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Phillosoph

Don’t Use Your Word Processor!

Yesterday I came across the advice “Don’t use a word processor to write!” This seemed like an odd idea but as I thought about it the wisdom behind it became apparent.
Often I have been using a word processor when the program has “done something weird”. I then spent twenty, perhaps forty or more minutes trying to fix it. At the end of this the creative flow has usually stalled! In addition to this, on my home machine both MS Word and Open Office have a tendency to freeze up when saving new documents.
A lot of what I write ends up as a webpage. Most of the features of a word processor have very little effect on the final appearance. I have written a couple of ebooks, and again, the layout from the word processor has very little effect on the final product. One of the epub creators I used was very fussy. It would not accept Open Office documents and the MS Word version had to be extensively edited and formated before it was accepted. I suspect if I had had a plain text version I might have saved myself considerable time. Often I will draft an email in a word processor and then paste it into the messenger. The only WP feature I am actually using is the spell checker.
Many of us use complex word processors for jobs that actually only needed a simple text editor.
My “weapon of choice” has become Notepad++. I had already been using this program to code my HTML. Rather than pasting text in from a word processor I will now type the text in directly, adding HTML tags as I go. I can do the latter very quickly since Notepad++ gives you an easy system of creating custom macros. My personal experience of Notepad++ is that it is a robust and relieable program. It saves when I click save, opens quickly and so far has not crashed or frozen on me, unlike some WP programs I could mention. I made a few “tweaks” to improve Notepad++ for its new responsibilities. Firstly, make sure you have the Spellcheck and DSpellcheck plug-ins installed and activated. I also recommend that you install the Autosave plug-in. This should be the one from Franco Stellari with the version number 1.6 or higher beside it, not the one labelled “Autosave2”, which is apparently more an auto-copy. Download the .dll files into the plug-in folder, then use the plug-in manager (if your version has one) to tick the boxes and install.
A text editor cannot fully replace a word processor, but you may find using the right tool for the job saves you both time and effort.
An offshoot of this idea got me thinking about how many files I had stored in .doc format. I suspect I can save myself some disc-space if I convert some of these into .txt or simple HTML pages.
Written and edited with Notepad++.
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Phillosoph

EDC Shopping List.

The other day I had cause to look in one of my boxes of outdoor gear. Various containers that I thought might prove useful. Items brought out of curiosity or sometimes just for their novelty. Gifts from friends. Some are milestones from my path of understanding. Most of it I will never use. Either I have acquired better alternatives or my requirements have changed. So much money spent over the years that I could very much use now. Sadly most of this stuff has very little resale value.
If I knew then what I knew now” I could have saved myself so much time and money. This inspired me to think about the idea of a prepper/survival shopping list. If you have just come into the field, what should you be looking to buy first?
Hopefully my article on “Foundation survival kits” has proved a good start. A fire kit, bottle for carrying water and bag of toilet paper will have been easy to acquire. A poncho and liner or blanket will have cost a bit more but probably did not break the bank. You may be saving up for a good survival knife, but have hopefully bought a machete or hatchet to serve in the meantime. 
 
