Friday, December 23, 2011

Who Is Paladin Press?

Paladin Press is running a nice little 'getting-to-know-ya' series on their employees. Check it out over at their blog.

For the next several weeks, Paladin Planet will be running a series featuring short profiles of various Paladin employees. The profiles are intended to put a face on the various people involved in the acquisition, production, marketing, sales, and distribution of Paladin books and videos. Once an employee is profiled here, we'll move their information to our Facebook page. The first in the series is owner and publisher Peder Lund... Read More

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to make a Low Cost 802.11A Directional Antenna using an old, obsolete PrimeStar Dish

{Forgive the spelling errors below, I just lifted it from Cornell's site} Check out our radio experimentation books and pamphlets over at Last Earth Distro's retail site.

Our workgroup had been seeking a low cost temporary solution for a point-to-point link to an offsite facility. We needed greater than 10Mbps throughput and thought 802.11a wireless might offer some promise.

At the present moment (June 2002) no manufacturers offer low-cost devices with detactable antennae. This significantly limits range of 802.11a to around 300 Meters under the best conditions. Directional antenna are needed to focus the send/receive energy at further distance.

Inspired by the work of Rob Frohne and his Primestar Wireless Antenna Page - . I decided the solution was to integrate the low-cost Access Point, directly into an obsolete PrimeStar TV Dish.

After a little experimentation and engineering (the feed horn is a particularly important component). I found that simple modification of a US standard aluminum soda can would work. I obviously have a few mounting and water-proofing details the work-out.

Much to my shock, It Worked!!! I was able to get to the end of my test range easily (~1000ft), and my latop was registering 60% signal strength and 24Mbps connectivity. Now onto the actual installation...

I guess that the side-to-front gain is around 9-10db. The large area of the Primestar dish seemed to help pick-up the much lower energy laptop card well (I had tried previously with a Dish Network dish).

A rough design of the feed horn,
a sode can is 2.5inches, a bit
too big.

Cut top off can, cut
antenna hole 0.6" from

Netgear HE102 ready to install.
OBTW, the foil also helps one
ground the can, which is needed.  

Original PrimeStar feed horn.
in final install I will modify
it and use its mounting.

For this test, I wrapped the
the unit in foil to eliminate
its effect.

Installed as close as possible to
original location

OK, packing tape will do the
job for now... It works for me.

Fully outfitted PrimeStar Dish
ready for testing...

My test range, I am limited to
around 1000ft.

June 29, 2002 Dean Eckstrom

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lifesaver Bottles and the Water Cone

These are pretty damn cool... Not as cool as the lifecone or water cone or whatever it's called.

The world's first portable nano-filtration technology. Providing a simple, reliable source of sterile drinking water anywhere.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Survivalist Holiday Season and Shopping for Preppers

I dug this one out of a survivaltopics forum post from a few years back. It's got some all-around good advice, though I would of course substitute local stores for his big-box recommendations, even if you have to pay a bit more for the same items. They're usually higher quality brands and the money gets recycled in your local community, so that's where the real savings occur.

Of course, if you're shopping for books for Prepper-types this holiday season, we've got you covered. If you're in need of an Eastern Washington Independent Bookstore, wander into Earthlight Books in Walla Walla, Washington and ask my father David what he's got in stock and pick up a Last Earth Distro Catalog while you're at it.

If you're seeking a Western Washington Independent Bookstore specializing in Counterculture and Survivalist Books, drop in to Last Word Books & Press in Olympia, Washington. Last Earth Distro has a little retail corner there, and they've got tons of other fine literature for the clandestine bibliophile.

Otherwise, if you're needing to equip a gear-head, hop on over to The Survival Center:  America's Premier Preparedness Center In Continuous Operation Since the early 1970's: Supplier of Family Preparedness, Health, and Survival Supplies - Their warehouse is in McKenna, Washington, just a hop, skip and a jump past Lacey, right next door to the Rampthan Compound. :)

-The Lone Haranguer

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Default Survivalist Holiday Season

Ahh, the holidays are here. Thanksgiving (well, for the American contingent at least) marks the beginning of the holiday season, and as such, it is a perfect feeding ground for survivalists. Think about all the bargains just for us (yeah, they weren't made that way, but we adapt!)

