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Without Power, Puerto Rico Is Cash Only (nytimes.com)
294 points by petethomas on Sept 30, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 290 comments

Local here:

Its not cash only anymore. ATM service is coming back up to a lot of the island. Banks are opening and things are looking up.

Life is somewhat getting back to normal. The big issue is that people are now realizing that they are out of jobs. Its why Im moving to Atlanta this month. Things are bound to get interesting once the poor run out of money.

Btw, going to use this space (and please excuse me) to let the community know that Im available for hire. Please email me at pryelluw@gmail.com for more details or tweet at me @pryelluw

You can find a link to my resume on my profile. Willing to relocate whithin the continental US.

Yes, use this opportunity to make contacts. But I'd recommend you add a sentence or two to let HN employers know your professional background and skills. I see from your profile that you do Python, Django, and JavaScript, anything else? Your impressive blog discusses functional programming a lot.

Only willing to consider Atlanta, or other cities in Southeast? (Raleigh-Durham is another big regional employer of programmers, and hires lots of Python folks)

Also, I'm guessing things are only looking up in San Juan, right? The outlying areas still have no clean drinking water, food, or medicine from what I'm seeing.

My wife is from PR and most of her family lives theoughout the island. It's not actually "better" in San Juan, because people are desperate for water/gas in many neighborhoods. I can only tell you that there are some pretty horrible things going on in parts of San Juan.

In the mountain towns they still dont have any comms and no water or gas.

In the north west the lines for gas/water are miles long.

Lots of people are leaving. It will be really interesting to see how the long term effects play out, even if only 25% of the population moves to NY, Chicago, DC, Orlando, Philly, etc.

PR is no stranger to mass exodus (the previous waves to New York are evidence of this). In fact the pre-hurricane problems largely stem from the results of the past exoduses.

Solving the problem requires repealing all the laws that yoke PR to mainland companies without providing any of the actual benefits, but that would require the current Congress to want to give PR something like statehood, if not statehood itself.

If they cannot justify statehood then annex it to Florida.

No republican is going to add a few million safely Democratic votes to Florida. Unfortunately that’s the kind of world we live in.

Solution: Divide Florida into two states (North and South). Give Puerto Rico to South Florida. Puerto Rico has much more in common (culturally) with South Florida anyway.

North Florida is heavily republican, South Florida is heavily democrat.

Status Quo is maintained.

Newt Ginrich has for years said it should be the people of PR who have the referendum and decide. While he was Speaker, he pushed a bill that allowed a referendum to be called for.


Simply repeal the Jones Act.

thats not so simple. I have a feeling wall st and congress dont want that to happen... but im no expert

Wall St. would love to be able to sell stuff to Puerto Rico with less overhead. It's just the US shipping companies and sailors that really like having a monopoly on trade with Puerto Rico. (There are other things about Puerto Rico's lack of statehood that Wall St likes a lot, but the Jones Act isn't one of them)

sounds like you are well versed here. would love to read more about it. please share if you have sources. it's hard to find good analysis of PR that isnt blatantly political.

Some good sources of information:

- Report on the Competitiveness of Puerto Rico's Economy [1] - An Update on the Competitiveness of Puerto Rico's Economy [2] - Characteristics of the Island's Maritime Trade and Potential Effects of Modifying the Jones Act [3] - Shipping Co.: Maritime Cabotage Complicates Logistics and Adds Costs [4]

[1] https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/regional/Puert... [2] https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/outreach-and-e... [3] http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-260 [4] http://reports.weforum.org/global-enabling-trade-2013/view/s...

Just to get cash or buy gas, can take all day for most.

Well, better is a relative term. I see things generally improving. Doesnt mean that bad things are not happening.

Thanks for the feedback. Ive updated my bio and included a link to my most recent resume.

I have no issues with relocating within the US (as long as its not Alaska).

I live near San Juan (about 3o mins out and things sure are better than in other areas. But people are still currently in a state of shock and havent realized the implications of the catastrophe. My dad lives where the eye entered and it looks lime a set for the walking dead tv show.

Why only the US?

Puerto Ricans are US citizens by birth, it makes it easier to move anywhere in the USA vs another country (just buy a ticket, find a place to live, etc). That's my main guess as to why. I am from Puerto Rico and living in Florida. Chances are he has family in Atlanta (maybe). When we moved from PR to Florida we moved here mostly because we had family here already, makes starting over a little easier.

Its currently simpler given that Im a natural citizen. Moving to another country carries an additional amount of work that Im not currently able to complete. Plus I have family and friends in the US.

It's much easier? Puerto Ricans are US citizens so as long as they know English (a lot more do than people assume) then it's relatively easy.

As long as they know English? That seems like an absurd requirement, surely it’s by birth?

For citizenship, yes. They're saying that not knowing English makes it harder to work in the US:

- Puerto Ricans are US citizens

- So as long as they know English then [working in the U.S. is] relatively easy.

thanks for clarifying I think verelo must have missed the word "so"

I don’t think I did, where would you put it? Seems by the downvotes I offended someone, I don’t really know where but keen to correct it if that is the case!

What djKianoosh means is that you missed reading the word "so", leading you to read the comment as:

"Puerto Ricans are US citizens as long as they know English..."

...instead of:

"Puerto Ricans are US citizens so as long as they know English..."

Gotcha! That makes way more sense and addresses my original question for sure, thank you!

What the comment says: "Puerto Ricans are US citizens so as long as they know English ... it's relatively easy"

What you think the comment says: "Puerto Ricans are US citizens as long as they know English"

right, I totally get how English would help getting a job. I thought the post implied that it was a requirement for citizenship, which seemed odd since no one would speak English at birth anyway.

We have a good meetup culture in Atlanta. Lookup the Atlanta Ruby users group when you get settled. Lots of tech startups to work with.

Tons of Meetups and conferences in Atlanta - https://twitter.com/ATL_TechEvents

Thanks! Defintely checking those out.

Thank you for the info. Will look it up.

If you don't mind, I'd love to hear a HNer-calibre opinion of how well the recovery has been handled. My understanding is that there are plenty of supplies sitting in port that can't get out to people, any opinions on what "should" have been done, both before and after the event, to improve the efficiency of the recovery in the days immediately after? Would helicopters airlifting those supplies out to people have been practical, or some other approach?

The are two main issues we should consider first:

1. Hurricane Irma had impacted the island about a week before. Debilitating or destroying some lf the infrastructure.

2. The goverment wad already working 24/7 to recover from Hurricane Irma.

This had been a perfect storm of sorts. The area was recovering from a hurricane, the economic environment was weak, and people's outlook was less than stellar.

Combine all of this with a catastrophic event and you get what we have: an overworked government with scarce resources, an infrastructure that was in need of updating and repair, and a general sense of hopelessness from the population.

The federal government is helping a lot but this is an unprecedented event that piles up on the work they were doing on Houston and Florida. Couñd they do more? I dont know if they have the resources. You just cant expect one entity to handle multiple incidents plus being at war on the middle east (and possibly NK).

There is little to do in efficiency. You can surely bring in logistics experts (like the military did), but you cant bring in enough human resources in a timely manner.

Airlifting sounds practical but Im not sure if it would have helped when the ports authority was just overworked and understaffed.

This was just the perfect storm. It destroyed my beautiful country. That's life. Its why we gotta live in the moment and stop to smell the flowers from time to time.

The general consensus on the parts of the internet that I frequent is that this is Trump's fault, do you more or less agree?

It seems to me there should be a skeleton of resilient roads spanning the land for disaster relief distribution, but maybe that's a naive opinion.

No, it is not Trump's fault. He might or not be doing things that affect the outcome but no one entity or person is to blame here. If anything, it is a look into what the future will be like with global warming.

