Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Flashlights are a topic that comes up frequently in prepping discussions. Everyone realizes how important light is, but choosing from the legion of lights available can be a bit daunting. Today, I'll try to shed a little light on the topic by discussing a couple of my favorites.

The benchmark for all of our flashlight testing today is the Mini Maglite. I base all of my flashlight comparisons in real life to the little Mini, because it is virtually synonymous with "flashlight". It seems that everybody has at least one stashed in a drawer somewhere, and every maintenance man, technician, or tradesman has one on their belt or in their bag. This makes them a pretty convenient baseline, so that's how we'll proceed.
Family portrait: (L-R) Streamlight Scorpion, Mini Maglite, Ultrafire Mini

Up first is the Streamlight Scorpion. Rated at 160 lumens, it provides usable, gentle light from a single LED. (For reference, the Mini Maglite is rated at 14 lumens.) It has a tailcap switch that allows either momentary or continuous operation, and the head has flats cut on it to keep the light from rolling when set down.

It's too big for me to easily put in a pocket, and to my mind is a bit big even on a belt. However, it rides wonderfully in an EDC bag, fanny pack, purse, or similar conveyance. It does use two CR123 batteries, and while these are less common than AA or AAA batteries, they're growing in popularity and provide long life in a bright light.

Now to the sticking point... It's a $50 flashlight. However, it is very well built from quality materials, and will last for many years. If you have the cash, it's a worthy investment.

On the other side of both the price and size spectrum is the Ultrafire Mini LED. Running off a single AA battery, and featuring a beam that can be focused to a small spot or zoomed out for general lighting, it clips nicely into a jeans pocket. At 300 lumens, this little beastie is stupid bright. Don't look at the beam, especially when zoomed in, unless you enjoy splitting headaches.

The Ultrafire is my pocket flashlight. It rides clipped to my jeans pocket right next to my knife, and is used on a daily basis at work. The beam can be focused down to a point precise enough that I frequently use it to point out items in the same manner as a laser pointer. The tailcap doesn't really allow for momentary use, but that's not really a dealbreaker for the way I use flashlights.

For comparison, this is how they all look, shined against the same wall at a range of about 8 feet:
Mini Maglite

Streamlight Scorpion

Ultrafire Mini zoomed out

Ultrafire Mini zoomed in

In these shots, the room is completely blacked out, and the camera was run with zero flash or additional lighting. You can see that the Ultrafire throws a bright, concentrated beam, while the Scorpion illuminates the whole wall. Any of the three lights is an excellent value, and a vital piece of gear to have around.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Gun Blog Church Cast #32

Well it's official. We've quit guns and started a church. Our first fundraiser is up and we're looking to raise $20 Million so we can buy ourselves the Holy Five Million Dollar Pilatus PC12 Single Engine Turbo Prop Aircraft manufactured with care in Switzerland. Please give generously.
  • Reverends Adam and Sean execute their preaching duties flawlessly.
  • Sister Erin Palette tells us all how to re-purpose all those wine and champagne bottles we've got lying around into useful self defense tools.
  • Sister Nicki Kenyon explains the connection between money laundering and private jets.
  • Brother Miguel Gonzalez, using his unparalleled fashion sense, tries his best to impart a sense of style on Sean.
  • Brother Barron B. explains how with his help the GunBlog ChurchCast will have the finest digital security ever devised.
  • And Brother Weer'd tells us about that enormous threat to truth, justice, and the American Way, the Anti-Private Jet activists.
All this and more, so don't forget to download, listen and subscribe. And tell a friend about us. And give us money, don't forget that either.

Can I get an AMEN?
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

An Object Lesson!

After the Storm
5x7 Acrylic on Board
This past week, various of our contributors have been discussing the time change and using it to remember to check your BOB and GHB and other gear and make sure it's all up to date.

"Spring Forward" and all that, right? And spring has just made its typical flamboyant entry into Oklahoma's weather patterns.

Spring here means storms, and thunderstorms are common. You know what's common with Oklahoma thunderstorms? Baseball-sized hail and tornadoes! Yes, spinning winds in excess of 200 MPH, as Mother Nature starts PMSing to beat the band.

So there I was, in the middle of taking apart my Bug Out Bag to bring it up to date for the new season, and what do I hear? I hear tornado sirens going off from several directions. With my BOB in shambles, and gear spread all over the place, and both dogs going crazy because of the sirens.

It's amazing how rapidly you can throw a BOB back together again when the sirens go off and tell you to duck and cover!

Fortunately the tornado warning was called off fairly soon, and I didn't need my BOB. We've also been lucky enough to befriend our next door neighbors, who happen to have a storm cellar in their back yard. It's only 100 feet from our back door, and we are invited to take shelter in it should we see a funnel on the ground and headed our direction.

Of course, the rule of thumb with a tornado is that if you can see it on the ground, you probably don't have enough time left to seek shelter - which is why we pay attention to the sirens when they go off!

Its no joke, folks. Don't put off seasonal changes to your bag. Don't put off making sure batteries are in good shape, all your necessary medications and such are easy to grab or already in there, all your paperwork is backed up and secured inside. Don't wait until you're in the teeth of a storm to remember that you need to throw a few things together.

Because if you wait until you're most likely to need it - you probably won't have time to actually get it done.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Palette's Product Reviews: the Spool Tool

& is used with permission.
The Spool Tool is something that I acquired for my birthday, and it's something that I'm really looking forward to using in the coming years.

But Erin! I hear you exclaim. This is a product review! Surely you have used it by now?

