Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Carrying Capasity - Let's Be Honest





It is my opinion that if you are a prepper or survivalist, as most everyone reading here are, then you should be able to be brutally honest with yourself. I know there are a few who stop by and read and very often get totally pissed off at what I have to say. Well those readers (admitted ones or not) are more than likely going to be even more pissed off at me after this post I have no doubt.

I have always said I am a numbers guy. Doesn't mean my numbers are always correct but you have to start somewhere. Sustainable living is a science but a science with so many variables it might as well be an art form. The canvass that can be used to create your sustainable masterpiece is as varied as any other factor so what works for one may not work for another. This allows so much leaking of fantastical thinking or possibilities into things that whatever fairytale you wish to believe can be reasoned in your own mind to be sustainable. Until it isn't.

Let's start off with a scenario. One of complete collapse for at least a time. One that is well known enough that little background building is needed. Let's use "One Second After". An EMP has struck and everything is dead. No electricity, very few cars or other vehicles. No goods coming in by rail, no trade, you are on your own.

We will add to this mythical scenario a total vacuum. For this study in brutal honesty we are not going to worry about roving bands of cannibals, looting officials for the common good or even sickness and/or injury. No invading foreign armies but also no friendly neighbors or distant relatives showing up with a semi-trailer full of MRE's either.

The first thing I am going to tell you is if you are alone you are not going to make it.

I am sure there are several burly guys out there who are thinking I am plain stupid and they will hunt or fish themselves through whatever comes.

I doubt it. Even giving each of our players a full years worth of stored foodstuffs the areas out there that will have enough game and vegetable forage with no grooming are few and far between. There is no way you are going to be able to have the time to not only hunt and fish plus plant what you need and also harvest it, prepare it, store it etc. It's not going to happen no matter how good a shape you make yourself believe you are in. Go have another beer then look in the mirror and be honest. You will either die of starvation because you spent too much time splitting firewood or freeze to death because you opted to cook instead. You're not going to grab a pizza to go with your 12 pack on the way home this time big guy.

Ladies you can forget about it too. Oh I know many of you will bristle at this one but guess what Hon your independence brought on by fantasy movie heroines like Lora Croft are just that. Fantasies. Those dreams are gonna die the minute FIAT cash ends for most of you. There will be no more of this "I can do it on my own" crap that fails to mention the money you took out of your government pension plan to have all the real hard labor done by a crew made up of men.

Oh I can hear it now. "I can hunt just as good as any man" or "I can work just as hard as any man" well sweetie, one I don't believe it and, two if you truly can then please forget the paragraph that begins with "ladies" and go up one to the paragraph that starts out "I doubt it". That paragraph would then apply to you as well as the delusional men.

Bottom line the bare minimum for sustainable survival is going to be two. Two people. Now I don't care how you want to work things out or which one of you is the better shot or what have you. If you want it to be two women fine but one of ya needs to be the "I doubt it" paragraph and one needs to be the other at any given time.

You can work out the baseball positions on a daily basis on your own.

Now that we have that out of the way let's look at some other very large hurdles we are going to have to cross.

For the two of you to survive you are going to need to produce about 720 pounds of store-able vegetable matter and 360 pounds of meat per year. If game is not plentiful then all bets are off on how much extra hay and grain you will need to keep livestock fed. From chickens to cattle that is going to vary greatly. You also have no salt or other types of preservatives or sweeteners unless you can produce them yourselves.  

Now let's look at my numbers I have worked out from a fairly productive agricultural area.

To get the numbers above I would need to plant and take care of or store....

2000 bean plants
Minimum of 5 acres of hayfield with about 5 acres of pasture.
Minimum of 8 sheep (1 Ram and assuming 7 ewes have enough lambs to supply the meat)
Approximately 3000 gallons of water
2 acres of corn mostly to feed the sheep
About 5 cords of firewood

That's a pretty sparse list. You may have fruit trees, perhaps you live in a place that doesn't require firewood, maybe you can graze enough stock to bypass the corn but I would bet there is a trade off in every location. You can add in pumpkins, or squash I really don't care but remember you have to store it so it keeps so you are going to be looking at overall efficiency as well.

I am certainly not suggesting that everyone should quit their jobs and produce what you need now. I am simply pointing out you better run your numbers and realize what you will have to do if the lights go out tonight and stay out for years. I know everybody has stored food and stuff but you better have a plan to sustain the levels you need or you are simply gambling that at some point you will have something to trade or the lights will come back on and your pension will magically reappear. If you cannot actually come up with those production numbers within the first year of a collapse then you better be figuring out how to. Now.

