The notion that humans are little more than self-programming computers (programmed by parents, society, and social media) may have some validity.  We bump into others and situation that we can add to our programming, or not.  With this in mind…

I had an odd experience at the store earlier this week that I’ve been meaning to mention to you.

I’d done a fair bit of shopping, but there was nothing frozen in the grocery cart, so I was fairly mellow about it and not in my usual 10 MPH over /blood pressure rising A mode.

With nothing but the working end of a shovel and rake waiting at home, I decided to watch people and try to enjoy them – much as you’d do on a trip to the zoo.

I knew there was something wrong with the checkout line I picked.  There was no one in it, and the checker was standing with an impatient look, hands on her hips.  Her customer (a little overfed and not sharply dressed)  was also fidgeting, rummaging through her purse and judging by the lines around us, I figured this had been going on for 5-minutes of so.

“Your computer down?” I asked as cheerfully as I could.

“No, we’re just waiting for change.”

Ure’s steel trap mind sized up the probabilities.

“I’ll just load my stuff on the belt,” I reckoned.  “Surely, this can’t take that long…’

I was wrong.

Seeing my slow-motion loading of my cart onto the conveyor belt, a busy-looking woman had bustled up behind me.  She was nervously looking at her watch.

So another five minutes goes by.  My stuff is on the belt.  Life in our lane was stopped.

And after a further three or four minutes of everyone standing around watching a lot of nothing, the busy-looking woman behind me, who apparently hadn’t heard the “Getting change” part of the conversation burst out “What’s the hold-up?”

“We’re waiting on change.”

Another minute of two wanders by; why this is almost like watching kittens about to scrap.  The busy-looking woman behind me was tapping her foot, but obviously was letting her clock and blood pressure get the best of her.

Just how much change are you waiting for?” the busy lady blurted.

10-cents” announced the customer who was overweight and had a lot of ‘tude.

Quick as a wink, the busy-looking lady had pulled out a dime, tossed it to the customer and the logjam broke.

I’m not clever enough to make this stuff up – but a finer lesson about human behavior, served up at the local Kroger checkout line, could not be had.  Who would have thought?  Human nature lessons come at the damnedest times.

I’m not kidding about the time we all spent standing there:  The customer had decided to stand her ground for a dime even though it took at least 15-minutes on the clock and who knows how much more before I got there.  The math on this was simple:  The customer waiting on the dime valued her time at a whopping 40-cents an hour.

The Busy-Looking Lady, on the other hand, valued her time much more dearly.  A 5-minute delay was totally unacceptable – especially for the price of a dime – so I knew that the Busy Lady valued her time somewhere north of $1.20 per hour.

Me?  Well, I was there strict in “watch and report mode.” On the way home, though, I had 20-minutes to try and select which of the old sayings best fit this situation.

“I bargained with life for a penny and life would pay me nothing more.”

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

“Look before you leap” (at least at grocery store lines)

Intellectually, it was exhilarating.  Until I got to the part where it wasn’t just the customer waiting for 40-cents an hour – it was four grown ups including (gulp!) me.

Wowzers.  Time to park the observer mode again and get back to being a good little Type A.  But it sure is fun to drop into “observer mode” now and then to see what lessons are out there, waiting for nothing more than some idiot to come along and catch them.

A Compliment to IRS

I habitually overpay our taxes.  I always want the government to owe me – not the other way around.  Keeps our relationship on an even keel.

This year, doing the TurboTax / e-filing thing, our refund hit the bank account in 13-days.  I’m not easily impressed, but this one deserve mention.  Well done!

I was just talking to John the other day, the fellow who delivered the pea gravel, about this problem with the flow of news.  People always say they want to hear a little good news now and then, but the ratings don’t show it.  The yellower and more riled up and self-righteous, the better.  Ask faux.

The proof is out there, too:  Next time you’re lined up to pass a wreck on the freeway, which everybody is slowing down to look at – hoping to see blood, I imagine – ask yourself “Do people really care when something goes right?”

Sadly, you know the answer.

The Idiot’s Chronicles

The ‘Merican people must not be terribly bright.  There’s a whole article in Wired this morning that explains in excruciating detail “Why Obama said Global Warming gave his Daughter Asthmas.”