And the answer to that is "Well, of course I've fiddled with it and used its features and gauged how sturdy it is, but I haven't actually taken it into the woods with me and/or deliberately beaten the crap out of it."  This is because
  1. I don't have the time to go camping, because of responsibilities.
  2. I dislike testing to destruction, because I enjoy keeping things. 
So if that's a dealbreaker for you, I invite you to read my Product Testing Mission Statement and then wish you a good day. If, however, you understand that my endorsement means "Hey preppers, check this out, it's not a ripoff and I think you'll like it '' -- i.e. I am the gatekeeper of ideas rather than the final judge of quality -- then I think you'll like this review. 

What I Like
The Spool Tool, as you may have guessed, is a spool for holding paracord along with other useful tools, such as a cord cutter, melting notches (more on these later), and a place to hold a miniature lighter. It weighs just a few ounces, measures just a touch over 6" long and a smidge under 3.5" wide, and without cord it's 0.25" thick. It's also made of a very tough reinforced nylon. 

How tough? While I could probably snap the prongs off the lighter holder if I put my mind to it, the rest of the tool is quite sturdy; holding a flange in each hand and bending with all my might, the tool flexed only a little bit. I have every confidence that the Spool Tool can survive anything you throw at it. 

Now, about those melting notches? Just watch this short video

In addition to all these good things, the Spool Tool:
  • is available in a variety of colors (black, tan, coyote brown, foliage green, olive drab, royal blue and hazard orange);
  • is made in the USA;
  • is a business owned by veterans (who probably wanted something like this in the field, and so designed it to do what they wished they had; 
  • and can be bought on Amazon for $16.50 and free shipping. 

What I Don't Like
Despite all of these good features I do, however, have one nitpick about this device.

These are pictures of my Spool Tool with 25' of paracord (550 Firecord, to be precise). You can see that it is nicely wound onto the spool.

Overall thickness is approximately 1.75 inches. 

This is the same Spool Tool with 100' of Rothco paracord wound around it in the same manner as above. Well, as close as I could come: with that much length it's hard to keep everything nice and tight and neat and errors creep into the winding.
Thickness is now 3.5 inches. While this is an acceptable measurement for something that is clipped to the side of a pack, you can see that it does not pack down in a manner that can be remotely considered "flat". It's basically a fist-sized bulge. 

If you need your paracord to lie flat, or otherwise fit into a bag without being a lump, I recommend that you not wind more than 50' onto the Spool Tool. 

To its credit, all paracord unwinds smoothly from the spool regardless of its length.

My Rating: A+
Yes, despite my nitpick, I still give it an A+ (I will enthusiastically recommend this product to others) rating. It does everything it says it does -- despite being ungainly, it WILL hold 100' of paracord, by golly -- and does it really well. It's designed intelligently, built sturdily, has a nice price and incorporates several useful tools into one coherent whole.

Plus, it's 100% American made and owned by veterans. What's not to love?

Check it out on Amazon.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I bought this with my own money. Go away. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Stimulation - The Soul

First off, let me make clear where I stand on the subject of religion and personal choice:

Since I believe that we each have a soul (the individual part of us that is immortal and undying, the part of us that makes us unique from any other person alive), the belief about what happens after our bodies quit working is as personal as anything can be. Nobody else has any right to tell you what to believe, since they aren't going to be the one who has to suffer the consequences if they're wrong.

The paths to the afterlife are varied, but I've never heard of any of them having a carpool lane -- your choice, your beliefs, your soul. The corollary to this, of course, is that you have no right to tell another what they should believe. The “convert or else” attitude is one of the few ways to meet my bad side.

My beliefs are basically Christian: 
  • I believe that the Son of God was born into a mortal body and sacrificed himself to atone for the sins of the world.
  • Belief in the Christ is my path to a better place once my physical body has died.
  • I try to follow His teachings and live in hope of an afterlife that is easier than what I am living now. 
Overly simplified, but those are the basics for me. I have tried to remove as much of the human interference as I can from my beliefs, since I believe that my relationship with God is a personal matter that is not subject to the interpretations of anyone but myself.

I do not agree with many Christian denominations on their various interpretations of God's message, but that doesn't stop me from being able to help someone of another faith follow the path they have chosen. I am learning about the non-Christian faiths and their rites and rituals in order to be able to offer as much help as I can. There are a few faiths that I haven't figured out how to help yet, as well as at least one that I'm sure I can't help while maintaining my personal beliefs. I don't judge others' beliefs, but I can judge their actions and won't excuse evil dressed up as a religion.

My job as a Chaplain is not to be a leader, but an assistant: 
  • I am not here to convert you over to my beliefs. 
  • I am not here to belittle, deny, or denigrate your beliefs (your actions may be another matter).
  • I am here to help you explore your beliefs and do what I can to further your progress down the path that you've chosen. 
  • I do have limits on how much and what kind of help I can offer, based on my personal beliefs. I am more than willing to assist in a ceremony or rite, as long as it does not require that I repudiate or deny my own beliefs. 
  • I will not swear allegiance or fealty to any God not my own. I may acknowledge that they exist, but will not worship them. My God is a jealous and vengeful one and I have no desire to stir up His wrath.

Stimulation of the soul
You should figure out for yourself what you want to believe and do your best to work towards being the best Catholic, Asatru, Baptist, Wiccan, Lutheran, Mormon, Hindu or Zoroastrian that you can be.