Most of the items suggested for the foundation are relatively bulky, however. They are “bag” items rather than things you can keep on your person all the time. If you have a good “skin-level survival EDC” what you can find in your environment or in your pack is a bonus.
The good news is that you can build up a good EDC without a great outlay of cash. My article on skin-level gear mainly listed my personal items. I have been asked for a more general list, so this might as well be a shopping list. As before, I will concentrate on the items you carry and save a discussion of clothing for another day.
Pocket Knife: This will probably be the most expensive item on this list. In an emergency this may be the only knife you have available, so it makes sense to get a good one. That said, as a cash-strapped youth I carried a Chinese penknife. It had a really good assortment of tools and the only trouble it ever gave me was a corkscrew straightening out. With my first full-time pay-cheque I brought a genuine Swiss army knife. In my personal list you will note I also have a mini-Swiss army knife (SAK), a Leatherman Squirt and a number of other tools. Some redundancy and backup is always wise. My preference is a Swiss army knife but many of you will be tempted by full-size multi-pliers/ multi-tools. My SAK and Squirt together weigh several ounces less than many full-size multi-pliers, but the choice is yours. Put a loop of cord on your knife so you can secure it to belts or snap-links when necessary.
If you wear glasses and opt for an SAK buy the mini-screwdriver that fits in the corkscrew.
Optional is a small sharpening implement. Mine is a small metal card with diamond dust on one side. Small whetstones and other devices are alternatives.
Knives are not designed for prying, especially folding ones. A pocket prybar is a good addition to your EDC.
Lighter: The most basic fire kit is to carry a lighter. Get the type with a wheel. Even if empty it can still be used to create sparks. Multiple disposable lighters can be brought in budget stores for about a buck.
Bandana: Bandanas can also be found for a modest price. Multiple uses.
Space Blanket: These can be found for very reasonable prices, which is good since they are one of the most important survival items that you can carry.
Flashlight: Flashlights can get really expensive, so it may be sometime before you save up for the one you want, especially if you want a tactical, waterproof kubotan that will survive a nuclear attack. In the meantime, small LED lights such as copies of the Photon II can be found on ebay. Carry one on your keyring.
Whistle: A whistle is another useful addition to your keyring. Budget stores and ebay have these. If you live or travel where temperatures often drop below zero make sure your whistle is non-metallic.
Cordage: Cordage can be put to many uses, but how much for EDC? About two metres/ a fathom/ an armspan of paracord is probably a good start. Or you can carry a spare pair of long bootlaces. Buying a hank of paracord is probably prudent. You will need it for some of the other items.
Dental floss: For lighter cordage I carry a compact container of dental floss. This fits in my pocket pouch of medical items. A hank of braided fishing line or kite string is an alternative.
Pencil with tape: Another “non-medical” addition to my pocket pouch is a short pencil, wrapped in a length of electrical tape. A detachable eraser protects the point.
Chalk: Chalk is useful for marking trails or leaving messages. Half a stick of white or light coloured, half a stick of dark.
Safety Pins: Useful for failed zippers and other wardrobe malfunctions. May be used to drain blisters or possibly as improvised fish-hooks. Mine ride in a little plastic bag with a couple of hair pins and paper clips.
Needle and Thread: At skin-level this is a single needle, already threaded with about a metre of “invisible” thread. Experiment with magnetizing the needle. You will need to select a method for protecting you from the point. Mine rides in a “sheath” made from a drinking straw.
Compass: If starting out, avoid tiny button “survival” compasses. They like to hide in the corners of pockets and pouches. I have to keep my larger clipper compass in a container to avoid this. For about a buck or two you can find budget baseplate compasses on ebay. These are good entry-level items and you can use them to teach yourself some mapwork. They weigh about an ounce and you should be able to find room for one in your EDC. Add a lanyard so you can secure it to your person. A whistle is a good addition to a compass lanyard. I prefer to use non-metallic whistles on compass lanyards.
Condoms: Condoms have a number of survival uses. Keep them away from your needle!
First Aid Kit: Your skin-level medical kit is for immediate treatment of minor injuries, i.e. actual “first aid”. For longer duration problems have a more extensive kit in your bag. When you have the option, use the items in your bag before your EDC. Budget stores and ebay sell little first aid pouches that will fit in a cargo pocket. Often they come with some medical items included. The contents may need a little tweaking but you can create a very useful pocket first aid kit for very little outlay. Many of the items listed above can be fitted in the pouch. I even got my space blanket in mine.
Personal Medication: This will vary with the individual. In some environments this would include a supply of anti-malarials.
Tissues or Toilet Paper: A ziplock bag with a few metres of toilet paper. Obviously, have a larger supply in your pack and use that in preference to your “emergency” EDC supply. If you have a cold or nosebleed this saves your bandana. Paper can be used as tinder and the bag used to carry water. The entire package can be useful padding for other items in a cargo pocket. If, like me, you seem to accumulate lots of paper napkins from takeaways, use these instead. A very useful addition to your kit that costs virtually nothing. For low-level use I carry a small bag with just a few paper napkins. I add a larger bag should I plan to stray from civilization. 
Carabiner: A carabiner makes a very practical keyring and has a number of uses. Several of the items listed above can be conveniently carried on your keyring. If your gear has loops or rings it can be temporarily attached to the carabiner when you need your hands free. I sometimes use mine to carry shopping bags.
That concludes our basic list. A number of items but many of them can be acquired at very reasonable prices from sources such as ebay. Many of the items you may already have around the home.
In my previous article I suggest several EDC items that “up-level” your readiness. Where practical these should be stored in the same small pouch that can easily be added to your pocket contents. Another of the budget first aid pouches can be repurposed for this.
Pouch contents include:
  • Fire Kit: Additional lighter, tinder in container, one or more candles. Fresel lens if you have one.
  • Fishing Kit with Snares.
  • Optional: About two thirds of a metre of cooking foil, ideally the heavier duty “turkey” foil. Carefully folded and rolled.
  • Optional: Additional space blanket.
  • Optional: Larger compass, with spare whistle. Using a firesteel necklace as the lanyard is an option to consider. Add a small snap-link and Photon light.
  • Optional: Elasticated bandage. This came with one of my medical pouches. I don’t include it in my daily EDC, but it is a useful addition to the higher readiness inventory.
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Phillosoph

