Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I semll a coverup...

Suuuure blame it on the hackers. Let's just hope that this thing doesn't spread!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A book review

I just finished reading the book Plague Year. It's about a nonotech virus that is accidentally released. In a very short time it spreads all over the world and completely decimates life everywhere. Luckily, the original creator built a fail safe into it that causes it to become disabled at altitude. Basically, it can't survive above ~10,000 feet above sea level. The American government ends up centralized in a small town in Colorado where they manage to save some of the greatest minds in the nanotech field to work on a cure. Other major governments manage to survive in other parts of the world and they're all racing to do the same thing. At the same time they're implementing plans to make sure that if humanity manages to get through this then they'll be in control. Meanwhile, small holdouts manage to continue to survive in small pockets all over the globe. Most of the people are desperate and are doing whatever they can do to get by. Cannibalism is widespread. The haves see this as an opportunity to enslave the have nots. The governments are barely managing to keep their people under control. Then a ray of hope emerges and hilarity ensues.

If you're into TEOTWAKI fiction then this is a good one to check out. I wouldn't put it in the same category as Alas, Babylon or Lucifer's Hammer but it's still one of the better SHTF novels that I've read. This isn't a how to on how to survive during the apocalypse like the previously mentioned were. This is a book about human nature and how people react when forced into a world ending event. It's a book that gives an accurate insight into how people of all different types will react when all hope is lost. I don't really consider the scenario to be plausible. If it actually happened then I consider the solution to be even less plausible. Like a lot of these types of novels, though, I can see the reactions of the people, from the normal dude who barely made it by his own virtue to the powerful senator who only made it because of a little luck and how "important" he was, to be fairly accurate. I do, however, find it a bit ironic that if the average person was to read a piece of survival fiction that focused on a character who just "happened" to be well prepared and because of that "somehow managed" to end up better off than most everyone else it would be written off as unbelievable and a bit ridiculous. Good luck finding me a piece of survival fiction that actually made it to print that had a main character like that (besides Rawles book which doesn't really count since no one really reads it until after they've started to wake up).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Swedish Mora Sheath

I'm a big fan of Swedish Mora knives. There aren't too many better knife options out there for less than $100. It beats everything hands down for less than $50. At ~$10 a pop they're a steal. I do have my gripes about them, though. First of all I hate the hard plastic handle. Some of the versions out there have a rubberized grip. The one that I have doesn't. I solved the problem by wrapping the handle with 550 cord. That ensured that I have an extra 10 foot length of 550 cord with me when I'm carrying the knife. It also provided a loop to make it easier to hold onto. Obviously, it also made a better grip and it made the handle bigger and wider which makes it a little easier to hold onto (for me).

The other gripe that I have is the sheath. I'm just not a fan of that hard plastic sheath. It's functional but it'll scratch up your belt when you put it on. Also, after I wrapped up the handle I couldn't get the knife to seat properly because of the rim. Then I remembered a post that M.D. Creekmore over at The Survivalist Blog made a few months ago about making a leather sheath for his mora. I don't have the tools or any of the materials for leatherworking and I decided that buying all of the stuff that I would have needed wouldn't be worth it. We had been corresponding via email, anyway, so I went ahead and asked him how much it would cost for him to make me one. Once we agreed on a price I sent the money and he sent me the sheath.

It showed up in my mailbox today. The craftsmanship was good. It was much nicer than I expected, actually. I'm no leatherworker and I don't own a whole lot of leather goods so It's kinda hard for me to write an accurate review on that end. We'll just say that I was pleasantly surprised and I won't be embarrassed to show it off. A picture is worth 1000 words so I've included some. When I slid the knife in the sheath was way too big. That was no biggie. I just cut the top off of the plastic sheath that the knife originally came with and slid the bottom part inside. It was a perfect fit. I'll probably glue it down to make it a bit more secure but I don't think that it's really necessary. It fits securely enough as is. And now for some pics:

The sheath, knife and plastic insert

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The knife and the plastic sheath inserted in the leather

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The knife snugly inserted in the sheath

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If you have a Mora knife and you hate the sheath as much as I do but you don't know crap about leatherworking then you might want to send M.D. Creekmore an email and see if he'll hook you up. I'm very pleased with his work.

Friday, January 23, 2009

WTF?