Google “Obama Smokes” sometime.

I don’t run a casino, but I’d wager that you know where my bet is on this.   And no, I don’t think Michelle’s organic garden is turning out enough GMO-free food, either. 

But what do I know?  I’ve only had asthma for 66-years.  Flo-Vent. Albuterol, or Singulair, Mr. Genius in Chief?  I don’t think climate taxes are gonna fix this one.

Prepping: EMP Proofing

Reader Bob wants to know:

Been a reader for years (appreciate your insight and occasionally even agree with you) and I know you’ve covered EMP before, but how did you make your vehicles EMP proof?  I’ve got a 2006 Expedition.  How about a JD Gator or Troybilt garden tractor, as they will also be useful after such an event?

EMP 101 – though we’ve covered this a lot on the Peoplenomics™ side of the house:

The majority of energy from EMP is below 10 MHz – and the way to find out what the ideal half wave length antenna is, involves dividing 468 by the frequency in megahertz. 

You can see the principle when you drive across the country and see countless AM radio station antennas.  They generally use 1/4 wavelength antennas.  So an AM station on 1510 (KGA in Spokane, I think) would use an antenna 157 feet tall, or so.

KVI over in Seattle on 570 would use a much taller tower – around 410-feet tall, ideally.  Point is, when you’re driving and see an antenna, you should be able to know at least which end of the AM dial to tune to by estimating antenna height. 

Now (wake up – here’s the point) since most of the energy from EMP is at lower frequencies, the main risk will be to the electric power grid.  Cars – even without EMP hardening – will survive something like 90% of the time.  But that’s going to vary depending on how well the car is designed and how well it’s electrically bonded.

A sedate four-door would like survive better than a plastic Corvette Z-06 because the one has a metal body which would shield all those short little antennas inside the car.  Things like brake light wiring and all that other stuff in endless bundles in today’s cars.

Ures truly, being unimaginably paranoid about a Dark Future, has installed a transient voltage protectors at the battery on the car and truck.  One location you might want to consider in addition would be the power inlet to the vehicle computer while the other is across the battery terminals.

Look up transient voltage protectors somewhere like  They are cheap, relatively speaking.

As to the lawn tractor and the Gator?  Anything that uses a magneto for developing the spark should still run.

The big problem is “For how long?” because when there’s no power, there’s no pumping gas – which is why you always want to drive on the top third of your gas tank.  Or, at least when the electric apocalypse goes off.

I’ve got something like Mouser PN  576-5KP17CA on the 12-volt systems.  Other voltages are available.  But I’m not engineering your system for you.  The project will still need connectors, wire, some shrink wrap, and ring connects for the batteries.

The way the TVS’s work is simple:  As the voltage across them rises, nothing happens until their rated voltage (like 18.9 volts) and then everything (up to 200 amps worth) is shorted.  When the surge passes, the TVS opens up and life continues.

Neato, huh?  Except that doesn’t solve the gas station problem, the no internet, the no food deliveries, the no telephones problem or any of the rest of it that would accompany large-scale EMP use.

Honestly, this isn’t the highest item on your prepping list.  Having 100 gallons of potable water per person handy and a couple of weeks of food each, a ton of reading and education, and a super first aid kit would be way higher.  But, once you have the basics (and then some) then you can stretch out to other tasks, like this one.

But promise me you won’t go buying EMP-proofing before you buy a NOAA weather radio with alerts, OK?  We have our priorities and the odds of a tornado or severe weather interruption to life is vastly more probable than a civilization-ender.

Just ask the people of Illinois about that.

Thanks to recent developments in the Middle East, though, the odds of some kind of nuke use are going up – so we work on response plans for that in Peoplenomics tomorrow.

There’s an absolute truism from half a century of management that applies very importantly to prepping:  People tend to do what they LIKE to do, not what they NEED to do.  It’s a variant of the old “To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

On that (and another half cup) it’s off to write the newsy portion of the column but remember this weekend what matters: 

I bargained with life for a penny and life would pay me nothing more.

The only person who can sell yourself short is – you!

Write when you break-even