How is the progress on power coming back to the island? Is it still dependent on diesel? The cell networks work?

Yes to diesel and cell networks are only up in san juan are and barely working elsewhere. We lost a lot of fiber optic.

Good luck! I just skimmed over your resume and I don't think you'll have any problem finding opportunity in Atlanta.

Thank you for the kind words.

I wonder how much cash is being withdrawn per day.

In most contemporary societies, including the United States, there are really no provisions, practices, and doctrines to handle a large city's worth of people's disruption of daily routine. We've seen this with Katrina and Sandy, but more recently with Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Puerto Rico's situation is worse because of several compounding factors that work against them: the scale of the disaster, communication and coordination issues, logistical challenges, and a belligerent rhetoric coming from the topmost levels of the US federal government despite lower-level federal employees being part of of a burgeoning, although so far inadequate recovery effort.

But in each of these disasters, the hard questions to which society offers zero answers begin long before the disaster actually strikes. Universities and research organizations have long studied reasons why people don't evacuate, and while discretionary answers exist, many people simply report being unable to afford the expenses of a temporary relocation away from one's regular job for a disaster that's forecasted to perhaps occur 3-5 days out.

You can invoke the argument that it's literally a matter of life and death and that ought to be worth any expense, but that's not helpful when people may not have cash on hand, or quick access to easy emergency credit that would be guaranteed by some higher party. It's truly unfortunate that situation is that disaster aid for forecastable disasters only kicks in once it has already struck, and not days before when its inevitability becomes clear.

In Puerto Rico's current case, the breakdown of societal structures due to lack of electricity, lack of electronic communication, lack of fuel, lack of distribution capability is unfortunate enough, but the degenerate functioning of life is just bizarre; people are now trying to get by in a worst-of-both-worlds hybrid of subsistence tribalism and wage-earning capitalism, where they both have to forage for food and water and barter for supplies, while at the same time giving the rest of their cash-on-hand to large corporations like CVS for stuff that's still on the shelves; and any changes to this status quo are reliant on random individuals' goodwill -- like a shopowner who decides to give away supplies -- instead of any organized directives from top-down.

> worst-of-both-worlds hybrid of subsistence tribalism and wage-earning capitalism

The bottom end of capitalism often looks quite like subsistence tribalism.

> many people simply report being unable to afford the expenses of a temporary relocation away from one's regular job for a disaster that's forecasted to perhaps occur 3-5 days out

Well, yes. You can be sure that everyone outside the disaster zone will be along to restore capitalism before they restore electricity. The disaster is temporary but the economic structure remains. It's not even clear that being homeless in NYC on your own is better than being homeless in the ruins of your community. It may be better to turn up to your non-functional workplace and keep your job than evacuate and lose it.


(I think well-off people underestimate how much ordinary capitalism looks like imminent disaster to people at the sharp end - it's no use if the stores are open and the hospitals working if you can't afford food or healthcare.)

> You can be sure that everyone outside the disaster zone will be along to restore capitalism before they restore electricity

"Keep your government hands off my medicare."

> You can be sure that everyone outside the disaster zone will be along to restore capitalism before they restore electricity

What does this mean?

The system is more important than its worst-case outcomes, particularly for people not at the bottom.

Banks saying your mortgage or credit cards or student loan is in default before the city is recovered enough for you to earn if a paycheck again.

My personal anecdote has been the complete opposite of that. A few days after Irma my bank called to tell me late fees and penalties had been waived for the month. A week later they called to inform me that the program had been extended through the end of the year. That was just something they did without asking me if I needed any assistance or anything. If the end of the year wasn't going to be sufficient they would be happy to work with me on an individual level.

Is it the fault of the bank that you haven’t created a rainy day fund? Nobody forced you to get a mortgage, credit cards or student loans. Common sense indicates people should have 6 months of living expenses saved. Many people can’t afford to do that, but then if that’s the case, why are people incurring debts? A student loan implies a college degree, which implies that we aren’t talking about the profoundly poor, but some standard issue millennial.

And student loan default is really hard to do; you can get forebearances for practically any reason. There is zero excuse to default on student loans; they have every payment plan imaginable.

Capitalism doesn't mean you don't pool resources together, it just means pooling resources is voluntary.

Puerto Rico's population is close to 3.5 million people. How large of a population do you think it was able to support before industrialized capitalism?

"The bottom end of capitalism looks like subsistence tribalism"; how powerful, how insightful! Why don't we start with the fact that millions of those people would not be alive in the first place without the modern, evil, capitalist system?

There's a difference between demonizing the entire system, and just noticing its rough edges and failure modes. The latter enables discussion about how to mitigate the failure modes while keeping the overall system running.

Please don't steer things into a generic political debate. From the HN guidelines:

"Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."

The article we all came here to discuss is focused on the financial systems people rely upon for daily life and subsistence during disaster. Financial systems are inherently political, hard stop.

Discussing the political systems that promote the reliance on the somewhat fragile systems of technology the article is discussing is not unrelated nor generic.

If you feel that politics is a flamewar topic, please do civic engagement a favor and learn how to practice political discussion with less flammability.

Then flag the post and let the moderators handle it. There is nothing more obnoxious than lecturing other people on how you think they should express themselves.

I'm wondering if anyone has ever done a disaster recovery analysis for PR before, is there anything down on paper regarding how supplies could be airlifted in to strategic locations, some subset of roads (starting aqt the port, working outward) improved to be "guaranteed" to be working for distribution in the event of a worst case scenario, etc?

A strategy that maximizes possibility of success regardless of who is president rather than expecting whoever happens to be president at the time to figure it all out after the fact seems like it would be a better idea, yet from the little I've read on the matter it seems like the latter was the chosen approach.

Belligerent rhetoric? You mean from that wacko mayor of San Juan? She’s a nutcase.

Just a reminder that anyone can issue credit. A composition notebook and a pencil is all it takes to keep record.

1. Pay by the end of the month and it doesn’t effect me. No interest.

2. Otherwise, 1% to 1.5% of the balance in interest month over month. You have to pay at least the interest every month.

3. If I need to borrow, I can do it on the strength of my accounts receivable and my ability to collect interest payments reliably.

4. If I don’t get payed back, I can take someone to court when things are back to normal and yes, the court will side with me.

4.b There's always ways to create incentives to pay debts.

It has worked this way for hundreds of years in parts of Latin America and other areas of the world with fluctuating infrastructure.

Though "4" doesn't scale well for small transactions. I'm not going to sue the 200 individuals that purchased $25 of water and aren't returning my calls.

There is also the alternative: telling everyone that someone is a deadbeat (i.e. a delinquent debtor's credit rating is harmed). If you are operating at a small scale e.g. one involving a notebook, presumably you know all your customers and their friends etc...

You may want to check with your local laws. A business class I once took made it a point to mention that store issued credit can't last longer than 90 days. Anything longer and it must be backed by a lending institution.

If you look at the bottom of ads, you'll sometimes see the resulting legalese. They get around this by things like layaway and larger chains will actually have their own insured lending institution.

This will vary by jurisdiction, as not all countries are the same. I am going to speculate that Puerto Rico is the same, as it is a US territory, but that's speculation.

You can let people pay by signing a note with their name, contact info, "IOU X amount", and their thumbprint. That's a binding contract. Once systems are back up, you mail or email them a copy along with a bill. The ones who don't pay up, you nag a few times, then send the note to a debt collector.

> The ones who don't pay up, you nag a few times, then send the note to a debt collector.

Doesn't one need to pay the debt collector? It seems like this wouldn't be too useful if many people owe a small amount of money.