1) Food. This is the time to stock up on the pantry, folks. Your local superstore, grocery store and Save-a-lot (not to mention Wallyworld, etc.) will have BIG bargains on canned goods. 25 cent cans of corn, green beans, peas, carrots, yams, cranberry sauce, mushrooms, those cute little french fried onion curls, fruit cocktail, etc. Now is the time to put that stuff up. Look at the price of turkey! When would be a better time to buy a bunch of turkey breasts, slice 'em thin and make jerky than right now when they are just pennies per pound? Heck, you might want to can and freeze some of that too. Also, it's hunting season. If you DON'T hunt (and what's wrong with you if you don't? FREE MEAT!!), call up some of your buddies who DO, and see if they would be willing to pass on some of that yummy venison your way. Hard candy: Halloween is big for chocolate, which doesn't store or travel well. Christmas is the time for hard candy, like mints and fruit bits, and such. They are good all year 'round, but cheapest to buy now. Hickory Farms, Swiss Colony and all the others like that have their big Food Boxes for sale this season in virtually every mall, plus catalogs and the Net. Get some for yourself, but get a few for those Non-Prepper friends. Tell them that it's a good way to start thinking about keeping "a little something" on hand for emergencies. Heck, those meat logs and cheese wheels are delicious all year, but it's especially nice to pull that out when the power goes out and you have nothing but peanut butter in the pantry. Warn them that unlike traditional smoked and cured meats, those logs won't last without refrigeration for more than a couple of months, unless they store them in the freezer. While you are at it, pick up a couple of the cheese wheels that have the parrafin wax coating on them. THOSE will last a good long time untouched. Once you break the wax though, it's back to the fridge or mold will take over just like any cheese. Get smaller ones (1 1/2 lb or so) or waxed blocks (under 1 lb) for best usage. Cookies, crackers and popcorn in tins are big this time of year, and store really well unopened. They are also great Intro To Prepping 101 gifts for your friends and family.

2) The "Under $10 Gift Aisle". You know it, you love it. Target, Wallyworld, Kmart, your local discount store like Big Lots or Family Dollar, or drugstores like CVS, RiteAid and Walgreens. They ALL have a space set aside for those cheap gift items that are meant for the people you are obligated to buy something for but don't want to spend a lot of money on. Great. While you are there, pick up a few things for yourself (the "one for you, one for me" method! ) Shamwows (great camping/backpacking towels), Snuggies (those half-robe, half blanket things? Great as a car blanket for emergencies), PastaMagic (or the many other similar versions---basically a thermos tube that you pour pasta and hot water into. It cooks fast because of steam pressure in the closed container. It has a strainer lid to pour off the water when done. Great for Ramen and other noodles when camping/backpacking.), Fleece Blankets (these things are good at home, in the car, up camping, in a BOB. Throw-sized warm blankets, and during the holidays you see them for $5 to $10 bucks in almost every store!), 12vDC Appliances (all sorts of goodies made for the commuter. Hands free kits for your phone, chargers for everything, coffee cups that plug in and warm your coffee...which can also melt snow if you were stranded along the road, without starting your car heater!), small kitchen appliances (toasters, coffee pots, hot plates, etc. that can run efficiently off of a generator in an emergency). With it being hunting season, you can also pick up great bargains on ammo, disposable hot packs, and multi-packs of 1 lb. propane tanks, as well as several other goodies at your local sporting goods dept. or superstore.

3) Gift cards. Just like money, these things can be a life saver if you are out of cash and need something fast. They are also great "Prepper gifts". Nothing says "just in case" like having that card in your wallet if you need it. Gas cards, fast food cards like McDonalds, and grocery store cards are great and always useful and appreciated. However, you can take that to another level and get cards for Cabela's/Bass Pro Shops for hunting/camping gear, or gift certificates and a catalog from places like Emergency Essentials or Nitro-pak, with enough to buy a 3 day kit or a FD/Dehydrated Food starter pack. People won't usually spend their own money to try something like that out, but they will spend yours without a doubt.

4) Entertainment. Check out the bargains on DVD players and small 12v TVs for camping, game systems and video games of all types, movies and CDs on sale, and Toys R Us/FAO Schwartz or Wallyworld/Kmart type stores have TONS of small stocking stuffer games (great for backpacks and BOBs) and deals on board games for those nights around the fireplace when the power is out, or those simulated TSHTF drills. Books and other diversions are often on sale this time of year too.

5) Gifts. This is the time of year you get to be someone's Secret Santa. Your kids, your spouse, your co-workers or friends. All of them are potential "Preppers" if you give them the right gifts. Look for ways to get them involved with a gift that has a purpose, but says "start thinking about if things go wrong...what will you do?". Car emergency and tool kits, a 3 day "earthquake/hurricane" kit, hobby kits like leatherworking, electronics, or other crafts, some of the items I listed above like the $10 or less or the Meat and Cheese gifts, or a good book on the subject of survival. Could be a good manual like the SAS guide or Worst Case Scenario book, or it could be a novel with a survival twist, like The Stand or Lucifer's Hammer, or it could be a non-fiction book like One Man's Wilderness, Into the Wild, or Perfect Storm. Maybe one of the gift cards I mentioned. As long as you let them know that you are thinking of them not just today when the sun is shining and all is well, but in case something goes wrong and you are not there at the moment, any good gift can be a Prepper gift.

Hope this has inspired a few to go out and get some things, for themselves and others, this holiday season. If you are going to spend money anyway, why not spend it wisely and to a good purpose. 
"A free citizenry should never abide a government that seeks control over it's populous rather than service to them" -- Celticwarrior 

Last edited by Celticwarrior; 11-15-2009 at 20:12.

