginger root to my chicken soup when I feel a hint of a cold coming on.

Lemon

Lemons! An excellent source of vitamin C!  I use lemon almost as much as I use garlic! I like to use it in cooking or have tea with a squeeze of lemon, pinch of cayenne, chunks of ginger, and a spoonful of raw honey.  It’s my nightly ritual.

Raw Honey

Honey. Sweet ambrosia and nectar of the goddess!  Honey is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and chock full of amino acids and vitamins and minerals.  It’s by far my favorite sweetener. Raw honey in particular is minimally processed thereby keeping all of the enzymes and amino acids.

Honey gives the libido a boost and increases stamina. There are also studies that have found honey to be a great anticancer food.

I prefer to buy local raw honey.  Please note that while there are many benefits to raw honey, there are also potential dangers or drawbacks.  For example, honey is full of fructose (hence it being a sweetener) and so adding spoonful after spoonful is extra added calories. Raw honey should never be given to infants because of it’s potential although rare cases of endospores of Clostridium botulinum (the bacteria that can cause botulism) have been found.  The adult digestive system can filter that out but infants systems are not strong enough.

I daydream of having my own self sufficient farm and being a keeper of bees.

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For about a month I’ve been dealing with an infection that has made the  lymph nodes in my neck go into overdrive.  I went to the doctor and got everything all checked out. It’s nothing to be worried about thankfully, however, feeling really worn out all the time while my body is battling this infection has really gotten me down. I decided to ‘level up’ my beginner herbalism skills and make my very first decoction.

In Rosemary Gladstar’s book on medicinal herbs, a decoction is made of woody plant parts, roots and bark, twiggy bits, and other hard parts. It takes a slow simmer for about 45minutes to extract the medicinal properties of these herbs.

In my handy-dandy Herbal Remedies Visual Reference Guide by Andrew Chevallier, I looked up some herbs that would help with lymph draining and fighting infections.

So my first medicinal potion I made:

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Astragalus, Cleavers, Echinacea, Dandelion RootJuniper berries, Raw Ginger, Garlic, Raw honey, dash of cayenne.

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I let it simmer for around 45 minutes.  I put a quart of water in and after simmering it made about 2 cups totals.  I added the honey and cayenne pepper after the finished product.  It didn’t taste bad, but it did taste strange. Like a weird mix of coffee and rootbeer.

I’ve also been taking a hot bath with epsom salts and drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, and peppermint essential oils. I sometimes take an epsom salt soak after a particularly hard day of weight training or long hike.  The science behind whether or not epsom salts work the way other natural holistic health websites say they do is pretty iffy.  I take it with a grain of salt (no pun intended) when it comes to what it may or may not do. I just know that it feels really good and dissipates my stress.  Prolonged stress can lead to susceptibility to disease and the body being unable to regulate inflammation.  So for the most part I use Epsom Salt baths as a way to manage stress.

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So these are just a few things that I do to take care of myself to prevent getting sick or to take care of myself if I do ever get sick. When I lose access to my health care, I like to believe I stand a good chance of surviving.  However, if the access to my Testosterone is cut that will be another story.  It’s a medicine that can’t be stocked becuase it’s a controlled substance. Things are very uncertain at this period of time.

Until next time,

Ravn Thor

Please comment!

What are some of your favorite Folk Medicines or Remedies?

“Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”  -William Shakespeare

 

Mega Media Reflection Post

Pour yourself a cup of coffee because this is going to be a thorough post!

“The Media.”  “Fake News.”  “Alternative Facts.”   Media is a huge part of our everyday lives. It’s how we communicate and share ideas. It’s how we stay up to date on what’s going on in the world.  From painting in caves,  harking in the town square, writing manuscripts, printing press,books, magazines,radio waves, television, internet, social media, etc–media is all around us and it is a lens through which we look through but also a mirror we look into.  I believe becoming extremely media literate is a crucial skill to learn as a prepper and  a way for us to stay empowered.

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This is one of my favorite Onion satires.

 

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In 1983, 50 corporations controlled most of the American media, including magazines, books, music, news feeds, newspapers, movies, radio and television. By 1992 that number had dropped by half. By 2000, six corporations had ownership of most media, and today five dominate the industry: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom. With markets branching rapidly into international territories, these few companies are increasingly responsible for deciding what information is shared around the world.
http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/democracyondeadline/mediaownership.html

The internet for awhile was a way to break free from corporation owned media, however, this has drastically changed.  Little by little several online news sites have slipped into being owned by a small faction of media conglomerates:

In raw numbers, 80 percent of the top 20 online news sites are owned by the 100 largest media companies. Time Warner owns two of the most visited sites: CNN.com and AOL News, while Gannett, which is the twelfth largest media company, owns USAToday.com along with many local online newspapers.

