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Saturday, July 20, 2019


Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
It happens to the best of us: we run out of enthusiasm, of ideas, of energy for a thing which used to propel and motivate us. Sometimes all that's needed is a break from the thing, like a vacation, to put that pep back in our step. But sometimes, that drain lasts.

I'm speaking from personal experience. I haven't been writing many articles for Blue Collar Prepping because I'm burned out. Specifically, I can't think of anything new to say on the topic of prepping. Now this would all be well and good if I were confident that I'd written the definitive blog on prepping; I'd simply announce that BCP was done, mission accomplished, and shut everything down.

But I know that I haven't written everything that needs be said on prepping, or learned all there is to learn on the subject. I'm pretty clearly burned out on it.

Burnout is a very real problem because it can affect everyone. Worse, it can affect people during the worst possible times, such as after a disaster or during a long-term survival situation. A lot of burnout can be attributed to having to do too much for too long by yourself, without rest, which unfortunately describes the realities of long-term survival.

Here are the signs of Burnout, cribbed shamelessly from a 2013 Psychology Today article:
  • Chronic fatigue. In the early stages, you may feel a lack of energy and feel tired most days. In the latter stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread about what lies ahead on any given day.
  • Insomnia. In the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week. In the latter stages, insomnia may turn into a persistent, nightly ordeal; as exhausted as you are, you can't sleep.
  • Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can't get your work done and everything begins to pile up.
  • Physical symptoms. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed).
  • Increased illness. Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.
  • Loss of appetite. In the early stages, you may not feel hungry and may skip a few meals. In the latter stages, you may lose your appetite altogether and begin to lose a significant amount of weight.
  • Anxiety. Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes with your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.
  • Depression. In the early stages, you may feel mildly sad and occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. At its worst, you may feel trapped and severely depressed and think the world would be better off without you. (If your depression is to this point, you should seek professional help immediately.)
  • Anger. At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace. (If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or coworkers, seek immediate professional assistance.)
  • Loss of enjoyment. At first, loss of enjoyment may seem very mild, such as not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave. Without intervention, loss of enjoyment may extend to all areas of your life, including the time you spend with family and friends. At work, you may try to avoid projects and figure out ways to escape work altogether.
  • Pessimism. At first, this may present itself as negative self-talk and/or moving from a glass-half-full to a glass-half-empty attitude. At its worst, this may move beyond how you feel about yourself and extend to trust issues with coworkers and family members and a feeling that you can't count on anyone.
  • Isolation. In the early stages, this may seem like mild resistance to socializing (i.e., not wanting to go out to lunch; closing your door occasionally to keep others out). In the latter stages, you may become angry when someone speaks to you, or you may come in early or leave late to avoid interactions.
  • Detachment. Detachment is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment. It can take the form of the behaviors described above and result in removing yourself emotionally and physically from your job and other responsibilities. You may call in sick often, stop returning calls and emails, or regularly come in late.
  • Feelings of apathy and hopelessness. This is similar to what is described in the depression and pessimism sections of this article. It presents as a general sense that nothing is going right or nothing matters. As the symptoms worsen, these feelings may become immobilizing, making it seem like "what's the point?"
  • Increased irritability. Irritability often stems from feeling ineffective, unimportant, useless, and an increasing sense that you're not able to do things as efficiently or effectively as you once did. In the early stages, this can interfere in personal and professional relationships. At its worst, it can destroy relationships and careers.
  • Lack of productivity and poor performance. Despite long hours, chronic stress prevents you from being as productive as you once were, which often results in incomplete projects and an ever-growing to-do list. At times, it seems that as hard as you try, you can't climb out from under the pile.
How do you cure burnout? I wish I had the answer for you. I know that it's a form of stress, and so anything which reduces the amount of stress in your life ought to halt (and hopefully reverse) burnout. Having someone to confide in can help with this by letting you vent your feeling in a safe manner, and having someone you trust take some of the work from you can reduce your amount of work and responsibility, which is vitally important during and after an emergency. This is why having a "tribe" is so important. 

Unfortunately, I don't really have anyone like that in my life right now. This means that I sometimes have to take breaks from posting here. I hope you won't hold that against me. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Hot Dogs?

It's that time of year again. Whether you believe in Global Warming or not, summer is the hottest time of the year and this one is shaping up to be a warm one. When it hits 90° F in Alaska, you know it's going to be a miserable summer.

I know, I know; Arizona and the southwestern US gets hotter, and the southeast has humidity that you can almost swim through. Here in the upper Midwest, though, the temperatures are pushing 100° F and the humidity is >50%. With the exception of a few mountainous areas and the far north, we all have to put up with heat, which means we all need to know how to recognize and avoid heat injury. David did a good job last month of covering how to avoid heat injury to yourself, but how many of us have animals? Pets and livestock are just as susceptible to heat illness as we are, more in some breeds and areas.

