Tuesday, November 30, 2010


   Most people have already seen the headlines about Wikileaks, as well as the outraged blowback from the global leadership.  The details of the content itself are irrelevant, as is the revelation of what people in other nations think about what is being said about them -- I'm sure that Vladimir Putin probably has some distinctly unkind things to say about his counterparts, even as he does business with them.  No one is vain enough to think that nothing bad is said about them or that everyone likes them, even at the level of national leadership. 

   What is relevant from the perspective of the Leibowitz Society is the fact that these secrets were able to be released in the first place.  Much like a bickering family, the global community of nations has its share of arguments, disagreements, and grudges.  Yet there is also a need for national leaderships to be able to talk to each other and sort out these problems and disagreements out of the sight of the public eye where leaders can be frank and not worry about what other nations are thinking of what they are doing, nor worry about public reaction where the public may not have the whole picture. 

   National leaderships, when they communicate, are using trust as their currency of exchange, in essence.  They have to be able to trust that what is being said is going to stay between them in order to be able to have open and free communication and private.  Now that these leaks have exposed things that weren't meant to be exposed, is this going to lead to a climate where national leaderships begin refusing to discuss private matters, or at least are much more guarded when it comes to these serious matter?  For all the talk of "information wants to be free," the flip side of the coin is that there needs to be some sense of the consequences of releasing some information.

   In a way, this parallels the increasingly shaky monetary system in the world, especially the troubles with the dollar and being tied to the massive United States debt.  Just as nations will begin losing faith in the ability of the currency to reflect any kind of value, they will also begin losing faith in the worthiness of diplomatic communications to resolve problems that might otherwise grow to be more drastic and require more extreme solutions (economic or actual war).  Once nations quit trading with each other and quit talking with each other, we are one more step toward a new Dark Age.

                                                                                   * * *
    I wanted to add a brief note here.  While I talk a lot about how economics, and unsustainable economic practices, are related to ,and contributing to, the next Dark Age, I think it's worth mentioning that humanity can experience a Dark Age from a number of sources, be it war, plague, a meteor strike and so on.  Imagine what the effect would have been on the world had the Black Plague been 95% lethal, instead of around 33%?  Or if we saw a very nasty strain of bird flu erupt?  The odds of all these things happening are not necessarily high, but they are real enough for people to at least put some thought to how to get though them.  I want to encourage people to think of ways how to rebuild afterward, not just survive.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blackest Friday

   As my regular readers have noticed, I've taken a few days break between postings.  The holiday season can be distracting sometimes, of course, but my absence has more to do with the desire just to stop looking into the abyss for a time than anything to do with family, cooking, traveling or any of the dozen or so other things we find ourselves doing this time of year.

   I've always enjoyed the Twilight Zone both as an entertainment experience and a metaphor for when things seem normal, but there are little signs that they are really, really wrong.  I pulled up Drudge today and saw that on one hand, there were several links about more apocalyptic economic news on one side, and on the other were links about violence, stabbing, near-riots during "Black Friday" sales.  These little Twilight-Zone style signs show disconnect between the reality of a shrinking global economy on one hand and the orgy of spending on the other hand, and convinces me that most people, outside of perhaps the "99ers" really just don't get it. 

   The world, and America, in particular, has really become the embodiment of the grasshopper in the fable of the "ant and the grasshopper."  The ant knew winter was coming and prepared for it, while the grasshopper "partied on," so to speak, and didn't put a thought to tomorrow's troubles.  Right now, the grasshoppers are spending, spending, spending on electronic gadgets that will be useless without a stable power grid, cheaply made clothing that risks falling apart in the wash, much less being worn during hard manual labor and plastic toys that will probably end up being turned into a toxic smoke cloud as people try to burn them to stay warm.

   The people who know me in person know that I'm the person who is probably first to find shelter when a storm is coming, who takes a warm jacket, gloves and hat with me even when it's sunny and mild out, the person who has a water bottle and couple of energy bars stuffed in a pocket even when just going to the park.  Why?  Because I know that we don't always have the luxury of being able to adjust our circumstances to us.  We can't change the weather or much of what other people around us do.  And, we surely to God cannot right an economy which was built on quicksand and is now starting to sink. 

   It's one thing to be caught napping when it's been sunny all day.  It's quite another thing to see it raining outside and not bother to take an umbrella.  All the crowds running around at the malls and big box stores today, even when they are looking straight into the maw of a Category 5 economic hurricane, tell me that there is not much hope for seeing a return to responsibility and preparation for the downsizing about to hit America. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rumors of War

   Since part of the mission statement of the Leibowitz Society is to chronicle the collapse of the world into a new Dark Age, as well as preparing to save civilization's accumulated important knowledge, I check the news often to see what is happening with domestic and world affairs.  If I didn't think it wasn't important to at least record some historical milestones, I probably wouldn't bother.  After all, there's very little at this point we can do to make a difference in anything and instead we need to concentrate on our own "golden parachutes," so to speak.

   Usually the news is boring and repetitive, like another half point rise in unemployment claims.  It is very sad for the people who are affected (and there is a piece on this over at The Economic Collapse blog I highly, highly recommend:  http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/tent-cities-homelessness-and-soul-crushing-despair-the-legacy-of-decades-of-government-debt-and-mismanagement-of-the-economy), but not dramatic from a historical point of view.  This morning, however, I check the news and see that a new Korean War is on the verge of breaking out.  It's hard to say if this will be just another border incident, or if it will break out into open fighting.  Things can sometimes get out of hand with very little notice, like World War One, so who knows what the ultimate outcome will be.  The First Korean War itself isn't well known to most people, but the roots of the conflict, growing from centuries of Korea being ground between one power in the region and another, are interesting to study and I highly recommend David Halberstam's history of the war, The Coldest Winter.  While it is detailed, he was an excellent writer and the volume is very readable.

   Taking a step back, the possibility of war is often mentioned in both fiction and non-fiction dealing with the topic of collapse.  One point of note is that survivalist writings often include war as the cause or precursor to collapse, such as in Alas Babylon, while doomers often write of war in the expectation that it will come in due course as resources dwindle and people for survival.  I think a third view is relevant, that wars of opportunity may break out as nations scramble for position when they see weakness displayed by their neighbors or rivals.  This is critically important to people who are looking for a safe haven as conditions deteriorate.  After all, there is an anecdotal story about a man who was looking to escape the then-coming World War 2, who moved to Guadalcanal(!). 


