Start With The Darkness.

Maglite and Tool PouchThat little combo flashlight / multitool pouch on the right may not look like much, but in a way, it’s what got me started on my journey towards armed personal defense.

I started off my photo career as a photo assistant, something pretty much everyone does, and within a few months, I was making a full-time living at it, something very few people were able to do in the Phoenix market. I rose to the top because when I was on the job, I made it my priority to make the photographer’s needs my priority, and that meant thinking ahead and having a plan to deal with all the things that might go wrong on the set. Sets that were usually pretty dark, because a ) The setups were usually indoors and b ) You really don’t want stray light sources interfering with your photos.

As such, it’s usually dark inside a photo studio, and that means that if something goes wrong, it’s probably going to have to be diagnosed and fixed in the darkness. I found out really quickly that having a flashlight (in my case, a AA Maglite, which seemed AMAZINGLY bright when I first started out) and a multi-tool (this Gerber, which I still love and adore), a pen (a fine point Sharpie) and some gaffer’s tape (because, just like The Force, it has a light side and a dark side and it binds the universe together) on me at all times was good thing, because stuff can happen when you’re 14 feet up in the air adjusting a light and you may or may not have someone near the grip cart to help you out. You were on your own, and you had to solve the problem in front of you RIGHT NOW with only the tools you had on you.

Sound familiar?

I honestly think carrying a flashlight on a day in, day out basis is the best starting point we have for getting people used to the idea that they need to prepare for the crap that can happen in their lives. As sure as the sun sets in the west, darkness will happen in our lives. We know this, we accept this, and yet the VAST majority of Americans walk around completely unprepared to deal with it beyond hoping that the streetlights come on each night.

Get people to carry a flashlight everyday. That starts the wheels turning.

An Army Of We.

Interesting article on Wired on how social media is proving to be more flexible and faster-responding to disasters than the .gov is.

From Hernandez’s viewpoint, international aid workers from countries such as Spain, Japan, Israel, and the United States were working at a dangerously slow pace. Hernández placed more trust in civilians, such as the carpenters, electricians, and welders who had responded to volunteers’ messages. The lamps, shovels, and dust masks were distributed from volunteers’ tents. The food that volunteers provided for the hundreds of people on site, including the government’s uniformed forces, was prepared in their own homes.

The Southern Baptists figured this out YEARS ago, which is why they’re so much better at responding to hurricanes than anyone else.

The modern security state exists, in part, because the people decided they needed a larger-scale response to large-scale traumatic events than they as individuals were able to provide. When a really big fire and a rising crime rate was the problem, the people got together and appointed members of their community to act as firefighters and police officers and solve those problems.

What happens when the people themselves can self-organize faster than the agencies that were supposed to solve those problems? What happens when the people who were supposed to solve the problems become the problem itself?

As the saying goes, the internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it. Maybe now we’re seeing what happens when the internet has to route traffic to damage in order to repair it.

Turn Up The Radio.

Ugh, did I just make a reference to a lousy 80’s hair metal band?

Yes, yes I did.

Anyways, there’s an interesting article on MacRumors.com on how iPhones are equipped with an FM receiver, but it’s turned off by default, and turning it on, especially during natural disasters, might be a good idea.

Actually, I think it’s a great idea.

Our cell service was out for days after Irma, and we did better than most people at keeping up with what was going down because we had a cheap wind-up AM/FM radio with us. But if the gazillions and gazillions of iPhone owners out there could tune into hear emergency updates at a time when the cell towers were tango-uniform, it can only be a good thing.

Product Review: Bear Minimum Bear Bowl

Bear Bowl

Bear Bowl expandedAdvantages: Folds up REAL small
Disadvantages: Insufficient heating
Rating: 2 out of 5

I backed this campaign on Indiegogo because I was looking for a way to carry around a cup to heat up water that wouldn’t take up a lot of space inside my go-bag.

The Bear bowl is a different kind of bowl: It has a lightweight aluminum base to suck up the heat from your stove, and then some slick plasticky stuff on top that folds together to make the bowl itself.

It does require a little effort to get the bowl to fold together correctly the first time you try it, but after that, it’s pretty intuitive. To test out the bowl in it’s natural environment, I set up my Esbit stove on a baking sheet on my kitchen table while I was waiting for the power to come on last week, filled up the bowl with 2 cups of water, lit the fuel tab, and off we went.

Light it up!I apologize for the low-quality pic, but lighting with the lights out was less-than-optimal. The Esbit lit up like it’s supposed to, and the water started to heat up.

A brief explanation on why I want a stove and some way to heat water in my bug out bag: I don’t have any Mountain Home meals or similar in my bag because I’m not planning on using that gear for the long-term. The purpose of my bug out bag is to keep me going for a minimum of three days, and I can survive quite nicely (if a little hungrily) on energy bars and similar food for three days, maybe even a week. The stove is there to boil water if I need to purify it and to heat up water for instant coffee. Yes, you can survive without coffee, but why would you want to?

With that in mind, it’s important to me that my stove and water container can create good rolling boil to make sure all the bad critters in the water are well and truly dead, and sadly, this is were the Bear bowl falls down on the job.