Dogs and Cats
Dogs and cats don't sweat the way we do. We have sweat glands all over our bodies; they have a few on the pads of their feet and around their noses.Sweat glands cool the body by pumping out water that carries away excess heat as it evaporates. Without enough sweat glands, dogs and cats rely on panting and external cooling to regulate their body temperatures. Working dogs need to be watched carefully since their activity can keep them from cooling off. Long-coated breeds will overheat faster, of course, but they all need to be provided with the same protection as humans:
  • Plenty of cool water to drink. Cool water will absorb heat from the inside and carry it away when they urinate.
  • Shade. Get them out of the sun. If it's uncomfortable for you, it's probably the same for your pets. Dogs and cats can get sunburn, especially if they have thin or white fur.
  • Rest or at least reduced activity. Unless it's an emergency, try to avoid using your working animals during the heat of the day.
  • Cool places to rest. Cats will find a cool place on their own usually, and the smarter breeds of dogs are pretty good about it as well. The knotheads that some of us have as pets may need to be shown a cool, shady spot in which to lie down. 
  • Never leave an animal in a closed up vehicle. That's cruel, criminal in most states, and an invitation to a busted window in most areas.

Exotic Pets 
These will have to be cared for as your veterinarian suggests. Cold-blooded pets like snakes and lizards are very tolerant of the heat, but birds and small mammals may need some extra care.

If you're raising animals for food or sale, the loss of even one of them can be a significant blow to your pantry or budget. Most of the signs of heat injury in animals is the same as for humans; lethargy, stumbling, loss of appetite, etc. Prevention is much cheaper (and easier) than treatment, so provide the same water, rest, and shade as you would a person. One of the farm insurance companies has a good list of symptoms and preventative measures on their website. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page and you'll see a table of the water needs for some common livestock. Make sure you plan for a way to provide fairly clean water for your animals when you're considering raising your own food.

Stay hydrated and as cool as you can this summer and think about what you can do in a SHTF situation to prevent heat injury. Use the search box in the upper left-hand corner for some of our earlier articles; we've covered a few ideas over the years.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Prudent Prepping: A LITTLE Shaking Going On

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

Just as I was wrapping up my day yesterday afternoon we had an earthquake, followed by a second one 15 minutes later. Where I worked was 15 miles away from the epicenter, but due to all the noise and equipment, no one seemed to notice. I only found out from the all-news station that I listen to for traffic reports on the way home that there were reports of "no damage and things are back to normal."

A USGS scientist then said (paraphrased), "This was a very minor pair of quakes, on a fault line that has quakes of this magnitude regularly. There is no direct connection between the S. California earthquakes and the ones today." A couple texts came in as I was driving, and when I read them both were about the quakes and how to plan for a bigger one, if not The Big One. It forced me to sit down and write a short list for my recently transplanted, young friends. I've done this before, but here is what I wrote:

Short Term
  • Minimum of 2 gallons of water per day, per person. How you store it is up to you, but get to a week as soon as possible. I can send you links later. 
  • Stock up on your normal food, with things you normally buy. Start thinking about longer storage foods, something like this is a good choice.
  • Make sure your existing camping gear is in good shape. The weather here is milder than back home so you don't need anything extra.
  • Make sure to search the blog, starting with last week and working through the author list.

Something New
I picked up a new toy to try out, Night Hero Binoculars by BulbHead
From the Amazon page:
  • ATOMIC BEAM LASER: Night Hero Binoculars are equipped with a special atomic beam laser that reveals objects in complete darkness up to 150-yards away!
  • DAYTIME BINOCULARS: Use during the day for enhanced clarity and contrast with 10x magnification – a must-have for sporting events, sightseeing, hunting, and hiking!
  • NEVER MISS A THING: unlike night vision goggles, Night Hero Binoculars have rubber eye cups that give you the most comfortable fit. With a full range of focal adjustments, you’ll never miss a thing!
  • COMFORTABLE: take Night Hero Binoculars anywhere – their lightweight design and rubber eyecups make viewing easy.
  • INCLUDED: one (1) pair Atomic Beam Night Hero Binoculars
Now, the "atomic beam" is an emitter, so it isn't a night vision binocular that captures ambient light but rather needs something else to illuminate the area you want to search. I've only had them for 3 days and used them for maybe 20 minutes at night, so I can't really talk about battery life or compare this to actual NVG's, but the view is reasonably clear as a binocular and at night I can see much farther than if I just use my eyes. Another point to consider is that since this uses an emitter for viewing, anyone with similar equipment or just light collecting goggles will be able to see where you are. As I'm not worried about being spotted by other people, I think I'm okay. Besides, I can't afford to spend the several hundred dollars up to the price of a nice used car for proper NVGs.