Even if you have to do it in scale to begin with so you know. If you are running around like a maniac with not enough time taking care of your 10 tomato plants and a couple of bush beans think what you are going to have to do that first year after a collapse.

If your situation keeps you in a rented house with a small garden you better scout out an area you can go to and have everything you will need when you get there already purchased and stashed.

I am not trying to rain on anyone's parade or tell Mr. Rents-it he is doomed because he doesn't have 11 acres right now. NO. I am simply telling you like it is (from my perspective) so you know what you have to do and what the minimums are for your carrying capacity.

Don't fall into the delusional trap of how you hope it will be. Ever.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!




43 comments:

  1. I agree, period. This is the best post on the survival arts I've read in a very long time. My friends and I just had this discussion. Bottom line, like you said, most will die. But there it is, as plain as white on rice. Well done.

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    1. And, since this is such a well written piece I've prepared a post for 0800 with a link. Again, well done.

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    2. Thank you Stephen. I went to bed right after I posted this one and then took the kid to his classes early this morning and spent the time he was there doing some work on our in town property. I just got back home.

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  2. I am glad you use the word mythical with EMP. The evidence for an EMP being large enough to have much more than a local effect (versus the geometrically larger solar flare) is very thin, and base of evidence for permanent (versus temporary disruption) effects on electronics is very thin.

    Historically, the big trade off seems of warmer for colder climates seems to be disease. The wealthy avoided living in the low country Carolinas at certain times of year.

    You have enough meat there for a middle ages nobleman. Far more than you need for the minimum.

    The larger survival adder would be access to nut bearing trees including acorns, and hoping everyone else doesn't figure that out. Of course fruit trees on your own land are helpful.

    You see some pretty small plot sizes being called sustainable. But Medieval peasants seem to have managed a population density of 30 people per square mile (poor soil)to an absolute max of 120 per square mile for excellent land. We have better technology, but they knew better what they were doing. Note this number is not the same as a plot sizing as it includes unusable land.

    You can find date (in kilometers squared) for 1300 Europe here:

    http://www.paolomalanima.it/default_file/Papers/MEDIEVAL_GROWTH.pdf

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    1. Russ - Ya it wasn't about claiming EMP was all that just needed a scenario most everyone would know about ahead of time.

      As for the peasants there are many historians who like to disclaim some of the earlier notions about the normal diet. It changed with their fortunes so much it is hard to nail it down. In general though they were not known for their overall excellent nutrition though. My numbers are for half a pound of meat per person per day which would be ideal in my opinion.

      Of course you can up the vegetable matter and decrease the meat or vice versa they overall amount of work will be the same.

      What many modern day people claim as small sustainable actually relies on outside input. My best example is the Eden garden method. Looks good in the presentation but he is obviously relying on massive input from outside his general area and well above any labor he could do on his own to sustain it.

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  3. A little something to think on; The US has many 1000s of Reactor cooling pools - just like Fukushima, and just like Fukushima, when the power grid fails the reactors and cooling pools will begin spewing massive amounts of radiation five to seven days after an EMP takes out the grid. Rendering 90% of the lower 48 into a radioactive wasteland. The fantasy is off grid survival. Once the lights go out, 90+% of the people north of 10deg. north lat. will be bald in 14 days and dead in 30. Sorry but all the "prepping" in the world won't save you if you are down wind or down stream of a Nuke plant or storage sight, and almost everyone in NA is.

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    1. I am glad you brought that up. I agree with you. Nuclear power today is like giving a kid the keys to a car without any brakes being installed. It is only safe as long as that kid keeps control and keeps the engine running.

      I don't care how many scream these plants are redundant and so safe. Bottom line they are only safe as long as someone is there and being paid to keep them running and someone else is delivering the fuel to keep em running. Those two final "Ifs" are fragile at best.

      The plant that is close to me is actually downwind but still within the more realistic danger zone area I have seen printed. Of course the one I am speaking of also has a redundancy issue that would allow the Missouri river to actually flow into the pool but again how long will that work without people removing log jams etc.

      These plants scattered all over the US are dangerous and they are keeping all of their spent fuel rods on site. Obummer deep sixed the mountain site we were suppose to use to store all these spent fuel rods so now everyone will have to deal with them in some way.