Survival and Likert Scales.

In my last blog I covered the topic of skin-level survival EDC and described what I carry, and how I could add to that. This prompted a few friends to send me their own suggestions. Some of these were excellent, others…:P For simplicity my blog just covered the items I personally have. There are other alternatives, and some people will have other priorities. I will cover options on another day.
Some friends in particular (you know who you are!) will often send me a link to some survival gadget they have discovered. While I enjoy seeing these, and hope that they continue to send them, my response is often rather neutral. In many cases I often have the same capability in an item that I already have, which is more compact, more reliable, more readily available or cheaper.
The root of this is the need to distinguish between what is essential and what is just “nice to have”. Too many kit lists pile on lots of “may be useful” items without any real consideration of probability of need.
For example, I recently came across a list of suggested items for inclusion in a “survival necklace”. One of the items was “alcohol hand sanitizer”. Unless you work in healthcare, you should not need to carry this. Your average person does not need to clean their hands every twenty minutes. That is not how immune systems work. For actual wounds, alcohol wipes are more compact and more practical. “But you can start fires using sanitizer” you may protest. True, but it is simpler with some tissue, cotton wool, or many other, more versatile, EDC items I already carry. A bottle of sanitizer is also pretty bulky for a necklace!
A friend of mine suggested a “wasp kit” as part of his EDC. Other than your usual first aid items, I would not recommend this. I leave wasps alone and they tend to return the favour. If they hang around too much I can shoo them out the window, cover what is attracting them or trap them under a glass and release them out the window. I don’t do the silly dance some people do, nor the statue impression. I have not been stung in well over 40 years. My chances of getting stung are extremely unlikely, so no “wasp kit”. If I was allergic to wasp or bee stings my EDC would include suitable items. The likelihood of being stung remains the same, but its consequences make these items more important.
My EDC includes a trio of lock picks, which have proved useful on certain occasions. Their weight is negligible. I only carry my larger, more capable sets when I know I am going to need them. If you cannot pick locks, however, there is no point in carrying any picks.
What we need is a method to evaluate the usefulness of an item in the light of the probability of need and portability.
I have mentioned the book “Mind Hacks” by Ron Hale-Evans before. Hack #44 has an interesting application for the Likert Scale. In his example he creates two seven-point scales, one for probability, the other for importance. 1 is “very unimportant” or “very improbable”. 2 is “improbable/unimportant”, 3 is “somewhat improbable/unimportant”, 4 is “neither important nor unimportant” or “neither improbable nor probable”. 5, 6 and 7 are correspondingly “somewhat probable/important”, “probable/important” and “very probable/important”. The author arranges these in a 7 x 7 matrix to judge priority.
Using one of our previous examples, I judge the likelihood of my being stung by a wasp as “very improbable” so having a value of “1”. If I was stung, it would be unpleasant, but for me it would not be life-threatening, so would count as unimportant in the greater scheme of things. A 2 or 3 at most, but perhaps a 1. If I multiply my value for probability against that importance I get a value of between 1 and 3. Doubling this for an approximate percentage gives me 2-6%, which confirms my decision not to carry specific items. If I was allergic, however, the importance of being stung would be 6 or 7, 12-14%. If I was someone whose usual reaction to a wasp was to piss it off, probability would be higher.