Recap and Takeaway
  • It's good to know friends and co-workers are listening and not laughing when prepping questions are asked. 
  • Prepping is a journey and not a destination for me, my family and friends, especially since none of us are rich. 
  • One set of Night Hero Night Vision binoculars were purchased locally for $39.95 but Amazon has used ones from $28.51.
* * *

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If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Gross Weight

I upgraded my truck very recently. In my world, trucks are for hauling and towing, and the new truck expands my ability to do just that. How much hauling you can do is determined by your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR, while your towing limits are declared as your Maximum Trailer Weight, sometimes referred to simply as "towing capacity." GVWR will be located on a sticker on the driver's door frame, while max towing is usually listed on the rear bumper near the hitch. Both are also listed in your vehicle owner's manual.

GVWR is a measure of how much weight your vehicle can safely maneuver or stop within a particular distance at normal speeds.Without getting deep into engineering or math, it is based on your suspension and brakes and other components. It is the maximum that your vehicle can weigh, including passengers and cargo. If it rides on your vehicle's wheels and tires, it is included in that number.

Maximum tow rating is based on a lot of the same factors as GVWR, with a few others added in. In addition to the GVWR considerations, it is also limited by your hitch type, size, and hardware. You'll often notice two numbers listed as a max tow rating: the lower number is when a trailer is hitched only to a traditional ball on your vehicle, and the second, larger number is when a weight-distributing type hitch is used. These hitches use some variety of mechanical linkage to hold the the truck and trailer on a plane, so that the weight of the trailer is distributed forward on the truck.

For comparison, lets look at my two trucks side by side. My outgoing truck is a 2005 Ford F150 with a GVWR of 7600 pounds and tow ratings of 5000 and 9900 pounds. Its replacement is a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD diesel with a GVWR of 9200 pounds and the tow ratings are 5000 and 12000 pounds.

While the GVWR on the Chevy is 1600 pounds higher than the Ford, it is also a much stouter truck. I will probably only get an additional 800-1000 pounds of cargo once the added weight of the truck itself is accounted for. The lower max tow rating is the same for both trucks, because the limitation there is the hitch hardware itself. The weight-distributing rating went up 2100 pounds because the suspension and other components of the truck are far stronger.

The maximum weight of any trailer I'm likely to pull regularly is about 6800 pounds. When we were shopping for our camper, I was looking at trailers that maxed out at 7500 pounds or less. While the Ford is rated for more, I like to maintain a buffer between actual weight and max rating to give me a little bit of added safety. As the cost for failure when towing can be catastrophic, I recommend taking any bits of added safety you can get. Also, I live and drive in steep, mountainous terrain, and being under weight rating helps out both climbing and descending hills.

If the load you want to move is over the rating of your rig, don't risk it; instead consider making multiple trips. If that isn't an option, places like Home Depot and U-haul rent trucks that are properly set up and maintained to tow moderate trailers, and they'll rent you one for a very reasonable price.

Now you know what to look for when you're considering towing a load. Know your weights and ratings, and don't exceed them, and give yourself as much room as you reasonably can, both on the road and the load.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Guest Post: Reviewing the Aibocn Power Bank

by David Bock

A while back, Erin suggested I purchase an Aibocn 10,000mAh Power Bank. Unfortunately it arrived after I left for NRAAM this year, so I didn't get to test it then. However, I have had several chances to use it since.

The Power Bank comes well-packed in a small cardboard box and includes the battery bank itself, a 6" USB-A to Micro USB-B cable, a basic manual, and a thank you/registration card.

This cable is fine for Samsung and similar devices, but iPhone users will need to get a proper cable for their device. I'm a Samsung user, so this was fine for me.

Initial Charging
Using a standard cable, I plugged the Power Bank into one of my cell phone charger blocks. I checked on it occasionally, and it seemed to reach full charge in a little over 8 hours. The unit has four blue lights that tell you the approximate level of charge.

I don’t know if the Power Bank had any charge when it arrived. At a later date, I’ll attempt to discharge it completely and monitor the time it takes to reach full charge.

Usage and Performance
Using it to charge my phone was simple: I plugged the provided USB cable into one of the output ports on the Power Bank and the other end into my phone.

There are two ports for charging on the Power Bank, listed at 1.0A and 2.1A. This is pretty much the amperage of regular and fast chargers. With my phone at below 50% charge, I plugged it in but left it powered on while charging. The Power Bank brought my phone up to full charge within a few hours, nearly as quick as the dedicated wall outlet fast charger.