Follow the rules
Monotheistic or polytheistic, almost all forms of religion have a base set of rules for the believer to follow. Be it the 10 Commandments, the Wiccan Rede, the Asatru Virtues, or the Zarathushti Creed, there are ground rules. If you look at them closely, you'll see that they have many similarities. At the very least, you should know what the rules are for the religion you have chosen and do your best to follow them. They should be the base of your spiritual happiness and should give you joy to be doing them. "Breaking the rules that you know exist" is the definition of doing wrong.

Many faiths treat charity as a personal attempt to emulate the higher power that provides for the believer, and most religions expect followers to be charitable towards their fellow men. Charity will remind you that there are others out there who have are having a worse time than you are. 

Feeding the hungry and clothing the needy are my personal favorite forms of charity. I don't give a lot of money to the United Way or any of the other organized charities, because I feel that I can make better use of my time and money locally. Tithes and other structured giving are normal parts of organized religions, with plenty of guilt provided to encourage followers to give until it hurts. I believe that charity should be completely voluntary, and any attempts to force it should be seen as an act of theft. Take care of yourself, and especially your own family/tribe before giving to others, unless you have been blessed with more than you and yours can possibly use.

Honor has different meanings to different people and different cultures, and is not an easy thing to describe. I have books on my shelf devoted to this one subject, so I'm not going to be able to cover it completely in a single blog post. Integrity, righteousness, and honesty are all parts of honor, but there are too many variations of the concept for it to be simple. Honor has taken a beating in recent years, being treated as a relic of an earlier age, but I'm seeing a slight resurgence in the acceptance and creation of things like online reputation and instant feedback systems for transactions.

One of the basics of honor is integrity: if you give your word or swear an oath, don't break it. Give honor to those who deserve it and be aware that not all are worthy of your honor.

The best example I can give is a person who wants your trust, but has a problem honoring their oaths and promises. A person that can stand in front of family and friends and swear to take a mate “forsaking all others”, who then decides to have mistresses and affairs, is unworthy of anyone's trust. They have proven that their word is worthless by their actions. If you have sworn an oath to or on your God, how do you think they're going to react to you breaking that oath?

Many faiths place an emphasis on fellowship, gathering with those of the same faith to share experiences and support. This is normally most helpful for people who are new to a faith or unsure of their faith, but everybody can benefit from shared support. Fellowship can be addictive and should not be used as a replacement for growth in your faith.

Explore Your Faith
Learn the history of your faith and those who helped form it. No religion is completely free of human influence, regardless of what you may be told, and humans are fallible. Humans have to write the records, translate the records to different languages, and interpret the guidance from whatever god or gods they follow. Nobody knows everything about any subject, so keep learning about your religion. Expect to have more questions than answers and be able to accept that situation as best you can.

Atone for Your Sins
We all make mistakes (“sin” in the lexicon of religion) and we need to make amends for when we wrong another. Take responsibility for the mistakes that are yours and do what you can to make things right. This will take a burden off of your soul, as well as your mind, and most religions require this step in order for forgiveness of sins.

Defend Your Faith
If you hold religious beliefs, you should be willing to defend them. There is a difference between honest debate and the infantile discourse that you'll find on the internet, so you'll need to learn how to choose your battles. Honest debate isn't about who is right and who is wrong, it is about exploring different sides of a topic. The internet is full of people hiding behind anonymity flinging poo like monkey at the zoo, with about the same amount of reasoning. Sometimes it is better to just smile and walk away from someone who wants to argue, especially if you're unsure of yourself and your beliefs,.

Be aware that there are quite a few of the “convert or else” people in this world. Defending your faith may mean anything up to defending your life from fanatics of another (or no) religion. Anyone who uses the phrase “the one true religion” or its equivalent should be watched carefully for possible signs of violence, since the true fanatics are willing to kill you in order to save you.

Any discussion of the soul is potentially divisive. I am not interested in hearing how wrong I am because some “holy man” said or wrote something that disputes what I have written, but I will entertain comments, questions, and respectful discussion from anyone who can act like an adult. We're not all going to believe the same things, so we need to be able to live with people of differing beliefs without anger or vitriol (violence should be met with violence - I am not a pacifist be any means).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Seasonal Gear Transition

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

Seasonal Transition:
Weatherizing My Gear

Spring is right around the corner here in California, with the last regular rains for the next 6 months ending two weeks ago. What this means is that it's time to switch my winter gear for summer!

Going Out
  • Rain gear and California-style cold weather gear. 
  • Long sleeve t-shirts, flannel shirt, heavy socks and knit cap.
  • My Marmot Gore-Tex jacket, which has a broken zipper pull and needs to be repaired. (Marmot offers a lifetime repair for simple items like bad zippers or snaps, and I learned about their service when I had a broken snap repaired for free.)
Going In
  • A long sleeve cotton shirt, Boonie hat, short sleeve t-shirts, lighter weight windbreaker jackets, shorts and bug repellent to go with the all-year sunscreen in my various bags. 
  • I'm taking extra care in re-packaging all my soft packed items like cocoa, dried fruit and jerky to prevent puncturing and spoilage. 
  • This is also where I double-check all my expiration dates on everything, again, just as I do when things get used from my bags.

New Purchases
One item recently added is the SOL Heatsheets Survival Blanket.