Use these values as a guide, rather than something that must be strictly adhered to. You will note that the distribution is atypical, “neutral being only 32% and 50% somewhat probable and somewhat important. There is no “set percentage” past which things automatically become essential or redundant. Variables such as environment may change the scores you assign. In most situations not being able to make a hot drink is a minor problem. In sub-zero conditions it is more of a priority. The wasp sting did not score more than 14%, but if allergic it is potentially life-threatening so still something you should plan for.
Obviously our survival equipment should prioritize items that are important and likely to be needed. We can also easily create other Likert scales other than probability and importance. Bulk and weight can be considered. Important/necessary items that are low in bulk/weight go into our skin-level EDC. Bulkier/heavier items that are less important/necessary go into backpacks etc.
Play around with this concept and see if it helps with your planning and kit selection. 
 
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Phillosoph

Skin-Level Survival EDC.

Suppose that you are separated from your bag or rucksack. Your webbing gear, if you wore any, has become damaged or lost. All you have is the clothes you stand up in and whatever is in your pockets. This is your “skin-level” survival kit. 
Part of your skin-level kit is the clothes that you are wearing. Hopefully you were dressed appropriately for the climate. If you were chilling by the pool when everything went pear-shaped one of your first priorities is going to be to acquire some new threads.

Today I am mainly going to concentrate on what you have in your pockets, or carried on your trouser belt. This is what many people would call “EDC” or “everyday carry”, although the exact use of this term varies. Some people would include the contents of their daysac or handbag in their EDC. This article will assume that such items are not immediately available. Reaching them may be one of your objectives. Some people use the term “EDC” for all the paraphernalia they have on their person, while in other contexts it is specific for defensive weapons. This article intends to examine EDC for survival.
Look on the internet and you will find EDC lists that suggest you should always carry a solar still, fishing kit, gold coins, eating utensils and so on. This is not very practical. The heavier and bulkier your EDC kit becomes the more likely you are to not carry it all the time and omit parts you may need.
A good EDC survival kit is designed to have two tiers of readiness. “Lower level” is what you carry all the time. Many of these items are carried because they can be useful in daily life. “Higher level” are items that you add when you step up to a higher level of readiness. Your lower-level kit would be on you when you go down to the store. You would add the higher-level items if you were leaving town to hike in the woods.
For example, in my lower-level kit I have a lighter, which can be used for fire-making or illumination. The expansion to higher-level is a little pouch that adds a container of tinder, some candles and a spare lighter. I have little need for a fishing and snaring kit in town, so these items are higher-level.
Many ingenious individuals have had fun creating survival vests, survival jackets, survival walking sticks, survival pens, survival necklaces or survival hats. These are not the best way of carrying your EDC. Jacket pockets are better used for items such as gloves, scarves and hats. Your survival EDC should be based around your trousers. Everything should fit in your pockets, or on your trouser belt. Since you (hopefully) wash your trousers, items should be easy to transfer to a new pair, or to a pair of shorts if the weather permits. What you carry should not add so much weight that you have trouble keeping your trousers up. Nothing should be so bulky or hard-edged that it digs into you if you have to sleep clothed, bangs against you when walking or might injure you if you fall on it. Personally, I am seldom not wearing cargo trousers or shorts. If you have to dress more formally there are companies that sell suitable garments with extra, hidden pockets. 