I just saw this on Google and thought I'd throw it out there. This mentality is one of the major problems with this country. Training our kids to think this way is going to screw us completely in the future. School seeks to forfeit 100-0 win.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finally bottled my merlot

This was an easy one. There was very little work involved. The most labor intensive part was the bottling (unless you count the writing of this post which took MUCH longer than everything else put together). I started with a 6 gallon bucket of wine juice. These are probably only available seasonally and you'll have to do some research to find out where you can get your hands on them. You can always just get a wine kit from your local homebrew store but it'll end up being more expensive. It will still be a lot cheaper than buying the wine in a liquor store, though. Anyway, I dumped my juice into an 8 gallon bucket that I use as a primary fermenter. If you don't have an 8 gallon primary you can just take the lid off of the bucket that the juice comes in, drill a hole in the lid, pop in a grommet and attach an airlock. Just pitch your yeast and stir it until it's dissolved. Then attach the lid to your fermenter and put your airlock into place. Leave it for a few days to a week.

Over the course of the next few days the liquid in your airlock will continue to bubble. That's the fermentation taking place. Once the bubbling has stopped then the fermentation is mostly finished. At that point you'll want to check the specific gravity with a hydrometer. This step isn't necessary but if you're serious about wine (or beer or any liquor) making then you'll want one. If you don't have one then you can just skip to the next step when you think your must is finished fermenting. I would give it at least a week in the primary just to be sure. I like my wine strong, though, so it would probably end up being more like 2 weeks. If you do have a hydrometer then you can take a measurement to make sure that your must has fermented enough so that you can move on to the next step. Once your must has fermented sufficiently then you'll want to transfer it into a secondary fermenter.

At this point you'll want to transfer your must into a secondary. I use a glass 5 gallon carboy (a big bottle). You can also use another bucket, a plastic 5 gallon water bottle or anything else that's big enough to hold all of the liquid. It just has to be easy to sterilize and you must be able to attach an airlock to it. You can add things like clarifiers, oak chips or other finings that are used to add different flavors and attributes and stop fermentation of your wine at this point. There will still be some fermentation going on even if the airlock isn't bubbling so you'll want to add some sodium or potassium metabisulfite. This will sterilize the wine and stop the fermentation without adding any undesirable flavors. I added oak chips to this batch of merlot since most merlot is conditioned in oak casks (too rich for my blood). I also added some bentonite which is just a neutral clay that will attach itself to all of the undesirable particles in the wine and pull them to the bottom, thereby leaving you with tasty, clear wine that just needs some time to condition properly. Attach another airlock and leave it be for another month or so.

At this point you'll have some tasty wine in your fermentor that just needs some more time to condition before it's ready for bottling. There should also be a cake of all of the extra crap that the bentanite attached itself to and pulled to the bottom. Because I'm paranoid about getting too much of that crap mixed in when I do my bottling I transferred it to a third, well sterilized fermentor which left most of that crap on the bottom of the original. I also transferred my oak chips along with the must. If you do have an oak cask then this is when you'd want to transfer the wine to it. Again, I attached an airlock and let it be. This time I left it for a couple of months to give it plenty of time to condition properly.

After letting it sit for a couple of months I transferred my liquid gold into a bucket with a plastic spigot drilled into it near the bottom. Before you get to this point you'll want to make sure that you have plenty of empty, sterilized wine bottles on hand and ready to go. You can collect them yourself, ask friends to save them for you, make friends with a chef at a restaurant and have him save them for you or just buy new ones. Anyway, after transferring the wine to my bucket I let it sit overnight to allow what was left of all of the undesirable particles to settle to the bottom. Once I was ready to bottle I attached a 3/8" food grade hose to the spigot with a bottle filler attached to the other end. The bottle filler is just a plastic tube with a piece of plastic sticking out the end. When you push on the little piece of plastic on the end it allows the liquid to flow through it. When you release pressure then the flow stops. Press it to the bottom of a wine bottle and the bottle fills up perfectly. When the bottle is full you just pull it out and the flow stops. Wash, rinse and repeat until all of your bottles are full. At that point you'll need some corks and a corker.

The corker I use is just a double level corker that cost about $25. You fit the bottle to the corker, drop in a cork and push it in. I use the cheapest corks that I can get my hands on. They're about $4 for 30 of them. Cheap corks have a tendency of falling apart when you uncork your bottles so you need to be careful. Either that or you can get corks that are more expensive. Remember to leave two finger widths of space between the cork and the wine. I make sure that my bottles are filled up just past the base of the neck before corking them. That seems to be the sweet spot. I ended up with about 30 bottles of delicious merlot at the end of the day. The cost, including all equipment, was substantially less than what I would have paid had I bought 30 bottles of even the cheapest merlot available in a liquor store. If you drink a significant amount of wine then you'll probably end up paying for everything with just one batch.