   The other story which seems to have been in the news a lot lately is the backlash over extra TSA screening.  Flying is really not the most pleasant experience to begin with, and facing an overly "personal" experience like this isn't going to endear it to many more people.  In the end, while I think the policies will be changed, it may be too late by that point to rehabilitate the flying experience in the mind of the public.  Flying itself has really always been a luxury item for the majority of the population, a necessity for some (due to work), but it has also represented a major step in creating a global community of sorts -- after all, a person can get on a plane and be halfway around the world in a day or so, something that would take a week or two by ship (not an inconsiderable amount of time).  It contributed to making the world smaller, and when it once again becomes a luxury item available only to the wealthy (due to high fuel prices and the fact that the airline industry is something of a "bubble" industry to begin with), we will see the world begin to grow much larger again, something that is a hallmark of a Dark Age.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Response to Scott

   A reader named Scott was kind enough to take some time to comment on my last blog post, with some suggestions and questions.  It's good to hear feedback from people -- at times, I feel a little like a DJ running a pirate radio station with no phone line for people to call in. :)  The feedback I have had has been overwhelmingly positive and I think that the Society is beginning to fill a need that people have had and not been able to articulate or have had met anywhere else.  However, I think his comments raise some points that I think need to be addressed and would be helpful for a number of other people reading the blog.

   First off, I want to talk about the idea of "membership" in the Leibowitz Society, so people don't misinterpret the intent behind this concept.  To be a member, all one has to do is consider themselves to be a member.  If they don't want to be a member any longer, they're not a member.  There's no organization, no hierarchy, no place to give money -- just a conviction that we are going to soon experience some very rough times and that there are things we need to save for future generations and that they are worth saving.  Like you, I have been concerned that there was the possibility of something like this turning into a cult, but I tend to think people who appreciate the Society's emphasis on rational thought are also the kind of people who are unlikely to be involved in a cult.  I do think that, down the road, people may eventually form communities of learning and knowledge.  While I have no idea what form that will take, I think the monastic model is a candidate for what form the Society will take once the bonds of organized modern civilization have been broken and people enter a strange new world.  Monastic life offered order, discipline and stability in a very rough time, combined with the opportunity to become educated when education itself was a rare commodity.  It may also be that when civilization has stablized and is seeking to learn from the past that the knowledge of the Society is instead exposed through something along the lines of the classical schools of learning and philosophy.  While this bears some thinking about, it's still probably beyond the scope of what needs to be done in this day and age.

   Second, "prepping" (as it has come to be known in recent years) is one of those things that I approach warily.  The problem is, if we look at the decline of Rome, it was not something that happened in five or six days.  The signs were clear much further back, so for the people living in the Empire in the latter days, it seems to have been like looking at a swaying tower about to topple -- there was plenty of time to get out of the way and find a relatively safe haven.  Much of the time -- although the emphasis does seem to be shifting -- people seem to be expecting an acute event and hoping that their supplies and preparations will be enough to carry them through to the other side when things become stable again. What I think instead that people need to be doing is realizing that the state of things at this time is probably as good as it is going to get in our lifetimes, or even the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.  The "machinery" of the global economy took roughly eight hundred or so years to put together, beginning with the early banking systems of the Knights Templar (and the Renaissance a couple of centuries later), then being developed into full-fledged commercial systems in the late 1600s, finally to our completely global system of the modern day.  So, in our current state, trying to force this system into an artificially sustained level of luxury and productivity, we are essentially destroying this system which took nearly a millenia to assemble.  Realistically, we are not going to have the chance to try to put something like this back together for quite some time, if ever.

   So, barring a sudden, cataclysmic event (which leaves us all living in a world as illustrated in The Road), we are going to simply see a steady decline, with ups and downs as the global system (and civilization which has grown addicted to it) grinds to a halt.  There are little signs of this happening all around us -- for example, I was coming down the highway today and saw three billboards with the number listed for the advertising content and nothing else on them.  The vast tracts of empty commercial real estate, foreclosed homes, etc -- all the "broken windows" which are never going to be repaired -- are just signs upon signs of what is happening.  In this kind of a world, we need to expect that once something's gone, it's gone and is never coming back, be it jobs, businesses, cities, whatever.

    If anything, I think the kind of things we will be facing at first are going to be increased crime as people become desperate once the social safety net is gone, as well as problems finding medical care, food and other essentials of daily life as the economic apparatus which has supplied them begins to hiccup.  It should be expected that the coming crash of the dollar (often predicted, but now looking increasingly likely) will exacerbate these problems as no one will be sure what anything is worth.  The implication then is that we need to be able to think on our feet, understand how to be effective members of the larger society as long as it can still meet our needs.  We need to know how to barter and interact with a wide variety of people, many of whom won't believe what they're living through even as it slaps them in the face.  We need to know where the safe places are to land as the herd is running off the cliff.  We need to learn to live with less and still thrive.

   As far as sites I would recommend, I want to point out that the focus of the Leibowitz Society is mostly concerned with preservation of knowledge through the coming Dark Age.  There are other places which are going to be better sources of information as far as what to store, how to store it, etc, although FerFAL's Argentina Collapse Blog is a good starting point.  Argentina suffered something similar to what I think we're about to experience, although it was localized to only one country back in 2001, while we will be dragging the world down with us.  Things we have never dreamed of -- bandits on the highway -- may become commonplace.  I like Kunstler's site (and The Long Emergency was one thing that finally pushed me to get this effort rolling), although he tends to think that no real hope lies for salvaging anything on the other side.  Backwoods Home is a pretty good source of information for self-reliance.  I haven't looked at it in a while, but Mother Earth News also used to be good. 

   People tend to want to look for a magic formula for prepping, and keep searching for information, like people do with fad diets and weight loss books, but a friend of mine once pointed out that what people lack isn't information, but motivation.  There is plenty of good information available for people who are looking for it, although it can usually be boiled down to the basics.  Putting aside a few firearms (where legal) for hunting and self defense, some fuel for your car so that you can get around when there aren't any gas trucks running, having a house which can be habitable off the grid, a year's supply of food and medicine and the ability to produce more food, and having a good source of clean water is probably as much as anyone should reasonably expect to do.  Anything beyond that is probably bonus territory.  The motivation for us should come from just looking at the news and how bleak things are becoming.