How to eat wild stuff and not get poisoned

Let's play pretend for a moment. Are you with me?
Let's pretend you can't go down to the supermarket for food to eat.
In fact, let's pretend that there is not a supermarket for one hundred miles in any direction, and you don't have any food with you. In this pretend land, you are stranded in the wilderness. Perhaps your GPS navigation unit directed you to detour onto a closed mining road in the middle of nowhere, and you didn't have the sense to second-guess it until your rental car got stuck in seasonal mud, and you decide to head out into the woods instead of following the road back.
Does this seem unlikely? It's happened twice in 2011 so far. Don't discount the possibility.
What this guide is:
This is a guide to wild things that are 100% safe to eat.
What this guide is not:
This is NOT a guide to figuring out if something may or may not be safe to eat. It does not cover plant identification, edge cases, things that are poisonous unless processed in a specific way, etc. If that's what you're looking for, I would suggest starting in chapters 89, and 10 of the US Army Field Manual 21-76.
This is very easy to make 100% foolproof. Unless you are in the Amazon basin, where it is reported that there is a potentially toxic exception to this rule, aggregate berries are all safe to eat. Aggregate berries look like raspberries, blackberries, and Boysenberries - clusters of smaller "droplets" that may or may not have hair, seeds, or tiny leaves mixed in.
Unless you are completely sure, do not eat non-aggregate berries - berries that are shaped like blueberries or gooseberries. In contrast with aggregate berries, which are a sure bet, upwards of 90% of white non-aggregate berries are poisonous; more black/blue berries are edible than red berries, but this will be dependent on what species are found in the area. Depending on the biome and season, you're much better off going hungry than playing berry-roulette, and just because animals eat a berry doesn't mean it's not poisonous to people!
Green Stuff
Most "green stuff" is not outright toxic, but can definitely cause you some distress. It's not a great idea to eat random handfuls of leaves or grass or moss. It probably won't kill you, but it can definitely cause you to wish you were dead. I've avoided listing anything that requires very much knowledge of plants or identification characteristics.
Note: You should use caution when eating any plant, particularly plants found in the water - they can harbor any creepy crawly that may have been living in the water, includinggiardia cryptosporidium among others. When in doubt, boil the hell out of it.
The lateral roots (rhizomes) of the common cattail are edible raw and high in nutrition, though they are tough and stringy. In fact, all parts of the plant are edible, including the flower spike at the top if you can get to it before it opens up and starts to grow hair. Not having the corndog-looking top does make them a bid harder to separate from the other reeds, so if you aren't sure, don't eat it.
Acorn meal (the yellow-orange stuff inside of acorns) is a great food, assuming there are acorns around. Don't gather fallen acorns, they very often are rotten inside or full of foul-tasting worms and worm poop. If no ripe, hanging acorns are available to pick or shake down, check each fallen acorn, including under the cap, for an entry hole made by the worms. Discard wormy acorns, unless you're hungry enough to eat them anyway. Smash acorns open with a rock (or something) and eat the acorn meal raw, or make a paste and cook it to try to improve the taste. If they are bitter, you can leech them in water for a while.
Most nuts with shells are edible, but don't mess around with any that you don't immediately recognize from the big dish on the coffee table during the holidays. Don't eat wild cashews, the fruit is quite poisonous, as are the nuts unless properly roasted.
Don't touch them unless you really know what you're doing. Seriously. If you don't know what you're doing, you're better off risking starvation than messing around with mushrooms.
Never eat wild critters raw! Always skin and dress them! And the best way to cook them is to boil the hell out of them, both to kill parasites and bacteria, and also to save all the nutrients you can rather than letting them drip out.
If it has fur, you can eat it, providing you: 
  • Avoid livers, spinal cords, and brains unless you're sure you know what you're supposed to be looking to avoid.
  • Avoid intestines and stomachs in non-herbivores. The stomach contents of strict herbivores can be eaten, if you're hungry enough to try. Lungs are delicious boiled, as are eyeballs. Discard small organs if you don't know what they are. Bone marrow is a good source of nutrition, but again, don't mess around with the spine.
If it has feathers:
  • Follow the same rules as with furred creatures, but do not eat organs, stomach contents, or gizzards of wild birds. These parts are potentially chock full of parasites, and birds eat plenty of stuff (like non-aggregate berries) that are not good for you to eat.
  • Do not eat the skin or outer layer of fat, particularly with seabirds. The skin and outer layer of fat concentrate toxins and parasites in wild birds. These are not like KFC chickens, skin and dress them just like any other critter.
If it has scales and doesn't live in the water:
  • Eat the meat, don't mess around with the rest.
  • Particularly for smaller scaled critters, if the skin seems greasy, oily, or foul-smelling, don't mess around with it at all. This is probably mucous that falls between irritating and toxic, and will get all over everything no matter how you try to cook it.
  • If it's a snake, you are in luck. Snakes are basically a tube of pure lean meat that is full of goop, though sometimes they have a poison injector on the end. Make sure you cut well back from the head, as in some species the poison glands can extend beyond what looks like the limit of the head and into what looks like the "neck".
If it has scales and lives in the water (and it's not a snake):
  • There are no poisonous freshwater fish, and very few poisonous saltwater fish. Don't mess around with pufferfish or any brightly colored saltwater fish. Don't mess around with turtles, unless you can identify and therefore not eat box turtles. They eat the mushrooms that you aren't supposed to eat, and can become toxic themselves.
  • Fish under two inches can be cooked and eaten whole.
  • Fish over two inches should be gutted and cleaned out.
  • Never eat fish raw in a survival situation. Don't eat fish guts, don't eat fish gills, don't eat fish eyes or brains. What's left is fair game - they're basically two slabs of meat held together by a convenient skeleton.
If it doesn't have fur, feathers, or scales:
  • Don't mess with it. Seriously. Leave it alone. There's a good chance it's pretty dangerous in some way, and we're assuming for the purposes of guaranteed safety that you are clueless. Sorry.
  • Some of the few exceptions to this rule are crayfish, lobsters, clams, and other things that are immediately recognizable as food. Don't eat them raw, even oysters - always boil the hell out of them. Don't eat mussels or other saltwater mud-dwellers in the summer months in the tropics, or during red tides.
  • Frogs are another exception to this rule. They are basically the opposite of a snake. They are a big bag of goop with a couple of edible legs attached.Stay away from non-green frogs, particularly in the tropics.
That about wraps it up. Yes, I realize that there are about a hojillion readily identifiable fruits, plants, herbs, and properly labeled cans of food to be found all over the world. This is for people who don't even want to bother with learning to discern leaf shapes, let alone flower colors, stalk layers, fruit differentiation, odor, etc. and so forth. I have also left out the identification of common fruits, though it would have probably padded the writeup a bit, particularly the tropical fruits for my less-adventurous temperate readers. And also, yes, I realize that discarding all of those organs and other bits from critters is a waste of potential nutrients, but if I'm not talking about leaf shapes, why would I talk about liver flukes or discolored spinal cord? In conclusion, I leave you with these two very general and always applicable tips:
  • If you don't know what it is and it's not on the list, don't mess with it.
  • Even if you know what it is, if it IS an animal, or has been messed with by an animal, boil the hell out of it.