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The most important thing to remember while brewing is to make sure that everything is sanitized. You can screw up a lot of things and still end up with a great brew but lack of proper sanitization can quickly result in a wasted batch that is completely undrinkable. You'll want to sterilize everything from your fermentors to your airlocks to your corks. if it touches your wine then make sure that it's sterilized! If you don't have the equipment needed and you don't have a local homebrew store in your area then I'd suggest giving Do Your Brew a call. It's a one man operation but it's ran very well. It's also where I go to get my equipment and ingredients. The guy is very knowledgeable and will treat you right with very fair prices, fast shipping and advice whenever you need it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some zombie action

I'm a bit of a zombie nut. I've probably mentioned it before. Zombie films and stories probably have more to do with my interest in preparedness than I'd want to admit. Hell, I even started writing a zombie story a while back and never got around to finishing it. You can check it out here if you're interested at all. I keep thinking about finishing it but every time I reread it to try to get caught up again I quickly realize how poorly written it is and decide that it's not even worthwhile to finish. It seems like zombie movies are getting popular again. Up until a few years ago if it didn't say Romero on it then you couldn't even find zombie movies except at the bottom of the bargain bin. With movies like I Am Legend, the Resident Evil series, 28 Days/Weeks later and the Dawn of the Dead remake it seems like some people are finally deciding to spend some real money on these movies to make them worth watching in a theatre. While money and special effects doesn't always make a great movie I've been fairly pleased with what Hollywood has come up with so far. Unfortunately there are still a lot of campy, hoaky, low budget zombie movies coming out that you've probably never even heard about.

Automaton Transfusion - I can't think of anything good to say about this film. If you're a gorehound that loves to watch decomposing corpses rip the guts out of people and spray blood everywhere then you might enjoy this one. While that sort of thing doesn't bother me it doesn't add anything to a movie, either, as far as I'm concerned. The plot, acting and dialogue are all bad. It has a ton of zombies with lots of blood and plenty of firearm action, though, so that may be enough for some people. Usually I try really hard to forgive a low budget movie for things like bad acting and cheesy dialogue but this movie falls below even my normal standards. It just seemed like their sole mission was to make a movie about zombies eating people and getting blown away.

Day of the Dead '08 - This is a Romero remake which, much like Dawn of the Dead '04, bears little resemblance to the original. At least DotD '04, like the original, took place in a mall. More importantly it was better. Day of the Dead '08 is a completely different movie with no resemblance to the original. They both have military guys in it. That's about the only similarity. I would rate this movie a few steps up from Automaton Transfusion. The zombies were pretty good and the acting wasn't bad but I just couldn't get into the story. If you're running out of movies to watch on Netflix or you happen to find it in the bargain bin then by all means check it out. It's not horrible. It's just not that great, either.

Diary of the Dead - This is George Romero's latest contribution to the genre. I liked it. It was pretty well put together. It was slow moving at times and I don't think that he really captured the whole documentary feeling that he was trying to accomplish. I felt like I was watching a movie the entire time. Still, the acting was good, it had it's share of thrills and it was entertaining overall. It's just not as good as any of his other films. It's certainly worth adding to your collection.

The Zombie Diaries - This is another independent film released out of the UK. It's shot documentary style much like Diary of the Dead. The difference is that this movie was actually convincing. The camera work was phenomenal. You honestly felt like you were watching someone's home movies. The acting was every bit as believable as the camera work. The dialogue was good, too. This is not a gore fest. There are some very very disturbing images throughout the movie, though. It does have it's share of blood, guts and plenty of decomposing corpses but the movie doesn't concentrate on that aspect enough to make you sick of watching it like so many other zombie movies do. Without giving too much away the movie is about 3 groups of people who are barely managing to survive. Each group is filming their experiences during the zombie apocalypse. None of them are particularly well prepared and they all make mistakes. Their paths eventually cross. It's a good depiction of how badly small mistakes can cost you, how much worse things get when you're not prepared and how vulnerable trust can make you. This movie doesn't end well. Do not expect a happy ending. This is one of those gems that has a lot to teach people, though, so it's well worth watching. Just make sure that you do NOT watch this one with the kids. You're not going to learn how to tie a spiffy new knot or build some new, more effective trap but you'll get a great insight into human nature and what people are capable of when law and order breaks down and they have to fend for themselves. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who's interested in preparedness.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Playing with fire....steel

I've been messing around with alternative methods of firestarting a lot lately. I've been watching videos, reading blogs and researching articles trying to figure out some "easy" ways to light fires without using stuff like alcohol, drier lint, petroleum covered cotton balls or other cheats. I've come to a few conclusions. First and foremost...if you have anything on hand to cheat with then USE IT! It will save you much frustration. A bit of rubbing alcohol works wonders and it's cheap to stock up on. I just can't believe that some of these guys making these videos didn't pour a bit of alcohol or some gas on their kindling before lighting it with one or two strikes of their firesteel. I can shoot sparks over a pile of bone dry grass with absolutely no wind all day long and never achieve more than a few wisps of smoke. I pour a few drops of alcohol or a dab of petroleum jelly on it and it goes up in no time.