   Last, and probably the most important, the type of help we need (and, remember, people are helping each other, not helping me) is for people to begin looking at the knowledge content areas I'm posting and commenting on what else they think should be included, how it can be organized better, etc.  On top of that, people with expertise in certain areas need to start putting together 10-20 page overviews of the various content areas so these summaries can form the text of the Codex Universalis.  Obviously, some of these content areas are going to lend themselves to shorter or longer entries and aren't going to be complete, even if they were to run into several hundred pages, but they are intended to familiarize people with these areas and serve as starting points.  For those with professional skills and knowledge, suggestions for written texts for people to begin storing in their personal Repositories are necessary.  A couple of people have mentioned an interest in long-term digital storage, which would be invaluable if a durable form could be developed.

   I'm planning on putting up a forum fairly soon which will allow people to start discussing these topics in a more user-friendly and dynamic form.  I had hesitated because I wasn't sure if there was enough interest, but I think it can easily be justified now.  Once it goes live, I will announce it here, along with some guidelines on its use.  The blog will still be active, of course, as a good introduction to what the Society is about as well as random items I come across which may be of interest.  At some point, I anticipate other people wanting to write blog entries, once they have a comfortable understanding of the Society's approach and interests. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010


   I suspect that at least a few readers of this blog -- and people aligned with the principles of the Leibowitz Society -- are avid readers.  Of those readers, perhaps a smaller few have picked up the book "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson.  I had purchased it some time ago, but only now have begun working my way through it (anyone familiar with his writings will appreciate that one does indeed "work" through a Neal Stephenson novel).  Being that it deals with a fictional version of monasteries, something that it has in common with a Canticle for Leibowitz, I found the subject matter of some interest.

   Early on, a key idea crops up in the book as a first-page exchange between an instructor monk and a craftsman from outside is explained to the protagonist of the novel.  Without going too much into detail about the exchange (and spoiling that part of the novel), the monk is apparently trying to determine a causal link between what happens outside the monastery and what happens inside the monastery.  In other words, does the outside world affect the cloistered world that the monks live in? 

   With the Leibowitz Society, I think we are eventually going to face a similar divide.  Even if it does not exist as a formal, physical separation in the way that the monks experience, just by beginning to accept the idea that the world is sinking in a new dark age, and that we need to preserve and protect civilization's intellectual achievements, then we are already cloistering ourselves from the larger population's mode of thought.  At some point, can we undertake a similarity measurement of casuality of thought between what the majority thinks and feels about events, and what we think and feel about events, and describe the differences?

   The detachment of casuality of thought has another aspect here, too, and why it is vitally important in many ways.  Consider the following notion: Rational thought may be the pinnacle of achievement of the arc of civilization beginning with the Middle Ages, reaching a zenith in the Renaissance, becoming a widespread ideal during the Age of Reason, and experiencing a twilight as the destruction of the twentieth century came to a close.  Now, I should make it clear that I do not consider rationality as necessarily opposing ideas such as religion, the arts, altruism, etc, only that process of taking something mind and working through it to come to a conclusion about it should be an intact process. 

    Now, if the great intellectual tragedy of the last few decades is the movement away from rationality, into emotionality and even anti-rationality (i.e. "I don't care what you say, because I know in my heart that you're wrong"; "I go by my feelings"; "Why argue?  Everyone has something to say/is right in their own view"; "Can't we all just get along?"), then if we, as members of the Leibowitz Society, operate with rationality, then we have achieved causal decoupling from what is the popular (albeit incorrect) mode of thought.  In essence, if we approach a problem even from a relatively simple evaluation, using a structured method, then we are practicing something which has become less and less common in modern society.  If one carries this notion out, we can use the same test as a means of determining if we are ourselves beginning to fall into the same trap, and the effect of the world outside of the Society on the Society's efforts can be measured, or at least accounted for.

   This isn't meant to be a screed against the modern day, just that when we think of the "Dark Ages," we are often thinking of bandit raiders, people huddling in the burned-out ruins of a once wealthy city, and so on.  Instead, we need to remember that the new dark ages can take many forms, across many stages, and that we are already beginning to be at the point where we need to start taking steps to protect our accumulated knowledge.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Have a Knife Day

   From time to time, I plan to share my insights on the use of tools and equipment, as well as things that I think which may be useful to keep in mind as the global economy stumbles into the dustbin of history.  While I think that dealing with the change from a functioning world system to a completely broken one is going to mostly be a matter of thinking on your feet and having a plan in place, there's no denying that certain pieces of gear, which are readily available in the industrial world, could be very valuable as time goes on.

   In what is arguably the best fantasy novel I've read the last year, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, one of the main characters says that you can never have enough knives.  By and large, unless you have several dozen in a sack over your shoulder (and you're not selling them), I tend to agree.  Right now, knives are cheap to purchase, especially if you keep an eye out for deals.  Recently, I found someone selling closeout Smith and Wesson folding knives for a fraction of their original list price and bought several, some to give as gifts, some to keep for myself.  As time goes on, companies go out of business and the economy fails, production of knives is going to slow and prices are going to go up (both from scarcity of product and the inevitable inflation which is coming thanks to Quantitative Easing 2, 2+1, 2+n...).  People may still manufacture knives, especially in home workshops, but the quality may be questionable unless you're very familiar with the person and their work.

   The variety of knife is important, too.  Even when common sense thinks people should know better, I've seen plenty of mistakes with trying to use the wrong knife for the wrong purpose.  I think my favorite example was someone who was using a Gerber Mark II (!) for cleaning fish.  Likewise, people have used butcher knifes for offense and defense, folding knives for survival knives and knives are too-often used as screwdrivers. 

   Knives, of course, are a good self-defense tool, as well as working tool, too.  Most areas of the world tightly regulate firearms, but knives are somewhat less regulated.  While, obviously, a factory-made knife is probably going to be superior in quality to what is made by hand, it's still possible to produce a decent and functional knife from a file, spring or some other appropriately sized and shaped piece of metal.  In a pinch, they can be improvised from bone, glass, plastic or stone.  Learning to use a knife for self-defense is not a difficult task, as there is ample intruction available in the form of videos, books, class, etc.  It should be noted that most knife violence doesn't seem to occur the way it is often pitched in knife circles, however -- the idea of two people drawing their knives and squaring off for a duel seldom, if ever, happens.  The Logic of Steel by James LaFond does a good job of dispelling some of the myths about knives and knife violence (hint:  it's often done by people who don't have training and who seldom use fancy "tactical" knives) and I highly recommend it.