According to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, and writer of the book The New Media Monopoly, Ben Bagdikian, describes these media conglomerates as a “cartel” that holds enough power to drastically influence to change U.S politics and social values.  Bagdikian believes this is a huge threat to democracy  because it narrows choices and takes away a full spectrum of information and perspectives from voters.

(list of sources on this topic from the PBS article)

Who Owns The Media?

Do you like graphic novels? Manga, comic books, etc?  Then I have a perfect book recommendation for you that dives right in to the history of Media and it’s various nuances. The Influencing Machine is a book I read in my WGS class called Media and Diverse Identities  back in 2014. The Influencing Machine looks into the issue of why we distrust the news and how it’s always been this way.  Gladstone rejects the notion that we are being controlled by the media. The main idea in this book is that the media is a mirror, rather than an “influencing machine” because we, the consumers of media, directly construct, filter, and respond to what we watch and read. Here is an excerpt and here is a book review.

Here is a link to a 3min video introducing this book!

In a book review from The Guardian:

“Gladstone’s central thesis is that we get the media we deserve: it doesn’t control us so much as pander to us (her title is a reference to the delusion suffered by some schizophrenics that an outside entity is putting certain dark and possibly shameful thoughts in their heads when, in fact, those thoughts originate in their own minds). So it’s up to us to acknowledge our own complicity. This isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who work in the media. Journalists, she believes, are too prone to running with the pack and sometimes craven and afraid (not for nothing did the US authorities decide to embed reporters during its adventures in the Middle East; terror and gratitude made the early headlines better than they should have been). Human beings are all prey to unconscious prejudices, and reporters no more or less than anyone else.”

 

Both of these books hold very valid points and make strong arguments.  Does the media influence us or do we influence it?  My take is that it’s both.

The 2016 Oxford Dictionary Word of The Year is

Post-Truth:

an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

What gives the most ratings? News that appeals to emotion. It doesn’t matter if something is factually true, if the ‘alternative facts’  feels true, then it must be true! At least to the consumer. So since ratings = money, and outlandish rage-media makes the ratings sky rocket, then the consumers are influencing the media to pander to them, which in turn regurgitates back onto consumers and those who aren’t thinking critically.

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills to have. The arts, humanities, sciences, and so forth are all modes of which to nurture critical thinking skills. It’s alarming that funding for these are being cut.

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According to this very thorough piece in Wired Magazine, we don’t live in a “Post-Truth” era, but an era of internet enabling bullshit:

 FAKE NEWS ISN’T just Macedonian teenagers or internet trolls. A longstanding network of bogus “think tanks” raise disinformation to a pseudoscience, and their studies’ pull quotes and flashy stats become the “evidence” driving viral, fact-free stories. Not to mention President Trump’s tweets.

These organizations have always existed: They’re old-school propagandists with new-school, tech-savvy reach. They’ve been ginning up so-called research for everyone from shady corporations to anti-LGBTQ groups to white supremacists for decades—they’re practiced, and their faux-academic veneer is thick and glossy. Which makes them harder to brush off than your garden-variety liar. “Fake think tanks use a mix of selected truths, half-truths, and downright fabricated stuff in order to manipulate people,” says Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City College of New York and author of Nonsense on Stilts: How To Tell Science from Bunk. “We don’t live in the age of post-truth. We live in the age of internet-enabled bullshit.”

Many of these “think tanks” are propagandists that spread disinformation. Many tend toward hate:

There’s the white supremacist National Policy Institute and Jared Taylor‘s New Century Foundation; the anti-LGBTQ work of the Family Research Council and American College of Pediatricians; and a whole slew of anti-immigrant groups. Three of the biggest—Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, and NumbersUSA—are intertwined, sharing a founder and funder in white nationalist John Tanton.

It’s not just right-wing, but there are plenty of misinformation spread through left-wing circles also.

In a lot of ways, it’s hard to tell which is fake and which is legit. This is because these think tanks have done a most excellent job at being a mimic.  One way I used to discern from fake and legit news sources online was to look at the web address. I figured if it ended in a .org or .edu those are trusted sites.  They used to be, but now these think tanks coopted those too, according to Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “Now some of the main hate sites are dot-orgs.”

How is this allowed to happen?  Well, these sorts of things are not regulated and in fact are tax exempt.

“…think tanks don’t have a regulatory agency. Many—NPI, EPI, ACPeds, CIS, the New Century Foundation, FRC—are even tax exempt, registered as 501(c)3 non-profits like most legitimate think tanks. “So they’ve been able to convince someone at the IRS that what they do is educational,” says Donald Abelson, a political scientist at the University of Western Ontario who studies think tanks. “And the only time the IRS gets involved is if they violate 501(c)3 regulations by showing overt partisanship.”

Even mainstream think tanks only just following this rule, finding loopholes in the tax code for partisan breakaway organizations like the Center for American Progress Action Fund or Heritage Action for America. “The term ‘think tank’ has become so diluted over the years,” says Abelson. “It has created additional space on the American political landscape for these types of organizations to emerge and gain notoriety.””