Not a real boilThe Esbit fuel tab took around eight and half minute to burn up, and the picture at right shows the best boil I could get with this bowl. While that level of boil may be good for heating up freeze-dried meals or for coffee, it’s not going to work for purifying water. I’ve seen videos where an Esbit stove is capable of getting a rolling boil in around six minutes, so what I suspect is happening here is that the fabric on the bottom on the bowl is acting like an insulator (as plastic is wont to do) and impeding the boiling process. This test was done at sea-level. How this bowl will perform in the mountains is anybody’s guess.

In addition to this, the Bear bowl requires a controlled flame on the bottom of the bowl to work, and I question it’s utility for heating up water on a campfire or an improvised grill, and I just can’t guarantee I’ll have a stove handy if I have to use my bug out bag.

Bottom line is, I give the people behind the Bear bowl full marks for creative thinking and coming up with a unique way to save space when you’re trekking into the great outdoors. For me and my needs, though, it’s back to a metal cup when it comes to boiling water when no power is to be found.

Living In A Post-Irmageddon World

Six years ago, I wrote about how watching the .gov screw up the response to Katrina made me realize that they were not going to be there for me if something bad happened to my family.

And they weren’t.

Who WAS there were people like my neighbor Chad, who ran outside at the height of the storm to clean a blocked drain that was threatening to flood our street.

There was Mike’s Weather Page, which provided hurricane models that were far more accurate that what the NOAA was feeding us.

There was the science teacher in my Sunday School class who worked with the NOAA for years, and told us WAY ahead of time that Irma was something to be concerned about. There were faith-based organizations who were FAR more able and nimble than the .gov was.

There were the meteorologists at the various local TV stations who were present when Wilma went through here and knew how to talk to us hurricane rookies.

Race Bannon Mike Pence showed up in our town and walked around and Ben Nelson shook some hands and Air Force One came and went, but they didn’t have to hunt for gas to fuel their cars and they don’t have to worry if the grocery store will have fresh milk tomorrow. FEMA has promised help, but it will be a while until it arrives, but in the meantime, churches ARE helping, and they’re helping right now.

It wasn’t Antifa who drove down my street at 12AM making sure everything was alright when all the lights were out, and it wasn’t the Republican National Committee either. It was the men and women of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, but I wasn’t counting on them to be there if someone decided to kick in my door during a gap in coverage.

I was, however, counting on the Mossberg 500* in my safe room and the 9mm Shield on my hip.

If and when the .gov does help in the recovery of Hurricane Irma, that’s nice, but to quote Band Of Brothers,  “How do I feel about being rescued by Patton? Well I’d feel pretty peachy, except for one thing, we didn’t ******* need to be rescued by Patton.”

We didn’t need to be rescued by the .gov. We rescued ourselves.


* Yes, I know, I wrote on how I was ditching the scattergun in the safe room in favor of an AR in .300BLK. I’m not going to make the switch, though, until my can gets out of ATF jail.

You Don’t Need Something Like That. Until You Do.

Tam talks about how much fun it is to go to a tactical carbine course.

I know people who take butt-tons of carbine classes because, face it, running and gunning with an AR or AK, especially on targets in the 7-to-50 yard range, is fun as hell.

Which is not to say that there wasn’t a ton of value in what I spent last week doing, because any time you get a chance to have to think on your feet while armed and move safely around other armed people and make decisions with a gun in your hand is time well-spent. Working tactics in the house is a different animal altogether from doing marksmanship stuff on the square range.

That got me thinking.

I’ve bagged on such courses in the past, and I still think that they should not be a priority for the average citizen who owns guns. If you have never taken a post-CCW pistol class and have no idea how to set a tourniquet, a carbine class shouldn’t be your first choice.

But let’s stop and think for a second. My neighbor across the street from me is a recently retired 82nd Airborne veteran, and another neighbor the next street over is a former LA County Sheriff.

A carbine class, especially a low-light carbine class that would teach me how to act in conjunction with my neighbors who once got paid to shoot people in the face for a living, suddenly seemed to be a very good idea as I was sitting on my front porch during the darkness of a post-Irma curfew on Monday night, as did some sort of body armor and chest rig. I have a IIIA soft plate, so it might not be a bad idea to get another and also something to hold them close to my body.

Nobody needs such things. Until they do. And given that Category 3 hurricanes are not an uncommon event here in SW Florida, it might behove me to learn how to use an AR-15 more better, and use learn how to use it in conjunction with my friends who know how to use them as well.

Irma Gerd

A quick update:

My family and I took a Category 3 hurricane almost head on, maybe even worse than head-on, because the right eyewall went right over us, so we got all the fun winds and stuff for even longer than head-on, with no eye to provide relief.

Bottom line is, though, as Unc says, if you’re prepared for the zombie apocalypse, a hurricane is just another windstorm. We’re all fine,  no damage to home or ourselves, but landline internet is out for the rest of week so updates will be spotty at best.

Thanks for your concern and well-wishes.

Irma Not So La Douce.

I’m writing this a couple of days before Hurricane Irma smacks into south Florida. Like Miguel, we decided to ride it out. I may or may not have power this week, so updates here will probably be a bit spotty. We’ll be fine: The most-current tracks have the storm fringing the east coast, so at best we’re looking at 50 mph winds where I live and a day of rain.

We can deal with that. The best way to keep track of my efforts to battle the sharknados that inevitably occur after events like these is to follow me on social media.

Stay safe, mis amigos.


Bonus points for getting the movie reference in the post title.
Triple bonus points for naming, without searching, which James Bond book is referenced in the post title.