References include USA FM 21-76, various US Mil survival schools, and plenty of time in the back country.
I was saved from the error of classifying frogs with the scaly things by the intrepid DonJaime, though, as even he admits, this ruins the fairly elegant rule set. Alas.
doyle insists you needn't boil mulberries. And really, you needn't boil berries or fruits in general, unless you suspect that a critter got to them first.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Impressive Wilderness Survival or Elaborate Hoax? The Long, Strange History of Fake Survivalism

The great thing about a show like Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel is that you can watch other people sink into quicksand in the Moab Desert, bite the heads off snakes and get dumped into a piranha-infested jungle river -- all from the comfort of your own La-Z-Boy recliner!

Bear Grylls: Knowles' descendant?
Adventurer Bear Grylls, a survivalist.  Of course, since it's a so-called "reality" show, the action should bear some resemblance to actual events. Man vs. Wild's British star, former Special Forces op Bear Grylls, has had some credibility problems lately. The producers claim that their rugged hero "strands himself in popular wilderness destinations where tourists often find themselves lost or in danger," but according to an eye-popping story in the UK-based Daily Mail, Grylls was spending some of his evenings ensconced in luxury hotels, where the amenities included Internet access and blueberry pancake breakfasts.

On a trip to California where he was supposedly surviving on "just a water bottle, a cup and a flint for making fire," he had room service. And was he really stranded on a remote Hawaiian archipelago as a "real-life Robinson Crusoe"? Naw, the paper said, he had the keys to a motel room. Even the "wild mustangs" he lassoed in the Sierra Nevadas were tame and delivered by trailer.

John Knowles begins his ordeal in the wilderness in 1913, nearly naked in front of a crowd of reporters and onlookers. Fake survivalism? When I heard Grylls' sad story last year it was rather serendipitous, because I'd spent the last eight months working on a biography of a man who, long before television, was the prototype reality show contestant. And he was charged with being a fraud, too!

Knowles disappears into the forest, August 1913. Naked in the Woods
My book is entitled Naked in the Woods: Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery (Da Capo), and it tells the story of a former trapper and hunting guide who, in August of 1913, left his clothes behind and disappeared into the forests of Maine for two months to prove he could live off the land. It was a publicity stunt for the struggling Boston Postnewspaper, and it couldn't have been better timed.

In 1913, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes was being serialized to tumultuous applause, and Jack London's Call of the Wild was still a bestseller. The frontier had been closed, and Americans were leaving the farm for industrial jobs in the big cities. Were we losing our connection to nature? Not if Joe Knowles could help it.

