Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ordered Some Mylar Bags

Tonight I ordered 100 gallon sized mylar bags, along with 100 O2 absorbers, as mentioned in my last post. We'll put some of the rice I purchased on Monday in canisters but at least half of it will get sealed in the bags to stay fresh until we get to eating it. I'll have plenty of bags left over, which I plan to fill with other bulk foods to be purchased in the near future.

I ordered the bags and O2 absorbers from Sorbent Systems. They have a page here which shows how to seal the bags using a regular iron, for those of us without commercial grade sealers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Load Up The Pantry

From the Wall Street Journal:

Load Up the Pantry
April 21, 2008 6:47 p.m.

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

Full article here.

I am currently looking into getting setup to seal bulk purchases into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, so they don't spoil before we use them. I'll be posting about that. In the meantime, another good read is this food storage FAQ.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Food Rationing Hitting the US?

Americans hear about food shortaged in the Third World frequently, and to our credit, we're the most generous people in the world when it comes to sending foreign aid. But food rationing in the US hasn't been an issue here for decades.

Now comes this story:

Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.

At a Costco Warehouse in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the large sacks of rice they usually buy.

Full story here.

After reading the story above, I took a trip over to our local BJ's Wholesale Club (similar to Costco). There seemed to be no shortage at this particular store, but while I was there I figured it would be a good idea to pick up a couple bags of rice, along with some other staples.

No reason to panic yet, but this bears watching.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Yaesu Update

Now that I've had my Yaesu FT-7800R in the truck for a little while I have a better idea of how it works.  In a word: Great!

As I expected, it's a much more sensitive receiver than the VX-5RS handy talkie I'd been using, even with the same antenna.  For example, I listen to the radio on my short drive to the train station each morning.  It's common for me to pick up repeaters from Lancaster and even Harrisburg (I live just outside Philadelphia).

Last night I took my laptop with G4FHQ's FTB-7800 programming software out to the truck, and added a bunch of repeaters in anticipation of this weekend's trip down to Arlington, VA.  After loading in the settings for repeaters in MD, DC, and VA, I had the radio scan through them.  I picked up traffic from a couple repeaters in Baltimore.  Remarkable!  I haven't yet tried hitting those repeaters and suspect that I'll be able to listen to them from a much further distance than I can hit them with my transmissions, but this is still impressive performance.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spyderco Sharpmaker and Gerber Diamond Pocket Sharpener

Part of every toolkit should be at least one sharp knife. Knives of course wear with use and require sharpening. Up until now, I've relied mostly on traditional sharpening stones or a Smith's sharpening system (similar to a Lansky).

Last weekend I asked my father to bring over his Spyderco Sharpmaker for me to try. I used it to touch up a couple of blades and was impressed with how easy and fast it was to get a good edge. So, Sunday night I ordered one from While I was on their site I also ordered a Gerber Diamond Pocket Sharpener. UPS dropped them off today.

Before using the Spyderco I read the included written instructions and viewed the instructional DVD.

The Sharpmaker consists of a base, a set of medium grit ceramic rods, a set of fine grit ceramic rods, and two brass rods to act as handguards. When assembled the ceramic rods are set to give you a selectable edge angle of either 30 or 40 degrees. (See a picture here.) You hold the blade vertically and move it against the rods.

After dinner, I used it to sharpen several of my knives: a Case Moose with chrome vanadium blades, an Ontario RAT-3 with a 1095 carbon steel blade, a Benchmade Griptilian with a 440C stainless blade, a Schrade LB7 Bearpaw with a stainless blade, and a Mora Swedish Army Knife with a stainless blade. None of these knives were dull to start with, but now they're sharp. I had especially good results with the RAT-3, the clip blade on the Moose, and the Griptilian, all of which are now like razors (and I have the bald spots on my forearm to prove it).

I am impressed with not only the ease of using the Sharpmaker, but also with the speed one can put a sharp edge on a knife with it. Also, as shown in the video, the tool can be used to sharpen other implements like axes, serrated blades, and even scissors.

It's much easier to keep the blade vertical and move it against an angled surface, than it is to keep the blade at a constant angle and move it against a horizontal stone. This is a large part of why the Sharpmaker works so well.

The Gerber Sharpener consists of two sets of diamond grit coated rods, one fine and one coarse, in a plastic handle. You place the blade in the "V" between the rods and draw it through. It works fine for quicky sharpening jobs in the field. I used the fine rods to touch up the large blade on my Victorinox Explorer SAK, and it worked well.

Freehand sharpening with a stone remains a valuable skill. However, for routine sharpening of most knives, I'm going to use the Sharpmaker because I get better results with it than anything else I've tried. The Gerber sharpener will go into my possibles bag after I add a lanyard of some bright yellow string, to help me find it if I drop it. It weighs almost nothing and will serve to put a usable edge on a knife if it gets dull in the field.

