Walking Dead – metaphors

Remember the last season episode where right before our crew of intrepid survivors walks into the setup at Terminus Rick is showing Carl how to make a snare to trap game? He explains how the animal is funneled into the trap and is caught before it knows its even in jeopardy. Remember that?


So look at the metaphor in tonights show. The horse has been running around during this crisis and has been surviving just fine. And then…someone tries to reintroduce it to civilization, and once its in the pen behind the fence it gets swarmed and killed by zombies. It was safer outside the confines of the pen, taking its chances with everyone else.

Foreshadow much?

First aid kit foibles

Years back,I used to have a bicycle that would, at irregular intervals, try and kill me by locking up the chain for no particular reason. I eventually got a newer, better, bicycle but the old Death Machine taught me to keep a first aid kit handy. On my bike I have one of these mounted. I find it very useful, and keep my first aid kit in there. The first aid kit is one of these (Maxpedition FR-1 Pouch) loaded with what I feel is necessary gear. Now, if you’re keeping track, that is a first aid kit contained in a cordura pouch, which is itself contained within a cordura bicycle bag. What could go wrong?

Well, here’s the lesson for today… I left my bike chained up in the yard over the winter. As a result, the rain and snowmelt made its way through the bicycle bag and through the first aid pouch. Check this out:

20150308_164940Thats not dirt, kids….thats mold. Most first aid stuff is packaged in sterilized paper envelopes and those are less waterproof. So, virtually everything was moist/damp/moldy and had to be discarded. However, some things were not damaged. Observe:

20150308_165152Basically, anything packed in foil or sealed in plastic weathered it just fine.

So, by now, you’re thinking “No problemo, just seal up all the individual contents and you’ll be good to go.” A reasonable way of thinking, but it overlooks a big issue – when you need a first aid kit, theres a pretty good chance you’re under stress, your hands might be a little shaky, and you may only have one hand to work with since your other arm/hand might be injured. So, sealing things up in a manner that required two hands to open (or requires several repeated pouch-opening-procedures) might not be conducive to effective use of your gear.

Now, I rather like the Maxpedition FR pouch. It’s reasonably compact, fairly easy to organize, and has several methods for attachment to other gear. I’d hate to give it up. So, to me, the choices are two: a) individually seal the contents of the kit or b) put the whole kit into a waterproof container of some sort.

I’m leaning towards ‘A’. Best method? Well, there’s this:

IMG_1863Those are heavy-duty mylar bags with ‘tear away’ tops and zip-seals, and a 6″ heat sealer that I picked up off Amazon. The bags, in various sizes and thicknesses, are from Sorbent Systems. I got them expressly for the purpose of making small, weatherproof, resealable, firs-aid kits for my hunting and outdoors gear. For example:

IMG_1865That pouch contains most of the important stuff…gauze, non-stick pads, compress bandage, antibiotic ointment, bandaids, aspirin, tape, etc, etc. Not enough to do surgery or fix a detached aorta, but for the cuts, burns, scrapes and bloody messes that sometimes happen from bicycle accidents, knife slips, falls in blowdown snag, etc, its pretty good. And, it is now completely waterproof. Tear open at the upper corner there with your teeth and open it like a bag of chips. When done, you can reseal it with the ziploc-type closure. When the crisis is over, since I have a stack of these bags, I can simply transfer the contents to a new bag to seal. I’ll wind up getting a larger back, drop the Maxpedition FR into it, throw in a few oxygen absorbers to snug it up tight, and tuck it into my bike bag.

Now, if you have a vacuum sealer, you can very much accomplish a similar setup using your sealer and bags. Two big differences though: the mylar pouches pictured have a ‘tear notch’ to allow easy access (which a vacuum sealed bag does not); and the mylar pouch, in this heavy thickness, is much more puncture resistant than a vacuum seal bag (however, you can always wrap the vacuum seal bag in something to protect its integrity).

I have learned my lesson and won’t be leaving this gear outside over the winter again, but walking around in a solid rain for a few hours would have probably induced the same amount of moisture into things. Waterproofing/weatherproofing an important bit of gear like this makes sense. Fortunately, today I noticed it because I was thinking I should probably check to see how the gear fared over the winter…it would have been a different story if I was a couple miles down the road, sitting on a rock, trying to bandage a gash in my leg with wet and moldy 4″ gauze and pads.