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  4. I've been thinking about this all my life, and the numbers are harsh, but real. The more self reliant a person is, the better they understand the harsh reality.

    This time of year I could easily live off the land. In two months it'll get hard. In 4 . . . very difficult indeed. Winter kills.

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    1. Sixbears - I know what you are saying. In a month or so I could easily live the good life around here. Won't be cold enough to need a lot of wood if any and there will be 1000's of geese and other fowl to take and I would barely have to leave my yard to do it. After a good freeze rabbits will be edible again and the deer move in the open more. But the time I would spend collecting this bounty would mean when it is gone I would starve.

      Even easy hunting is time consuming.

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  5. I'll add onto the kudos for a well written, and needed reality check for a lot of people. The numbers just don't add up for most people. Ideally, I believe that a family/group should have 3 years worth of food stored. Droughts, insects, or basically mother nature can throw you a bean ball at any time.

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    1. K - Yes three years is good but at three years you begin running into rotation dates and I believe it really becomes harder to get beyond three years without losing as much as you gain without having a certain collapse date. If you see what I mean there.

      Droughts can be survived but again you are adding time that could be spent in other areas.

      I think actually an ideal number for survival is going to end up being in the teens or twenties but that is discounting social issues that may make those numbers impossible without hard divisions in the group.

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  6. Imagine coming into the wilderness with only what you can put in one small vehicle and then having to survive cold winters and threat of attack by roving bands. This was what my ancestors(the white ones) did in frontier Virginia in the 1750s. I have been studying how they managed to succeed and one of the obvious things is that there was more than one and they were all pretty much like minded and were united in the goal of surviving. Your blog fits in with what I have found, I am still trying to learn more about them.

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    1. SF - Somehow my direct ancestors managed to survive the early Virginia Indian massacres in the 1600's having got off the boat only a year or two before they started. So I see your point but even those early settlements were better off than the scenario I am presenting here in at least they had trade and a labor system in place. Really even mountain men had it better than this scenario traveling to trading posts and having barter items etc.

      I watched a documentary on the Russian fur trappers a few weeks past and it really drove home how much work each trapper and his family does just to get the trapper through Winter.

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  7. A well written post. If everything goes south today, all I can do is bend over and kiss my ass good bye. I am better off today then this time last year, but not out of the woods yet. We may never ever be out of the woods.

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    1. Rob, 90% of us are in this position as well, make it a real situation with hordes of people trying to eat anything that moves, including other people, then you can make that number 99%.

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    2. Rob and Matt - I am not 100% convinced of that either and in my next post I will perhaps explain why.

      All is not lost but we need to expand on our scenario a little.

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  8. PP - this an excellent post and hopefully will give people a bit of a reality check in regards to "i have 30 cans of tomatoe soup in my preps". those 30 cans will definitely help in the beginning, but if you have no way of replacing them, they are going to run out. i like that you mentioned in your scenario that there are no friends and family involved - because i think the number one most important thing to be able to survive anything is to have, and to be a part of a tight, reliable community of people who already have each other's backs, and who have a variety of skills.

    as for women and men being able to do the same things - baloney! yesterday when jam and i went berry picking for our friend at his farm - i did 4 20lb bins in the same time that he did 10. we live in deer-hunting territory and although i can take one down, i sure as heck don't want him to be at home making apple sauce and i have to haul the thing back!

    this is an awesome post. i like dealing with situations that involve starting with reality and numbers!

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Ahh kymber - You are the ideal woman. Happy with being a woman and comfortable in using your own skills and natural talents to their best advantage. These days though that attitude is not really the norm. Of course when the hard wall of reality sets in my bet is it won't take long for 99% of the others to see the writing on the wall.

      I didn't really mean this to be a male v. female post although I couldn't resist the dig. I did try and bash on the guys as well though :)

      I also skirted the issue you brought up in that the men can bring more in. I was hoping to just lead that horse to the creek and not force it's head down into the water :)

      Like the firearm made all warriors more equal cheap energy breaks down many barriers but it doesn't look like the cheap energy is going to last.

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    2. I agree! I can shoot it, but dragging it very far would be very difficult for me. Luckily I have three sons to help with some heavy lifting as well. I will Let them bring home the bacon and I will sew the hides into clothes, lol

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  9. I have no fantasies about my personal survival, for reasons I won't go into here. But wife & daughters would be okay for a few weeks - after that, or in winter (which is 7 months of the year, here), it will be tough indeed.