   Of the choice of knives on the market, they are limitless, as is advice on what knife to choose.  From my own personal experience, I think there are three types which every person should own -- a fixed blade "survival" knife, a utility-style folder and a multitool.  I've used the Cold Steel SRK in the past and found it to be a heavy, tough, effective no-frills knife.  With care, it should last a long time and a lot of use.  As far as utility-style folders go, there are a million choices on the market.  Cold Steel also makes excellent knives in this category, although one of my favorites was a little $25 folder from Rigid (in Ireland) which has seen a lot of use.  I do think it's a good idea to have a folder you can easily open with one hand.  Finally, there are also a ton of multitools on the market as well.  If anything, I think these are there to save your knife from things it was not meant to be used for -- plus, the pliers will come in handy for times that you would ever expect if you've never owned or used a multitool before.

   The long and short is that a knife is a tool you will not think about until you need it, and if you do need it, you'll be glad it was there.  Now is the time to be thinking about purchasing your knives, not when the lights are going out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Civil Engineering

   After writing up the section on Defense, I was depressed by thinking about the failure of people to ever learn to work together and quit killing each other over petty ambition and senseless quarrels.  The World Wide War Project (http://www.worldwidewarproject.org/main.html), regardless of whether or not one ultimately agrees with the hypothesis presented by Dr. Kolkey, does tend to show us that things sometimes never change.  So, as a counterpoint to talking about destruction, I decided to go ahead and post the section on Civil Engineering to get past the negativity associated with Defense.

   Civil Engineering itself is intended to be the practical application side of Science.  To further clarify this distinction, think about the difference between science and technology.  If we are describing gravity and how forces act against each other to produce motion, this is science.  If we are saying that you can use water spilling over a waterwheel to power a grain mill, then this is technology.  In some cases, Science can be used to affect what is done in Civil Engineering.  In other cases, people may have an obvious and intuitive understanding what needs to be done without resorting to Science. 

   Some people may be wondering what point Civil Engineering is going to have in a post-industrial world (depending on what form our collapse takes).  Even if we enter an era which any trace of modern technology is gone, there will still be a need to know how to build simple shelters and other items such as bridges and irrigation networks.  In essence, as long as anyone is still using tools, Civil Engineering is still going to be of interest.

Basic Shelter Construction
Advanced Shelter Construction
Electical Theory
Internal Combustion Engine
Steam Engine
Printing Press, Paper and Ink Making
Timbering and Forest Management
Bridge Building and Related Works
Boatbuilding (Power and Sail, Large and Small)
Power Generation (Including Hydroelectric)
Mining Techniques
Plumbing and Water Purification
Soap Making
Basic Auto Maintenance and Repair
Sewing and Clothing Construction
Demolitions and Construction Blasting


Defense covers everything from unarmed self-defense to organization and employment of large armies.  The expectation is that most violence in a post-collapse world is going to be sporadic, but the threat of it will be ever-present, a state of low-intensity conflict like what American settlers experienced.  Ammunition and modern firearms are complex and difficult to manufacture and maintain without access to certain raw materials, much less the larger weapons of war such as jets, tanks, warships and artillery.  It can be expected that these will grow increasingly rare and unreliable as priorities shift in the wake of a collapse.

In turn, it seems reasonable that the tools and techniques of defense will change over time, going from modern cased ammunition, reverting back to the use of black powder firearms (which are much easier to manufacture, both the weapons and ammo), and the use of medieval/Renaissance weaponry, which was often brutally effective and more reliable than black powder weapons were for a long period of time.  With this in mind, both modern military and classical military topics are covered.

The inclusion of these topics might be seen as controversial by some, as either advocating violence as a positive or the practice of violence being a purpose of the Leibowitz Society.  Neither of these assumptions is accurate.  The fact remains that part of building a stable society is being able to protect oneself both as an individual and as a community, therefore this information is collected and presented on morally neutral grounds, with neither glorification or avoidance of the topic and is intended to be used responsibly and legally in the absence of direction or support from legitimate authorities.  Finally, as always, please consider your local and regional laws before participating in discussions on these topics, or collecting information on them. 

Basic Gun Safety
Small Arms Care and Operation
Guerilla Warfare
Fortifications (Ancient and Modern)
Manuever Warfare
Siege Warfare and Weaponry
Combined Arms Operations (Ancient and Modern)
The OODA Loop and 4 Generations of Warfare
Field Logistics
Primitive/Improvised Weapons Construction and Use
Unarmed Combat
Intelligence Gathering and Analysis
Skirmishing and Scouting
Interrogation Techniques (No Torture!)
Escape and Evasion
Air Combat Theory and Development
Naval Combat Theory and Development
Personal Security
Conflict Resolution
WMD Use and Effects

Arms and the Man

   The next "Codex Universalis" topic, that of self-defense and military subjects, is probably going to be somewhat controversial for some readers.  In the popular mind, survivalism is often associated with violence, and the topic of violence itself is not one that people necessarily want to think about.  People who claim to be "survivalists" often have large armories, more firearms and ammo than they could ever hope to use, in anticipation of the collapse of civilization being a time of nonstop violence, something that sometimes brings unwanted attention from the police and media.  On top of this, people often don't want to think about having to defend their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  They also don't want to think about having to try to protect their food and supplies, as they are often feel charitable impulses -- "I would be happy to share if I had enough to share."  These topics are often viewed with suspicion in the light of a more security-conscious modern world.  Finally, there is the potential for good old "pissing contests," where people claim to be ex-Special Ops badasses, or gun gurus, or just want to argue about which caliber is better, probably the most complete waste of time on the planet.

   Unfortunately, the view that the new Dark Ages will be more violent than what we are accustomed to is probably not without merit.  Part of the impetus for establishing systems of control in the Middle Ages was due to the ever-present threat of external invasions, as well as internal violence and strife.  Banditry itself has been a staple feature of human society and a serious problem even up into modern times, regardless of what it's called or who is doing it.  The fact that people can travel relatively free from threat of being attacked in modern first-world nations is, like many other parts of first-world life, an anamoly compared to most of history.  One the carefully assembled systems of control are gone, due to lack of resources and interest in controlling banditry, it's likely that we will see a return to this lifestyle in many places.  Murder rates, also, which have fallen dramatically century-by-century since the Middle Ages (when reliable estimates can be made), can be expected to climb.  One can imagine they were even higher during the Dark Ages, when there was little lawful authority organized to prevent crimes or catch criminals.