From the SOL website:
"The most advanced emergency blanket on the market - meticulously designed never to fail when you're counting on it with your life. It all starts with the material, vacuum-metalized polyethylene, that reflects 90% of your body heat while also offering a number of other important features that set it apart from traditional mylar blankets; it opens easily and will not shred if nicked or punctured, rips and tears can be repaired, it is quiet and won't crinkle in high winds, and its high-visibility orange exterior makes it easy for rescuers to find you. Plus, survival tips and techniques are printed directly on the blanket so you have them when you need them. Sized to fit two people."

I purchased two of these blankets to replace a pair of much cheaper (and very flimsily packaged) blankets that were damaged over the winter when they migrated down to the bottom of my bag and were punctured by other gear. I saw this item last year in the supplies of my friend the gear-nut, and it is much heavier than what I had before, plus the actual package is very stiff and durable feeling.

Another purchase is a Coleman 100 piece First Aid Kit.

I purchased this kit more for the size and closures on the box than for the contents, as this is  going to be placed in my every-day carry "salesman bag" rather than my GHB. The kit this replaces was larger and heavier, with a single latch and a molded hinge that started to wear and break after only a few months!

  • 2 SOL Emergency Blankets: $14 (Amazon)
  • 1 Coleman 1st Aid Kit: $15.90 (Amazon)
  • Also purchased: 1liter Nalgene water bottle from REI, $10.50

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, March 24, 2015

Failure Mentality

In Episode 30 of the Gun Blog Variety Cast, Sean presented the cast with the following quote, and observed their varied responses.
Light bulb goes out, other people fix it, get a new one. Light bulb goes out for the Catholic, he stands in the dark, says "What did I do wrong?"
(By the by, if you're not listening to the Gun Blog Variety Cast, you're truly missing out. The hosts and cast are sharp as can be, and darn good folks in general.)

When confronted with crisis, folks have varied responses. Some people rise to greatness and shine in the crisis. Most folks keep trucking along, doing what they know and handling what they can. Some sad folks, at the first sign of difficulty or failure, throw up their hands, cry woe, and give up hope.

I'm not a coward, I've just never been tested...
Failure mentality can stem from a number of sources, and can paralyze those it affects. When faced with what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle, the feeling of dread and pre-emptive failure can cause people to mentally freeze, stopping even basic problem solving.

Clinical or seasonal depressions can bring it on, as can other mental conditions. Some folks experience a failure mentality when they're facing a particularly large or critical challenge, or one they've not experienced before. Sometimes it is experienced in relation to past failures and how they apply to current challenges. Erin's "backpack preppers" are likely to run afoul of failure mentality when they realize that all their gear is useless without skill and practice.

I think I can, I think I can...
One of the many reasons we harp on gaining skill and avoiding being a "backpack prepper" is to arrest failure mentality. Knowing that you have the tools, both physical and mental, to handle a situation is one of the surest ways to keep disruptions from paralyzing you. Acquiring new skills and facing fears builds a confidence in oneself that is based in experience and is much harder to shake. Possibly the biggest confidence builder is when you realize you can teach a skill, and then do so.

So often on our Facebook group, folks claim they have nothing to teach or bring no skills to share. This is a fallacy. Everyone has skills. Make an honest assessment of the things you do, both professionally and as a hobby. Break down those skills, and teach someone what you know, while learning what they know. Study something that interests you, simply for the sake of learning it. If you feel a bit confident or courageous, write a BCP guest article.

Do the things that build confidence now, to prevent freezing from a lack of confidence when it matters.


Monday, March 23, 2015


(Waits for some of the heebie jeebies to die down.)

Look, I'm not a fan of them, either.

As many readers may know, DR and I had a big move to Arizona. Well... the new apartment has cockroaches. We haven't been able to determine if they came with us (because storage places are not obligated to spray for bugs), or if they migrated over from another apartment in the complex.

Regardless, I figured it was a good idea to lay out some itchy truth about pests like cockroaches, fleas and bedbugs.

(Waits again.)

To be blunt: They are going to be a source of physical pain and mental strain.  once the SHTF in any kind of way. So how do you deal with them when you can't call the exterminator?

Allow me to present you with two options.
  1. Diatomaceous Earth works against all bugs with an exoskeleton by absorbing the oils from it, causing them to dry out and die.  I've seen it take out flea problems and it also works on bedbugs. The amorphous type (as opposed to crystalline) is also completely safe for humans, and can even be eaten! Trust me, this is getting bought and laid down in a few key areas to deal with the cockroaches here.
  2. Sevin Dust works just as well as the above, but is cheaper (D.E. is expensive) and so it's better suited to be used outdoors. However, it's based on a chemical that's toxic to humans, and there are reports that it can be harmful to pets, so be cautious with it, and don't use it indoors!
There are a variety of citrus-based homemade remedies that also work, but these two solutions are very easy to get and easy to store. I've used both and they both work equally well.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Now that I've moved out of California, I have a sewing machine again. If anyone has a topic they'd like me to tackle regarding sewing, crocheting or knitting --  questions about preps, seeing if  an odd idea can be done, etc - I'm the woman to ask! Please feel to drop requests about such projects on our Facebook Group, by email, or leave a comment here on the page.

Why am I putting that out there? Because there are a lot of things I do as a part of my everyday life that are normal for me yet would be prepping info for you guys, but because it's everyday for me, I don't even stop to think about it. So this is me stopping to think, and offering to teach.

Have at it, darlings!

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #31

It's time for Episode 31 of the Gun Blog Variety Cast!
  • A very caffeinated Erin Palette talks to us about "Springing Forward", prepper-style.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses our President's recent imposition of sanctions on Venezuela.
  • Speaking of Venezuela, Miguel Gonzalez reports on the incredible rate of "Express Kidnappings" in that country.
  • Barron B. wants us to know that bits rot, which can cause backups to fail.
  • and Weer'd gives that "Funny or Die" video a good audio fisking.
  • As always, Adam and Sean tie it all together.

Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share it with a friend!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Normalizing Prepping

& is used with permission.
It's been my experience that a lot of non-preppers look at us like we're crazy... or at least foolish. Since we preppers want to normalize prepping (If everyone is prepared for a disaster, then no one will be hurt or go hungry when one happens!), I asked a non-prepper friend to ask me a handful of questions to help her understand why I do what I do. She agreed, and this is what happened.

What made you specifically get into prepping?

A number of factors:
  1. I live in a state where hurricanes regularly cause evacuations, so prepping for them seems just as natural as wearing my seatbelt when I drive my car. 
  2. When you think about it, everyone preps: Smoke alarms are preps against fire. Car insurance is a prep against an accident. Health insurance is... you get the idea. 
  3. All the men in my family are Eagle Scouts, so it's in my blood. And the Boy Scouts say "Be Prepared" and society looks at the BSA as a good thing, so why is it bad for me to take it to the next level?
  4. It gives me something constructive to do instead of worrying. Proactive preparedness is healthier, both mentally and physically, than reactive worry. 
  5. Besides, it's really cool to have just the tool or medicine or solution that someone needs. It's a rockstar moment for me to go "Hey, don't worry, I have just the thing for that in my bag."

Do you really think all this apocalypse talk is real?

Do I think some folks really believe the world will end? Sure. 

But what I think you're asking is, "Do you believe an apocalypse will happen?" And that invites the question of "Well, that depends on what you mean by an apocalypse." I don't think that there's going to be an ebola pandemic, or that the poles will catastrophically shift. 

However, I do think it's possible that some nasty stuff can happen. An electromagnetic pulse, either caused by the sun or by a rogue nation detonating a nuke in our upper atmosphere, is possible if unlikely. The New Madrid fault could go live and mess up the country's infrastructure. 

There are also some disasters that could happen because they've happened before, and if they do there's really nothing we as a species can do about it:
So yes, I do think an apocalypse is plausible. I don't spend my time worrying about it, though, because 
  1. It's unlikely
  2. If it happens, I'll likely die immediately. 

Where do you think the safest place to go is if there's an emergency?

The safest place to go in an emergency is wherever there isn't an emergency. I know that sounds flippant, but it's true, and that's a very open question. 

A more specific answer requires a more specific question. Sometimes it's best to get out of town (such as with natural disasters); sometimes it's best to shelter in your house (such as with disease or loss of infrastructure.) This is something you'll need to answer on a case by case basis, as you gain experience with prepping.

How are you different than those crazy people I see on TV with their escape routes and underground bunkers?

For starters, I'm not crazy.  I can't speculate as to the TV folks' mental state (Doomsday Preppers is a show that makes everyone look bad), but I can tell you that I've had my background checked multiple times, both at the state and federal level, and nothing jumped out at them to have them say "Hey, this chick is crazy."

I don't think it's crazy to have an escape route, though. Again, I live in a place where natural disasters happen -- back in 1998, the state was so dry that during the summer every county but one (the Keys) was burning from a wildfire. My family and I escaped the fire by knowing where to go. So why is it crazy to have an escape route?

"Underground bunkers."  I have friends in the Great Plains states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, etc) who have underground shelters where they can ride out a tornado and store their survival gear. These locations are called "basements" and are commonly built for houses in that part of the country. 

Now, if you want to make the differentiation between a basement and a $50,000+ bomb shelter for long term habitation -- yeah, that's kinda crazy in the "fiscally irresponsible" sense. But what does it hurt you for them to have one?

Let's say I'm interested in getting started, but on a very small level, like preparing for an emergency situation and not a SHTF kind of thing. What are your top three things you think I should do?

Look at you, using "SHTF" like a prepper!
  1. Realize that emergencies can be personal rather than catastrophic: losing your job, having your house burn down, getting in an accident or contracting a long-term illness can be just as devastating. Get that part of your life in order first. 
  2. Prepare for the most likely disaster first:  an earthquake if you live in California, a hurricane if you live in an Atlantic or Gulf state, a tornado in the midwest, an ice storm in a state with bad winters, etc. 
  3. Read David Blackard's posts on this blog. He started off with having no preps, worked his way up to having 72 hours of supplies, and is now working on longer-term preps. 

I invite any non-prepper reading this blog to ask me further questions; I'm happy to answer them. I also invite my prepper readers to share why they got into prepping. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stimulation - Spirit

Since I prefer to break down the personal part of life into Body, Mind, Spirit, and Soul, that's how I've been writing this series of articles. Stimulation of the body and the mind have been covered, so let's move on to the Spirit.

Spirit, to me, falls between the mind (thinking) and the soul (the undying part of a person) and encompasses the emotions as well as the mood (or view) of life. Since all of these things can vary from positive through neutral to negative, stimulation can reinforce the existing state of the spirit or change it to another state. I'm going to stick to positive stimulation, since that is usually harder for people to achieve than the negative sort. People tend to be born with the ability to crush another person's spirit; being a positive influence has to be taught, or at least learned.

