In early March 2017, I drove to Louisiana to attend a preparedness expo with a group of friends and fellow authors. The show was a dud but I had a fantastic time hanging out with these guys all day then getting together for food and drinks each night.
In the picture below, that’s me on the left, author Steve Bird to my right, Chris Weatherman (A. American) to his right, and then Johnny Jacks on the far right. Several folks confused Steve and I for brothers. Just because we’re bearded, gun-loving hillbilly authors doesn’t make us brothers. Or maybe it does.
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to do a podcast with Preston Leigh of The Leighgendarium. Preston and I had met in person at a local author event and he’s a huge supporter of the indie author community. Most of the interviews I do are on preparedness but this one focused entirely on writing. If you interested in the “art” behind the books, Preston’s interview is a good place to start. While you’re there check out his other interviews.
I had a conversation this week at work that I wanted to share with my readers. It may not be news to you as it is not a new story, but the proliferation of this technology makes it more concerning than ever. Be aware of the risks.
A coworker was telling me this week that he’d been having dinner with his wife, children, and grandchildren. The movie “10” with Bo Derek and Dudley Moore came up in reference to a discussion about height differences between couples. The adults at the table speculated about how tall Bo Derek was until my friend retrieved his iPhone from the holster on his belt and hit the Safari internet browser. In the search window, he entered a single letter “H” and the search box autocompleted with the term “How tall is Bo Derek?”
My friend was shocked because he does use Siri on his phone but he wasn’t aware that Siri monitors all conversation within earshot as part of waiting for and anticipating commands. This is not a feature limited to iPhone. The voice-control technology in Google’s phones and Samsung’s smart TVs also use this same type of input monitoring of voice data. The problem is that this technology doesn’t make any distinction between a potential command and a private conversation.
The more concerning aspect of this is that the determination as to whether the voice input is a command or not is not taking place at the phone level. Instead, your phone converts all the voice input to text and sends it to Apple servers where that determination is made. Apple makes no secret of this. The Siri user agreement states that these conversations will be used to help Siri learn. (http://www.pcworld.com/article/256253/is_siri_spying_on_you_.html)
According to Wired Magazine the data is kept for up two years. It’s initially linked to an internal identifier (not your phone #, email address, or Apple ID) but after a few months is de-identified. (https://www.wired.com/2013/04/siri-two-years/)
I just saw on the news that Amazon’s ECHO device is sold out. I haven’t read yet how that data is stored. In the meantime, though, I think it’s wise to consider that any voice-activated technology with data connectivity is constantly listening and broadcasting your conversations (voice data) to someone. Imagine your phone, your smart TV, or your Alexa as a internet-connected microphone and think carefully of the things you might say in front of them.
Some corporations are concerned enough about this that they are requiring employees to turn off voice-command technology on their phones. Imagine a foreign government creating a fake company involved in app development simply for the purpose of having access to the voice data on a particular individual. Imagine that this individual works in the defense industry or in a corporation with technologies that they wish to keep out of foreign hands. While there are always risks that classified data will be accessed other way, the use of voice-activated technology is a doorway that many are willfully allowing to remain open.
I’m no outlaw (yet), but I prefer my private conversations to remain that way. I know that government security agencies can activate and use these devices for electronic eavesdropping. That is beyond my control. Allowing voice-activated technology to be used in my home is not. For my family, in my home, I ask that it be turned off.
In November I had the opportunity to do a long podcast with these guys. They were a lot of fun. It was a video podcast but I’m only posting the audio. It was a pretty interactive podcast and we talked for a good long time. There’s plenty of info here for anyone interested in learning about the books, my writing, and background info on the books.
At Prepper Camp in Saluda, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to hang out and spend some time with Forrest Garvin of the Carolina Preppers Network and The Prepping Academy. Soon after, we did an interview on his The Prepping Academy Podcast.
Forrest is a good guy and he’s hard working. He’s a tireless advocate for helping folks become prepared and I encourage you to check out his website.
I’m behind on posting but wanted to update everyone on a few interviews that I’ve done this fall. I’m going to try to get links posted to all of them over the holidays.
I had a great time talking with Dale Goodwin and his wife Lisa, hosts of The Survivalist Prepper Podcast. They had some good questions. I enjoyed talking with them and hope we have the opportunity to do it again.
Full Spectrum Preparation: Learning Through Fiction
By Ross Powell
Believe it or not, fiction is one of our most useful tools for spreading awareness about preparing for adverse scenarios and actually getting prepared ourselves. Effective, relevant fiction writing is capable of reaching audiences that manuals, articles, and essays cannot. People who aren’t already fully dedicated to the concepts of risk assessment and tactical preparation – and even many who are – just get bored when they encounter material that reads like instructions for assembling furniture. This is an unfortunate facet of human nature that has been exacerbated by our current cultural climate, but we must acknowledge the facts on the ground even if we would prefer them to be otherwise. A full spectrum preparation mindset requires this attitude of realism. Fiction is not a catch-all tool, but it must be part of our toolbox as we engage our communities and plan for a variety of potential situations. Remember: the truth is stranger than fiction.