   Part of the Leibowitz Society's emphasis on preserving knowledge is creating safe havens for it to be stored and taught.  In turn, this means that these safe havens need to have some sort of ability to be "safe" -- in other words, protect themselves from people who want to loot and pillage.  This in turn raises the question of what people consider to be a lawful entity, with a "right" to obtain resources from a community in turn for protection, such as a conventional military or police force, but political restructurings and debates are really beyond the scope of the Leibowitz Society.  The fact remains that there may well be times when people and communities will need to protect themselves and trying to ignore this fact is setting people up for failure if they are trying to accomplish the goals of the Society. 

   Equally, it is important to emphasize the need to cooperate with legitimate authority.  The point of the Society is to preserve, protect and interpret knowledge.  Some people make take this as a copout, selling out to a ruling class or political elite, but the simple truth is that most people are going to be looking for security and stability in a time and place where it's gotten scarce.  In the industrialized world, exposure to violence is not a common part of the lives of most people.  For anyone who's had to deal with an aggressive or violent person by themselves, the first thing running through their mind is wishing they had a gun (or a bigger) gun.  The second is wishing they had some backup. 

   There is also mention of WMDs in the topics list, something that might provoke a little surprise and discussion.  I think it's not unrealistic that these weapons may be used at some point by one power or another, or terrorists, as resources grow scarcer and tensions rise.  Therefore, while the Society does not include information on the construction or delivery of these items, there is information on the effects of these weapons, what they can do and how/when they are used to allow people to seek refuge from them (maybe it's not realistic, but I'd be just as happy to see these things vanish from the human conciousness forever). 

   The bright side to all this is that even with a breakdown in lawful authority's ability to protect people, and increasing rates of violence, most people can still probably expect to go through life without having to feel like they are living in a warzone.  When we look at the history of times past, the violence and wars stand out, because they simply get more attention in the historical record.  One interesting anecedote that opposes this was the career of Ulrich von Lichtenstein, the alias of the protagonist in the Knight's Tale.  Von Lichtenstein was born in a period of relative peace, in the height of the Middle Ages.  Knights of the era were expected to glorify themselves in battle, but he was instead forced to distinguish himself in tournaments and through his writing, dying at the ripe old age of 78.  If anything, we can draw hope from his example and realize that peace can still be possible in a rougher time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Good News

   I don't know how many people reading this blog have seen the movie Hardware, but there was a line in it that went "The good news is, there is no f---ing good news." Seemingly, it doesn't matter where you look, there's very little, if any, positive news about the economy, either locally or globally. Much is made of China's "miracle," but the stories which report that China's economy is set to overtake ours have missed the little trickles of news that suggest not all things are well behind the bamboo curtain. Or maybe it's just that we're sinking so hard, so far, so fast that we're like someone caught in an avalanche, passing China on the way down as they cling desperately to a pine tree.

   Things in Europe look to be considerably worse lately, with a new round of bad news coming from the "PIIGS" (an unfortunate name -- the "PIIGS" just got hind teat while the wealthier nations suckled away at the debt sow). This, in turn, will continue to drag down the other economies of Europe. How long will it be until France and Britain face a crisis of government because of increasing civil unrest? Will the same current of unrest travel to the United States? People forget that the Cold War was a godsend to the governments in the "Free World" -- no matter how bad or weird things got, no one was going to march in the streets because the Communists were always a worse threat, looming off in the distance. When people see their savings and chance for any meaningful retirement gone, will they feel so moderate in their stance?

  Domestically, things aren't much better here in America. Wal-Mart has quietly observed that inflation is beginning to occur (something that anyone who has filled their tanks lately should now). As people spend more on food, less and less will be spent on all the junk and trinkets (much of it made in China) which will in turn further cripple any "green shoots" that might somehow be making it out of the bombed-out, burned-out debt economy. Those who invested heavily in gold are doing well, at least until it gets confiscated to try to pay at least some of the service on the debt. On a personal level, I have been in a few department stores recently. The Christmas decorations would have been mostly picked over by this point in the past. Now, the shelves are still fully stocked with all kinds of pretty trinkets and items, even with half-off sales running. It will be interesting to see how "Black Friday" goes, if the American public can muster up enough will and credit to go for one last shopping binge before they're also living in a tent city.

   There's a news item about a truck dealership in Florida selling $400 vouchers to a gun shop to buy an AK-47 in honor of Veteran's Day. With the declining dollar, $400 soon probably won't buy a box of 20 cartridges. Regardless, I've always thought that the surge in gun sales had much more to do with the fact that people have begun to realize what the declining ability of cities and counties to finance police forces than it ever did with the election of Barack Obama, who is facing such a gigantic political and economic mess that causes for easy times, like gun control, have been largely pushed aside.

   Some readers are probably wondering what this has to do with the coming Dark Age. In a nutshell, we are living through tomorrow's history. These days are like our own version of the 400s in Rome, though they are occurring at a faster pace. We see the end in sight, brought on by a dozen or more causes, yet we try to still cling to some normalcy in our lives.

   How much worse for those who do not see the fall coming.

   Some might be wondering where I stand politically after reading a few of these posts. I've been conservative-leaning, libertarian-leaning, tried being green-leaning for a little while. The simple fact is that I don't much care anymore who's in charge, because it doesn't much matter. If anyone thinks holding the reins of power is going to mean anything outside of possibly finding a safe landing spot as the system crashes, I think they delude themselves as much as the people voting for them. Things have gone beyond the point where politics and economics don't matter, like the warping of space and time around a black hole of inevitability.

   Finally, if anyone thinks I'm being pessimistic, I'm not. Sometimes it's good to be a realist, sometimes it hurts. Either way, we're still building the Great Wall, one block at a time, as Steven King would say.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


   Ranked second in importance only to food, is medical care.  The level of medical care, post-collapse, is going to be a giant step backwards from what is currently available to people in modern civilization.  Given that around fourteen percent of the American economy, for example, is dedicated to medicine, it's clear that as the economy crashes, the quality and availability of medical care is going to decline over time as well. 

   Medicine itself, from the standpoint of long-term survival is itself problematic.  As people who are living at the current peak of human progress, we expect that our doctors are going to be rigorously screened and trained and have all the latest tools and technologies at their fingertips.  Moving forward, this is not always going to be the case.  At the same time, I think most people would agree that treatment will likely be attempted, in spite of the lack of our modern resources and that it would be better to try to preserve our medical knowledge rather than letting people try to rediscover it on their own (no one wants to think about the possibility of "bleeding" coming back into vogue...).  At the same time, I would not anyone to try medical treatment on their own if trained professionals and resources are available. 

