Emergency bag repack

Like many folks, I keep an emergency bag in the truck for that occasion when the only thing standing between me and an embarrassing death is whatever I managed to tuck into the bag. In Montana, your choices of how to shuffle of the mortal coil in a vehicle related stranding are pretty easy – you either starve to death, freeze to death, or dehydrate to death. (Or any combination of the above.)

If you’re smart, and I hope you are, you’ll pull that bag out every so often and check the contents for any problems that may have arisen from being stored in a vehicle where temperature swings can easily span 120 degrees.

Case in point: my flashlight. For personal use, I like small LED flashlights that run off of lithium batteries of some sort…either AA or CR123. They are far less sensitive to temperature swings and self-discharge than the usual batteries. For vehicle use, I prefer the Mag-Lite (Yes, it’s actually hyphenated…says so right on the light.)

What I like about the Mag-Lite is that, in the LED version, you have an essentially bomb-proof flashlight. You can drop it and not worry about bulb breakage, it resists mosts damage, and it can always be used for ‘percussive persuasion’ if the situation calls for it. Problem is, the ones I like take D-batts and finding lithium D-batteries is virtually impossible and when you do find ’em….they ain’t cheap. Interestingly, lithium 9v. batts are available…I suspect for smoke detector usage.

When I put the Mag-Lite away in the bag I made sure to load it up with fresh Duracell batteries. I then set aside two extra sets of batteries as well. So they’ve sat out there in the heat and cold for over a year. I turned on the flashlight and compared it to a similar Mag-Lite with fresh D-batts and the results were…illuminating.

20150802_113830Clearly the batteries has suffered over the course of the year, what with the huge temperature swings that make Montana such a delight to try and dress for.

Now, yes, i could avoid this problem altogether by simply going to a flashlight platform that uses AA lithium batteries, which are easy to find. But I want the big, reassuring heft and handling of the large Mag-Lite.

So, the moral of the story here is – change out those in-vehicle flashlight batteries at least every year. And if you really wanna go the suspenders-and-a-belt routine do it like you’re supposed to do with your smoke detectors and change the batts every time you reset the clocks for Daylight Savings Time.

Missoula Gun Show

Ah, the great Missoula Gun Show is going on this weekend. This is the largest show in the state and, happily, it takes place in my own backyard.

I’ll be around cruising for deals and doing the ol’ meet-n-greet to the familiar faces. Hopefully I’ll pick up a few deals and fill in some gaps in my supplies.

What I really wanna see is one of the CZ Evo’s….I wanna handle one and see just ow much more I like it over the Uzi.

So…if you have time this weekend, c’mon down to the University and hit the gun show.

E-tools

Entrenching tools (or “e-tools”) are an interesting thing. I’ve had exactly four of them to date and I don’t recall ever really using one very much out in the sticks. Honestly, when its time to answer natures call and you need to dig a hole, a small trowel like the U-Dig-It tends to be much more practical and packable than the larger gear.

That being said, sometimes you need to dig more than just a hole big enough to drop a deuce. Sometimes you need to dig something outta the ground like a bucket cache, or dig something into the ground like a body. Or maybe you just need to dig a large fire pit, or what have you. Times like that you want the real deal – a folding shovel.

I’ve tried four different ones and still have them all. The first is your typical ‘tri-fold’ military entrenching tool. If you get one of these things, get the real deal..the made in China knock offs are just gonna be trouble. Ask your local Iraq/Afghan vet how to use it as a portable toilet seat. They’re pretty stout and do a good job. They’re a bit heavy, and sometimes hard to find, but they are a solid piece of kit. If you want the least expensive but still want quality, these are a good value.

Next up, Gerber made their own version and it’s not bad. The replaced a  lot of the metal construction with plastic (or ‘polymer’, I suppose) and it still folds up to about the same size as the GI tool. It’s nice, but I wonder about it’s durability. It’s really sort of between the military shovel and the Glock..and for about ten bucks more, you can get the Glock.

After that we have the Glock entrenching tool. I rather like this one, but I’m usually willing to spend the extra bucks. It is very compact, fits most e-tool carriers, and even comes with a wood saw attachment for cutting through branches. Its a straight handle rather than the usual D-handle, but that doesn’t seem to affect function very much. It is pretty light and that is it’s big attraction to me.