Turning a .45 into a 9mm

Well, it took three months, but I turned this:

20150105_203119into this:

20150306_125613Thats the G21 with one magazine I purchased aobut three months ago. I maneuvered an arrangement where I got rid of it and wound up with a G34, box, docs, and three mags. Oh, and one of those “I-Just-Shot-Myself” Blackhawk holsters. (Yes, I know you’ve been using a Serpa holster for years and that its just a matter of trigger finger control, etc, but I’m gonna stick to something less ‘learning curve’-y.)

So….9mm logistics train back on its tracks, and the orphan .45 Glock is in someone elses hands. Win-win.

Book – In The Heart Of The Sea

Just finished reading In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, a book about some very unfortunate sailors who spent three months drifting around the Pacific unitl they finally had to start eating each other to survive. Most notable is the ‘casting of lots’ where, when there wasnt a dead body around, they drew lots to see who would be killed and consumed. It’s a dark story that surfaces every few years when someone rediscovers it.

The book is pretty interesting, although the first couple chapters and the last couple chapters are more about the history of Nantucket and whaling, and while that is interesting I was more interested in the actual Essex story. The cover of the book mentions that a movie is in the offing and I cannot imagine how they would accurately portray some of the hideous scenes described in the book.

Screen-shot-2014-02-08-at-7.41.30-AMFor reasons I am not entirely sure of, stories like this fascinate me. When I was a kid I used to read Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivorsover and over. (If youre not familiar with it, a plane full of rugby players crashes in the Andes and the survivors spend a couple months up there in the wreck eating the dead and waiting for rescue before finally walking out on their own.)

While the story of the Essex is macabre and fascinating, I’m more interested in the aftermath. According to the book, two of the survivors spent the rest of their lives hoarding food. Also, the psychological changes are extremely interesting….the first-person accounts in the book jibe with other accounts of people experiencing starvation: food becomes an all-consuming obsession and there is virtually nothing a person won’t do to get it.

The book also notes something I was only peripherally aware of – The Minnesota Starvation Experiment. I need to track down some more info on this because it looks very interesting. From what I can find on Wiki it appears that, as we’ve known all along, hungry people are dangerous people but fortunately they won’t be terribly effective people. (However, they’ll probably have numbers on their side.)  On the other hand, starvation is a slow process and long before someone starving to death becomes frail and feeble they become hard and hungry.The study is available on Amazon as two very expensive volumes…I might have to go old-school and see if the local library can get it.

The idea behind the experiment, by the way, appears to have been to find the best way to feed and restore people who had been almost starved to death…concentration camp prisoners, famine victimes, etc…..which reminds me of this story.

Other than a few months of economic misfortune and lack of direction when I was much younger, I have had no real experience with being hungry. Oh, I was hungry at the time, but if I really got in over my head I could have called family for help…but I was way too proud to do that, so I lived with eating every other day and snagging what i could where I could. However, I’ve taken great steps to make sure that I don’t find myself in a foodless situation. Oh, sure, I may wander into the kitchen and disgustedly say “There’s nothing to eat” but that’s not true…that really just means “Theres nothing here I want to eat”. When you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat anything…which is precisely why I have a stash of food – so I don’t have to eat anything.

Which, I suppose, is a timely reminder that the Augason Farms “One Month Pack” is still 50% off as of this writing. Storage food goes a long way towards keeping your neighbors off the menu.


Walking Dead – Shane Was Right Edition

My wife pointed out, after last weeks episode of TWD, that Rick has become Shane. Shane was all about how they needed to do whatever was necessary, that this would not all blow over in a few months, and that the world was going to be a completely different place with different rules and different morals.

And, now, it appears that in Season Five Rick has become what Shane was in Season Two.


fullshaneNow, you could argue that Rick has never killed innocents for the sake of the group, as Shane did when he shot Otis, but in this most recent episode of TWD we see Rick casually saying that if it becomes necessary they’ll just “take” their new sanctuary from its owners. And Rick has, in the past, been less-than-reluctant to let strangers meet a gory demise without helping (which, yes, is not the same as killing them).