The human spirit is a very elastic thing - it can bend and stretch to some fairly extreme limits before it breaks, but it can still break. Once a person's spirit is broken they have a long, hard path to travel to rebuild it, and many fail. These “broken” people are likely to be numb, or even hostile, to their emotions and may not recognize that others have emotions or needs. I'm not talking about the teenager who has had their heart broken; that is usually (but not always) a temporary situation that will work itself out when another love-interest is found. A person who has had their spirit truly broken has lost a part of what makes them human. They are damaged, and may be dangerous to themselves or others because they lack the ability to care any more.

Long periods of hardship can (but do not always) leave a person in permanent turmoil. The survivors of the WW2 concentration camps are an interesting group to study, as are the groups of people who have survived civil wars around the world. Some people can rebuild their lives while others just give up; the levels of support before, during, and after the hard times tend be good indicators of which way they'll go.

Emotional stability is a goal that many strive for in normal situations. Throw a tornado-sized crisis into the mix, and a lot of folks are going to fall apart inside. If there is a short-term emergency followed by rapid signs of things returning to normal, the effects of falling apart may be short-lived - but they can leave permanent scars on the mind and the spirit. Any child who has lived through a house fire of any size will likely be apprehensive around fire for the rest of his life, and the smell of smoke can bring on a fight-or-flight reaction.

There is a small percentage of people who have given up on trying to strive for emotional stability. They either let their emotions rule their lives, or have given up any sign of control over themselves. These adult-sized two-year-olds are out there, making lifes in offices and factories miserable for everyone around them. Without years of counseling, or repeated application of a “clue-by-four”, these people are far beyond any help you or I can offer. How you treat these people is going to be a choice you'll have to make.

In order to stimulate the human spirit in a positive manner, we need to realize that it is a lot easier to stimulate another person's spirit than it is your own. Lifting another is easier than dragging yourself out of a hole in more than just the literal sense.

Methods of positive stimulation are actually fairly simple. The trick is figuring out which will work on which people.
  • Humor: Laughter is good for the spirit; it lifts the mood and breaks the tension. I have rarely ever seen anyone come out of a comedy show with a scowl on their face, so long as the show was actually funny. Senses of humor vary from person to person, so be prepared for some off-the-wall humor. If you've ever spent time around police, military, EMT, hospital staff, farmers, or anyone else who deals with hard things on a regular basis, you'll notice that they have a “dark” sense of humor. Bodily functions, death, gore, and personal insults are normal subjects among these groups, and their humor might be perceived as “over the line” to someone outside the group. 
    • Know your limits within your group and be prepared to take as much as you give. 
    • You should also be prepared to apologize in case you do cross a line. 
    • For the perpetually offended, my only advice is, “Grow some skin”. Normalcy left the situation along with the electricity, so you'll need to harden up if you don't want to live in a permanent sulk. 
  • Companionship: Just being near another person can help lift your spirits. We are all social animals to varying degrees; some of us need to be surrounded by people, while others need their personal space. 
    • Be capable of providing whichever kind of companionship another person may need.
    • Understand that if they need to be left alone, it's not about you.  
  • Touch: If you're with an intimate partner, a simple touch can reestablish your relationship and provide assurance that the world has not really ended. We gather a sense of security and mutual support from being able to touch those we love. 
    • A hug can lift a person's spirits in even the worst situation. 
    • Children in particular are very touch-sensitive, and usually need more physical contact than adults. 
  • Music: There is something about music that strikes the human spirit at a unique level. While tastes in music will vary, the impact it has on the listener is the same. Every crowd at every concert reacts to the music in similar ways: singing along with the songs they know, putting their hands in the air, moving their bodies to the music, etc. Music is a very basic part of being human and should be accounted for in your preparations through recordings, instruments, songbooks, or just learning how to make “a joyful noise”. Even a funeral dirge can provide a positive impact by creating a bond between the listeners. 
    • If you can sing or play music, you can lift the morale of an entire group. 
    • Learn the favorite songs of your friends and tribe-mates. 
    • Participating in a choir or a band can create a sense of unity. 
  • Sharing:  Being able to share with others without putting yourself in a bind can lift your spirits. I personally enjoy feeding people; it's just something that makes me happy. 
    • Sharing a source of heat or water can potentially save a life and give you a chance to create deeper bonds. 
    • Being the recipient of a gift can also be a spirit booster, as long as you are capable of putting aside your pride and accept it as a sign of compassion. 
    • Being thankful should not mean feeling inferior, just accepting of the reality that someone is willing to give you something that you need. 
  • Religion: Most of us have religious leanings of one form or another. Having faith in something higher than ourselves can be comforting and help lift our spirits. Religions vary, but if you look at the list above you'll see elements of many religious ceremonies. Music (hymns), companionship (being around friends and family), and sharing (offerings/tithes) are common to a lot of religions. 
    • Having a source of religious backing, whatever your religious leanings, should get some consideration in your plans.
    • Remember than many priests, rabbis, and pastors are also counselors of some degree. 

It is my goal to get you to think of things beyond your gear and location. Being able to take care of each other, and being aware of potential problems before they appear, is just as important as being fully stocked with beans, bullets, and band-aids.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Planning for Those Around You

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.
Q: How do you find the Crossfit enthusiast, the Vegan and the Gluten-Free person at a party?
A: Wait five minutes; they'll find you!
As funny or true as that sounds, only one of these people could have physical issues with what they eat. What I have in my stores needs to reflect who is in my group, or who might be the recipient of some of my prepping supplies. Due to the expansion of my prepping 'family', I'm having to plan slightly differently than before and include some gluten-free items, such as this:

Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Pasta
Information on eating gluten-free from The Mayo Clinic:

A gluten-free diet is primarily used to treat celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.