The best and most appropriate fictional content for expanding the effectiveness of our real-world preparations is relevant, current, and easily imaginable. Often when people read or watch various media that portrays scenarios like a zombie apocalypse they automatically relegate it to the realm of fictional impossibility. Such a compartmentalization removes any impetus to ask about practical preparations because most simply cannot imagine such a situation playing out. Even when people read dramatic nonfictional accounts of war, natural disasters, and major accidents they tend to assume an ‘it could never happen to me’ attitude. In order for our fiction tool to be sharp and robust, the material we deploy must be able to vibrantly demonstrate a plausible set of circumstances that leads to the following line of questions and realizations:
What would I do if I were in this situation?
Could this actually happen?
Could this really happen to me?
What do I need to do to prepare?
The first question is critical because it is a natural attitude for a general audience to take. We all have a tendency to armchair quarterback from time to time regardless of the content that we’re consuming. If the scenario being presented is realistic enough to have teeth, then the first question is going to have some bite for those with an open enough mind to consider what is happening and engage with the subject. Identifiable characters, genuine emotions, and believable situations are the hooks that can lead those who haven’t given much thought to practical preparation into spending time on the natural follow up questions and taking necessary steps to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.
But the effectiveness of fiction and the questions listed above are not limited to expanding awareness among people who haven’t given much or any prior thought to preparation. Even seasoned preppers can benefit from encountering a scenario that they haven’t fully considered or ran through in a while. Sometimes all it takes is one moment to trigger a question or thought process that enlightens a crucial detail or aspect and solidifies our tactical plans. We must prepare with a full spectrum mindset, and while laundry lists of items are indeed important, sometimes only the vibrancy and detail of a fictional scenario can lead us to visualize something that we hadn’t noticed before and then to prepare for it.
A fantastic source for fiction writing that is relevant, tactical, and engaging is author Franklin Horton (https://franklinhorton.com/). His book series The Borrowed World checks off all the boxes that we have discussed here. Here is the synopsis from the first book in the series:
In a night of devastating terror, ISIS operatives have unleashed a coordinated attack on America’s infrastructure. Life as we know it in America grinds to a halt as the electrical grid collapses, communication networks are damaged, critical bridges and dams are destroyed, and major fuel refineries go up in massive fiery clouds. When the government responds by immediately halting fuel sales to the public, Jim Powell finds himself in a terrifying predicament – trapped five hundred miles from home with a group of coworkers.
With thousands of trapped travelers and scarce law enforcement, the miles between Jim and his family become a brutal gauntlet where the rules of civilized society no longer apply. As Jim puts his years of preparation and planning to the test, he is forced to ask himself if he has what it takes to make it home. Does he have the strength, the brutality, required to meet this new world toe-to-toe? (https://franklinhorton.com/the-borrowed-world/)
You can listen to a recent interview I was able to do with Franklin Horton on “The Price of Business Show”: https://vimeo.com/184864646
Grab a copy today. Ask yourself necessary questions. Point other people to the content. Develop a full spectrum preparation mindset. Expand your toolbox. Commit yourself to taking the small steps that add up to massive progress over the course of time.
About Ross Powell, Survival401K.com
Ross Powell is the Founder of Survival 401k, LLC. Ross was raised in San Antonio and graduated from the University of Texas and is a veteran Naval Officer.
Ross worked in banking and finance for almost 30 years including some of the largest banks and insurance companies in the country. His intimate knowledge of the inner workings of financial institutions helps him direct clients into our Solo 401k product to take control of their retirement funds and escape the pitfalls many see in modern retirement portfolios. His knowledge and access to alternative investments outside of Wall Street has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs find predictable results by helping them segment their retirement plans into wealth preservation, growth and liquidity. An avid fan of being prepared for the unexpected, Ross also guides his clients in preparing their lives and portfolios for the changing world to make Wise Decisions in Perilous Times.
One of my biggest gripes about portable solar gear is if the panel is small and light, it charges slow. If it’s of substantial size to charge at a decent pace, then it’s big and heavy. I’ve used the Anker solar setup for several years and it’s worked well but it’s around 2 lbs.
Remember: Pounds = Pain
So for my EDC (Every Day Carry) to work and for my short 1-3 night backpacking trips, I’ve moved toward this Anker rechargeable battery bank. It charges in a USB port so you can charge it at home or in the vehicle. It will charge my iPhone about seven times.
Your phone is a primary tool in preparedness. Even if you’re comfortable disconnected from the world, it’s comforting to be able to check on your family and make sure they’re safe.
These run about $40 on Amazon and they’re a little over 12 oz, less than half of the solar panel.
Just wanted to give you guys an update on what’s happening since I’ve not posted to the blog in a while. First off, LOCKER NINE is rocking. The book is doing well and I appreciate everyone whose read it. For those that have asked, and there’ve been several of you, there will be another book in that series, probably coming in the winter 2017.
The reason for that delay is that I’m currently working on the next BORROWED WORLD book. It’s called NO TIME FOR MOURNING, suggested by an old friend and one of my beta readers. It will bring back many of the characters that you guys love. As I write it, this story is telling itself and that makes me think it’s going to be a good one. I can’t wait to see how it ends.
Also, I’d like to mention that I hear from folks nearly every day wanting a movie or series made of the books. That’s beyond my control BUT if you know someone in the business, drop a hint. I’d love to see the books made into a series for Netflix or Showtime or another venue where someone could do it justice. Keep your fingers crossed that something will break loose on that front.
Finally, I’ve got paperbacks on hand ALL THE TIME. For those of you who have mentioned that you want signed copies, there’s no need to order them from Amazon and then ship them to me. You can send me a message and we’ll work out payment arrangements, then I can ship a signed book directly to you.