Coping: Prepping Paranoid – the Short Course

I assume by now you know that every single piece of mail that is delivered to your home is photographed by the US Postal Service and is shoved into a database which features an entry for every American, right? You did know that, right?

What you are looking at in the photograph is the email sent to me yesterday by the Postal Service, which contained a photograph of every piece of mail that I would receive later in the day from my local carrier. They do not get all the packages properly scanned, but all of the envelopes are.

Obviously this is not a bad thing: because people from far away, foreign places, who may indeed mean harm to the United States, leave a written and photographic copy of their foreign correspondence on file ready for any bureaucrat to discover.

(Continues below)


This is not designed to make you paranoid, although it may, but it is worth knowing that every single piece of mail delivered to your home is being photographed by the Postal Service and is being placed in a database (accessible by Homeland Security and whoever else!),  So that if you are somehow out of line, or one of your neighbors is piston calls in a falsified report about you, there is a paper trail that can force additional information from you.

this was brought to my attention by our consigliere recently.  He is a very upstanding, loyal officer of the court.  But, he was quite appalled to find out that he and his law firm could sign up in advance (free) to see what mail would be delivered to the firm later in the day. He suggested that we sign up for the service as well.

It did not take him long to piece together that this is why there is a huge NSA installation in Provo, Utah: this information is all placed in your personal record.

Now I have to ask you the simple question:  If you are a law abiding private citizen, should you be worried about this kind of unannounced and unobtrusive surveillance by your government of activities in your private life?

There is an old concept in American jurisprudence, suggesting that people have a reasonable right to expect privacy in their “personal papers and letters.”  But this has been screwed up horribly by the courts.  They have held that your cell phone contents, including your call history, is not as sacrosanct as you might have otherwise believed.

Which sort of flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Naturlich, the Stasi Lite would argue that they are not intruding into your letters specifically; only taking a photograph of the letters exterior, much as anybody getting into your mailbox could find the same information.

I am not particularly worried about personal loss of liberty due to the mail arriving an hour mailbox, but upon reflection I am a bit concerned that some of my eBay purchases might look a bit strange to people who do not understand Mr. Ure’s ham radio hobby.

For example, I recently obtained some “doorknob capacitors” from Bulgaria.  This is a very normal transaction among ham radio enthusiasts because in Bulgaria, many of the parts that cost 3 to 4 times as much in America today are still available on the surplus market since the former Soviet Union was not especially efficient at paring down production for unneeded parts.

And, what about power overseas people subscribers?  It may surprise you to know that some of the actual financial gnomes of Switzerland read our modest financial outlooks

Mail is not the only thing wrong in America today.

Few people realize that there are military tanks tanks in the American South that are still subject to massive purchases of parts even though they have been removed from service before the outbreak of World War II.  This is because America’s governmental acquisition system is not any more efficient than the former Soviet Union’s.  Welcome to  E. Germany.

But, I need to say for the record that despite my receiving envelopes from Bulgaria.  I am not an agent of the Communist Party and, more to the point, my only sins against humanity is usually committed at the idiot end of a soldering iron or keyboard.

Honestly, I do not think this will help.  We live in a crazy world where one can be a left-wing educator and be protected by the full power of the government while polluting the minds of America’s young, while simply buying parts from an area once dominated by the former Soviet Union might make make someone a suspect in whatever the government wants to imagine.

Psst!  Want some 4700 pF capacitors?

If you would like to sign up for this latest marvel of the police state/nanny state/ultrahigh tech mail delivery service, please visit the following website:

I have found so far that it has relieved some of the midday urgency to run out to the mailbox.  Is this a great country or what?him

Dashing Through the Snow

A couple of items from a conversation with my son this week will be of interest to anyone who has studied the fine art of escape and evasion under winter conditions.

It seems that my son recently found himself in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state going on a late night/early morning hike through the wilderness some miles from a friend’s cabin.

After walking around for several hours in the very, very dark.  My son and his companion decided they were not 100% sure of their location.