   Prevention, rather than invasive treatment, seems likely to become the rule in the future.  The Romans, for example, were relatively healthy due to their lifestyle.  Of course, once a chronic condition or serious disease was contracted, they were in trouble.  However, with good sanitation and a working knowledge of infectious diseases, etc, I think a lot can be done to mitigate mortality, especially infantry mortality. 

   As with all other categories of knowledge and skill, I strongly encourage readers to comment on the topics chosen, as well as any other information which is relevant.  As we begin to move forward to actually recording information for storage in the Codex Universalis, I also encourage people to volunteer to help with writing on some of these topics and chapters.

Basic First Aid
Infant Mortality Factors
Broken Bone Treatment
Identifying and Preventing Communicable Diseases
Suturing and Other Surgical Techniques
Dental Care and Extractions
Vision Correction
Treatment of WMD Victims (Nuclear, Chemical, Biological)
Preventative Medicine
Vitamins, Nutrition and Related Diseases
Insect and Vermin Borne Disease
Plant Toxicity
Herbal Medicine
Anatomy and Physiology
Poisonous Bites
X-Rays and MRI Machines


   There are a few things about the Leibowitz Society that I want to clarify and emphasize as we go forward, as the Society is still in the early stages of being public.

   First, there are no qualifications to being a "member" of the Society.  There is no process to joining, other than simply accepting that we are in serious trouble as a society and civilization and need to start preparing on a long-term basis for what is coming our way.  While I appreciate people who want to identify themselves publically as being part of the Society, and are willing to spread the word of what we are trying to accomplish, I also understand that many people are relucant to admit planning for the kind of sobering future we are facing.  With this in mind, there is no record of who is a member and who isn't, because there is no process to join outside of simply deciding that you want to start preserving and protecting civilization's knowledge for when the world emerges from the new dark ages.

   (as a caveat:  this also means that the Leibowitz Society explicitly and emphatically accepts no responsibility for anyone who is a member does in legal, political or social terms)

   Second, the Society's works and materials will always be free, outside of the open possibility of a bound hardcopy archival version of the Codex Universalis for those who are interested.  If anyone were to have extra money to join an organization preparing for a collapse, I would instead suggest that they would be better off taking that money and spending it on supplies, land, relocation, etc.  There is more than enough relevant information on the internet available for free to have to instead contemplate paying for it. 

   Third, the society is emphatically apolitical.  This is because it is intended to be an international organization, as well as a broad-based organization which is intended to appeal to people from all segments of society.  The political parties and the causes of today are going to quickly become irrelevant and meaningless once the facade is roughly torn away from our current existence and the reality of the new world we are entering quickly becomes apparent.  What is the use of bickering over social issues when mass starvation and disease from poor sanitation are looming spectres?  From time to time, I do comment on politics, but mostly from the perspective of how it has affected our current situation, not as an attempt to bolster one party or another -- both sides of the political aisle have had plenty to do with where we are now.

   Last, either regarding comments on the blog, materials submitted for the Codex or Repository, and posts on the website and forum when it goes live, I will not tolerate people making asses out of themselves as trolls, or posting inflammatory/bigoted speech.  The Society is intended to be an effort which appeals to a broad base of people with a large skill set.  People who are interested in the Society are likely concerned about where the world is headed and will come from all walks of life.  To limit the Society to one demographic or another is clearly defeating the purpose.  As an aside, for the "gentleman" who sent me an Email rant accusing the Leibowitz Society of being a front for some kind of Jewish conspiracy, I'll point him in the direction of Walter Miller's novel for the origin of the Society's name and point out that when civilization crashes, no one is going to have time to spin fantasies of cabals and conspiracies.

Searching Behavior

   Most of us are familiar with the psychological concept of "searching behavior," wherein a person who has experienced a recent loss of a close family member or friend will think they have seen a glimpse of that person in familiar places, or have heard their voice at some point.  In more profound cases, it can even extend to hallucinations of the dead person.  Sometimes, people become obsessed with thoughts of the deceased and may even look for them, based on these cues.

   Likewise, as human civilization enters a decline, then collapse, I would expect that many of us are going to experience a similar phenomenon.  We take clean, running water for granted.  We expect that we can have light and warmth at the flip of a switch.  We know that we can jump in our car, fill up with gas at the station and drive down to the local Starbucks for cup of hot coffee (I'm partial to Caffè Americano, myself).  The grocery, with a huge variety of food, and the doctor, with a huge variety of medical treatments, are close by, as well.  If we need to fix our house, building supplies are readily available.  If we're bored, there is plenty of entertainment to be had.  Movies, books, video games, sports, etc, are all available at the touch of a button.  If we want to go to a far-off place, there are highways and airplanes to take us there.  Finally, it is almost trivial to communicate with people, no matter where they're at -- cell phones and Email have made it instant and easy.

   On a conscious level, most people who are aware of the issues we are facing, and have begun to prepare for them, accept this reality of change and will be more able to adjust to it.  For those who are still thinking in terms of our current crisis being a temporary one, I expect it will be a rude awakening when they realize they cannot obtain food or fuel at any price (because there's simply none to be had), that the lights are not going to come on how many times they hit the switch and that they cannot call 911 for emergencies any longer.  (Jim Kuntler did a nice job of illustrating this sort of thinking when he wrote of the protagonist in A World Made By Hand leaving his radio and television on just in case the power would come on and stay on and there would be something to see)  Combine the stress of trying to live one's daily life in a world of increasing scarcity and uncertainty, along with the psychological reaction to searching for the ghost of a former, greater time and I tend to think that the important things which should be stored and remembered will be instead quickly forgotten.  Who has time for mathematics when they are grieving the loss of the world they knew?

   An even more profound sense of loss will come, I think, when people begin to realize that the systems and society that we have so carefully and thoughtfully built, and implemented over the last couple of hundred years, has completely fallen apart.  While we put faith in religious matters, we also have faith that there are people in business and government who are actively working to fix issues as they occur and that social stability will be a relative constant.  The events of the past few years have clearly shown that some politicians are willing to do risky things in order to keep the voting public happy, but beyond that, some problems are so fundamental and hard to see coming or understand that it is imposible to deal with them until it's too late.  It's easy to become angry at that point, and that is where much of the bitterness of some writers comes into play.  Humanity has done a terrible job of managing energy and resource in the last several decades.  We've gone from living in a world of progress, where scientists and inventors were the heroes, to living in a world of comfort, where actors and atheletes are the new royalty.  What will be the reaction when people realize those they have followed down a dead-end road of decadence have no more answers than they do?