Even magnesium firestarters are garbage. The gust of wind created by swiping your knife across the flint is all it takes to blow the little pile of magnesium slivers to the four winds. Usually I just take the slivers and mix them up with my kindling to keep them from blowing away. Even that doesn't result in much more than a few extra sparks and some smoke. Once again, though, with a bit of extra fuel it's easy to get it burning in no time.

Give me a match or two or a lighter and I can get a campfire going in a thunderstorm. You can even give me a firesteel and some lighter fluid and it's at least possible. Tell me to gather some kindling and try to get something going, though, and we'll all freeze to death before I can get that fire started. I haven't even bothered attempting the bow and drill method. If I can't even get a fire started with a firesteel then how am I supposed to get one going with a couple of pieces of wood and some string? So what's the trick? Maybe I've missed something. Once I get the flint and steel method down then I'll work on getting more primitive.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Still Smoking!

The last time I posted about this it was August. A couple of weeks ago I finished off the pound of tobacco that I bought. I dunno how many cigarettes that is per day but I've gone through about 300 filtered tubes so I guess that I'm doing pretty good. All in all that set me back about $25. Since I finished off that pound of tobacco I've started to buy little 8 oz packages. These are just about perfect for me. They're only $1.69 per package and with the $.20 off coupon on every box they come out to less than that with tax. It got me to thinking that this would make an excellent trade item during hard times. One cool thing about these packages is that they come with a small pack of rolling papers. I don't use them but I save them anyway. Even if you're not a smoker you can put back a few of these, toss them in the freezer and forget about them. They won't go bad if you keep them frozen. Even if you don't put them in the freezer then they'll keep a long time just sitting in a corner of your prep closet. The last time I wrote about this I mentioned giving a buddy of mine a cigarette that I had lying around for years and he smoked it without much of a complaint. If you run into a smoker who's having trouble keeping up with the habit then you might as well be offering him (or her) gold in a trade. In the coming hard times I can see tobacco being extremely valuable. Even if you're a regular smoker it will pay to know where to get this stuff. You can't buy it at Wal-Mart and most smokers don't think to stop at the local smoke shop to cut costs. Even if they do buy their cigarettes at a smoke shop it's not very likely that they'd even consider buying the "roll your own" stuff until things get so bad that they can't afford it, anyway. Remember the little anecdote about the guy who was dead set on walking out of the shop with a carton of something when I went in there to buy that pound of tobacco? Keep your options open. If you're a smoker then you can keep doing it for pocket change no matter how bad things get. If you're not then you can put some up for trade for the cost of a couple of candy bars.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

LED Lighting

Flashlights have come a long way in recent years. Up until just a few years ago maglights were about your only choice for a dependable, reasonably bright, durable flashlight. Now, with the invention of LED technology we've got lights that are bright enough to see by, ridiculously cheap, small enough to fit in your pocket and durable enough that they don't feel like they could break if you squeeze them too hard. Oh and you never have to worry about the bulbs going out and the battery life is exceptional. There are also some high powered lights out there that use xenon bulbs but as far as I'm concerned LEDs have overtaken even that technology in just a few short years.

Because of all of this I've found myself becoming a flashlight whore. After picking up my first Surefire G2 a couple of years ago I was hooked. Since then the technology has come so far that the options appear to be endless. I've found myself collecting flashlights just so that I can make sure I have one that will run off of any battery type out there. Then a better one comes out. The new one is really cheap, is twice as bright and I just have to get it.

I just detailed my purchase of the Streamlight stylus so I won't go into that again. I'm still very happy with it and it's already come in handy a few times since I started carrying it. Today I was at Home Depot and I saw a light that was on the other end of the spectrum, though. It was a Husky 2 D cell 200 lumen light. This thing is awesome. It was bright enough that I could see the spot in broad daylight. Turn it on and set it on it's end and it will light up a pitch black room enough that you can read by it. It's beefy enough that it could be used as a weapon. If you shined this in someone's eyes their vision would be screwed for at least a few seconds. They'd still be seeing dots minutes later. It's too big and heavy to pack but I could easily see keeping one in your trunk. It will be replacing my Surefire G2 on my nightstand. For $25 this thing is a hell of a deal. It even comes with two batteries so you don't have to worry about buying those d cells separately. That's not a battery size that I keep stocked up on.