And then there’s Cold Steel’s Special Forces Shovel. What can you say? It’s a battle axe disguised as a shovel. Oh, it’ll dig a hole just fine but let’s not kid anybody…it’s a weapon. Sharpen the edges of the blade and this thing will take apart a steer. If you like the Eastern European style of entrenching tools, you’ll like the Cold Steel offering. I used to keep one behind the seat of the truck specifically for its ability to lop the head off of some poor slob. It’s not compact enough to really warrant taking on a backpacking trip through the boonies, but it’ll be your best buddy when you’re parking your truck in a dark parking lot in the middle of the night.

Nine times out of ten, though…the U-Dig-It does what I’m looking for and it does it with a lot less space taken up in my bag and a lot less weight on my shoulders. For hunting/fishing it’s definitely more sensible than an entrenching tool. But, for those situations where you gotta have something a bit more shovel-like I prefer the Glock one.

Article – A Marine explains which state would win if the US declared war on itself

These are the accounts of the Second American Civil War, also known as the Wars of Reunification and the American Warring States Period.

After the breakup many wondered which states would come out in control of the power void created by the dissolution of the United States. There were many with little chance against several of the larger more powerful states.

The last time a buncha folks tried to leave the Union we wound up with the War Of Northern Aggression War Of Southern Overconfidence. But the notion of the US fracturing and balkanizing is something of a staple in much of the apocalyptic fiction out there (Johnstone’s ‘Ashes’ series springs to mind, as well as season 2 of ‘Jericho’, and several other works.)
It’s an interesting read and would certainly make excellent fodder for some more ‘realistic’ post-apocalyptic fiction. Although I highly doubt that, as presented in the article, Mexicans would flood the border to head back to Mexico. Even fractured and at war this country is still probably a better place to be than Mexico.
De facto, the US is already a balkanized state. Don’t think so? Compare New England with, say, the South….they may as well be different countries given the politics, demographics, economy, and political structures. California is a country all by itself. This region I’m in may as well be a separate country as well. And, man, don’t think that sometimes I don’t think it would be nice to have a wall around it to keep everyone else out. But..walls also keep people in and I could never be okay with that.

Silver<$15

I’ve been meaning to point out that silver has been below $15 for the last week. Gold actually dipped below $100 as well…something I was fairly confident I wouldn’t see.

So..when silver is limp call the Pimp.

Apparently premiums are up a bit since delivery times are pushed out. However, I’m a pretty simple guy…while I appreciate a Silver Maple or Silver Eagle, both of those lovely coins have just as much silver as a regular generic round and usually at a much lower premium.

Betcha the guy with a stash of fractional gold and silver in Greece right now is suddenly very popular.

Canned stuff musings

Another glorious day here in paradise. My local Albertson’s is having a sale on canned goods and I picked up a couple of flats of canned tomatoes and corn. Funny thing is, I had just gone to CostCo earlier in the week and bought some canned tomatoes…and they were more expensive than this sale. So the moral of the story is – you can’t always assume the warehouse store will be cheaper. Now, arguably, they’re not the same product….CostCo’s offering was ‘organic diced tomatoes’ and we all know ‘oganic’ means virtually nothing except a higher price. (And the only reason I picked them up was because CostCo didnt have any other kind of canned diced tomatoes.)

Speaking of CostCo, after a hiatus of a few months they appear to have the canned  Kirkland Roast Beef back in stock. Normally, I turn my nose up at canned meats….they all look and smell like cat food once the can opener punctures the can…but the Kirkland roast beef, once you toss it in a pan for a few minutes, turns out to be darn good. So, why wouldn’t I grab a few of them to put on the shelf?

When it comes to storing all this canned stuff, I usually go with steel wire shelving (also available at CostCo).

IMG_0520

I tlooks good, handles the weight, and is configurable to allow me to have it follow walls and corners. Yeah, it runs about $100 for a six-shelf unit, but pick up a bag of S-hooks and you increase the versatility and get better value out of your existing sets of shelves.

I like these little can organizers from Shelf Reliance. They’re plastic and link/stack together so you can just run ’em along the length of shelving. If you’re truly hardcore, or have a huge enough family that #10 cans a re a mainstay, they also make a similar product for #10 cans. Thats when you konw you’ve arrived.

Of course, any goober with some plywood, a saw, and a screwgun can fab up a similar product on his won but I’m kinda lazy and rather enjoy the consumer experience…so I just buy this sort of stuff.