I've only ever known one experience with a debt collector (My dad runs a business and had to contract one to recover payments once) but he actually sold the debt to the debt collector. If the debt was $2000, he would sell it to the debt collector for 50%, the collector paid him $1000, and then ran off to collect the full $2000.

So yeah if it was $15, you might be hard pressed to get a debt collector to care.

4a: You can't be sure of that. The court can always decide (and I've seen many analogous situations in which it did) that your debt is not valid, it was oppressive, it abused the customer needs etc. and so you lose.

4b: Of which incentives are you talking about? The other points you've mentioned are trivial, this is the only point that has problems. If you solve 4b somehow someday you'll be making a huge benefit to the world, a revolution greater than Bitcoin.

4b: big men with clubs? that was the traditional incentive to pay

> 4a: You can't be sure of that. The court can always decide (and I've seen many analogous situations in which it did) that your debt is not valid, it was oppressive, it abused the customer needs etc. and so you lose.

Most people who take loans in situations like this are members of the community and are grateful for the opportunity. There’s always a level of write-off, but the system doesn’t need to guarantee total repayment.

Of course cash is still useful to those that the keeper of the notebook doesn't choose to issue credit.

One can model “money as a primitive form of [distributed] memory. [1]”

[1] https://www.minneapolisfed.org/research/sr/sr218.pdf

Ah yes. I recall hearing about the idea that the basic economy need 3 entities. A buyer, a seller, and an accountant to record the transaction to ensure there is no double spending.

In effect money of any kind replace the accountant by making sure that the buyer do not double spend by handing over the tokens that allow him to buy in the first place.

a centralized system of credit that’s built on trust and uses no cryptography? You’ve just described the nightmare scenario of the HN crowd!

>Just a reminder that anyone can issue credit.

This is what annoys with me with all the cryptocurrencies. They try to recreate the economics of gold as a money, a money whose supply is fixed. Modern money is a ledger who owes how much. That has no fixed supply. So we would need a cryptocurrency whose supply is not fixed but what anyone can create. Of course, there are challenges there to make it work...

And likely thousands of years before that, until the economists and their fairy tales came around.

Are you saying the switch from paper ledgers to computerized ledgers was the result of economists?

If so, I'd argue that the switch is the result of convenience and accuracy.

No. What i am saying that anthropological findings suggests that some kind of debt tracking was the default mode of transactions within a village in ancient times, not the barter fantasy that economics cling to.

I'm assuming you're referencing David Graeber? His book on this subject, Debt: The First 5000 Years, is a very good read (and very good food for thought) but as a non-expert in both anthropology and economics I'm not sure how much veracity to assign it.

> not the barter fantasy that economics cling to

What’s your source for economists clinging to the barter hypothesis? Even my high school economics taught the barter hypothesis was an incorrect assumption of Adam Smith’s, and that credit is the father of modern money.

Judging by my own high school economics teacher, the textbook we used for that course, and the free "core econ" textbook that was recently published online, yours may have had unorthodox views for a high school economics teacher.

"Core Econ", chapter 10.1 "Money and wealth"

Money makes more exchanges possible because it’s not hard to find someone who will be happy to have your money (in exchange for something), whereas unloading a large quantity of apples could be a problem. This is why barter plays a limited role in virtually all modern economies

Amusingly, they cite Graeber's Debt Ch 2, despite implying exactly the thing that chapter argued against: that barter was the primary vehicle for exchanging goods in pre-money societies.

> yours may have had unorthodox views

We read Greg Mankiw's Principles of Economics [1]. It's the Harvard undergraduate text--orthodox as they come.

Saying barter plays a limited role in virtually all economies, modern and historic, is different from saying it was money's progenitor, as Adam Smith wrongly speculated. The former is true. The latter is not.

TL; DR Money and banking isn't always taught in introductory economics. The "bartering noble savage" myth is not something economists cling to.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Principles-Economics-7th-Mankiws/dp/1...

A fun hybrid example:


Ownership of the stones was maintained by oral history rather than by possession.

A public, distributed ledger updated in consensus by the nodes repeating and storing it? With the proof of work that you could retell the full owner history, checksummed by verse.

I'll take this chance to mention this since not a lot of people know, and maybe someone can get this information out to friends / family in Puerto Rico who can help: Puerto Rico has a lot of supplies[0] which many cities need, but they're sitting in limbo. The issue is there are not enough actual truck drivers. The Governor of Puerto Rico is calling forth any truck drivers to come to San Juan where they were sitting for days (a week?). The issue is because the grid is down contracting truck drivers becomes harder and almost impossible. I do know some land lines do work in some parts of Puerto Rico, but maybe not all parts. I'm not sure about what people around the USA can do 100% but I heard of a friend from here in Florida who was going to volunteer to drive trucks in Puerto Rico, you need to be licensed as a prerequisite of course.

[0]: http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/27/us/puerto-rico-aid-problem/ind...

This title is odd. Business that have ATMs instead of credit card machines are already cash only. It would be more accurate to say "without power to run credit card machines, Puerto Rico is cash only."

It would be nice if there was a credit card machine that was powered by the phone line directly.

Edit: Most of the small businesses I worked at growing up in rural Oklahoma had mechanical imprinting machines with carbon paper receipts so that they could process credit card payments offline.

Once, at Cape Town airport, this really cool dude picked me up and showed me my rental car. iPad, Beats, old-school Hip Hop, the works...

When I gave him my credit card for the deposit, I expected him to use some fancy wireless reader, or maybe the iPad's camera to be used to scan it.

Instead, he took out a pencil and a notebook, and, within 15 seconds, made a perfect imprint of the card by placing it behind the paper and carefully painting the area with the pencil at a low angle.

That's essentially how they worked before instant electronic funds verification. Old timers like me remember when retailers would pull out a large metal slab with a cut out area for the card. They would put a piece of paper over it with blue carbon paper between two sheets and pull a slide from one side to the other, making an imprint of the numbers onto the piece of paper for the customer to sign. One copy would go to the customer, the other would be kept with the retailer.

For a while after electronic transactions companies would lug them out when the "lines were down," but I haven't seen one in quite a while.

Here is a "modern," light weight plastic version:


Don't forget searching for the card number in a book of stolen/canceled card numbers.

Obligatory Steve Martin reference: https://youtu.be/FCJx1uV38ZQ

"The Jerk, " was such a classic movie.

The, uh, minstrelsy part of that movie has aged poorly.

We're unlikely to see them for much longer; my most recent credit card has the number as a sticker on the back, with no embossed printing at all anywhere on the card. (I've also got an even more recent debit card that does still have the traditional style. But it seems like their days are numbered.)

IIRC the ones without are “online” cards given out to for instance students.

My Citi-issued Costco Visa card has no embossed numbers. I figure it's just Citi being cheap.

My Chase Manhattan card is also like this, although it's some sort of metal-based chip card, much ruggeder than the old plastic cards.

Yeah it's odd to think not too long ago that's how credit cards were copied. The big slidy handle machine went ka-chunk! A faint imagine from physically rubbing against your card with carbon paper was legit way to do it.

I always thought those were what Americans meant when they said their credit cards used magnet stripes because credit cards were rare and my country had already moved past magnet stripes when I saw the machines in American movies as a child. Using physical imprints seems like an obvious recipe for fraud, even more than magnet stripes (which already seem reckless compared to chips).

When they have computer/network problems, Chipotle breaks out their "crash kits" which include an imprinter. I've seen this at two separate restaurants. It never fails to make me laugh, and either because they don't do it much or the process takes longer (probably both), it is very slow. But it impressed me that they have a backup plan.

Unfortunately the imprinter fails on instant-issue cards without raised numbers, so it slows it down even more when they have to write all the numbers down.

Some taxis still have this for when their Square reader doesn't work.