Later I stopped by Target because I heard that they had a lot of their camping gear on clearance. I ended up picking up a Coleman percolator for $7 and a collapsible LED lantern for $16. They were both half off. My biggest beef with flashlights is that when you take them camping you can't just set them down and expect them to provide much light. Sure you can use a headlamp or carry a flashlight with you everywhere you go but I'd rather just be able to set my light down and have it illuminate the entire campsite. This puppy will do that no problem. It does use 4 D cells (damn now I'm going to have to start stocking D batteries) but the runtime is 20-40 hours depending on what setting you leave it on. It's got 3 different settings which is also nice. It packs down to a very small size and it doesn't weigh much even with the batteries in. For car, trailer or bike camping it will be perfect. I'll be leaving it at home for the high mileage backpacking trips, though.

On my way home I stopped at Ace to get some lamp oil (more on that in another post) and noticed that they had LED bulbs for $10 a pop. I had a $5 coupon in my pocket so I decided to go ahead and try it out. Let's just say that LED technology still has a way to go before we can consider it viable to replace light bulbs. Maybe this just wasn't a very good one. I will say that immediately after opening the package I dropped it and it didn't even leave a knick. The durability has never been an issue with LEDs, though. I plugged it in and I might as well have set a 15 led flashlight on it's end and turned it on. The light output was horrible and it seemed to be concentrated into one area. I turned on one of my CFLs in the same room and it almost completely drowned out the light that the LED provided (yes I've replaced every one of my lightbulbs with CFLs and it did make a difference in my electric bill). LED light bulbs might not be quite there yet but you'll be hard pressed to find a better flashlight solution. Personally, I can't wait until LEDs catch up because they use even less energy than a CFL and you never have to worry about throwing them away. Even if one should happen to fail throwing it away isn't something that you have to feel guilty about since it's just a couple of wires and some plastic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Saving Change

I was going through my change jar today and started to think. I have a LOT of pennies and nickels. About once a month or so I separate my pennies and nickles from my dimes and quarters. I cash in my dimes and quarters and put my pennies and nickles in a coffee can. They just keep adding up. For a long time I was taking Rawles advice and getting a few rolls of nickels every time that I cashed in my paycheck. Those rolls added up fast to the point where I probably have more than I'd be willing to take with me if I had to bug out. Sure the metal content is worth more than the monetary value of the coins but I have to wonder if it's worthwhile to sit on them. They're heavy. I have a lot of them. It's still money that can be spent. If I were cashing them in for beer money it would be one thing but when I cash in my spare change I buy silver, ammo, food stocks, etc with the money. Basically, I use that money for preps. Those preps could easily pay huge dividends a lot sooner than what the metal in the coins will ever pay.

Not so long ago I recommended that you should do just what I'm doing. Now I'm recommending that you take that spare change, cash it in and get some preps with it. You can bet that Obama is going to make SOME sort of push towards gun (or ammo) control. Guns or ammo are both safe investments. You can't have too much non perishable food on hand. Packing your pantry a little tighter is never a bad idea and if rampant inflation ever kicks into overdrive then food could get prohibitively expensive. Spot silver and gold are both low compared to where they were a year ago. While spot silver has been sitting around $10-$11 an ounce you can't buy it for less than $15-$20 an ounce if you look on ebay or walk into a shop. Gold has been hovering around $800-$900 and ounce if you pay attention to the spot price but if you actually try to buy it you can expect to pay well over $1000 an ounce. Meanwhile, some big investment firms are "baffled" over the fact that rich people are cashing in their investments so that they can take possession of physical precious metals. The fact that they won't get a cut when those rich people cash in those investments (or purchase those investments) couldn't possibly have anything to do with their trepidation about this investment strategy.

If you've been saving your pennies over the last few years then it's time to cash them in. Get something that will have real value that you can actually take with you during an emergency. I was shocked when I actually calculated the face value of all of the rolls of nickels that I'd saved up. Needless to say I'll be paying a visit to my local coin dealer within the next couple of days and it won't surprise me if I walk out with some gold to add to my collection. Just remember...gold and silver aren't the only precious metals. Soon lead and brass could both be very precious as well. More importantly you can't eat ANY of those. If you're short on food storage then that's obviously what you need to be focusing on. It's time to kick things into overdrive. I firmly believe that we're at the do or die stage. It's up to you to decide what you need to do to make sure that your chances of dying are a whole lot lower than everyone around you. On a lighter note M.D. Creekmore over at the survivalist blog wrote a good post a couple of days ago about urban living during a worst case scenario. If you haven't already read it then I suggest that you go check it out.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Easy alcohol stove

Do you need a lightweight, cheap, easy to make, portable stove solution? I was messing around on arfcom today and came across a post on how to build an alcohol backpacking stove out of a couple of beer cans. I've made a few of these but I tend to give them away. Since they're so easy to make I don't think anything of it and then my BOB sits for weeks without an alcohol stove in it. The only reason that this is even remotely justifiable is because I also keep a Primus multifuel stove in it with a full bottle of Coleman camp fuel. The Primus is certainly a higher quality stove but it's also heavier, much more expensive (about $100) and it's got a lot of small parts that can fail (although mine has always worked for me without having to rebuild it).