The sale at Albertsons is for another few days so I’ll see if I can scrape up another few bucks to get some more flats. I’m very painfully aware that food I buy now may someday be all thats standing between me and being hungry.

Article – Police probing death in LA find 1,200 guns, 2 tons ammo

I feel like this is someone we know or should have known………

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police investigating the death of a Los Angeles man uncovered an arsenal inside his home and garage — more than 1,200 guns and about two tons of ammunition, authorities said Monday.

Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith called the number of rifles, pistols and shotguns staggering. Many had never been fired and some were still wrapped in boxes, with price tags still attached.

“Our truck couldn’t carry it all,” Smith told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1HFAKVn). “We had to go back and make another trip.”

I wonder how many of these will ‘go missing’ as the people assigned to handle the case round out their own collections.

This is why you need buddies who, upon news of your death, will keep your stuff safe from the state.

Article – Greek banks reopen but cash limits remain; taxes soar

An article about how things in Greece are nowadays since they signed up for another austerity plan. Here’s an interesting paragraph:

Ready cash is something Greeks will need as new taxes also came into effect on a wide array of goods and services Monday.

Sales taxes have risen from 13 percent to 23 percent on many basic goods — including some meats, cooking oils, coffee, tea, cocoa, vinegar, salt, flowers, firewood, fertilizer, insecticides, sanitary towels and condoms.

Most European countries already have a VAT on things, but a haircut of 23 percent on something as essential as meat….well, thats a tough pill to swallow. How do you adjust your budget to suddenly accommodate this sudden redirection of your spending power?

Well, if you’re smart, you either have connections or networks to allow you to buy things without paying the tax. (Which, really, has been part of Greece’s problem all along…tax-evasion and avoidance is something of a national pastime there.) This is why cash is awesome….so you restrict cash and limit people to the use of debit cards or other instruments that leave a trail of paper. That trail of paper means that you can’t really evade those pesky taxes. So the winners here will be the folks that have lotsa cash (or cash-like instruments such as gold or silver), folks with heavy stockpiles of goods, and folks who can get those two groups together for a little piece of the action.

Look at that list of things that these new taxes affect….mostly things that are pretty easy to store for the long term. interesting, that.

Sharp pointy cutty things

I hate knife sharpening. I mean, I hate it with a passion. You have to remove material (which you can never put back) from your favorite  knife and keep the right angles on the blade and still produce a good edge. I swear, every time I sharpen my own stuff I cringe when I have to go cut something because all I can think is ‘geez, now I’m going to have to sharpen this thing again’.

Obviously, some metals are better for knives than others. Stainless steel has the edge, so to speak, for maintenance but carbon steels win for holding an edge. Unfortunately, given the nature of the world that you and I are preparing against,. stainless blades tend to dominate. Sure it would be nice to have everything made out of that nice blend of carbon steels so that they cut wonderfully and sharpen easily…but the future is going to be full of days where being able to wipe down your metal tools with an oily rage at the end of the day is just not gonna be in the cards.

Lansky makes one of those sharpening tools that keeps the blade at the same angle every time and I know quite a few folks who love that setup. I’ve only fiddled with them and for a guy who grew up using the old-timey methods it was a bit…difficult. What I use nowadays is one of those three-stone deals. Lansky and Smith both make them, I use the Smith simply because thats the brand of stone I’ve used since I was old enough to start accidentally slicing myself with dull knives.

See, it’s the dull knives that cut you. You use a dull knife, you start to use more effort than normal to make the cut, something slips or gives way and -whammo- QuickClot and a trip to the ER for some mattress stitches. If something is supposed to be sharp, keep it sharp…it’s actually safer than using a dull tool.

YouTube is full of knife sharpening how-to videos and if any three of them agree on the technique and materials…well..I haven’t seen ’em. I put some oil on the softest stone, spread it around, and start like Im trying to slice off long strips of the stone…one side, then the other, repeated a buncha times….then switch to the next hardness of stone and lather, rinse, repeat. Some folks like to finish up with ceramic sticks or a strop…I don’t usually go that far. The test that I’ve read about to determine if the edge is good is to pull the blade across a fingernail..if it just slides across, thats bad. If it bites and drags into the nail, thats good…means you’ve got the microscopic little ‘teeth’ just the way you want ’em.

Someday they’re going to have adamantium knives that will never need sharpening but until then…ugh…shhhhhhk, shhhhhhk,shhhhhhk,shhhhhhk, over and over, as you slide the blade across the stone.