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    1. RP - Well the realities of Alaska in my mind would be so far removed from what I wrote here I couldn't begin to fathom it. My guess is it would involve more people overall and more specialization in individual jobs that come together. I would also guess it would involve a whole lotta fish and a lot less beans :)

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  10. I guess you just do the best you can. I know the Cherokee survived here in large numbers and I have never, for the life of me, figured out how. This is a really bad place to be in winter even if the rest of the year was mild. They did though, so there must be a way. I'm not worried about shelter, protection, or water. Food could be a problem after the first year if I had no luck growing food, and I never have been successful here doing that. So I suppose we all just have to devote what time and resources we can and hope for the best. The alternative, just to hope that nothing happens, is not very palatable.

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    1. HF - Like with RP above and where I mentioned the early settlers and mountain men in the reply to SF my guess is there are many areas that would flat out be trade dependent. From what I (Think) I know about the Cherokee they pretty much eventually adapted the settler ways and had at least those rudimentary early trade areas to rely on. Before that they had solid specializations as I was really getting into here. Someone had to do one type of work while the others did another and bring it all together. In my scenario this was tending and harvesting/preserving while someone else hunted but down your way it was more than likely foraging for wild vegetable matter while someone hunted.

      The less fertile the area for agriculture the more people needed I am assuming.

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  11. Like Everyone else said.. Excellant post and a much needed reality check.
    Senior and I chat every day about it. People we see in a store, neighbors, even friends of ours. I know I am looking right in to the eye of the walking dead. Even some of the bloggers on here.
    They all talk a good game, but when the real shit hits the fan, when the real reality dose comes knocking on the door...who will live and who won't.

    All Senior and I or any one for that matter can do , is keep prepping like we have been. Work on getting debts paid off, and use cash. Hopefully get out of our current area and on to our property in SC. Atleast up there we stand a better chance, then living in a residential community. In addition to stock piling food, we are also buying up small bottles of things like Rum, Whiskey, vodka.. Cigerettes are also helpful, and Seed Packs. Why? to be used for trade. because we know once it all goes in to the toilet, and currency no longer has a value. it will be tangible goods that people want.

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    1. JuGM - It seems to me that knowing is most of the battle. No one I know of is actually producing all they need to survive right now but the more they know how the better their chances in the end.

      Rum to trade will certainly help :)

      Having somewhere to go will help as well. I think you and Senior got it all under control.

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  12. Excellent post as well as excellent comments from your readers. I have said all along I am not preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse because in a total grid down situation, no matter what the cause, I will not survive it, nor will 98% of the current population. I am preparing for another great depression with massive unemployment and a substantial increase in crime. But, I think we will still have Government, power and transportation, but at a greatly higher cost for any goods you can buy. I can survive a scenario like that, but not a return to medieval times.

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    1. Sd - A return to medieval times would be temporary. My thoughts on the subject are really we would in fact go through many periods like you describe as things again hit an equilibrium. I still kinda believe crime will rise yes but also be dealt with swiftly as it only takes a scratch to end a criminal career in a grid down situation.

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  13. Great post! I know my goose is cooked in the long run if I have to go it alone. Being an older widow and given that I have food and lots of wood for now, it won't last more than a year. I know how to preserve food, but being riddled with arthritis, I'm not kidding myself that I would be able to grow enough food for another year. Trees are not plentiful here, so getting more wood would be negligible. No more bison to get chips to burn here either! :)

    Family is 30 miles away and will come this way, but still it will be extremely difficult. I tried to kid myself and think since I'm a farm wife, I could do anything. Not that way anymore. I will do my best and then be happy to meet my Lord in heaven. (Not that I'm giving up, mind you, I just hope to be realistic. Will not go down easily!!)

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    1. Well CottonLady what makes you think that the very skills and attitude you show in your comment wouldn't make you valuable? A set of eyes, a pleasant smile and someone who knows how to do things 99% of the world has forgotten about but is necessary and needed once again.

      Sounds pretty valuable to me and ya know what I wouldn't have to worry about you hitting me in the head when my back was turned.

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  14. I have no problem saying that I will need help.

    Whites need to stick together.