In order not to make a bad situation worse, my son suggested they take out their survival gear, scoop up some snow, melt it, and have a cup of tea and think about their situation.  Which they did.

A couple of options came were reviewed: one of them was to use the GPS facility in their cell phones to get a fix on where the home cabin was, but that that was not an especially good choice because they had no cell signals in this rather remote area.  It is a fair distance from Leavenworth, Washington.

After the tea settled in, they decided the smartest course of action would be to walk back up the ridge that they had descended and see if they could either get cell phone coverage from that vantage point or if they could see faraway lights such as the freeway (US-2) or any buildings or cabins in the area.

As it turned out, they were indeed able to see something upon cresting the ridge: my son had earlier had the presence of mind to lay out chem lights every thousand feet or so. Just in case, blizzard conditions and what-not.

Not only did he lay them out in alternating colors (red and green), but he took pains to ensure that they were oriented pointing back to the point of origin for this hike.

Dude! That is some serious outdoorsmanship,” George’s friend told him after picking up the sightlines on the lights.  Within a thousand feet feet of the cabin, they transitions to dark.  Sneak-ups are fun.

Still,  my son got a thorough but chewing-out from his old man because he had failed one of the main rules of back-country survival: failure to adequately prepare.

He made it back okay and there was no need to call in search and rescue at 0200 hrs.  However, given that he had a cell phone with GPS, part of dad’s lecture was about “trusting your instruments.”  Along with never leaving sight of those “stars you steer by.”

Those of course being the buildings with lights on in the ski resort area.

He did not need to fire up his iridium sat phone, but I am sure the thought crossed his mind while they were having tea.

A lot of people think that they are well-versed in survival skills, and yet when taken outside at night and given an assortment of night operations equipment, there is a natural tendency to light up 1000 lm of daylight white.  Fortunately, George II had the good sense to turn off the high powered white light and switch to the more trail – friendly low-level red lights.

All’s well that ends well, except if you are going to be thoroughly prepared to bug-out under all conditions, there is no substitute for running practice jaunts at night so that you can find your way, not break a leg, and navigate with greater confidence.

Anything else is the stuff of storybook websites.  There’s Walter Mitty and then there’s us.

By the way:  Back country woo-woo in this item?

Skier Lost in New York Has No Idea How He Ended Up in California.

Small side wager:  Alien abduction.

Right when you get rich,

author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

23 thoughts on “Coping: Prepping Paranoid – the Short Course”

  1. The lost skier reminds me of an episode of Northern Exposure. Couple of the main characters went looking for a legendary place that would give them their desires, I think it was. She went back home in the little town, and he ended up back in NYC. It was a strange episode. I kinda miss that show.

  2. George

    Don’t you know?

    Everybody has a Control File available to the Gov in case they get uppitty!!!

    And they DO keep records on who has guns.

      • Everyone, especially city folks should carry something like a independent Garmin GPS (less than $100)with them into the wilderness. They have a back track feature, that if used correctly, will take you back the way you came. In addition, never go in the wilderness without a good compass. Having been on Search and Rescue for years, we had to locate many people who THOUGHT they knew how to be a wilderness survivor.

  3. I’m always amazed how much surroundings change because of weather, light and the seasons.

    One time I was walking a very familiar hollow. One I’ve walked 1,000 times before. However, this time was right after a snow. All the trees and bushes were bent over blocking sight lines of the trails. There were no tracks.

    I was lost in less than 10 minutes someplace that I was as familiar with as my backyard.

  4. Your column today brought up for me, a couple of thoughts . . .

    I’ve had mail stolen twice;it would have nice to know what the thieves had made off with, and . . . Relying on GPS in the back country can be deadly – there was a case in southern Oregon where a family got lost by means of depending on a faulty map as displayed on the GPS. The father tried to ‘walk out’ to get help and died from exposure.

    Modern life can be wonderful, but in both cases, the changes that have happened as a result must cause further thought and action.