Let us have a look at what I am carrying, and how I might expand it to a higher-level. Your up-level items should be stored together in a small bag such as a pencil case. Keep this with your knife-belt (qv).
Fire: The lighter in my left pocket is my primary source of fire. To up-level I will use a small fire kit that would be carried in my right cargo pocket. As described on other pages, this would have a spare lighter, a container of tinder, Fresnel lens (above), some candles and possibly some matches. Note that the spare lighter is in a different pocket to the primary.
Food: I don’t carry any food on me, so this category is more about means to procure food. At low readiness that is money and a credit card. For higher-level I have a container of line, hooks, wire and other fishing items. The dental floss I have in my pocket pack could be used for snaring or fishing, the safety pins serving as hooks. If you are diabetic you may want to add a small supply of glucose tablets, hard candy etc. You could carry a tightly rolled sheet of cooking foil, but I personally don’t currently do this.
Signaling: I usually carry a phone. As well as being able to call for help, many modern phones have useful applications such as a notepad, compass or GPS capability. Phones are useful but also delicate so should not be the sole thing you rely on. The photon light on my keyring could be used to signal. The keyring also has a whistle. My pocket kit includes a pencil and chalk, and I carry a pen (a retractable Zebra pen, since my belt pouch is rather small. I actually found this pen! Non-retractable, all-steel Zebras are suggested as a good alternative to more expensive “tactical” pens). Up-leveling would probably add a larger, but compact, pocket torch. A lightweight signaling mirror is another useful item. These are a good addition for tactical scenarios since they can be used to peek around cover. You may already have an item that can be used as a signaling mirror. Many compasses have a mirror and some phones or music players have mirrored backs. A mini-flare kit could be accommodated with the other items in the right cargo pocket, but I have never actually owned one of these. A larger whistle, on a lanyard, might prove useful. There are cord necklaces that include a flint and steel. If you can find them at reasonable price add a whistle, photon light and a snap-link.
Shelter: Most actual shelter items are too bulky for skin-level EDC. The exception is a space blanket. One permanently rides in my pocket kit. You may want to carry additional space blankets. Not only can they be used for warmth, but also as protection from the rain and for signaling. Penny for penny and pound for pound space blankets are among the best survival gear you can carry. Do not leave home without one.
Cordage: The dental floss in my pocket kit has already been mentioned. Either carry a couple of spare bootlaces or a arm-span of paracord. This can easily be carried in the bottom of a pocket and has numerous applications. If up-leveling, a larger hank of paracord can be carried on your person if you have room. Braided fishing line also has many uses.
Tools: My keyring includes a bottle-opener, mini-Swiss army knife, a P38 can opener and a little tool for removing SIM cards and opening CD drives. That last tool possibly does not have a survival application. The keyring itself is a carabiner. Several of my items can open bottles. The bottle opener is just a convenience, particulary in social settings. 
A small pouch on my belt carries by clipper compass, a pen, a trio of lock-picks (two Bogotas and a snake), money, credit cards and a USB drive. A second pouch has my Swiss army knife, mini-Leatherman, pocket prybar and a sharpening card. The Swiss army knife includes a screwdriver that can repair glasses. 
A small bag in my pocket kit contains a few safety pins, hair pins and paper clips. These can be put to various uses. A length of electrical tape is wrapped around my pencil. I may add a needle with a metre of invisible thread. I don’t regard a sewing kit as an EDC-level requirement, but the weight is negligible and a sharp point potentially useful. I have now added a couple of threaded needles, wrapping them around the pencil.
If up-levelling my main additions would be a larger knife and compass. More of that later.