>Most of the small businesses I worked at growing up in rural Oklahoma had mechanical imprinting machines with carbon paper receipts so that they could process credit card payments offline.

I wonder how prevalent this is still? I've heard of restaurants keeping one around just in case. I wonder what the fee would be for imprinted credit card transactions?

My most recent Citi DoubleCash card doesn't have embossed numbers. Could I still do an offline transaction?

The embossing is simply a convenience. Numbers retain their numericy when copied by hand, just as when physically imprinted or electronically transmitted.

Clover has had an offline feature for payments on all our devices (except our dongle/peripheral solution). It's very heavily used -- thanks to flakey ISPs, routers, WiFi, cellular, etc. We often see people go for a day or two offline.

We let you set limits on count/amount/time of offline transactions. After you come back online we send email a report telling you how many offline transactions you did and how many authorized and didn't authorize. This serves as a feedback loop to encourage fixing connectivity issues.

None of my cards are imprintable; they are pretty much flat text printed plus chip. My chipped debit cards are outright something like inkjet-printed or something, no embossing, completely flat.

This is second-hand information but I have reasonable confidence in it:

PCI-DSS (payment card companies) requirements forbid the slabs' use anymore. You instantly fail your payment card audit if you have one on site, and that can cause you to assume liability for all subsequent customer fraud incidents for the next X months, and in bad cases massive fines and possibly losing your payment processing equipment licenses (the ability to take EFT cards of all types)

It's not considered secure storage of cardholder data, just as bad as if someone wrote down the cardholder information in full.

Interestingly enough, mail-order magazines still try to get you to write down your CC data directly. I wonder if that is sanctioned?

Just last year in the deserts of the American Southwest with spotty telecoms I made purchases with credit cards where the seller just made a rubbing of my card on the carbon slips using the edge of his cell phone.

That is kind of nitpicky (the article makes it clear that they mean 'cash' in the sense of paper money, not non-credit). However, you recovered nicely with a story about mechanical imprinting machines. We'll take ATMs out of the title above.

the atm won't work for dispending new cash without the network and power, of course. it's no use to a company if they had say a generator without that bank network.

All you need to use a credit card machine is an internet connection and a device with a battery. And satalite internet still works.

Very few people had satellite Internet in Puerto Rico before the storm (And why would you? Landline worked fine and was cheaper). And now that it's after the storm, it's very hard to distribute those devices widely, plus people will likely have problems paying for them.

> And satalite internet still works.

Satellite internet is also very expensive too.

So, electricity and a satphone. Both in very short supply there at the moment.

How long does a battery last without a way to recharge it?

Not to sound like a doomsday prepper but my dad instilled in me growing up in south Florida to “be the bank” in case I was ever in a scenario like this. I keep a months worth of pay on hand in small bills and a months worth of pay in 1/10th ounce gold coins.

Nothing like needing a bottle of water and only having $20s.

I also grew up in hurricane country. You always wanted to have several hundred in cash at the house. The point about small bills is a good one. I was without power for 10 days after Hugo, so now I keep a week's worth of freeze-dried food and bottled water, plus a backpacking stove to heat the water.

The small backpacker sized solar cells are fairly worthless for charging a modern smartphone - the difference between the current they put out and power draw by the phone is too great, even with a supplemental LiOn battery pack.

I don’t have a way to recharge my phone besides a few backup batteries, which is embarrassing. I do also keep some food and water. I have about 30 days of stored chlorinated water in BPA free containers and a weeks worth of MREs and about two big laundry basket sized tubs of canned food.

I backpack a lot so I’ve got tons of random “survival supplies” but two key things are:

- little gas stove(1)

- can opener

(1) - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B4FY8YO/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apip_oKN...

That is indeed a little gas stove. :) Purchasers should be aware that the fuel cylinders can have either threaded or non-threaded connectors. Buy the one that matches the stove.

MREs are fine (the new ones are far tastier than the ones we had in the 80's), but the Mountain House "bucket" of freeze-dried food has a 30 year shelf-life, as long as you don't open the bucket and keep it out of the sun. It's a higher cost up front, but essentially never has to be replaced until you use it.


I just went through my “chaos closet” to look for anything else that is an “overlooked necessity”:

- ziplock bags (to poop in)

- whiskey. I have 10L of whiskey in there

Oh one other thing I drive a Chevy Volt and own a power inverter so I can run one item off the car’s battery.

It’s like the quietest generator. Zombies will never hear it.

There are fairly powerful portable solar cells these days -- I have one that can put out 5V 2.something A, so it can easily charge an iPad in full sun, or a smartphone in overcast weather.

what is the point of the gold coins? if we get to the point where people start asking for gold there will be absolutely no fixed exchange rate

Just in case US currency becomes worthless :D

I also keep the spot price and a copy of global exchange rates from each purchase of my gold so I can back it out to what it’s worth. You know, just in case.

You never know until you know.

i can't fathom the fundamental misunderstanding that leads to thinking like this:

>I also keep the spot price and a copy of global exchange rates from each purchase of my gold so I can back it out to what it’s worth. You know, just in case.

do you think you'll present your certificates to marauders and they'll just say "i guess you're right 1 oz is the fair market value for this water"?

i had a similar argument with someone about gold as a store of value years ago: the value is market determined. no one in the apocalypse is going to care about any price you have a record of because there will be no markets.

More so to keep track of my own gains/losses if I sold it for another currency, not to buy a tricked out armored 4 wheeler from a man dressed like a steam punk named Mr Pain-x.

Edit: Fuck I hope google sheets is still up when the time comes. I should probably print them.

Things settle down after marauders. Then you bring out the coins.

We in Zimbabwe know a thing or two about running on cash only. Been doing it for almost a decade.

That's wild to think about from my perspective. I haven't touched physical currency in years in Canada. I'm sure you get by just fine but it's an interesting thought. I kind of miss cash.

I've never found a retailer in Canada who didn't take cash. The only exceptions would be buying stuff online which is Amazon and travel (flights, hotels, etc).

Prepaid cell phones can be topped up by buying a code at a Shoppers for cash. Even your hydro bill will take a money order if you have cash but no bank account.

What's stopping you? I'm in UK, I have cards, but I try to use cash as much as possible.

Having said that, almost every time I pay more than 20 in cash, the seller gives me the eye, puts the money under a UV light, and I feel like some sort of a criminal.

When they do that, I say, 'Don't look too closely, I just printed that up this morning.'

Only once has it resulted in them calling a manager over. Every other time, it gets strange looks, a chuckle, a smile of mirth, or a groan. Either way, it's something unusual for them to hear in what is likely a repetitive job.

Please don’t do that. People make that joke all the time. It’s not funny and we have to pretend to find it amusing or we get written up.

Unless you're Steve Wozniak, who has a tear-off pad of $2 bills.

> it's something unusual for them to hear in what is likely a repetitive job

I assure you that quip is not unusual in the least, just another repetitive part of the job.

No? Heh... I sort of wish I'd had a public facing job at some time in my life. I feel as though I missed out on a lot of experiences and chances to learn more about people.

I am assuming there's some good with the bad.

Once all the cash is gone, they can just turn your card off!

You are the credit card companies' ideal consumer.

Hey, at least you no longer need a wheelbarrow :)

> We have been getting shipments of money.

It's kinda weird to think that at a time when there are huge shortages of basically everything it makes sense to use shipping space on something whose value is purely symbolic.

I do get that they're shipping plenty of other things and the cash is probably a pretty small piece of the total space, but still it's worth thinking about.

If there's too little cash, people will start hoarding and the economy will quite literally grind to a halt as people are reluctant to part with money.

Going back to bartering is a great way to induce a depression.