Remember, dull knives are dangerous. They require you to exert more effort to cut something, which increases the likelihood you'll slip and cut yourself. Sharp knives are much safer. The Spyderco and Gerber are good tools to help you keep your knives sharp.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Some Lessons Learned From Paintball

Yesterday I went up to Skirmish USA in the Poconos to play paintball for a friend's birthday. Aside from a chance to run around in the woods and get muddy, I tried to approach it as a force-on-force learning experience. Keeping in mind that there are certain rules which decrease realism (e.g., hits below the elbow or knee, or on the gun don't count, the paintball guns hold a lot more ammo than any gun that's not belt fed), and the fact that rather than a bunch of trained operators each team was more like an uncoordinated mob, I think there were a few lessons to be gained as to the use of *real* force. In the end, it was still an exercise in which two groups of "armed" people were trying to shoot each other.

In no particular order:

1. People hide behind things when you shoot at them. If this was a real firefight, I'd want a round that offers good penetration. E.g., 7.62x39 or 7.62 NATO. I've witnessed multiple 5.56x45 bullets get stopped cold by a sapling which was maybe 3" in diameter. For home defense this may be an advantage. For combat, give me something that will turn cover into concealment.

2. Peering out from concealment is frequently enough to get you shot in the head. I think I got hit in the face/head 3 or 4 times yesterday.

2(a) Frequently, the only shot you may get on an opponent is of a head or other body part sticking out. For anything further than 20 yards, you're going to want a rifle, unless you have a shotgun with slugs and you can shoot it as well as a rifle. I hope to have a rifle if I ever get in a firefight.

3. Even when behind cover or concealment, frequently you will get shot by someone you didn't know was around.

4. That said, it's safer to stay hidden than to try closing with your enemy. Let him come to you and you'll survive longer.

5. When operating in thick woods or a built up area, there may be 40 people within an acre or two, and you may still not see anybody, friend or foe. The same applies if it isn't a paintball game. Some kind of short range radios for tactical commo would be *very* valuable.

6. Gloves are good. They allow you to drop to the ground without scraping your hands and provide limited protection against glancing blows. I wore Mechanix brand mechanic's gloves, which are thin enough to allow you to be reasonably dextrous. I wore these gloves in a practical carbine match back in December and they worked well for real shooting (I won the iron sight class, AAMOF). I got them at Lowe's.

7. Well-aimed suppressive fire can keep your opponent pinned down so he can't shoot you or your buddy. This is NOT "spray and pray." Rather, if you see an enemy behind cover, you can put rounds close to him, which will prevent him from poking out at you. Obviously, civilians don't usually have the luxury of using suppressive fire in defensive situations, since we need to be careful about not shooting innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, your opponent may not care. Keep this in mind so you can adapt your tactics to fit the situation.

8. Plain black iron sights won't be easy to see in the woods or inside a dimly lit building, especially when it's overcast or near dawn or dusk. At a minimum, your front sight should have a white or orange insert or paint. A (real) gold or ivory bead, or fiber optic front sight will be much better. A red dot sight is better yet. Fiber optic sight inserts and illuminated optics are two of the best innovations in the gun world ever, IMHO.

9. Even though I wasn't in any kind of danger, this kind of exercise made my adrenalin level skyrocket. Unless you are the kind of person who's unfazed by anything, expect your heart to be pounding. This is less of a factor if you're in good physical shape. Unfortunately, I'm a fat middle aged guy.

10. If you wear glasses or goggles, get some anti-fog coating if it's at all humid. Until I got some "Fog[Tech]" wipes from the pro shop I couldn't see much because my glasses and protective mask kept fogging up. If you can't see, you can't fight.

10(a) If you wear protective goggles, pick ones that wrap around so they don't limit your peripheral vision. The masks supplied by Skirmish USA eliminated peripheral vision, which exacerbated my inability to keep track of my surroundings. OTH, this helped simulate the tunnel vision many people report in the aftermath of a real encounter.

11. When involved in a force-on-force encounter (real or simulated), getting shot is a very real possibility. There's a good chance you won't even see who shoots you. Unlike the movies where the hero gets shot in the arm but goes on to prevail, expect to get shot in the hands, arms, face, head, chest, back, butt, and groin.

11(a). Yes, I got hit a two or three times in the crotch. Thankfully, I was wearing my spare ammo carrier so that it covered up my boys, so it didn't hurt. If you decide to practice force-on-force with airsoft or paintball, wear protection down there.

12. "Too much ammo" is an oxymoron.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Listening to Katrina

Arfcom's ShaneS has started a new blog to share lessons he learned during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I highly recommend it.

Pics of my New Yaesu FT-7800R Installation

I finally got my Yaesu FT-7800R 2M/70cm mobile installed in my 1997 Ford Expedition today. This is my second FT-7800R. I use another one as a base station.

First, the control head mounted on the center console, mic, and Radio Shack speaker:

The body of the radio is mounted under the passenger side front seat. Front:


No antenna pics. I'm using a Diamond MR-77 mag mount, which I've had for awhile and used when I had my VX-5RS in the truck. It works great and allows me to tip it over in case I need to park in a garage. I've only used the new setup briefly but I've already received traffic on repeaters up to 50 miles away. Compared with the VX-5RS, this is going to give me greatly improved mobile communications capability.

I had Automotive Sound and Protection in Conshohocken, PA do the install. Cost was $80.