    White Mom in VA

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    1. Lorraine - Indeed and one aspect that needs looking at here is a cultural skill set. Northern European customs were formed by the very conditions we speak of here. Society and civilization building without cheap and plentiful energy is a skillset Europeans mastered better than anyone else.

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  15. What is missing in this reality check is that in former times of say, 100 years or so ago and back that some are referring to, was that the life expectancy of most homo sapiens was, I am swagging , 40 years. Life expectancy is in proper correlation to proper diet, sanitary conditions, environment, and access to medicine and medical treatment. With that in mind, if a catastrophe occurs, and it matters not which one, the Agenda 21 master minds will be elated that the world will be greatly less occupied with the human race.

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    1. Wrench - Good points but the very agenda 21 masterminds you speak of are surviving and thriving today on the very wide margin and over populations that will be diminished. The type of control we are seeing today cannot be accomplished with out cheap and plentiful energy. I am sure they don't see it that way but it takes production in massive amounts to keep them the way they been kept.

      Bottom line is agenda 21 control requires boots on the ground, in every neighborhood and on every street corner and that requires massive amounts of energy and surplus.

      Or so I hope anyway :)

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    2. What you say is part of the fallacy in their plan.... these morons who are for population control, believing that, dirt, plants and animals have more rights than humans, should be the first to help solve their thesis by jumping off a high bridge.

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  16. They say if you even get to shelter in place you're lucky. Remember that article from the Silver Bear Cafe about the soldier/farmer from Bosnia? His family had it all going for them, and it all went out the window because they had to leave.

    And obviously if I have to leave it probably isn't going to be loaded to the gills in my van with all the comforts. It will be on foot with a backpack. Then I'll just be following the Golden Horde. My inclination is to go opposite the horde, but food is food.

    So I'm the 1% that gets to shelter in place, use all the preps I've made, and the world goes by. All I can hope for is at a certain point the skills I have will be worth trading for the goods I need.

    Basically I'm dead unless I get really, really, really lucky. Of course I'm dead either way. But I'm dead sooner if I don't get lucky.

    In the end it's all going to be dumb luck. Watch, some Starbucks sipping prick in the city who never gave a second thought to preparedness will outlive us all.

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    1. Anon - Well a starbucks prick may have an advantage if he or she isn't too attached to their pride and willing to work. From what I have seen of baristas (Sp?) they are able to swallow that pride many times during a day.

      Obviously remaining in place with all your preps would be better than having to bug out. Attitude and ethics will make a person valuable to someone though I believe. Life maybe cheap in one area but those areas rarely cover the entire world.

      Or so I hope.

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  17. ....and in a very short time game will not be plentiful. There is not enough game in the wild to support even a large city.

    I do a very large garden every year and I could produce enough food with it for several people as well as hunt.

    still I agree that alone it would be very unlikely that you would survive long. a small group would be the best case.

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    1. GPM - You are correct about the game. My father did not kill a deer in the wild until I was a child despite the fact he grew up on a farm. He said there simply were not any to kill.

      Growing the food is the easy part in my opinion. It's hunting while harvesting and preserving all that you planted that is the hard part.

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  18. I have 75 tomato plants in this year for my family of 4, just for fresh eating and canning. And it isn't nearly enough if we needed to count on them for a full year's worth in a grid-down scenario. This was a great article, one of the best I've read in awhile. People need to open their eyes and start seeing the reality for what it truly is. Most folks just haven't thought out the logistical numbers or have no knowledge of what it really takes to live without a functioning economy or grid-down. It should darn well scare you into action!

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    1. well if you planned to only eat tomatoes I would agree.

      I have roughly 100 tomato plants, bushels of beans, potatoes onions. I also have beets and carrots cucumbers squash and zucchini basil tyme and parsley. I grow in three garden plots each 75 feet by 75 feet. it can feed more then four.

      my parents and their contemporaries all lived off their gardens livestock or those of their neighbours. sadly few today (in the west) understand self sufficiency (as individuals and community ...not to confuse community with the hillary clinton community) and will likely pay a heavy price for it.

      there is always a risk of crop failure so a bad year could be disastrous. bringing back the topic of working alone in a SHTF scenario.

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    2. I hear ya.

      My opinion. Beans is the ultimate survival food if you are North of the rice line anyway. Corn as well but beans are a must. Pole beans especially.

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  19. At first glance this looks like a good post. After a little thought, it's message is totally unrealistic.

    You Know Who

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