The way these think tanks and media content creators have become so powerful is because algorithms have become weaponized:

“Think-tanky white supremacist organizations have generated enough material that a search topic like ‘black on white crime’ is dominated by their propaganda. That’s what happened to Dylann Roof, and how Trump ended up tweeting those false statistics.”

Their content plays well on social media. “Misinformation and fake news triggers hot cognition— it bypasses your focus on accuracy and goes directly to your feelings,” says Joseph Kahne, a professor of education at UC Riverside who studies engagement with media and politics online. “If the misinformation confirms their prior policy position, they are far more likely to say its accurate.”

Which these organizations know, and exploit. “There is one basic reason why CIS is influential,” Camarota says. “It’s that there’s nobody else criticizing immigration in a thoughtful way. It’s like we’re the best hockey player in Ecuador.” When you carve out a niche supplying confirmatory information you know people are looking for, it doesn’t matter if you’re right or not. And that extends beyond arguments happening on your uncle’s Facebook feed, because appealing stats and buzzwords are politically expedient, too.

How do these websites become mainstreamed so to speak?

Take for example the website Breitbart (I’m not going to link it).  This was known as a fringe “alt-right” bullshit site. However, by aligning themselves with a political figure making their way up (Trump), Breitbart has become legitimized as one of the most read conservative websites online. Steve Bannon, who was the executive chair of this website, is now the Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President. Disturbingly, he now has a seat at the table on the National Security Council.  A man, who has NO experience, in National Security. A man with known ties to white supremacy will now be calling the shots on National Security.

Urgent

A white nationalist is now in charge of authorizing the secret, legal, targeted killings of American citizens (and others) without due process; Call your representatives to publicly oppose this!!

While the world was (understandably) focusing on the immigration executive order, a quieter – but equally disturbing – plot was developing.

Quick background: the National Security Council (NSC) is a federal council comprised of important high-level government officials including the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Director of National Intelligence. The NSC’s primary job is to use this broad expertise to advise the President on national security matters and assist in carrying out security directives.

Yesterday, the President removed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from the NSC. He replaced them with Steve Bannon. Bannon has no government, intelligence, or high-level military experience; his experience is leading a propaganda outlet (Breitbart News) that peddles nationalist and white nationalist viewpoints.

This would be deeply concerning in and of itself. But one of the jobs of the NSC is to oversee a secret panel that authorizes the assassination of “enemies of the United States Government”including American citizens. These targeted killings are fully authorized by law under the Congressional military authorization act following 9/11. There is no trial, no due process, and no public record of the decision or the assassination itself.

Just to recap the absurdity: the President of the United States has appointed a known propagandist, nationalist, and white supremacist to replace the highest military advisor in the country on a council that authorizes secret, legal, targeted killings of American citizens (and others) without due process.

What You Can Do:
– Call your Senators and Congressperson this week and demand that they publicly and legislatively oppose Trump’s appointment of Steven Bannon to the NSC.
– Spread the word about this news to your networks, since this is not getting a lot of coverage right now

 

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Thanks to social media and the internet, anyone can distribute information.  With instant upload a story can go viral in minutes without any fact checks. According to  tech entrepreneur Oliver Luckett, 

human emotion has become the editor-in-chief of today’s news, and that to steer us away from misinformation, fake news, and opinion masquerading as fact, it will require a concerted effort in social responsibility – something that we may not be capable of en masse.

We need to remember to keep our feet on the ground when an intense headline hits the web.  These headlines are meant for clicks.  How can we weed through all this bullshit? How can we ever know what we know to be true?  All of this feels so overwhelming!

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on how to discern between what’s bullshit and what’s fact. A couple books I’ve been reading:

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All three of these books are amazing in that they get us to examine ourselves and the world around us, why we believe what we believe, how it came to be, and how to critically think.

Here are some powerful key quotes from Demon Haunted World:

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” -Carl Sagan

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…” -Carl Sagan

“The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” -Carl Sagan

 

“If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.” -Carl Sagan

Here are a few key quotes from The Invisible Gorilla:

“Beware of memories accompanied by strong emotions and vivid details—they are just as likely to be wrong as mundane memories, but you’re far less likely to realize it.” – Christopher Chabris

“Incompetence causes overconfidence.”
― Christopher Chabris

Because of these uncertain times I’ve been interested in potentially starting a newsletter, podcast, vlog, and so on.  But more so I’m leaning towards making some form of physical media that I can mail.

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In that WGS class on Media and Diverse Identities we had an assignment on making our own Zine.  It was one of my favorite assignments in college.  I’m considering making more zines and keeping a mailing list.  Privacy, net neutrality (which is a later post) are all being compromised.

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We can be certain that we don’t know everything and in this day and age with instant media at our fingertips it is more important than ever to know thyself.