Bartering often comes after a depression already exists. When liquidity drops to zero, people will develop their own money. Bottles of Tide, gasoline, cigarettes, etc.

> whose value is purely symbolic.

A symbolism so powerful it can override human nature. I wouldn't be so quick to underestimate the importance of it.

Something to think about before we all decide we want to be a "cashless society", especially when the U.S. also currently fears EMP attacks from North Korea, Russia, etc

Naw. We became so dependent on our electrical infrastructure that non-working ATM is just one more additional woe.

If you want EMP resiliency, you may want to invest at least a few billion into it. Of course, steering the governmental budget to spend money on stuff that only raise electrical bill and will only prove its worth in an emergency and catastrophic situation is a hard pill to swallow, especially when there are competing priorities.

If we want EMP resiliency, we need to stop export controls on it. (US Munitions List [1], page 24.) It's not hard, or even expensive. All portable devices without cables could easily be EMP protected. Cars and trucks, especially, should be EMP-tested. Long wires are more of a problem. Lightning and surge protection devices should include EMP protection; some do, just because the devices are fast enough.[2] Fiber optic cables are totally immune to EMP.

We're not going to get it from China. Anti-static Mylar bags are touted on Alibaba as "EMP protection". They're not.

[1] https://www.pmddtc.state.gov/regulations_laws/documents/offi...

[2] http://www.futurescience.com/emp/EMP-myths.html

Wake up call for "modern" retailers with touch screen cash registers that don't accept cash. They would either go out of business or have to invent a new ERP system on the fly.

If there would be an emp blast anywhere in the world you would have far bigger problems. Btw a cash counter in my local mcdonalds was out of order meaning the lady had to write down every payment on a piece of paper. Because apparently it is not enough to just hand over the banknotes. You need to know that you sold cafe latte for 3euros and a mcmuffin for 1.5.

This is because of tax, accounting and inventory

It’s called a receipt, and they better be handing them out.

I’m sure their process needs a receipt. I usually don’t need documentation of such transactions. I often wish they had a way to decline the receipt so the paper isn’t wasted on something going straight into a waste bin.

Read in Mitch Hedberg's voice: “I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughtnut... I don't need a receipt for the doughnut. I give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don't need to bring ink and paper into this. I can't imagine a scenario that I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut. To some skeptical friend, 'Don't even act like I didn't get that doughnut, I've got the documentation right here... It's in my file at home. ...Under "D".'”

If you are a small business then you probably want the receipt for the doughnut so it can be written of as business expense. Or if you are a contractor with your own company, you'll want receipt for lunch for tax purposes.

I run a business. I am aware of the need for an audit trail. I do not need that as a consumer buying a bottle of water. I put that receipt straight into the waste bin.

Yeah but my point it as a contractor who goes to buy some food during lunch break I am a consumer but I need the receipt in order to claim the lunch as business expense.

What Mitch Hedberg needs is a gummint that will give him a tax break for making retailers issue receipts that are also delivered (by wire, natch) to the revenooers. Paper not needed, his tax break is also by wire.

Yes, that's a thing.

Mitch Hedberg is dead.

The receipt they give you is secondary - the main point is that there's also a permanent record created on the retailer's systems, sometimes involving a physical copy of all the receipts printed, sometimes a digital record that the retailer cannot alter, but in any case it does matter that you were given a receipt, since even if it goes straight into the waste bin, then it serves a purpose of ensuring that the transaction was properly registered.

You need a record of all transactions for tax purposes. If I give merchant a dollar, they give me a donut, and don't record the transaction, that's a crime - they're not paying sales tax/VAT on that, and also obtaining unrecorded tax that is used to pay "black salaries" in cash without paying the appropriate income & social security taxes.

I am aware of why I need an audit trail in my business. I rarely need the paper receipt handed to my by a cashier for a bottle of water. I put it straight into the waste bin.

If the cashier isn't routinely giving out the paper receipts, how do you ensure that the paper receipts exist in the first place? The assumption is that at least some of the businesses don't want that audit trail. Handing out receipts on request would/could mean that the receipts are only created if requested, and a majority of transactions can stay unregistered.

The ritual of giving a receipt to you (and you putting it straight into the waste bin) visibly demonstrates that the business routinely creates the receipts for all (most?) purchases, it ensures that in the vast majority of cases the receipt actually gets produced, and if a business is routinely not producing these receipts (or having fake info in these receipts) then this would be clearly visible to the general public. This ritual has a certain social value in enforcing tax compliance, so that's why it's required despite the paper cost.

In some shops in my area you can ask for a digital invoice via sms / email

Likewise in my area. But I don’t want a receipt at all for a bottle of water. I certainly don’t want to give the cashier my contact information. I want to spare them printing it out at all. Often they can’t because of their process. I’ve asked several cashiers about this.

Or use a pencil and a box

I remember credit card payments at retailers and gas stations used to be processed with carbon copies and a sliding box.

I think this should be a lesson in better disaster preparation and response, not a lesson in handling payments.

I’ve never understood this fear over EMP attacks. Is there a viable EMP attack? Wouldn’t a blast strong enough to damage lots of infrastructure also damage the contents of human skulls?

In any energy-transfer weapon, from a club to a bullet to a grenade to a nuke, the critical elements are:

1. How much energy is released?

2. Over what time period?

3. In what forms?

4. At what distance from the target / victim?

A bullet which misses you by a millimeter might as well be 1,000 km away. It requires direct contact with tisue to transact damage. Where it hits you also matters, and in many cases, a light interaction with an extremity (hand, foot) may do little damage, whilst a trunk or head shot will be critical or instantly lethal. Much of that comes from the transmission of fluid shock through the body. (Watching super-slow-motion video of bullets impacting various targets on YouTube is ... interesting and informative.)

A nuclear bomb delivers energy to the target in four major forms:

1. Prompt ionizing radiation. This is a pulse which lasts for a tiny fraction of a second, and is rapidly absorbed even by the atmosphere. It can be lethal or disabling at relatively close range.

2. Thermal pulse. Depending on the size of the weapon, this will ignite directly exposed flammable materials at ranges from a few hundreds of meters to a hundred km or so. This can be mitigated with white or reflective paint, or intervening structures.

3. Blast wave. This is the physical shockwave of the weapon (as well as any material picked up by it) which causes much of the direct damage.

4. Radioactive fallout. This is long-term radiation delivered generally downwind of the blast site. Exposure follows the seven-ten rule. For each increase by a factor of seven in time, the radiation falls by a factor of ten. A 1,000 rad dose 1 hour after the blast is 100 rads 7 hours after, 10 rads 2 days (49 hours) later, and 1 rad after two weeks.

The detonations of nuclear weapons are fast, on the order of a microsecond (on one-millionth of a second). In large part it's the ability to deliver all its energy virtually instantly which gives a bomb its power. An alternative understanding comes from the idea of "generations" of nuclear interactions and their timescale -- a typical nuclear blast occurs over about 50 generations, after which the core has generally spontaneously disassembled past the point of sustainable reactions.

(There's a pretty good Quora article on that point here: https://www.quora.com/How-long-does-a-nuclear-explosion-take)

Chemical explosives are far slower -- I believe closer to milisecond (thousandth-of-a-second) range. Or: a nuclear explosion is as much faster than a chemical explosion as a chemical explosion is to change taking a full second.

A table of chemical reaction velocities peaks at 10,000 m/s, or 1 km/s, or 1m / 0.001s, suggesting a typical deonation period of 0.001ms - 1ms.