I also attempted to charge my usually very finicky tablet and had no problems. Then I tried charging both devices at once. I still had no problems, although it did charge slightly slower than before. All of this charging reduced the power indicator by one light, approximately 25% power loss.

The final test was attempting to charge a device while replenishing the Power Bank. I didn’t notice any difference in the phone time to charge, but the Power Bank took longer to top off, for obvious reasons.

I also left the fully charged unit on the shelf for a month or so, and when I plugged in a device it hadn’t lost any charge as far as I could tell.

The Power Bank also comes with a single LED flashlight. Beyond map reading or other very close up lighting, I didn’t find it very useful. However the illumination provided will last for a very long time due to the low power draw.

Rating: 5 Stars
For just over $10 (and free shipping with Amazon Prime) this was an excellent investment. I’m thinking of getting another for my go bag.

Thanks for the recommendation, Erin.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

More LED Lights

While looking through Amazon for the HybridLight that I reviewed last week, I noticed a variety of tiny LED lights that plug into the ubiquitous USB port. Since I have a spare USB port on my car charger, several portable battery packs for charging my devices, and unused USB ports on my laptop, I thought I'd see how they work as emergency lighting.

I found an assortment pack, three each of four different mini lights, for $13. Since I am an Amazon Prime member the shipping is free, so I added the assortment to an order I was placing anyway. They arrived in a sturdy plastic box which will probably get re-purposed after I figure out where I want to store the individual lights.

Looking at them, you can see how simple LED lighting actually is. There are only three components on the simple ones; power contacts, a resistor, and the LEDs. The resistor is there to knock the 5 Volts supplied by the USB port down to whatever voltage the LEDs use (it varies by type of LED, which is a topic for another time).

There are several other models on Amazon, some as cheap as $0.50 apiece and most costing about $1.00 each. The designs are all similar; some are obviously just rebranded version of what I bought and others are slight variations with fewer or more LEDs. There are also several types of USB powered lights on flexible stems that would be more convenient for direction light where you need it. All of the mini lights have the LEDs on the same side of the board as the power contacts, so you have to move the power source to move the light, which isn't easy if it's plugged into a laptop.

Here's what I got with some specifications and my notes so far.

Clear Plastic Cased (top)
  • 3 LEDs, larger than the others, a bright white light.
  • The brightest of the four, this version looks like a thumb drive with its rounded plastic case and full USB connector. There's even a hole in the case for a lanyard or small ring to attach it to a keyring.
  • Because of the fully encased design, this is the only one I would put in a pocket or pack by itself.
  • Listed as 2.3W, which works out to 460 mA.
  • Quickly got warm, but not hot, to the touch.
  • The only one of the four styles that would stay on when plugged into my HybridLight. Further research found that the circuitry inside the HybridLight and some battery packs will not recognize a load below 100 mA and will shut off power to the port after a short period (23 seconds by my stopwatch).

Black board, Warm White (left)
  • 3 LEDs, a warm, yellow glow
  • Listed at 0.2 W, so 40 mA draw. From a cheap 5000mA battery pack you could expect to run one of these for 125 hours or a little over 5 days continuously.
  • Runs cool to the touch.
  • A hair smaller than the white-boarded style, they do have a hole in the board for attaching it to a keyring or lanyard. I'm not sure how sturdy they are, and I wouldn't trust them bouncing around in a pocket with keys or loose change.

White Board with Touch Sensor (middle)
  • 4 LEDs, a warm yellow-tinted light.
  • Listed at 0.5W, it draws 100 mA. That's 50 hours from one of my little battery packs, and 100 hours from the larger ones. Plugged into a USB charger in a car cigarette lighter, you could light up a stranded car for about three weeks, non-stop, if there were nothing else drawing on the battery.
  • The touch sensor works with no pressure, just the contact of bare skin on a conductive pad on the back of the board.
  • Bright enough to cast sharp shadows in a small, dark room.
  • Small. At about a half-inch wide and an inch and a quarter long, these would be easy to lose in a pocket.

Black Board, “Positive White” (right)
  • The same as the one on the left, but with different LEDs installed. You can barely see a difference in the color of the LEDs, and there are no markings or other clues to tel you which is which.
  • The light is a lot more white and seems a bit brighter than the other black boarded type.
  • Bright enough that you don't want to look straight at it.

Simple, cheap, small, and they work.

You may wonder why I place so much emphasis on lights in my choice of products to review. I have a family member with severe anxiety issues. Total darkness and silence are two of the big triggers for that anxiety, so I do what I can to eliminate those before they become a burden in a time when I have other things to worry about.

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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