   In any case, these are things that members of the Society should keep in mind as the world progresses into a new dark age.  It is fair to remember the past, but unfair to the future if we grieve for the past and forget the things which matter most.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


   Of the seven areas of knowledge of the Leibowitz Society, the first and most important is Agriculture.  Part of the challenge in trying to determine how to organize and store information is prioritizing what should be stored.  However, it goes without saying that if you can't eat, you're not going to be thinking about doing much of anything else.  The problem is that people often tend to overlook food production and the technical details that are involved in large-scale farming (with the intent of feeding a family or a community year in and year out).  Gardening is a valuable skill, but it's only one subset in the larger field of food production, storage and distribution. 

   One interesting statistic about the Great Depression that people throw about is the urban vs. rural population percentage and how much more of the world population was closer to food production sources than they are now.  What are people in the city going to do when there is no longer any food on the store shelves and what food is being brought into the city for trade is expensive and rare?  At the same time, are people in the rural areas going to be able to produce food without access to fertilizer, fuel for tractors, non-hybrid seeds and so on?  One of my favorite cautionary examples from the early Dark Ages is the starvation rate in community in southern France.  The area had once been a "breadbasket" area for the Roman Empire, yet within a generation, the various high-yield farming techniques had been forgotten and most deaths were from starvation. 

   In general,this section covers food production, preservation and preparation.  It also covers some related areas which are based on agriculture, such as soapmaking and leather tanning.  One point to bear in mind is that surplus food is what allows other functions of society, such as medicine, industrial production, and education, to exist.  The intent of the Leibowitz Society with regard to agricultre is to ensure that each member can feed not only themselves but also teach other people how to grow, store and prepare the food they need to survive.  This will ultimately result in stable communities and a chance to rebuild/renew civilization in a stable environment.

   Since this is the first of the seven content areas of the Leibowitz Society's information structure, and there will likely be some discussion about the content, I want to stress a couple of points.  The first is that the Leibowitz Society complies with all relevant laws.  I don't want to see anyone getting into any trouble over good intentions.  The second is that anyone using the information provided through the Society is on their own -- this really is "for informational purposes only."  Last, I expect and welcome discussion on these topics and points.  I have thought that the list of including topics will change based on input from learned readers and will probably change at some point even when it seems to be in its final form.  That said, here is the list of what I consider to be the important topics that need to be covered in the Leibowitz Society information hierarchy:

Plant Life Cycle
Animal Husbandry (broken into the various categories, such as poultry, cattle, rabbits, etc)
Herbs and Spices
Staple Crops
Farming Practices (old and modern)
Field Care and Crop Rotation (old and modern)
Food Preservation (salting, smoking, jerking)
Using Preserved Food
Preventing Food Poisoning
Basic Cooking (particularly "low tech" methods)
Advanced Cooking Techniques
Bread Leavening and Yeast
Beer Brewing (and cider)
Winemaking (and mead)
Distillation of Alcohol (medicinal and consumption)
Animal Byproduct Use (skinning, bones, fats)
Teas and Coffee
Recipes (creating and using)
Measurements in Food Preparation
Herbs and Spices

Pompous Circumstances

   The last few days have seen an interesting combination of events.  "Interesting" is a loaded word at times and the current convergence should be especially of note from the perspective of the Society.  It should be noted that there's many different ways to interpret a given set of events, what they mean in the context of a larger discussion, and so on.  What's is often lost in discussions of events is the fact that the conditions exist which allowed the event occur in the first place are often as significant as the event.

   The first is the staggering Republican victory in the midterm elections last week.  It's up to the individual reader if they think this is a good thing or a bad thing from the perspective of improving the conditions of the country.  I tend to take another view, that is, the damage to the financial system is so profound and the changing set of circumstances that America and the global economy are in have progressed the point of being able to be fixed.  Given the inertia of the debt problem, and the fact that the Republicans are already back pedaling on not touching the "sacred cows" of the political landscape (Social Security, defense, etc), little is probably going to happen in terms of a change of direction.  What should be more of interest is the fact that such an epic landslide happened in the first place, and why.  While there are numerous interpretations, ranging from the cluelessly scientific ("midterm election upsets are statistically a reaction to one-party dominance") to the laughable (Obama saying that the cause of the Democrat defeat was "poor communication about the agenda"), the most sensible one I can derive is that the people are beginning to realize that no one's steering the ship of the nation and are desperately hoping to find someone who can take hold of the helm.  Word to both parties, the Germans felt the same way in the early 1920's...

   The second is the "quantitative easing" by the Fed.  The first few stimulus packages was basically selling debt to foreign nations, the way we've gotten credit in the past.  What's important to note here is WHY quantitative easing has happened this time around -- there is simply no one who is willing to pony up their own cash to buy bonds that are becoming increasingly worthless.  In other words, the nations that have always been willing to buy our debt at balking because they see America's financial situation as being increasingly hopeless.  The noise about China and Russia being upset by this is really just a distraction -- while they are angry over the irresponsible financial policy of the country, the real issue is that anyone considering doing the QE in the first place.  The fact the gold is going out of sight shows also that people have given up on trying to find any safe refuge in mainstream investments.

   Third is Obama's tour of Asia.  Again, this is oddly out of touch with reality.  The American public has demanded, through elections, restraint and sobriety in government policy.  Instead, Obama is touring in extravagant style instead of staying home and putting on an image of responsibility and a serious desire to right things.  The notion that the trip is intended to promote American economic interests overseas is ludicrous -- the idea of selling finished goods to India, where they can't easily be afforded and can be locally obtained for much less than a tax-heavy and benefit-heavy American economy can produce them shows a lack of reasoning by the president's economic advisors.  While there is some merit to the thinking that the trip is giving tacit approval for India to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council (thus balancing out China), I think the real purpose has been to try to create an image of American power and prestige, to try to convince people that America is still a strong and wealthy nation which can influence other nations, a new version of the Potemkin Village.

   What do these events mean in the context of our oncoming Dark Age?  The most important aspect of a financial system is trust, something that is essentially gone, and things happening in the news now reflect this end of trust.  No one can look at the system and know exactly where they stand with regard to it.  For example, it used to be a given that you could (theoretically) take a certificate someplace and get gold back.  Then, it became that the currency you held had the backing and guarantee of a powerful government that it would be worth something (i.e. you could do something with it).  So, the necessary component for a global economic system -- an internationally trusted currency system -- is increasingly viewed with suspicion.  While people might say "well, go ahead and default on the national debt," do they also consider what a default would mean?  We import much of our energy and raw materials -- who is going to try to sell that to us if they have no guarantee that what they are being given for those raw materials has any worth?