The gluten-free diet is a treatment for celiac disease. Some people who don't have celiac disease also may have symptoms when they eat gluten, however. This is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may benefit from a gluten-free diet. But people with celiac disease must be gluten-free to prevent symptoms and disease-related complications.

Please read the rest of the article for more information on dietary plans to supplement the vitamins that are normally added to breads and flours that the gluten sensitive person may be missing. If you have someone with gluten sensitivity in your prepping circle, you will need to make changes to your pantry.

Luckily for me, the person in my group has non-celiac sensitivity, so any complications are not life threatening. Having eaten this, I can say there is a small difference in texture and flavor, but not enough to be a problem if this was the only type of pasta available to me.

Other Items
The Uncle Bill's Tweezers (mentioned here) arrived over the weekend!

I chose to order the tweezers in the tube like the ones I had and lost, instead of the keychain version seen here. I think they will stay cleaner, and will store in my gear better, when kept in the tube.

The tweezer points are not as finely machined as the original set I had, but I think that with a bit of work they can be made like the original. What seems to be missing is a bevel along the underside (inside?) of the angled area to the point, which made the point finer and sharper for easier gripping of very fine slivers . The edge of the angled areas is also a bit rough and will be hit with a bit of wet and dry sandpaper after the undersides of the points get a bit of file work.

The Recap
  • Two Uncle Bill's tweezers ordered from Amazon: $7.60 each, $15.20 with free shipping. 
  • Brown Rice pasta from Trader Joe's: 16 oz. bag, $2.39.

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, March 17, 2015

Reloading Ammunition, part 2: How It Works

Now that we've looked at why folks load their own ammunition, let's look at how the process actually works.

The steps in the reloading process can be broken down into two segments: case preparation and ammunition loading. Case preparation includes cleaning, inspecting, re-sizing and de-priming cases, as well as trimming, if necessary. Ammunition loading includes priming cases, charging with powder, and seating and crimping bullets.

Case Preparation

Cases wear over time, so clean and inspect them. Clean cases allow better inspection to see if cases are worn out, and they also reduce wear on dies. Make sure to brush off all dirt and debris -- if you have an ultrasonic cleaner or vibratory tumbler, a short ride makes cleaning quick and easy.

Check cases for bulges, cracks, splits, or other damage. If any damage is seen or suspected, discard the brass. Brass failures during firing are violent and catastrophic. A piece of questionable brass is not worth the risk of injury.

Set up your resizing/decapping die according to the instructions with your press and dies. Lubricate your brass according to the instructions as well. Run each case through a cycle on the press, which will leave it sized to factory specifications and with the spent primer removed.

Your reloading manual will have a maximum allowable length for your cases. If they're over length, they'll need to be trimmed. All of the major reloading companies make some manner of trimmer, so it becomes a matter of budget and what type of trimmer works for you. I have several styles, and they all do a satisfactory job.

Ammunition Loading

This is where attention to detail becomes paramount. Your reloading manuals will specify a minimum and maximum powder charge based on your caliber, bullet weight and bullet type. Keep all loads within this range, and stick to the type of primers called for by your manual. Reloading only becomes dangerous when people don't pay attention, or they deviate from the listed loads.

Priming cases can be done either with a separate tool or on your press, if it has priming attachments (almost all do). No matter which way you go, ensure your primer is flush with or a bit below the surface of the case.

Set your powder measure per the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to weigh each charge until you get several in a row that are consistently the amount you want. After that, randomly check that you're still getting a consistent charge. I like to weigh every tenth charge, because it's very simple to tell when I ought to weigh again.

Some folks charge a bunch of cases, then seat bullets. I prefer to seat a round immediately; it tells me at a glance what cases don't have powder, and takes out one more point where I can make an error.

Congratulations! At this point, you have loaded, functional ammo. As long as you pay attention and follow the load in your books, it is entirely safe and as good as anything factory made.

Enjoy a little economy with your shooting!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #30

Episode 30, The Theme Episode, is out!
  • Adam and Sean jibber-jabber their way through their usual segments, laughing and generally having a wonderful time.
  • Erin Palette explains what a Cargo Cultist is, and how preppers can sometimes act like one. 
  • Nicki Kenyon discovers "Blowback".
  • Miguel Gonzalez talks about Magical Thinking.
  • Barron B. reminds us that overcomplicating the problem doesn't solve it
  • and Weer'd takes us inside the mind of the anti-gunners.
Check us out!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share this with a friend!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rust Never Sleeps

& is used with permission.
Those of you who read my nerd blog know that I recently had a problem with rust on some guns (fortunately, they're all better now). This, by the way, is why I talked about waterproofing in my BCP segment on Sunday's Gun Blog Variety Cast.

The thing is, humidity is a fact of life here in Florida for 6-9 months out of the year, and so it's important to realize that things can rust just from the humidity itself.  As I write this article, it's 79° F and 64% humidity outdoors, and it just so happens that iron rusts at 50% humidity or greater, and steel rusts at 80%.

In fact, just leaving a metal knife in your car can be a bad thing. As the sun heats the interior, the metal will stay cooler than the air, and moisture will condense on the cool metal surface.  In fact, that's likely what happened here:

This is a carbon steel Mora Classic that was left in a bag inside the trunk of a from August until January. Note the speckles that look like dewdrops, and how the spread points towards the tip of the blade -- the knife was stored in a sheath, tip downward.