  5. My iPhone has a compass app which works even without a cell signal. Simple survival school tip, using the cell phone or an ‘old fashioned’ compass (like the small ones that clip to your coat/jacket zipper): If using a cell phone, place the phone in Airplane mode to save power. Look at your heading when starting out and count the number of steps taken in that direction. A full adult step [average] is approximately one meter/three feet, less if climbing uphill or if your are of less than average height. Every time the direction is changed, note the steps taken on the previous heading in your cell phone ‘notes’ app or with an old fashioned pencil and paper kept in an easily accessible pocket. If you get disoriented, some simple step backtracking or simple geometry will get you back to where you started (or in the ballpark, so to speak). If talking while walking, several apps will do the step counting for you, such as ‘Stepz.’ If ‘weaving’ thru a heavy forest, estimate an average heading periodically while you walk. This simple method actually works quite well, especially when it is snowing heavily, fog rolls in and/or lights or landmarks are just plain difficult to see.

    • Confusion.. in a true emergency your basic instincts. Of fight or flight set in. Confusion and self doubt.
      Those initial moments of panic and doubt.
      People can read hundreds of books explaining how to survive hell.. in reality many wouldn’t because each situation has a different set of rules

  6. When I was younger I was practicing survival skills in the southern Arizona mountains. Friends and I were exploring boulders,and packed in. A winter storm was coming in and we set a camp and went exploring. We did not bring survival pack as we were not hiking far. We kept sight of the rock monoliths and kept our marks in sight. After a half our of hiking it all went bad. The storm hit with a vengeance. The clouds dropped,covering our navigating marks and rocks. Snow blizzard,wind. We looked for camp but we relied on markers,not our compass. We were lost. No gear,freezing. We kept moving,and by nightfall we made it back to the car. We all almost lost our lives. Our lessons were Never depend on markers,such as rocks or trees only to navigate. Always have two compasses,and use them. Always carry your survival pack. We figured we got lost within 200 yards of camp.When the clouds come down,or fog,your stars will not guide you.Hope this helps .

  7. The Oregon incident was when a couple took a CLOSED road in winter as a shortcut to Gold Beach from Grants Pass (1 hr. vs. 4 hrs.).

  8. Isn’t being a parent a trip! My daughter was traveling with a girl friend in an area where she lost cell service with its Waze App. When her guest expressed alarm, she was told, “Look in the glove compartment. My Dad put paper maps in there.” ALWAYS have a backup in place. Or as George have multiple redundancies. Go Dad!

    • Every one of our cars has an emergency kit. Everyone has a gps tracker.
      Not out of paranoia but because you never know when an emergency will happen.
      Every car has a dash and tail light cam as well. In the event of an accident sometimes events following up to it become muddled. Most new cars now come equipped with a black box to monitor events.

      • That’s not paranoia at all, but just good common sense.

        We tend to forget how fragile our bodies are, and never consider the hundreds of “unconventional” ways we each can die, every day, until faced with one. The fewer things left to chance, the more-likely we live to see tomorrow…

        I own four trailers, two of which have also been fit with rearview cams (the other two will get them this year.) $20 will buy an amazing cam now. Add $12 for A/V cable and its a cheap investment for the added awareness.

  9. While I share your concerns about mail scrutiny my first thought was, “Mailman found with 30 years undelivered mail in garage.” And similar stories. So maybe this is just internal QC. Also, your consigliere is probably a heavy consumer of “registered mail” and so will have a trail in that regard.
    And don’t you think they have a sigint operation listening to All radio transmissions let alone registered amateur radio operators?
    You were probably already on several lists.
    But stop and think: their data Collection has reached the point of being both unmanageable and unsearchable unless you are already on their screen. I think the best defense is what you already have. When suppression comes the barbed wire will go up around those big blue cities. Just be in the free red (green) area outside the fence.
    When the fence goes up remember the wire on top will point In.

    • Al, never underestimate the efficiency of the AI algorithms or the searchability of multidimensional SQL databases, with computer clusters which have an effective processing speed that’s measured in petas and a datapath you can drive a battleship through.

