I’m a Communitarian Prepper

I’ve decided I’m a “Communitarian Prepper,” and I’ve started a new website to share related resources. This aspirational journey started this past summer, but connects with different skills and dispositions I learned about in Boy Scouting as well as my brief years at the US Air Force Academy and in the USAF, and through my lifelong journey of faith following Jesus Christ. My introductory ideas about this, which I’ve added at the top of the website, are:

I have a “slow hunch” we are living in a season of life and history in which we are called to become “Communitarian Preppers.” While some preppers may “incline toward individualism and competition,” I believe we are called (for both practical and faith-based reasons) to prepare for emergencies and even catastrophes so that we can not only take care of our own families, but also help take care of our neighbors. For me, this is the essence of being a “communitarian prepper:” Building strong relationships among our neighbors and in our own community, and developing both our resource base and skill sets, so that we can better weather and survive the storms of life together through all the forms they might take.

We need to prepare to take care of ourselves, take care of our families, and take care of each other.

From commprep.wesfryer.com on 13 Nov 2022.

The backyard video on “Prepping and Preparation” (38 minutes) I recorded in Oklahoma City this past Fourth of July addressed many of these topics, themes, and underlying motivation. In our society and culture today in the United States, I believe we need to do a much better job “taking care of each other.” We need to prepare for emergencies of all types not only to care for ourselves and our families, but also to better position ourselves to care for others. This is the “slow hunch” which now has a clearer title which hopefully communicates the ethic of neighborly care I believe is simultaneously a self-interested requirement in a catastrophic emergence “at scale,” is a secular responsibly for our fellow human beings, and is also a theological mandate.

Back in 2016 I listened to Ted Koppel’s eye opening book, “Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath”on Audible. The Amazon description explains:

Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before. 

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” 

After that, I read “One Second After” by William R. Forstchen. The Amazon description is:

New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real…a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages…A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.

Both of these books, paired with my experiences serving as the Director of Technology for a midwestern private school for 4 years, greatly increased my own awareness of the growing hostility of our cyber environment and the dangers those aggressions can pose in our kinetic, face-to-face world. The COVID-19 global pandemic revealed many things as well, including our universal vulnerability to supply-chain disruptions. The ongoing war in Ukraine with Russia seems like a surreal event at times, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s just a matter of time before that conflict is “brought home” to us in North America in very tangible, painful ways.

We live in extremely perilous times, and we take so much for granted. In addition to reliable electricity, cell phone tower connectivity, and clean flowing water, we assume our space-based GPS system and representative democracy are constants which will remain our “status quo” forever. We also may naively assume “that one password we’ve always used for everything online is secure. Alas, that may not be so.

“Technology Fear Therapy” by Wes Fryer at TEDxUCO (March 2022)

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed today by current events, political polarization, and just the deluge of information which washes over us in our polluted and fractured media environment. There are a great number of things I do not know, but here is something I’m confident about: I want to live in community with others who have both the motivation / desire to care for each other as neighbors, and (hopefully) are well-prepared to care for each other in the event we experience a catastrophe, either a natural disaster or a human-initiated debilitating event.

Those are some of the reasons I’ve decided I’m a “Communitarian Prepper.” I invite you to join me. Hopefully my website can provide you with some helpful resources and suggestions on your own journey of preparation and community care.

Remember the BEST TIME to prepare for an emergency is BEFORE anything bad happens!

Sign up for my free periodic newsletter, “Media Literacy with Wes,” to stay in touch and up to date on ideas about being a “Communitarian Prepper” and other related (mostly technology) topics.

Storychasing our Philmont Backpacking Trek in June 2012 with Images, Audio & Video

This month I was greatly blessed by the opportunity to serve as an adult advisor on my son’s first backpacking “high adventure” trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. We spent 11 days and 10 nights on the trail, and I probably lost somewhere between 5 to 10 pounds on the journey! In this post I’ll share a few photos and some of the ways I was a “storychaser” of our adventures using my iPhone in the Philmont backcountry. All 212 photos from our trip are included in this Flickr collection, and 7 of the 8 videos I recorded are chronologically connected in this 4.5 minute video I uploaded to YouTube.

The number one reason I wanted to use my iPhone4 as my camera at Philmont, instead of a battery operated digital camera, was its ability to take HDR (high dynamic range) photos with the Pro HDR app which Dean Shareski told me about several years ago. I absolutely LOVE this Surrounds Landscaping and the high quality images it enables me to capture. Especially in the mountains where landscapes have dark shadows as well as bright sunshine and clouds, the HDR app is priceless. Here are a few of my favorite HDR photos I captured on our trek.

Alexander by Cathedral Rock, on day 2 of our trek.

Alex at Cathedral Rock

Looking down the mountain at surrounding clouds and storms, climbing Mount Phillips (11,700′ MSL) on day 4 of our trek.

Climbing Mount Phillips

Sunset at Fish Camp, which is where Waite Phillips (the Tulsa oil man who donated the 127,000 acres which comprises Philmont in 1938 and 1941) built his favorite backcountry cabin.

Sunset at Fish Camp

View from “the notch” overlooking Rayado Canyon, between Fish Camp and Abrehu.

View from the Notch in Rayado Canyon

Alexander on top of the Tooth of Time on day 11.