So, anyway, I saw this post over at arfcom and it inspired me to go make another alcohol stove for my BOB. All that you need is a sharp knife, a 2x4 block and a couple of beer cans (the 2x4 block is really just a convenience). Stabilize the knife on the block and cut the bottoms off of a couple of beer (or soda) cans.

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Once you have a couple of beer can bottoms just put one inside of the other with the bottoms facing out. Then push them together to seat them. This is a lot harder than it sounds but eventually you'll get them to fit. Once the cans are seated properly you need to drill some holes for the burners. Start by putting a big hole in the center of the top. You can use a nail for this or just drill a hole with a 3/8" drill bit. You'll want to put a penny over this hole when you light the stove. Once you have the hole in the center you'll want to put several small holes along the rim. You can use a thumbtack, a very small nail or anything that's capable of poking small holes for this. I used a small hand drill that I use for modeling. If you're using a can that has numbers or letters stamped into the bottom then you'll have to sand it smooth around the area where you'll place the penny. After the holes are drilled and the bottom is smooth then just get a piece of aluminum foil and mold it around a tuna can so that it will hold a small amount of fuel. You can also just use a tuna can.

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Put the stove inside of the piece of foil or tuna can. Fill the stove with alcohol. You want to let a little bit of it overflow and collect in the primer area but not too much. Just pour it slowly until a couple of ounces drains into the center hole. After it's full put a penny over the hole. Next light the fuel in the primer area. The primer will burn off and the burners will continue to burn. How long it takes for the primer to burn depends on how much overflow you had. If you end up with too much overflow don't worry about it. Just go ahead and start boiling. Eventually, it will burn off. Here are a couple of pics. The first one was taken with the light on. The second one was taken with the lights and the flash off to show the flames.

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After the water started boiling I decided that I didn't want to waste a shot of everclear. I threw in some ramen and some cut up carrots and celery. Cooking dinner didn't take long at all.

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The pot is just a stainless steel pot that came in one of those chinsy camp pot sets. It's lightweight and I can unscrew the knob on the lid and screw it to the inside so that it doesn't snag on stuff in my pack. The stand is aluminum wire and aluminum tubing that's cut and bent to hold the pot properly over the stove. The windscreen is a coors light can. I just cut the top and bottom off and then split it down the middle. Everything fits easily into the pot which fits easily into my pack. Just carry a small flask full of everclear and you've got a fuel source that should last you at least a few days during an emergency. You can even take a nip or two off of it if the stress of bugging out is getting to you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My kind of recipe

I love to cook. I cook most of my own meals. I like to cook extravagant, wholesome, delicious meals. I experiment a lot and am always trying new things in the kitchen. I focus more on stocking staples, spices, dried goods and things that I can use to make things my way instead of things like premade soups, MREs, freeze dried cans, etc. I've got a lot of cookbooks and I save good recipes that I find on the internet. Every once in a while I find a really good one. Not because the finished product is so good but because, instead of giving you a list of ingredients and telling you how to prepare it, it gives you ideas on how to do a popular dish several different ways by giving you the fundamentals on how to make it along with a set of rules that you should follow to make sure that it turns out well.

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. Pasta salad is one of those things that I like to keep in the fridge. Rather than keeping a book full of recipes I keep this around and make it off of these guidelines. I found this a while back and have used it ever since.

How to Make Pasta Salad


by Susan MacDowell

Pasta salad is a great dish to have in your culinary repertoire. It's quick to prepare, adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand and popular with most diners. If you're looking for an easy side dish or a light entree, this guide to How to Make Pasta Salad will walk you through the process of preparing the perfect pasta salad.

Table of Contents

* Introduction
* What You'll Need
* Step 1: Cook the Pasta
* Step 2: Mix the Dressing
* Step 3: Assemble the Salad
* Additional Potato Salad Recipes
* References

Pasta Salad Tips

1. Experiment with different pastas
2. Don't over-cook the pasta
3. Substitute light mayonnaise or yogurt to reduce fat and calories.

by Susan MacDowell

Introduction

* Whether its a traditional mayonnaise dressed macaroni salad, or a more sophisticated mixture of artichokes and bow tie pasta, a pasta salad is a great accompaniment to a summer barbecue.1 2 This is truly a dish where your culinary creativity can shine! Starting with the basic framework of a box of dried pasta, a cup of salad dressing, and 3-5 cups of chopped vegetables, you can put your individual spin on this classic dish.