"When I emerge in October, I shall be sufficiently clothed to walk the city streets," he proclaimed in the Post. "From cap to heels, I shall be fitted out with at least one [outfit], and may possibly have a variety to suit weather conditions." He said he expected to dine regularly on broiled frog's legs, and promised to send out regular birch bark dispatches to the newspaper, written in charcoal taken from his cooking fires.
John Knowles made this charcoal sketch of a wild cat in the wilderness in 1913.  One of Knowles' charcoal sketches from his (disputed) ordeal in the wilderness. Naked in the Woods

The dispatches told of many adventures, and were illustrated with his vivid sketches. He trapped a bear, and emerged wearing its skin to a huge welcome. As many as 200,000 people thronged to catch a glimpse of the Nature Man on his first day back in civilization. Co-eds lined up to pinch his muscles, and Harvard's director of physical education proclaimed him the most perfect specimen of his age.
The crowds greet the Nature Man in Boston, circa October 1913. / Naked in the Woods

But just as Knowles was embarking on a lucrative vaudeville career (making fire on stage was among his tricks) the rival Boston American bannered that he was a fake. Instead of a crude lean-to, he'd been staying at a comfortably appointed cabin, eating canned beans. The bearskin was bought from a trapper, the American said, and it had bullet holes in it.

A huge crowd gathers in the streets of Boston in 1913 to celebrate John Knowles, the Nature Man, as he emerges from the wilderness. Was he a fake survivalist? Knowles fired back with a spirited defense, and the back and forth was a tonic for the circulation departments of both papers. It was small wonder then, that when tempers cooled a bit the Hearst papers (which included the American) made Knowles a lucrative offer of their own. He went into the woods twice more, with the first trip (on the California/Oregon border) interrupted by the start of World War I and the second in the Adirondacks aborted by the Eve to the Nature Man's Adam (the comely Elaine Hammerstein, star of stage and screen).

Knowles in his bearskin: Were there bullet holes? Naked in the Woods
The cover for the book Naked in the Woods: Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery by Jim Motavalli.   John Knowles, the Nature Man, posing with his rifle and bearskins in 1913. Was he a fake survivalist? Bear Grylls is still working. He puts faces in front of screens, as Knowles got them reading the newspapers. And natural fakery continues unabated. As the Guardian newspaper's George Monbiot reports in "Planet of the Fakes": "Natural history programs lie more frequently than any other documentaries. They film animals in cages and pretend they have been filmed in the wild. They import tame predators, and release them to hunt wild prey. They cut between uneventful sequences to suggest that animals are interacting. Most of the soundtrack is added to the film in the studio: the noise of antlers clashing is likely to be the noise of technicians dueling with broomsticks."

What's worse, the programs make it appear that the animals live in pristine wilderness, when in reality their habitats are ever shrinking and hemmed in by humanity.

Oh well, it's all about production values, isn't it? Joe Knowles never had kids, but he certainly had many descendants.

Read more:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2005 Interview with Michael Hoy, Editor and Founder of Loompanics, Unlimited

     Originally published at Sunni's Salon, by Sunni Maravillosa. Please see the contact page for reprint information. Thanks Sunni, for the rights to republish this interview in full! - The Lone Haranguer at Last Earth Distro.
     Long live independent, radical booksellers, publishers and printers in the Pacific Northwest!
     We are one of the entities who helped buy out Loompanics back in 2005 when they closed their doors, and we have a lot of their titles available still. Please contact us at for more details.

with Mike Hoy

SUNNI: Hi Mike. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. How's life in beautiful, wet Washington these days?
MIKE: Life is good in beautiful, wet Washington. Actually, Port Townsend gets about half the rain Seattle does.
SUNNI: Ah, so you're not in the rain belt. I'd heard how gray and rainy the Seattle area is, but it wasn't until I was there -- all too briefly, earlier this year -- that I experienced it for myself. I think maybe the sun was out for about three hours total, in the four or five days I was there ... Is the weather responsible for all the coffee addicts around there? [laughing]
MIKE: Weather in Seattle is usually quite nice in the summer -- most of the rain comes in the winter months, when we get rain instead of snow. I don't know what the story on coffee is -- me, I like just plain coffee, and I think Starbucks et al suck out loud.
SUNNI: I prefer unflavored coffee too, but with cream. And yeah, Starbucks coffee isn't all that great. Maybe it was the mermaid -- the version with her breasts showing -- that's more responsible than they realize for their early success ... [laughing]
MIKE: [laughs] I have never understood the concept of "flavored coffee." Coffee is the flavor that I want. I would no more put chocolate syrup or something in a cup of coffee than I would put it in a glass of beer.
SUNNI: Exactly! You know, you're the first person I've interviewed whom I don't really know at all. In preparing for our conversation, I read a quasi-interview on the Loompanics web site, but it reveals very little about you, the brain trust behind Loompanics. What would you like people to know about you?
MIKE: Well, once upon a time, I was an accountant working for a CPA firm. It didn't suit me, so I went off on my own trip. Politically, I first became aware in the tenth grade or so, when I was a Goldwater Republican. Then I was into Ayn Rand for a while, before settling on anarcho-libertarianism. Actually, I am a political solipsist, the anarchists have too many rules for me, and as for the Libertarians, what a bunch of uptight corporate-sucking wimps they are -- yech!
SUNNI: Anarchists have too many rules? [laughing] Okay Mike, I'll bite -- what do you mean?
MIKE: You should see them! Zines such as The Match and Anarchy and so on, are always denouncing other fellow anarchist absolutists for not being proper anarchists. You should check them out. A while back, the anarchist guru Murray Bookchin let out a screed titled Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm, which is typical of this genre. If you aren't the right kind of anarchist, then fuck you and the horse you rode in on. [laughs] Really, you should look into this -- it can provide a few brief moments of entertainment before you shout, "A pox on all your houses."
SUNNI: I will -- and thanks for the tip! The story behind the Loompanics name is amusing, and tantalizing with its mention of "all your publishing projects". What are some of those other projects?
MIKE: My pre-Loompanics catalog publishing projects included an index to National Lampoon magazine, a collection of paintings by the SF/Fantasy artist Stephen Fabian, and a little manual titled Slugs, on which foreign coins worked best in parking meters, and where to get them cheap.
SUNNI: What an interesting, diverse set of projects! So, how long has Loomps been around? How many books have you published?
MIKE: The first Loompanics Catalog came out in fall of 1975, so this marks my thirtieth year. I would guess that I have published around 300 books by now.