      When fences go up on areas that are not prisons, and have inward-facing barbs and/or concertina wire, I always take notice…

  10. The USPS app said we had no mail today. That’s funny. My wife this afternoon pulled a box of Lebanon bologna out of the mailbox along with a prescription for her dad and a half dozen pieces of junk mail. Doesn’t look like west-central Kentucky is fully supporting big-brother yet.
    James Johnson, ex-nuke

  11. Those of us who grew up in the East and learned even a bit of woodcraft(Scouts, etc), learned that you never go into the woods without a compass or two, and good local maps if available. When lost, stop and think, and go high to see landmarks, and follow river valleys to get to civilization(might take days). When doing backcountry in the Grand Canyon, I carried two compasses and a third crappy one. I gave two others to my companion, even though she had her GPS phone. The phone was good for taking pictures, but not much else. We had several maps and they were essential, but they lacked many landmarks, as did the trail. The big problem with the canyon is that you can barely carry enough water to get safely from one water source to the next. Carrying a couple of filters is essential, in addition to several canteens. Many people die in national parks and forests. Nature in such places is both awesome and unforgiving.

  12. One of my many hats was waste removal.
    I was always shocked that on a regular basis authorities would follow garbage trucks and pull trash of the general population to be sorted. Letters read.. that’s when I finally decided a shredder was needed.
    Now if they choose to single my trash out they are definitely scrapping the bottom of the pile to find something to do.
    With the mail scan.. I wonder if you could place a request for a junk mail filter to have them throw the junk mail away. Lol.. oh don’t bring that crap by just toss it.
    Seriously though.. congress passed a lot of things that basically did away to the right to privacy.
    One thing I think every emergency bag should have is this.
    Great item and inexpensive
    A long time ago I had a program for the computer.. what it did was have a map that showed you who was trying to access your computer in real time. It was quite amazing and interesting to see everyone pinging your system or trying to gain access to it.
    Which always surprised me is I can come to a site see what I had written go to a completely different computer different server etc and still have posting show up before they’ve been posted. Now consider what’s available to techs with an unlimited amount of resources and the rights to do what they want without fear of overstepping their boundaries.

    • You’re referring to “Hack Tracer.” It’s still around, somewhere, but won’t run on 64bit operating systems.

      That Xstove is flat nifty…!

  13. “But, I need to say for the record that despite my receiving envelopes from Bulgaria. I am not an agent of the Communist Party and, more to the point, my only sins against humanity is usually committed at the idiot end of a soldering iron or keyboard.”

    That’s exactly what your file said you would say…

  14. The kids got MIL-surplus Cammenga compasses for their GO-bags, two years ago. I bought the phosphorescent, not the tritium, because once the isotope passes its half-life, the dial ceases to illuminate (the tritium is also much more expensive than the phosphor.) I also got cheap little Energizer button-battery (CR2032) headlamps for them, and for their kids (“Cars” and “Fairies,” IIRC. Energizer used to retail these for $1.69, but licensed them to Disney a few years ago and now they’re ~$5.) The headlamps are about 4Lmn, but will run for weeks at 2-3 hours per day and the light is quite sufficient for night walking. They also pack in a space that’s smaller than a child’s wristwatch and weigh just a few grams.

    I favor navigating via landmark waypoints and stopping if they go away. However, I can navigate by stars or compass and I made sure the kids knew how to use their compasses: Compass-checks at every 100 paces, and blazing or building a cairn are SOP, as is checking the backtrail (things often look completely different from different POVs.) Not checking one’s backtrail is one of the easiest ways to get lost…

    If anyone’s interested…


    Midway’s got the best writeup, but patience and searching beats the heck out of their price. IIRC I paid $23ea for these…

    How to use:

    Simply the best book for learning compass navigation. The new version also explains GPS and topo orienteering, but for just compass and map nav, this is the one.


    It’s on the shelf in a zillion department stores, @ $4.99 to $7.99…

  15. One thing the story about the skier did not explain fully is how long it was between his disappearance and the time he was found – unless it was added in later on. If it was a few days then it’s a slam dunk he got to CA in a conventional manner. If it was only 24 hours or so THEN we’ve got a story!

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