What You'll Need
Ingredients

* 1 box of Pasta
* 1 cup of Salad Dressing
* 3-5 cups of chopped Vegetables


Equipment

* Stock pot
* Colander
* Mixing Bowl
* Cutting Board
* Mixing Spoon

Pasta

Dried pasta works better than fresh pasta. Even without that option, there are lots of choices when selecting the pasta you'll use as the basis for your salad.

1. Increase fiber by selecting a whole wheat pasta, rather than the traditional semolina based variety.
2. Add visual interest by choosing a mix of colors.
3. Colored pasta has a small amount of an ingredient like spinach (green), tomato (red) or squid ink (black).
4. Make sure the shape you select works with the salad. Pastas with curves and ridges like shells, rigatoni or orechiette tend to pick up small additions like chopped scallions or bacon bits. Smooth pastas like elbows or farfalle are better work well with an oil and vinegar based dressing.

Dressing

* For a simple salad, you can use any prepared salad dressing.8 If you have a few more minutes you can mix your own mayonnaise-based or oil and vinegar dressing.

Vegetables

* The vegetables you use are limited only by your imagination.9 Onions and celery are basic choices. Red and green peppers add color and crunch.10

Optional Additions

* Nuts, sundried tomatoes, bacon bits and dried fruits can add interest to the salad. You can also add cheeses such as feta, parmesan or goat cheese.9

Step 1: Cook the Pasta

* Boil the pasta noodles according to package directions. Make sure you don't overcook the pasta. Drain the pasta immediately after cooking. If you're using an oil and vinegar based dressing, add some now, before the pasta cools. Otherwise, toss the pasta with 1 T of olive oil, and let cool. (The oil keeps the pasta from sticking together.)11

Step 2: Mix and Season the Dressing

* If you'd like to mix your own dressing, here are two simple choices.

Mayonnaise Based

* 1/3 cup Vinegar
* 1 cup Mayonnaise
* Salt and Pepper


Oil and Vinegar

* 1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
* 1 cup Olive Oil
* Salt and Pepper

Optional Seasonings

* Whisk the ingredients together, adding seasonings as desired.12
o 1/4 cup Minced shallot
o 1 T Dijon Mustard
o 2 cloves pressed Garlic
o 1/2 t Sugar
o 1/4 cup chopped fresh Herbs

Step 3: Assemble the Salad

1. Add dressing to pasta.
2. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed, adding more vinegar, salt or pepper.
3. Add vegetables and any optional ingredients.
4. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, as desired.

Obviously, once you get a good handle on how to cook it's pretty easy to figure out this stuff. It's not that hard to look at a recipe and make changes as you see fit. Seeing it this way just makes it easier for me to figure out how to do it the way I want it without having to make it several times first. If anyone has some good links or books with a lot of recipes with this type of format I'd love to take a look. Please share!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Got a new flashlight

I've tried to keep a flashlight close at hand for the last few years. I have a cheap led light in every room of my house. I keep a surefire g2 on my nightstand. I keep a 115 lumen led in my bob. I keep an led light in my glove box and a cheapo xenon in my GHB in my trunk. I also put an led light in my wife's glove box. Needless to say I am an advocate of having a source of light handy no matter where you are.

I've also been experimenting with everyday carry lights that I can easily carry in my pocket. After breaking at least 3 of the little keychain LEDs within a few months each I finally gave up on them and got a $3 Rayovac pen light at Wal-Mart. That one actually served me pretty well. If you're on a budget but you need a flashlight that you can easily carry in a pocket I'd recommend that one. I carried it for several months and finally lost it a few months ago. Ever since then I keep finding myself in situations where I reach for my flashlight just to realize that I haven't gotten a new one yet. Finally I stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up another one today. They were out of stock. While I was considering whether or not I should try to track down an "associate" and have them try to find one in the stock room I remembered playing with a Streamlight stylus pen-light at a local police supply store not too long ago.

Off I went to the police supply store. Luckily it's right next door to my regular liquor store. Since I was going to be stopping there anyway it wasn't even out of my way. I walked in, looked around at all of the cool police stuff, got annoyed at the fact that they charge "normal" people $100+ more for their guns than they charge LEOs and finally walked over to the flashlights. The last time I was in here I remember them costing $20. This time they were only $15. Score!