SUNNI: Congrats on thirty years in the business! That's no small accomplishment, especially these days. From all the language on the Loomps site cautioning customers about books being seized, one might think that's a serious liability for your business. How often does that happen? Is any particular country noteworthy for its five-finger treatment of your orders? What book or books seem to be seized most often?
MIKE: Books are seized by government bodies far less often than, say, 20 years ago. Canada used to be particularly bad. Right now Australia is probably the worst. Just about any book on drugs is likely to rouse the ire of those who would protect us from thinking for ourselves. American prisoners often have their books confiscated, as well -- that is why we warn them about it. Various prisons have offered various rationales for not allowing books about sex, drugs, knife fighting, lock picking, etc.
SUNNI: Interesting ... I would've guessed former Soviet countries and South American ones to be worse than supposedly freer ones. That drugs are so scary to them isn't so surprising, unfortunately. Which has had a larger impact on the books you choose to publish, Mike -- the Hit Man lawsuit against Paladin Press, or the USA Patriot Act?
MIKE: The Hit Man lawsuit against Paladin Press has had a chilling effect amongst small press publishers, not just in what people will publish, but in what people are able to sell, since as a result, Paladin dropped about 50 titles from their line. The USA Patriot Act doesn't scare me much, insofar as being a publisher goes, but the draconian cloud of the entire Act scares the hell out of me as a citizen.
SUNNI: One might think that the current political climate would have a chilling effect on your business; but it's also possible that more people are becoming interested in some of your diverse topics -- and that they, and long-time customers alike, are buying your books in anticipation of a day when books like yours aren't allowed to be sold. What do your sales trends -- and what you're hearing from your customers -- indicate?
MIKE: I don't think the current political climate has had an effect on our sales one way or the other -- unlike, say, the Y2K scare, which greatly increased the sale of survival and independent living books. For the past 5 years or so, our sales have been dropping, but I think it is just the lousy economy in general that accounts for this. If you measure the American economy the way Wall Street does -- by toting up corporate profits -- they tell you the economy is booming, that we are in a recovery, etc. But if you measure the American economy according to the disposable income the average Joe has in his pocket after downsizing, taxes, etc., you will find a different story. We often have customers tell us that they really appreciate the job we are doing, and occasionally someone will tell us that our catalog isn't as good as when we had dozens of explosives manuals in it.
SUNNI: I can see that; I miss the explosives titles myself. It also strikes me that part of the picture might be the unevenness of the books you publish. I don't mean the variety -- that's great -- but the quality of the books themselves. For example, I know Claire Wolfe's books are going to be solid; but a self-employment book you recently published was a great disappointment to me -- it didn't have much that common sense wouldn't tell someone, or that a few hours of web research could provide. I've heard similar things from others, too ... I'm not intending to beat up on you, Mike, but trying to offer some food for thought. I'd imagine it's harder to get really good writers too, with the increase in self-publishing we've seen in the past few years. Is that consistent with your experience?
MIKE: Well, it's always been hard to find good writers, and not every book is as perfect as I would like it to be. I actually like the increase in self-publishing, because we can pick up the good stuff as retail items. But instead of self-publishing, what we are seeing a lot of times these days is vanity publishing, i.e., subsidized publishing. For the most part, these publishers are very unfriendly to booksellers, offering only minuscule discounts. I know of a few cases where I have seen a good book that I just simply cannot offer in the catalog because I can't make a profit on them. At least one such author has told us that he would have been better off with a small press publisher than with the vanity publisher he had bring his book out.