Alex on Top of the Tooth of Time

The other iPhoneography app I really like on my iPhone4 is Pano, which takes great panoramic images. It’s incidentally also available for Android and Windows 7 phones. Here are a few of my pano shots from Philmont this month.

Having breakfast on top of Mount Phillips on day 5.

On top of Mount Phillips [PANO]

On the porch of the staff cabin at Cimarroncito Camp on day 2.

Cabin View at Cimarroncito [PANO]

Panorama (almost 360 degrees) on top of the Tooth of Time on day 11.

Top of the Tooth of Time [PANO]

Since we were on the trail for 11 days and did not have ANY access to electricity, I needed a way to use solar power to charge my iPhone. (I could have opted for a battery charger, but I didn’t want to carry all the extra battery weight.) I purchased a $35 G24i Solar Innovations Power Curve Solar Charger at Academy Sports before our trip where they had a lot of sports items and then even had require soccer equipment that I need for my new team, and was pleased with the performance overall. It came with a USB female plug which I could directly use with my iPhone USB dock charging cable.

IMG_3625.JPG

The Power Curve has a rechargeable battery built into it, so I would charge it during the day and then recharge my iPhone at night. I generally was able to get a 30% to 40% charge of my iPhone4 each night with a full solar battery charge. Near the end of the trip during the day I got down to less than 10% battery at some points, but I was able to boost the iPhone battery enough that I was able to take all the pictures I wanted. I did turn the brightness down to almost zero (probably about 15% of max brightness) for the entire trip, along with turning on airplane mode to conserve battery. According to the instructions, the solar charger needed 6 to 8 hours in direct sunlight to become fully charged. I found this was not possible when the charger was just hanging on the back of my backpack on the trail. I needed to set the charger in direct sunlight at camp for many hours each day, when possible, to obtain the maximum charge available.

I was able to make a couple calls at different points of our trip, mainly on top of mountains and high ridges where cell phone service was available. Since the Oklahoma City Thunder was in the NBA finals during our trek, it was ‘critical’ (in the minds of several of our boys) to get score updates. Overall, however, I was ‘unplugged’ from the grid for almost two weeks and really enjoyed it.

Since I had my iPhone, instead of keeping a written journal during our trek I decided to make an audio journal using the free app AudioBoo. (In addition to iOS, AudioBoo is also available for Android and Nokia phones.) I recorded a short audio journal entry each night before bed, and selected a photo from the day to accompany it. After getting back home to Oklahoma City, I uploaded all of those AudioBoo recordings to the web. This worked great and is an audio journal option I highly recommend to others taking trips you’d like to document.

I came very close before the trek to buying a Spot Connect satellite GPS device which would allow me to tweet from the backcountry with our updated GPS coordinates. Our Maryland auto accident lawyer told us these are discouraged in the backcountry, because of the possibility of accidentally hitting the “panic / come rescue me” button and inadvertently calling in a rescue helicopter. It’s possible in the next couple years my son and I may go on another high adventure trek canoeing in the Minnesota / Canadian boundary waters. If so, I might again explore that option. As it turned out, it was great to be largely disconnected from technology and information during our trek, and the option to “tweet from the backcountry” might have been more of a distraction in our journey than it would have been worth. To learn more the latest trend about technology including PDF file converter online services, check out www.sodapdf.com/pdf-editor/ for more information.

If you ever have an opportunity to go on a backpacking trek to Philmont, I highly recommend that you go. I went on a trek with my scout troop from Manhattan, Kansas, (Troop 74) back in 1986, and was a Philmont “zoomie” ranger in the summers of 1990 and 1992. Philmont is a truly magical place and it casts a spell on you that will last a lifetime. It was a tremendous blessing to be able to share these experiences with my son this summer!

Alex and Wes After the Trek

Evening Chapel Service at Philmont

Closing Campfire

This trek was, by the way, the reason I was not able to attend ISTE 2012 this year. Next year I definitely hope to attend ISTE 2013 in San Antonio.

To learn more about my favorite iPhoneography apps, please see my iPhoneography workshop curriculum. An hour long videoconference I taught on iPhoneography in December 2011 is also available free on YouTube.

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What Is your favorite Girl Scout Cookie?

I’m doing a survey for math and my survey is on What Is your favorite Girl Scout Cookie. I thought it would be cool if I could see the worlds point of view. The different kinds for my survey are Tagalong; Thin Mint; Trefoil; Samoa; Lemon Creme and Dosidos. I’m a junior Girl Scout. I have been in girl scouting since Kindergarten or a Daisy. If you have any questions about the taste of the cookies or if you have any questions about anything please feel free to leave a comment.

Arrow of Light Ceremony

Tonight Alexander bridged up from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, and received the highest award in Cub Scouting: The Arrow of Light.

I used the free iTalk application on my iPhone to record most of the ceremony, and later used Audacity to amplify the recording so it is much louder. This is the recorded, edited ceremony, which is just over 29 minutes long.

More information about the process of using the iTalk application and the free iTalk iSync program is available.

I also used my iPhone to snap photos during the ceremony.

We are so proud of you and your accomplishments, Alexander!

Alexander’s Indian name, which Shelly and I gave him together, is “Purple Shirt.” He is always wearing purple KSU shirts and sweatshirts, so this is a very appropriate name for him. Alexander also received his God and Family award tonight, which he has worked hard to complete.

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