Incidentally, this is why I recommend stainless steels for get-home bag knives: they are far less likely to rust in storage than carbon steels. I do make an exception for those blade which have a baked-on coating over the metal (like what is on my Cold Steel Kukri Machete), because they are protected over 90% of their surface.

In conclusion:
  • Check your metal tools for rust on a regular basis, even if you think they're protected.
  • Use WD-40 to displace any moisture, but be warned it dries quickly and doesn't protect well.
  • Cover bare metal with a protective oil. I prefer Breakfree CLP, but there are many excellent choices out there. 
  • More information about rust, its removal and prevention can be found in this PDF. I advise all readers to read it, save it, and keep it in their list of prepping articles. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stimulation - Mind

Keeping your mind active and engaged offers you an advantage over complacent or bored people in times of crisis. If you're asking “What if?” all the time and trying to work out solutions before a problem arises, you'll be a few steps ahead of someone who has a rude awakening when reality slaps them with a “it can't happen here” event.

Situational awareness is one result of mental stimulation. Paying attention to your surroundings will give you a chance to notice the good as well as the bad in our world.

  • Nobody can run at full throttle forever; we all need rest. The very lack of stimulation that sleep provides can prepare your mind to accept the next batch of problems.
  • Sleep gives your brain a chance to integrate the day's events and gives your body a chance to heal. This is the main reason sleep deprivation is considered torture in most places - the human brain needs downtime or it will start to act in unusual ways.
  • Be careful of any sleep aids you may take as they can cause prolonged grogginess and brain fog after you wake up.

Stretch Your Boundaries
  • If all you ever read is the same as what you already know, you'll find yourself in a rut. Discussing things only in an “echo chamber” where everyone has the same opinion results in what I call “intellectual inbreeding”, with similar outcomes. Spend any time on any of the mainstream forums covering guns, prepping, cars, politics, or foreign relations and you'll see what I mean. Dissenters are castigated and eventually banned, outside opinions are ignored or belittled.
  • When trying to deal with something that is by definition “not normal”, why should “normal” ways of thinking be the only option? Corporations used to refer to this as “thinking outside the box”, but it seems to have been changed to “heresy” from what I've seen lately.
  • Don't rely on any single source of information. Wander around and listen to others' points of view. At the very least, you'll come away with a better understanding of how wrong they are and what tactics they'll use to make their points.
  • Try reading a book outside of your normal genre. Listen to a different type of music. Strike up a conversation with someone outside your normal circle of friends. You may be surprised at what you may learn or you may have your suspicions confirmed, but either way you'll learn something new.

Keep Learning
  • I've only met a few people in this world that had learned all that they could. Generally they had to forget or lose something that they had previously learned before they could learn anything new. Rare and truly sad, but it can happen. Most of us can keep learning, and should. Learning new things opens up new ways of thinking and offers new ways to deal with unexpected events.
  • Picking up another language, even on a basic level, could be helpful in communicating with others. If you live in an area with a large immigrant population that may not speak English, do you know how to tell them to avoid dangers like downed power lines or washed out bridges? Can you communicate well enough to trade water for blankets?
  • Learning what you can of a trade could be handy if you need to make repairs on something and the repairman is out of touch. Windows and doors seem to get boarded up before and after common disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes - can you cut and hang a sheet of plywood without damaging yourself or others?
  • Learn to identify some of the local flora and fauna. Knowing what you can eat and what can eat you just might be important in an emergency.
  • Find something you enjoy doing and learn how to do it better or in a different way. Learning different paths to the same destination can offer an alternative when things go wrong. A friend of mine had a stroke last year and lost the use of his right hand from the nerve damage. Learning to write, type, tie his shoes, eat, and everything else with just his left hand has been a challenge but he keeps trying.

Avoid Stupidity
  • Stupidity stupefies, by definition. If you can name all of the Kardashians or the entire roster of the team who won the Super Bowl ten years ago, but don't know how to build a fire, you're in deep trouble.
  • Stay focused on the things that can help you and yours, and keep the trivial mind candy to a minimum. A diet of cotton candy may be easy to digest, but it wouldn't be a viable way to stay alive.
  • I place organized sports, conspiracy theories, and political obsession in the same category as soap operas and reality TV shows - mind candy that may be useful as a diversion, but dangerous as a steady or exclusive diet.
  • Unless you're training them, avoid stupid people. Stupid people do stupid things (at stupid times in stupid places) and you don't want to be around them when their IQ drops below room temperature.

  • Both physical and mental exercise can improve your mental focus. Physical exertion makes it easier to sleep and can help by providing a safe way to vent frustrations.
  • Mental exercise can be as simple as playing a game of logic or skill. The goal is to make you think instead of react, so reading a book on philosophy, history, comparative religion, or any other “soft” science can work.
  • My mental exercises are mostly math-based. I'm one of those weird people who likes math and logic problems, but I know others can get the same results from poetry or writing. Find something that intrigues you and challenges you, start simple and work your way to harder things.

Stay Flexible
  • Being too rigid in your ways of thinking and acting can hamper your reaction time when something unusual happens. Knowing that other ways exist may help you modify your plans if they don't work out.
  • “What would MacGyver do in this situation?” is one way to stay mentally flexible - choose the person or character that most fits your personality and abilities, but try to think from another person's perspective.
  • You don't always have to change your ways to accommodate others, but you should at least acknowledge that others may have ideas and manners that don't match your own.

Stimulating your mind isn't hard, but it takes a conscious decision to make it happen. The mind is a muscle - exercise it, or it can fail you when you need it most.

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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