Meteor and meteorite impacts are often described in terms of megatons or Hiroshima-bomb equivalents. The Chelyabinsk meteorite is estimated to have released the energy of 20 - 30 Hiroshima-sized bombs, approximately 400 - 500 kilotons of TNT. However:

1. It did so primarily at an elevation of ~30 km,

2. over a period of 5 - 10 seconds,

3. in the form of light, heat, and sonic blast

Much the same as you experience the same total change in kinetic energy whether you decelerate from 100 kph in 10 seconds or 0.01s, the difference is in the total shock and stress, as well as the energy delivered.

TL;DR: a modest-sized nuclear blast high in the atmosphere or above it could have relatively modest ground impacts whilst delivering a strong EMP effect.

Good technical exposition but of course these would be somewhat localized consequences of human lunacy. Imagine a replay of the 1859 Carrington Event (equatorial disturbance – storm time estimate = -800 nT to -1750 nT) which fried telegraph networks worldwide. Wonder what would still work?

That gets to the point of how is it specifically that disruptive events manage to disrupt.

Sometimes it's physical disruption or damage. Very often though it's interference with energy cycles or communications and control. See various neurotoxins or the effects of cyanide (it blocks ATP cycling in mitochondria -- directly affecting the cellular energy cycle).

EMP is an energy signal that causes direct physical damage to long-length or fragile conductors, disabling both energy transmission and processing equipment, and communications systems.

Optical comms systems are unaffected, however. And systems based on microwave repeaters don't have the long-length conductors that telegraph systems did in the case of Carrington.

I understand why we fear nukes being exploded over our heads. What I don’t understand is the recurring notion of a weapon designed only for EMP attack. If an attacker can get a nuke over my head, I fear the nuke.

You teach, don't you?

(That last line was a pretty good answer and did not really need the rest of the post above it, informative as it was ;-)

I study, moreso. Explaining things (or trying to do so) is a check on my own understanding, both directly ("does this make sense?") and through responses ("no, actually, in X the truth is ...").

But the general case of such events is one element I've reflected on.

Whether or not it is viable, it also seems like life would continue. Like, power outages happen, even very long ones, and people mysteriously continue living their lives.

Granted, it would suck for a while.

Life would continue, but not necessarily with the same head count. How long do you thing NY could sustain it's population numbers with a long power outage?

no, a high altitude emp burst of a nuke over a big city like nyc would be devestating to electronics but kill no one other than people dieing from the loss of power.

Do you have any citation for that? I would like to learn more about how that works.

Wikipedia has a pretty good article: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_electromagnetic_puls...

Note that this is not just theoretical. The American Starfish Prime nuclear test did significant damage to electrical systems in Hawaii, and the Soviets destroyed a power plant in Almaty with one of theirs.

Would love to hear Bitcoin proponents solution to this.

Regarding TEOTWAWKI Bitcoin is just as vulnerable as the existing financial system. In fact, lower level disasters can take out the existing system before they take out bitcoin. Why aren't you asking "I would love to hear keynesians answer to this!" Power outages are power outages and will harm every electric system, including gasoline, electric cars, food production, etc. The entire society relies on electricity.

As for physical bitcoin, which can be transacted offline. Just hand it over like a dollar bill:


Still mostly useful for larger amounts, though, due to the relative high cost of hardware, but it's new.

You won't, because they have no understanding of how anything truly works. Cash in hand is unhackable, almost entirely untraceable, and works when there is no power.

20:1 the Bitcoin people would propose some sort of buffered/delayed transaction solution. Of course that wouldn't work as there's no way of telling when you'd have restored power or connectivity. Puerto Rico is looking to have nothing for several weeks if not longer, much like the Ice Storm of 1994 in Western Tennessee.

People didn't create bitcoin to replace cash. Years ago, the community tried to create an alternative to all existing money systems. That's all.

No false promises. No silver bullet. Just a social experiment.

The way you put it sounds like the early bitcoin believers were pretentious know-it-all getting over their head.

What we tried to do was just something new related to money. And we did. We took risk. We were mocked. We invested time, energy and resources in a system we knew was experimental, unreliable and untested.

And it did a dent.

I would add, despite very negative people like you.

"I would add, despite very negative people like you."

Have fun when you run into the same lesson left unlearned from the 70s - distributed permission-less databases like blockchains cannot scale without becoming centralized. The more people that wish to participate, the growth rate starts jumping from exponential to exponential * log with the bandwidth and storage requirements to ensure every other node on the network is properly updated.

"People didn't create bitcoin to replace cash. Years ago, the community tried to create an alternative to all existing money systems. That's all."

Cash is a money system. You contradict yourself.

> Have fun when you run into the same lesson left unlearned from the 70s - distributed permission-less databases like blockchains cannot scale without becoming centralized. The more people that wish to participate, the growth rate starts jumping from exponential to exponential * log with the bandwidth and storage requirements to ensure every other node on the network is properly updated.

You mean it may fail ? Yes, we are aware. Since the beginning. That's what "experiment" comes from.

> Cash is a money system. You contradict yourself.

Being an alternative is not being a replacement. Just like the bike is an alternative to a car, and not a replacement for it.

You seem to have a terrible grudge against bitcoin. I'm sorry about it, but it's irrelevant here. You may like it or not, but don't give the early community objectives we didn't have.

We never sold a magical solution. We were not some 14 years old kid in a hoodie screaming "kill the banks".

We hoped. A lot. We dreamed. We did noticed and disliked a lot of flaws in our current systems and institutions and explored other ways.

But as intelligent people, we know very well the limit of the project and how much it can hurt.

So keep your negativity to yourself. It's uncalled for, and definitely unwanted.

If people who opposed bitcoin had less attitude, and more arguments, and less unsupported assertions about what can and cannot scale, then I would be more concerned about bitcoin.

Bitcoin can, as of now, scale to support the current needs of 10 billion humans. Some of those solutions are still being completed (eg: beta, not golden master) but there's little theoretical risk, and while there will be bugs there's little indication of anything stopping it, should that level of adoption be desired.

Most likely you don't understand what bitcoin actually is.

"Bitcoin can, as of now, scale to support the current needs of 10 billion humans"

If every single human were mining, no, it certainly could not. If there are only a few miners and a bunch of participants, maybe. To boot, Bitcoin can't even support my needs. It's too slow for transactions unless I pay some other middleman, it can't cut my gemstones, it can't solder my LEDs, it can't run my Verilog sims, it can't raise my cat or feed my husband. Bitcoin doesn't sate my thirst nor does it provide me with my medicine - actual needs.

"Most likely you don't understand what bitcoin actually is."

I don't need to understand bitcoin to understand that we tried exactly this back in the 70s and apparently people didn't learn the lesson THEN. Distributed permissionless databases simply can not scale if everyone participates. The technology then, as now, simply does not exist to handle that amount of storage and bandwidth. It likely won't in another 50 years, if we even make it that far.

Having over 30 years of experience in computers and networking and databases, I look at this and say "Go back to school, one with a proper education involving some actual history regarding computers and databases and networking." All you learn is how to code and don't learn about what's already been done or tried, so everything is new to you when it was already seen, tested, or envisioned before I was even born.

Is there a specific project you are referring to here? I'm very interested in the earlier history of research that tested the premise of global-scale decentralized control.

No, but we originally tested this with hierarchical databases back in the late 70s. And as it shows once again, the way it grows as more people participate in holding copies of everything is unsustainable. New people need to download the entire thing, current people need to update to accept the new people. Bandwidth and storage jumps higher and higher, and that's before you start counting actual 'monetary' transactions.

Cash in hand isn’t unhackable at all. Counterfeiting is still a real thing.

Certain types of currency are absolutely unforgeable or easily detected if they are forged. Gold, for example. It's how we discovered specific gravity.

What made gold a currency was not the metal, it was the stamp of the local ruler underwriting the claimed value.

The metal was just a convenient pick because it was useless for tool and weapon making, and didn't degrade quickly if left in some damp place.