   While this is a simplification of some of the issues, it leads to another point:  if governments are broke, they cannot respond to crises, fix things and maintain any kind of order.  If no one trusts the monetary system, then no one is willing to assume risk in order to trade materials, services and goods.  If nothing is being fixed and nothing is moving, then conditions are going to overtly resemble the new dark age.  Finally, the corresponding increase in the price of goods and services is going to be the final nail in the coffin of the economy, when people begin to turn from prosperity to survival.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Three Parts

   As I outlined in the Introduction to the Leibowitz Society, there are three modes of knowledge collection and storage, the individual, the Codex Universalis, and the Repository.  Since I didn't go into detail in the first post about how these are intended to work and interact, I wanted to explain this a little more thoroughly, to give readers a better idea of how these are intended to interact.

   The first level, of course, is the individual.  An organization or effort is only as good as the people who comprise it.  If there are no people who are part of the effort, or they are unprepared, then all the good intentions and planning in the world are meaningless.  People who are part of the efforts of the Leibowitz Society are going to be facing a double challenge -- in addition to simply trying to adjust to life in a civilization where there is increasing uncertainty and turmoil, they are also going to have to be mindful of the task of storing, preserving and interpreting knowledge.  They are also going to need to be able to record events as history continues to unfold before them. 

   While modern survivalism and preparedness movements seem to be aimed at creating a private label commando, capable of living off of MREs and fighting back zombie hordes with a survival knife until order is restored in a few weeks, members of the Leibowitz Society need to take a longer viewpoint with a different emphasis.  I don't deny that self-defense and primitive living skills are important, along with accumulating supplies, but are people who are trying to collect and preserve knowledge while surviving the transition to a Dark Age necessarily going to be expecting to fight as soldiers in whatever is the cause of the day?  And, barring something like an asteroid hitting the earth, the transition from order to chaos isn't likely to happen in a matter of a few hours, meaning people aren't going to have to go from their desk job to a bunker overnight.  Instead, I think that skills in building a community, in understanding human psychology and needs, in how to manage limited supplies, etc, are going to be vitally important and probably overlooked.  How else is the Society going to be able to perpetuate itself and carry out the mission of preserving knowledge if members have only a hammer in their mental toolbox?

   The second level is the Codex Universalis.  Where the individual's knowledge of daily survival skills leaves off, the Codex Universalis picks up.  Few of us have the time or mental ability to master all aspects of what is needed to run a stable community, maintain equipment, raise good, and so on.  The intent of the Codex Universalis is to be an "Operations Manual" of sorts for member of the Leibowitz Society, bridging the gap between the individual's knowledge and that which is stored away in the repository.  Things related to community defense, food production, construction, medicine, and so on would be available in the Codex, making it a "recipe book" as well as a general source of knowledge.  While it might be nice for people to memorize how to make biodiesel, having the process recorded in written form would ease the burden of trying to memorize too many things.  In addition, the information in the Codex would also be more widely available to a community -- if you need to know how to do something, go look it up and go with it.

   Some might point out that it's impossible to put detailed instructions in the Codex Universalis for handling every contingency and this is true.  I expect that the Codex will be a bit of a balancing act between content on one hand (what is actually in the Codex in terms of explicit instructions) and context on the other hand (what the Codex doesn't explicitly cover but may allow people to make connections between what is covered and what is missing).  For example, the Codex won't cover instructions on how to repair every specific type of engine that has ever been made, but will instead cover information on repairing a couple of types as well as provide information on the principles of how an engine works, allowing people to make inferences on repairing the types not covered. 

   The form of the Codex Universalis itself hasn't been yet locked down.  My current thought is that once it was in a mature form, it could be published as a set of seven volumes, corresponding to each major knowledge area, if enough people were interested in pre-ordering a copy of the set.  Wider interest in the publication might be possible, as it would be available to anyone who wants a copy for their own preparedness supplies.  Other option include one large volume or a self-published set of loose-leaf binders.  At any rate, the source files would be freely available for the work and revised editions released periodically. 

   The third and final level is the "Repository" (I am open to suggestions for a better name for this).  This level was actually what provided my impetus for starting the Leibowitz Society -- while Bruce Clayton's idea for the Leibowitz Project was a good start, I thought the flaw was that there was little to no coordination of what books people would think were important to preserve, meaning significant holes in stored knowledge could arise.  The idea behind creating a "master list" of reference works (and their substitutes and relative importance) is to avoid duplication of certain areas and omission of others.  For example, someone might save back a reference work on inorganic chemistry, but not save one on organic chemistry, etc.  Part of the issue with creating the Repository is what can go in it that will be a thorough knowledge base, yet easily storable.  Also, there is the question of how to physically preserve different kinds of modern texts.  The glue in bindings, for example, can grow brittle over time and pages which are not printed on acid-free paper will become yellow and brittle as well. 

   The actual sources for the works in the Repository can vary, but I'm currently envisioning two or three areas.  The first is a digital storage medium for various older works which may be out of print but available in digital form on the internet (the things at Project Gutenberg come readily to mind).  The second is academic textbooks which are one or two editions expired and contain information that isn't likely to change drastically.  Obviously, something dealing with quantum physics, or another cutting-edge scientific field,  would be problematic as it would wind up becoming dated, but works in more mature areas, such as anatomy, history, basic chemistry, etc, the information contained in those works isn't likely to change.  Also, it's relatively easy to find surplus books on non-academic topics for a significant price reducation if people are patient and look around.  Last, It may be appropriate to create some hybrid works which can be "published" at home, or in small runs if needed, based on topics which are important but not covered in the Codex Universalis or in bound texts. 

   I hope this has been a satisfactory explanation for how the three levels of the Leibowitz Society are designed to work and interact.  Each part is vital to the Society's task of preserving the important knowledge of human civilization in the face of an impending Dark Age and each part has its own issues and concerns which need to be addressed as the Society moves forward.  In the coming weeks, I'll be posting the topics which I've defined as being necessary to be included both in individual study and in the Codex Universalis.  At the same time, I hope to start hearing from people what they feel would be good additions to the Repository as well as any suggested changes for the individual skills and Codex.