The Streamlight claims to have a 60 hour battery life on it's packaging. That's a non factor to me, though, since I never changed the batteries on my Rayovac. The Rayovac used AA batteries and the Streamlight uses AAAA batteries so if I ever do have to get new ones it will be much more difficult to replace the batteries on the Streamlight. I don't expect to have to change the batteries on this one anytime soon, though, so it's not a big deal to me. One thing I can say about the Streamlight is that it's MUCH brighter. It's also a little bigger. It's thinner but longer. It fits nicely in my pocket, though, so that's pretty irrelevant. It's built a lot sturdier and I can see it lasting significantly longer. Also, the ring with the hook that you hook onto your pocket is replaceable. One thing that annoyed me about the Rayovac is that it was a bit cheap and flimsy and eventually wore out. Being able to replace that will be a nice feature since I probably lost the Rayovac solely because of that hook wearing out.

The Streamlight that I decided on is quite a bit more expensive but it's also a lot more durable. The batteries will be more expensive and harder to replace than the Rayovac's but since the battery life is so ridiculously long it shouldn't be an issue. They both fit nicely into my pocket. As far as I'm concerned everyone should have a small flashlight on them whenever possible. Not everyone can wear a larger sized flashlight in a holster on their belt, though, so a pocket light is really the only option. Those stupid, flimsy, little led keychain lights aren't worth crap in my opinion. If you want something that will last then a Rayovac pen light is a decent option if you're not willing to spend more than a few bucks. If you want something that's really bright, well made and durable then I'd highly recommend the Streamlight. At $15 it's still a lot cheaper than most other decent flashlights on the market.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What I'm looking for

Getting some land and putting some type of cabin on it has been something that I've been thinking a lot about for a while now. I've been pricing out land. I've been looking at potential areas where I'd want to buy. I've been researching a lot of different types of cabins and homes. I've been watching craigslist just in case a really tempting deal on a travel trailer or something like that pops up. This has been going on for the last couple of years but I've always had more important things to spend my money on. I'm getting to the point now where I'm comfortable with the preps that I have at home so it's time to take it to the next level.

I'm not looking for a piece of junk land but it does need to be affordable. I'm only looking for 5-10 acres. If the world never ends I still want to be able to enjoy it. I don't want to have to haul water so it needs to have a viable water source nearby or I need to be able to dig a well fairly easily/cheaply. I want relatively easy access to firewood. It needs to be sunny and windy enough that a few solar panels and a wind turbine hooked up to a battery bank are a viable power source. I want it to be remote enough that few people will know about it unless I want them to know about it. I want it to be accessible enough that I can drive my car or motorcycle there. It needs to be close enough that I can go there for a weekend whenever I feel like it instead of having to make a planned and organized trip out of the ordeal. It needs to be far enough away that I actually feel like I'm away from it all while I'm there. Of course, it also needs to pass the "golden horde" test. Obviously having enough space to grow a good sized garden and raise some livestock is also a necessity.

We'll see what concessions I have to make when I'm forced to find that perfect balance between price and "survival potential". I've got a good idea of where I'd like to get my land. The area that I'm really interested in seems to meet a lot of my criteria and the prices seem reasonable but I'm guessing that the prices will go up fast as more of my criteria are met. There's also another area that I'm looking at that's twice as far away but at least 1/3 the price. From what I can tell it's not much more than a desert, though. I need to visit the area first hand and get an idea of what I'm really going to get for my money.

As for the actual building I've done a lot of research on everything from earthships to monolithic domes to dozens of different designs for conventional cabins. I'll probably start with a shack with a wood stove. Putting something together that's big enough to be comfortable shouldn't cost more than a couple grand. If I decide that it'll work for me then I'll start making additions. If I decide that one of the more unconventional, super energy efficient, easy to hide designs are a viable, economical option then I'll just use the shack until work on the real house is finished.

I'm very interested in earthships but it'll really depend on how much it costs, how much of it I can get away with doing myself and how much maintenance is involved with keeping them operating properly. I just haven't been able to find out enough details about them. I really like domes but most of that build would have to be contracted out. Cost, once again, becomes the primary concern. A stick built home would be the easiest to put up and probably cost the least. To be honest that's what it will probably end up being. I could also go with concrete block or brick but that would start getting pricey fast, too.

It'll be a while before I start seriously considering my options what to build. The land is the first step. Hopefully by this time next year I'll be asking for advice on what to build, how to build it, what mistakes not to make, etc. First of all I want to start thinking about it way ahead of time. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "I wish I would have done it differently" or "if I knew then what I know now then I wouldn't have made this or that mistake". Hopefully I'll get some good advice and won't make too many mistakes.