Low melting point also makes it relatively easy to re-form and test for purity if that becomes necessary.

Nonsense. The average person, me included, could not detect impure gold if given a piece of it.

It's not that hard. Take a Black Rock, and a few samples ok known purity, 75,80,95,100%. Then scratch the gold sample across a set of lines, of these purities, and see which is the closest.

You failed.

A lot of counterfeit gold has insertion of other metals in the center (tungsten for example which has a similar density)


Tungsten is noticeably lighter, by about 7%. Hand-in-hand comparison with another similar-sized bar of pure gold would give it away instantly.

Note that I specifically talked about density, not weight.

Wikipedia: Because the density is so similar to that of gold (tungsten is only 0.36% less dense), tungsten can also be used in counterfeiting of gold bars, such as by plating a tungsten bar with gold

That wouldn't pass the scratch test mentioned above. The gold plating would wear off (and gold doesn't hold well to tungsten, usually requiring an intermediary layer like titanium or copper.)

Because every till assistant was listening in physics class and knows how to calculate the specific gravity of that ring people want to barter with in an emergency.

Hey, current till assistants think $2 bills are fraudulent.

I see you're on the market for tungsten...

I can tell the difference quite easily. That 7% weight difference by size is quite noticeable. I mine both in Southern California.

Bitcoin is the digital equivalent to paper cash money.

It's pretty hard for me to teleport a $100 bill to someone a continent away, so Bitcoin works as analogous to cash as so far been invented.

I agree that Bitcoin does in no way replace paper cash, simply complements it by extending many of it's features to the digital space. It also can be improved on drastically.

See my other comment reg. cash. Cash is not the solution it is just a band aid.

Cash is the solution. Your other comment is literally demonstrating what merchants have done for millennia before we had computers - write down the transactions in a ledger so you can keep track of daily business. Now, if the lady behind the counter had a problem counting cash - that's on her.

Well yeah it is for inventory purposes.

Not sure why you're getting downvoted; Bitcoin was clearly designed by someone with no understanding of how money actually works.

that bitcoin works would suggest your understanding does not survive contact with reality

Does it work as money? It hasn't yet.

Yes, it has, though I'm sure you have some tortured narrow definition of "money" and an inaccurate assumption of some failing of bitcoin to claim that it hasn't.

But that doesn't matter.

All you're saying here is that it's going to be a few more years and a much higher bitcoin price until you convert over.

That's your loss.

Why would a higher price be the reason to convert? You just flatly admitted what bitcoin is about. Not currency. When did any person use a currency based on what the price of that currency is in relation to other currencies?

"Not sure why you're getting downvoted"

Because the truth hurts the value of Bitcoin. Bitcoin people have paid groups on many discussion sites to downvote any negativity. I'm almost sure the administration here allows it because vote manipulation should be easy to detect, and that's knowing how the vulnerable upvote/downvote system works.

Indeed. Bitcoin is a crossover point between cypherpunks and goldbugs.

Bitcoin is pretty much the essence of the entire point of the cypherpunks. That an privacy, but bitcoin is nothing but a censorship resistant ledger.

Cash or not when it hits hard and you go to a local ground-master to buy food and water, he won't accept any fancy green paper printed with american president on it. It will be just paper in his eyes like a toilet roll. You can trade with your watch or other valuables but better yet make sure you have some silver coins. Just get few of these bags and you should be fine:


Why would he even care about silver? Bullets, weapons, water, actual toilet paper, food... That's what'd be valuable. Also cigarettes and alcohol even though it may seem illogical.

Depends on what kind of apocalypse you're prepping for; fat lot of good all that stuff will do you without silver when the werewolves come.

Where's your bitcoins now?!

Still mining by hand and announcing my tx to the network via snail mail.


On the good side, the hash rate will eventually adjust to mining by hand.

On the bad side, people quickly run out of pen and paper, and the ham radio network desperately wants a hard fork to support side chains.

Physical bitcoin, can be transacted offline. Just hand it over like a dollar bill:


Still mostly useful for larger amounts, though, due to the relative high cost of hardware, but it's new.

I seem to remember a simpler version - it was a scratch card, which had the address fully visible (so you could check the balance was correct) but the private key hidden behind the scratching area. That way you could reuse the bill or scratch it and transfer the amount.

Can't seem to find it again, though.

How would you be able to tell what the balance on the stick is without power?

How would you be able to calculate the current value in fiat, if you had power but no internet?

For that matter, how could you verify that someone hadn't transferred the balance in a transaction that didn't exist in your (now offline) ledger (if they had internet and you didn't)?

At some point, if you're being practical rather than ideological, isnt cash the clear winner in these situations? YMMV if your currency isn't as stable as USD though

In my opinion, the three currencies of the apocalypse are: ammunition, water, and diesel fuel.

Ammunition is the universal apocalyptic currency. You can hunt with it and you can protect your family, food, and possessions with it. It is shelf-stable and easily subdivided. It can be put in a box and buried or carried in your pocket. Lots of people own guns but few have significant stashes of ammunition. A staple of chaotic times.

Water, that’s obvious, but you need a way to collect it and clean it. Those are their own currencies.

Diesel powers computer-less trucks like my old Land Rover Defender 110. Probably the last running vehicles in an apocalypse. It also runs generators and water pumps. It can potentially be manufactured by civilians.

Believe it or not, diesel (and regular gas) is perishable. It starts to degrade as soon as 30 days without additives. It's still usable for a while though. Assuming a long term (lifetime) apocalypse, most of it will go bad eventually.


Ammunition is tricky because there are so many "denominations" (i.e. calibers). It would certainly come in handy. One of the biggest benefits of the M16 for the US military was that it was standardized, meaning every branch used it and they all used the same caliber.

I think canned food would be important too. Quite a revolutionary concept we take for granted (we can thank Napoleon). Fun fact, canned food was invented 48 years before the can opener.

I think drugs and alcohol would be a huge currency. Always have been in one form or the other.

Of course most people in cities would be hosed after the canned food ran out, unless there was a severe population drop.

Read the book "Alas Babylon," it is a good fiction about nuclear war.

Excellent points that most people overlook.

As impractical as it seems at first glance, the best post-apocalypse vehicles (barring an EMP scenario) would be electric since scavenged solar panels could provide the energy source for generations without significant degradation. Scrounging for electricity-based energy generation is much more practical than petrol-based resources that degrade, need refining, etc.

Batteries won't last as long as the solar panels, but as a personal observation, I've noticed that my parents hybrid Prius still has over 95% battery health after almost 15 years. High-quality batteries with well-engineered charge controllers have really impressive life spans in terms of maintaining their charge capacity!

A bicycle is by far the best post apocalyptic transport. Electric is worse than gas; at least the gas powered vehicle is lighter when its empty.

Technically speaking, an EV will be lighter when the batteries are discharged. Not that anyone is going to notice or appreciate the difference.

Note: This has no impact on your argument. I only mention it because I love me some physics.

Here's a citation, if you're curious:


The short version is that it will have less mass when the battery is discharged. However, you're not going to be able to detect a difference on your bathroom scale.

Again, this is being posted as a mere factoid and not meant to argue your point.

There’s two other major problems with EVs in a scenario like this. The first is charging it: consumer EVs expect an AC sine wave, so you’d need equipment to handle that. If you have a solar installation in a building you are probably ok, but it’s not something you can easily put together on scavenged parts.

The other problem is generating the energy. Yes solar panels are a good energy source in an apocalyptic scenario, but the power they give out is really limited compared to fuel. 10m2 of solar cells will generate around 5kW per day (assuming no nuclear winter). With current EVs that would give you a range of around 10-15 miles once charging loses are taken into account.