But it appears that ol’ Shane may have been ahead of his time in regards to his outlook and attitude.

Article – When disaster strikes, FEMA turns to Waffle House

When a big storm or tornado devastates a community, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) usually steps in to help state and local officials. But in recent years, FEMA has been getting some help of its own from an unexpected source – one you see on almost every highway throughout the Southeast: Waffle House.

During a busy lunch hour at a Waffle House in Norcross, Ga., manager William Palmer grills up a Texas Lover’s BLT for one of his customers on the high counter.

But there were a couple of days last January where this Waffle House was packed to the brim. It was during the ice storm that paralyzed the metro Atlanta area, and Palmer says people took refuge here.

Further proof that being prepared for disaster and post-disaster recovery isn’t something that only Big Gov can do. If you think about it, the best disaster plans and preps are going to be in the private sector….people who *really* have skin in the game.

While large organizations like FEMA, Red Cross, etc, are sort of a one-size-fits-all response, private responses tend to be can be much more focused. My business, for example, only needs to provide for my business’ needs…it doesn’t have to factor in the dozen other businesses in the area. As a result, I can dedicate more and better resources to disaster prep and mitigation than I wold if I were trying to cover everyone on the block.

Businesses have a very real goal in preparedness…being able to continue the business. If a hurricane or blizzard knocks them out of business for too long, they never recover. Once in a while you’ll see articles, similar to this, about businesses that have tenacious plans to ‘survive’ these sorts of events. One of my favorites was this gem about a regional power company during Hurricane Katrina that had its act together in a major way.

I’m a fan of private-sector answers rather than public-sector answers. I find very few necessary (and that is a subjective term) programs/services that cannot, to me, be met more efficiently with private sector solutions. Disaster preparedness is one of those things .gov should be doing, but it should be doing it hand-in-hand with private business and perhaps even taking some lessons from it.

Article – What happens when the Internet goes out? This Arizona town found out

Computers, cellphones and landlines in Arizona were knocked out of service for hours, ATMs stopped working, 911 systems were disrupted and businesses were unable to process credit card transactions — all because a vandal apparently sliced through a fiber-optic Internet cable buried under the desert.

The Internet outage did more than underscore just how dependent modern society has become on high technology. It raised questions about the vulnerability of the nation’s Internet infrastructure.

As a great Scottish engineer once opined, “”The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” Preparedness is largely about compensating for failures of a particular system…infrastructure, mechanical, biological, etc….in short, it’s about being able to operate safely (if not normally) when something goes wrong with the usual system.

he internet, Crom love it, is the most awesome thing humanity has access to on a day-by-day basis. So, of course, we wind up being dependent on it. Two guys with a shovel, hacksaw, and probably some old cartome.org info, managed to pull the plug on a region’s ecommerce, phone communications, and other services. Without internet access, ATM’s dont pass out money and your local retailer won’t take your debit card…so you need cash, which the ATM just denied you.

This is why its a good idea to keep a bit of cash tucked away, have alternatives for communication, and other ways to entertain yourself.

What’s really interesting about this is that it seems similar to that episode a few years back where someone attacked an electric substation in the desert and wound up inflicting a similar amount of out-of-proportion mischief. All it takes to really screw things up is a small(!) amount of dedicated individuals. Two brothers shut down all of Boston a few years ago, costing millions of dollars and throwing a monkeywrench into a lot of peoples lives. Imagine a coordinated effort by a dozen people in six different states. You won’t overthrow a country like that, but you will sure make life miserable for it. So, as always, be prepared for alternatives when someone crashes the internet..or the local utilities…or the pipeline that brings natural gas to your county….etc, etc.

Article – Science finds the best place to hide from zombies

The “I told you so”s will be long and loud……

Farmhouses, fenced-in compounds, even the thick concrete of a penitentiary. Post-apocalyptic zombie fiction has taught us that these are good options for hiding out to protect your delicious brains from the undead, but eventually the zombies typically overrun the walls.

Fortunately, science has now provided a better long-term strategy for surviving the walking dead: Head for the hills. Specifically, you should probably get familiar now with the general location of Glacier National Park so that when it all goes down, you can start heading in that direction.