SUNNI: Ah, okay. We touched on this briefly earlier, but I didn't realize until we started talking that a lot of Loompanics' diversity comes directly from you. What are some of the books that have had a strong impact on you?
MIKE: The early National Lampoon, of course, the Firesign Theatre, and The Whole Earth Catalog, to name just some. Also, science fiction in general, when I was in my early teens. If I had to pick just one thing that inspired me the most, it would be The Whole Earth Catalog -- a truly paradigm-rattling publication!
SUNNI: I imagine you heard about Laissez Faire Books' decision not to carry Vin Suprynowicz's novel The Black Arrow. What's your take on that?
MIKE: My take on it is that I am not at all surprised. The organized "libertarians" are so pusillanimous and life-hating that this is exactly what anyone with a brain should expect from them. I have seen some libertarians trying to excuse this egregious action by calling it a "business" decision -- that Laissez Faire was somehow following their customers' demands by refusing to sell a novel by a writer who is right now arguably the single most brilliant exponent of the rights of the individual against the forces of conformity. What a bunch of baloney!
Laissez Faire, like all the major "libertarian" propaganda outlets, is not a business at all -- it is a charity. Kathy, or whoever is responsible for that decision [Kathleen Hiserodt], is not serving her customers, but is sucking up to whom she perceives to be her donors. She is afraid of offending someone who might give her money. It is the same among all the "libertarians". I mean, doesn't it strike you as odd that the bunch of people who proclaim themselves as knowing more about economics and business and the market than everybody else on earth avoid the marketplace like poison? They have all gone to the government and asked to be granted non-profit status -- i.e., they have asked the government to protect them from the very economic forces they claim to advocate. Why don't the "libertarians" quit running their mouths and show us by example how much they love the marketplace?
SUNNI: [laughing] Don't hold back, Mike -- tell me what you really think! Seriously, I think you've hit on something that's a problem with a lot of libertarian think tanks -- they claim that being able to deduct contributions from one's taxes is important in order to get funding. Through my work at Free-Market.Net, I've seen a difference that offering tax deductions can make to a charitable organization. It seems to be a good tactical decision, but you're right, it isn't the most principled one. But why do pro-freedom people expect that tax deduction? If we're going to dismantle the system, let's get started already ... and getting back to the subject, if people aren't willing to pay straight up for what an organization wants to do, why should they do it? think it's a case of "too many chiefs, and not enough Indians".
MIKE: Yeah, why don't they "get funding" by engaging in honest trade, which they claim is their most deeply held principle? Nobody has ever done more to discredit an ideology by espousing it than the "libertarians".
SUNNI: That seems to be the case for a non-trival number of them, sadly. How do you balance what your customers seem to want from Loompanics with your personal views? Is the customer always right, or do you reserve the right to reject book proposals or other material for personal reasons? Is there any subject that you would flat-out refuse to publish on?
MIKE: Actually, I don't "balance" my views with anything when I am selecting books for the catalog. If I like a book, I will put it in the catalog -- as long as it will sell. Over time, I have had to drop some truly outstanding titles, simply because hardly anyone ever bought them -- e.g.,The Thinking Body, a book written for dancers that really showed you how to integrate your mind and body. There is not much point in having even a truly outstanding book in a catalog, if it is not selling.
My rejecting proposals or books has more to do with space limitations than with any personal squeamishness. Of course, I reject books that I think are stupid, e.g., most religious tracts, or books advocating institutional solutions to personal problems, or books that contain false information. For example, lots and lots of my customers have asked that Loompanics carry The Anarchist Cookbook, but I refuse to sell it because I think the book is full of falsehoods and bullshit. Over the decades, I have often been asked if there is any subject that I would refuse to publish on, and the only thing I have been able to come up with is that I would not publish a book on how to bomb abortion clinics, or otherwise interfere with abortion clinics. Although any such book would necessarily contain material on general explosives and infiltration techniques, I just plain think it is mean-spirited to single out abortion providers.

SUNNI: You're right, it is, especially when there are so many other, more deserving targets. The quasi-interview I mentioned a bit ago contains the statement "America needs to loosen up". That seems to be even more true now ... what kind of loosening up would you recommend first?
MIKE: In my opinion, America needs to loosen up the most about drugs in general, and marijuana in particular. The cannabis plant is the single most useful plant that exists on this planet, and it is truly insane to throw people in jail for possessing it.
SUNNI: Yep. How do you think "we, the people" have morphed from being a hardy, self-reliant lot into a bunch of busybodies who are more interested in what our neighbors may be doing than taking care of our own lives? I mean mainstream Americans mostly, not the pro-freedom rabble, with some exceptions.
MIKE: That is puzzling to me, because now the baby boomers are running the country, and just about all of us smoked dope when we were young, and know it is not only harmless, but beneficial. Now it's asshole boomer parents who are leading the anti-dope crusades. If I had a dollar for every party I was at in the 70s where we were passing a joint around and telling each other, "Sss [inhalation sound] ... Wow, man! In about like 20 years, man, our generation is gonna be the Congress and we will be passing the laws, and, like ... sss... we can get rid of the whole pig trip, man ...", I could buy a lot of albums, man. [laughs] It just goes to show you that it takes a pig to be a pig, and if you become a pig, then you are going to be a pig, regardless if you were a nice guy before you became a pig. Pigs is pigs!
SUNNI: [laughing] And pigs will never fly ... While we're comparing past and present, Mike, what do you make of the observation that The Onion seems to be more in the prediction business than satire these days?
MIKE: I'm not sure what you mean; I'm not familiar with The Onion.
SUNNI: Oh! I guess I assumed that since you're a Lampoon fan you'd know about The Onion -- it's available online and as a print zine, and it features some pretty wicked political satire. Here are some headlines: from this week's issue, Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans Corpses' Teeth; from last week, God Outdoes Terrorists Yet Again, and an amusing Virgo horoscope: "Despite your claims of historical importance and the need to remember America's fallen heroes, the authorities continue to refuse to grant you the permits required by your avid group of drug-war re-enactors." You might want to check it out. Out of all the books that Loompanics has published, what one are you proudest of having published?
MIKE: That is a very difficult question to answer -- I like 'em all. But to single out just a few, let's say: The Art & Science of Dumpster DivingSecrets of Methamphetamine ManufactureTravel Trailer Homesteading Under $5,000Guerrilla CapitalismEat Well for 99 Cents a MealMethods of DisguiseUnderstanding U.S. Identity Documents ... where can I stop? I guess if I had to pick just one, I would say Guerrilla Capitalism, a how-to-do-it book on dodging taxes in the underground economy. I think that one most fully lays out what Loompanics is all about. It is out of print now, but most of the material has been recycled into Deep Inside the Underground Economy.
SUNNI: That sounds interesting; I'll have to check into that one. And I'd agree on Dumpster Diving -- that's a very good book. What kinds of things do you do for fun, Mike? Washington is so pretty, especially the western part of the state, with all the evergreens. When you're not busy with Loompanics, do you enjoy the outdoors? If so, what activities do you like?
MIKE: Washington is beautiful -- I have fallen in love with Port Townsend, and don't see myself ever leaving here. For outdoor fun, I love walking -- not hiking, where you have to have equipment. Other fun things I do are: I read a tremendous amount, I love good movies, and I piddle around with miniatures -- I recently finished a basement recreation room that fits on two bookshelves -- took me almost 5 years to get it right. I am also a fan of old-time radio shows and have quite a collection of adventure, western, and horror shows. And, oh, yeah, I collect jokers from decks of cards. I have about 1,400.