Out of curiousity -- how many people on HN have a faraday cage where they store stuff? Maybe a box/room/shed/garage? As prep for a Carrington Event or nuclear EMP scenario?

I used to have a small well made faraday cage for storing a laptop. (I was also using stupid fonts[1] that were meant to make TEMPEST harder, and FDE, and etc etc.) I don't do any of that any more, apart from the disk encryption.



Not to mention many diesel appliances would break down and be unrepairable in a few years or less. There would be backup generators and such that might go a hundred years, of course, but the point is demand for diesel might be high at first, but rapidly vanish.

They are not very complicated. A decent machinist can replicate the parts. There isn't much of a call for exotic alloys or anything.

This is, of course, assuming society starts to reform and not all knowledge is lost. There will still be pockets of tech and society left, and there will still be power sources that stay running - like hydro.

Humans are pretty resilient and adaptable. If we don't kill the entire population off, we will probably be okay. Maybe not okay as an individual, but okay as a species.

Most of that stuff can be cycled through, though. For example, I buy ammo in bulk but shoot through it so it doesn't sit around.

Mmh, seems that the first level of Prepping is keeping some cash around.

Great opportunity for all the bitcoin enthusiasts to show the world how a (small) nation can run on cryptocurrencies (you just need mobile phone connectivity - SMS/text could also be sufficient).

> (you just need mobile phone connectivity - SMS/text could also be sufficient).

kinda hard without power

Not being a state, can Pierto Rico mint its own currency?

They have to follow all Federal laws that deal with that. Not being a state doesn't change that.

I assume you are asking out of curiosity, since that would not help anything on a practical level. There is no shortage of cash, the problem is getting it to people.

The abandonment of Puerto Rico by by the rest of the US, and its politicisation by the president, is extraordinary. How is this playing out over there in mainland US, or do people not really regard it as American?

Nobody really cared when Flint Michigan had a water crisis so I’m not sure the “is it America” thing really makes a difference.

America is simply too big for people to care all that much about what happens in far flung areas. Hearing about flooding in Louisiana is like about flooding in Bangladesh. Unfortunate, but not my problem.

That doesn't sound right at all. People went out of their way --- sometimes driving themselves bodily for many hours to help --- when Houston flooded. Houston is "far" from many of those people too. I feel no closer to Houstonians than I do to New Orleans or people in Flint.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the other part of the equation:

New Orleans: 70% non-white, median household income $37k

Flint: 63% non-white, median household income $44k

Puerto Rico: 98% latino, though most are also classified as white, median household income $19.5k

Houston: 50% non-white, median household income $61.5k

Houston is whiter and richer than New Orleans, Flint and Puerto Rico. I think we're kidding ourselves if we think this doesn't play into why the responses are different from both the government and people in other parts of the country.

There seems to be a correlation between how the news covers disasters and how we react to it. It gives weight to the idea that the news controls what and how we deal with things in the US. Pretty scary when you realize how irresponsible the US news is.


> There seems to be a correlation between how the news covers disasters and how we react to it.

If this weren't the case, there would be an opening for media that isn't completely out of touch...

the details of news coverage has an impact, but i think it's limited on people who are paying attention. i guess a fair amount of people in the us never read the news paper, or get news on the internet from places other than facebook

> sometimes driving themselves

The operative word was emphasized. A Texas redneck with a lifted truck can’t drive his beast to Puerto Rico to go have fun pulling an army truck out of a swamp.

I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that after Harvey, Houston got a lot of national TV coverage showing its residents spontaneously organizing to help each other out. In particular, churches and synagogues and mosques and temples collected, sorted, and delivered huge quantities of emergency supplies; they also sent out probably thousands of volunteer work crews to help the displaced to clean out their houses, rip out waterlogged drywall, etc. And I imagine some people remembered what those same Houston organizations and local governments had done after Katrina to help take care of New Orleans's evacuees. (Houstonian here.)

EDIT: Spontaneously-organized mutual assistance certainly isn't just a Houston or Texas or U.S. phenomenon; I just remembered a story about Muslims in a small Indian fishing village who organized to help their Hindu neighbors after the 2004 tsunami [0].

[0] http://www.questioningchristian.com/2005/01/indian_muslims_.... — the comments include comments from people saying they were from that fishing village.

Aren't they doing that in Puerto Rico too?

Could well be, but I haven't seen as much TV coverage of it, very likely because of the power- and transportation difficulties.

People respond differently to natural disasters than man made disasters. Ideas like "why don't they just move?" don't really get brought up regarding Houston but I usually see it in Flint discussions.

That doesn't apply to Puerto Rico obviously, but the average American may not feel capable of making a difference there, as they can't get there.

Yeah, people don’t really know. As far as most seem to take it is knowing the fact, “Puerto Rico is a territory, not its own country”. People on the mainland know that, but not what it means for PR.

People don’t know how the Jones Act effects PR (and Hawaii and Alaska). People don’t know the gaps in representation and resources that PR’s status creates.

Mention “PR” and coworkers are more likely to think “Pull Request”. Puerto Rico is just not on anyone’s radar unless you are from there or vacation there.

The Jones Act thing is a non-issue. Crowley Marine had 10,000 containers of relief supplies in the Port of San Juan by yesterday. Sealift isn't the bottleneck. The containers aren't leaving the port fast. The bottleneck is trucks, Diesel, drivers (only 20% have reported in, and with cell phone service down, can't be called), and roads.

Especially roads. It's not just roads being blocked by debris. Many are washed out. Bridges, too. Unlike Houston and Florida, Puerto Rico is mountainous. Just getting access to the interior of the island is tough.

This may result in San Juan returning to close to normal while people are still dying in the hinterlands.

The Jones Act favors one large port in San Juan. If it wasn’t for that there would be well developed ports on the north and west sides of PR. Distribution in a catastrophe would depend less on the long road routes from east to west

Only some US citizens know that Puerto Rico is part of the US or really know what a US territory is. Most people here think you need a passport to go to Hawaii or Alaska, let alone Puerto Rico.

The fact that they have no representation means there is no vote to win so politicians don’t care. And the fact that they don’t pay federal income tax is justification to completely ignore them.

Honestly, at this point I expect another storm to roll through before the end of the season and a mass emigration to NYC or Miami.

There are polls on this, it's not 'a very small portion'. Here's a recent one. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/upshot/nearly-half-of-ame...

How is that level of pervasive ignorance tolerated or accepted in the us?

It’s not. It’s celebrated.


Setting aside the actual results of Puerto Rico's referendum, which was to join the union…

The other colonialist powers in the Caribbean (France, the Netherlands) don't seem to have any problem providing hurricane relief to their Caribbean departments and territories. Only we, the wealthiest country on the planet, can't help our own citizens, a hair over a thousand miles from our shores. American exceptionalism!

PR voted for statehood in the last non-binding referendum, when it became clear to everyone it was a failed state.

PR voted for statehood. Congress ignored the result of the vote.

This was a referendum number what five? After four times its citizens voted for "Eff you, we like it this way?" All the way until it went bankrupt?

Victim-blaming, classy.

totally off-topic question, not about blaming puerto rico for anything in particular

how does claiming victimhood eliminate all responsibility for choices that contributed to a situation? i understand the emotional argument here but it’s not terribly convincing, and the rational argument seems non-existent, or at least insanely difficult to locate. is there one?

I don’t think there is anything wrong with analyzing the victim’s contribution to the situation, per se. But in reality it is almost always used to diminish the role of the perpetrator, and that is wrong (both morally and rationally).

The comment I replied to is a perfect example. It’s not a rational analysis of PR’s responsibility here, it’s a knee-jerk non sequitur deflecting blame from the US federal government.

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