Water: There are water bottles that can fit in a cargo pocket or on a trouser belt. The bulk and weight of water means that you are unlikely to carry water at skin level unless the weather is very hot. A few sheets of water purification tablets can be included in your pocket medical kit. If up-levelling the water category, I might add a “survival straw”, ideally one that fits in a cargo pocket. A condom could be used as a water carrier, but I don’t carry them, no longer being single.
Medical: Your EDC medical kit is mainly for minor injuries. Have a better kit in your bag. My pocket medical kit rides in my left cargo pocket. In addition to the items already mentioned it has alcohol wipes, plasters and pain-killers. There is some medication I have to take with meals so I carry a few days supply of this in my right cargo pocket. If you need to take medication regularly then you should carry a few days supply with you and make sure it remains in-date. If up-levelling a small container of insect repellent and/or sun-cream might be a prudent addition. This need only be a small volume, your main supply being in your bag or base. Chapstick or Vaseline in winter, if you think you will need it.
Other items: If you are out in the wilds a few metres of toilet roll or paper tissues in a ziplock bag should be added to one of your cargo pockets. Make that a permanent part of your kit if you wish.I have a small bag with a few paper napkins for about town” and a larger bag I add for rural”.
A bandanna has numerous uses and is easily carried in a side pocket. Since I lack some hair I have used mine for head protection when caught out without a hat.
I wear photochromic glasses so don’t carry sunglasses. These protect the eyes from both excessive light levels and more physical threats.
Non-survival items carried are a USB drive, travel card and music player, although the back of the latter is a mirror.
So far we have talked about pockets and belt pouches. In years past most of my EDC was in a compact bumbag. I have learnt to make more use of my cargo pockets and have replaced the bumbag with a couple of pouches. One is a repurposed pouch for a mobile phone. You should not add so many pouches to your trouser belt that it interferes with carrying a rucksack, or sitting in a vehicle. There are belts that are made of paracord, but if you unravel them to use the cord you have nothing to hold up your trousers, nor hang your pouches from! There are trouser-belts with hidden storage compartments, and various ingenious buckles. The original boy scout belt had a buckle that served as a bottle opener.
Earlier on I mentioned adding a larger knife and compass to the skin-level kit. My favorite kukri weighs just under a pound, but hanging it on the trouser-belt is a bit much. What you need is a second belt. This is effectively an intermediate level between skin-level and webbing. When at a higher level of readiness you should attempt to keep it upon your person. Your knife belt rides below the trouser-belt, like a cowboy’s gun-belt. It should be adjustable, so that it can be worn over thick clothing when desired. Add a compass pouch to one side of the belt, and attach the compass lanyard to the belt. Add a carabiner or snap-link to the front of the belt. I carry my kukri on one side of the belt and a Mora puukko knife on the other. Not surprisingly, this belt could also be used to carry a handgun. If I need to carry a hatchet or entrenching tool I can slip it between belt and body. A folded rain-jacket, poncho or unfolded space blanket can be draped over the back of the belt.
Many police officers experience medical problems from the weight of their duty belts. Detaching the duty belt from the trouser-belt and wearing it lower like a gun-belt might improve matters.
The knife belt can be used to carry a litre or two of water. The best way to carry water is in bladders since this is lighter than conventional bottles. Rather than placing the weight on the knife belt my proposed “camelbum”concept would give more options.
I have mentioned carabiners and snap-links a couple of times. Use one as your keyring, add one to your whistle lanyard and knife belt. Also have them on your rucksac strap and/or webbing. When you need a hand free, or there is a risk you might drop a tool, attach the tool to the nearest snap-link. This is an extension of the idea to collect empty magazines described in my book “Survival Weapons”. Make sure your tools have loops or rings.