SUNNI: Needing equipment to walk is stupid, I agree. Is there anything special about the jokers you collect, or will you take any old joker a customer might want to send you after reading this?
MIKE: [laughs] Well, I didn't mean this to be a call for jokers! I specialize in what I call true jokers -- i.e., the court jester type, which I think is descended from the fool in medieval Tarot decks.
SUNNI: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing individualists today?
MIKE: The biggest challenge facing individuals -- as opposed to individualists -- is how to keep your head straight in the maw of conformist forces, most of which these days are coming from the private sector rather that the public sector. Loompanics has just published the latest book by one of the most brilliant writers working today, Claire Wolfe: How to Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You: Living a Life of Autonomy in a Wage-Slave Society, that goes a long way towards effectively grappling with this problem.
SUNNI: Your answer hit upon why I chose the word individualist instead of individuals, Mike. Everybody is an individual, but not everyone values his or her individuality sufficiently to embrace it. Even individualists can have problems sometimes with conformist forces. I suppose it's a never-ending struggle between our need for autonomy and independence and our social nature.
MIKE: I think the school system, especially the public school system, is really dumbing kids down, even more than ever before. Their ideal is for no one to be an individual, but to make all kids want to see themselves as part of a group. I'm sure glad I'm not in grade school or high school right now! [laughs] Well, if I was in high school, I could just quit, but if I was in the 3rd grade, I would be one of the kids who they would dope down with Prozac and Ritalin, and other chemical straitjackets. If we had had all this fascist shit when I was a child, they would have deliberately destroyed my brain with drugs -- as part of the War on Drugs!
SUNNI: I think most freedom lovers have a similar story, don't you? We never seem to fit in, sometimes even with other freedom lovers. But, speaking of being young, who inspired and motivated you when you were young? Who do you count among your heroes?
MIKE: I have been inspired and motivated by lots of people, including Edgar Allan Poe, Ayn Rand, especially the brilliant and late Michael O'Donohue, and Lysander Spooner. My heroes include Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Paul Krassner, Michael O'Donohue, Lysander Spooner, Durk & Sandy, Pedr Lund of Paladin Press, my late father when he was young and strong, and Stewart Brand of The Whole Earth Catalog.
SUNNI: Lots of good folks in there. Before we wind up the conversation here, what new books do you have in the pipeline at Loompanics? Are you working on any other new projects that you're excited about?
MIKE: Claire Wolfe's book How to Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You will be out this week. Other books in the pipeline include another underground economy book, and a book about modern-day train robbing.
SUNNI: Great stuff! I gotta tell you, Mike, as I was looking through your catalog I had several ideas for book projects to pitch to you ... maybe I'll actually write up one or two for you to laugh at ... [laughing]
MIKE: I am always looking for interesting book projects, Sunni, so feel free to send in some ideas!
SUNNI: Thanks, Mike. We'll see what happens ... Right now my children are my first priority, and I am perpetually short on time to do all I want. Thank you very much for all your time today. It's been a pleasure getting to know you, and kicking around some issues with a fellow individualist and free thinker. I'm hoping next time I'm out that way I'll be able to meet you and Gia in person -- coffees or beer will be on me.
MIKE: Thank you. It has been my pleasure. I would love to actually get together in person with you! Keep up the good work.