Two Interesting Ideas

Today I am going to stray from my usual topics to pass on links to two very interesting articles.
There is a tired old chestnut that has been going around the internet and that I still get sent occasionally. The story goes that a man at an olive jarring factory hit on the idea of removing two olives from each jar, vastly increasing profits for the company. What a clever, simple idea this was! Only, if there is any truth in this story, it is not. Olives are sold by weight, so reducing the measure was at best fraudulent if not outright dishonest and theft.
Sometimes, however, you do come across an idea that is both simple, brilliant and has immense potential to make changes.
This is a brilliantly simple idea and made even more impressive by the fact that it was a high school student that thought of it.
Computer ink is very expensive; more expensive than some French perfumes! By changing to a font such as Garamond printing costs can be reduced by as much as 24%. The US government could save $400 million per year by implementing these ideas.
Garamond will save you money.
If I write another book I will put it in Garamond rather than my usual Times New Roman. Sadly the cost savings will not be passed on to either you as the buyer or myself as the author, but do not let that stop you treating yourself to some copies.
The second article mentions energy companies trying to “put the genie back in the bottle” by trying to implement legislation against alternate power sources. The suggestion is that if your business model is no longer valid, change it. It is an approach that may have other applications and is worth thinking about.
Steven Chu Solves Utility Companies' Death Spiral

Parched Rice and Balls!

   On many illustrations of Viet Cong or NVA soldiers you can see them wearing a tube-like item that resembles a thin blanket roll. This would be made of silk, cotton or even from a bicycle inner tube and carried the fighter’s rice ration. Some books I have read claim this was a month’s ration but it is more likely to be about a week’s, for reasons I will explain.
During a conversation with a friend the other night the topic of rations came up and I found myself trying to locate some information on how much rice an NVA/ VC ate in a day. When I cook rice I measure out a 100 ml volume in a jug, which is about 100 g. If I am honest this is often more rice than I need. I had a recollection that I had read that the NVA ration was 190 g. That is a lot of rice but credible when you consider a fighter was carrying a heavy load, moving long distances over rough terrain and may have been short of the meat and vegetables I bulk up my meal with. The book I had read the 190 g figure in is no longer available on line, and it is quite possible my recollection is wrong. I did come across another source that indicated that the monthly allowance of rice for a fighter was 20 kg. No way that those tubes hold 20 kg of rice.

Surprisingly little good information could be found on line about the VC rations. Some sources tell us fighters were given four cans of fish and nine rice balls, but with no indication as to how long this was intended to last. Some sources claim that the rice carried was either “parched” or pre-cooked. Carrying a week or more’s worth of pre-cooked rice in a jungle environment sounds rather impractical unless the rice has been thoroughly dried after cooking. While much of the VC’s food was portaged in from the north they also took food from local sources and rice from here would have most likely been uncooked. Sources talk about VC eating cold rice balls in the morning or while on the move but also mention a detail of the unit being tasked with cooking rice when the unit halted for the night. What seems probable was that each night enough rice was cooked for the hot evening meal and for the cold rations to be consumed on the next day. The cooked rice not eaten that night was formed into rice balls for ease of handling. These balls were often formed around a small piece of fish or meat. I also encountered mention of raisins being placed in a rice ball, although this was by an American unit that had adapted to eating rice balls since they were lighter than C-rats.
This diet of canned fish and rice was supplemented by any fresher food that was encountered. Edible leaves were a welcome addition and fruit such as wild oranges much prized. While the VC ration was not particularly nutritionally balanced and a bit monotonous, the VC and NVA soldiers were generally well fed, unlike the ARVN soldiers who were often poorly supplied by their logistic forces.
Did the VC use “parched rice”? I don’t know, but given the frequent mention of rice being formed into balls it seems likely most of the rice carried was uncooked rice that was boiled. Interestingly, you can parch rice and it is rather simple to do. It makes an interesting alternative to pinole.
I had a go at parching some rice last night using my wok. I cooked it to a light brown colour so I knew it was cooked sufficiently. I think I used a shade more oil than I needed but the result was not unpleasant. It is kind of crunchy, a bit like trying to eat the unpopped bits of popcorn. As you may expect if you have ever tried pinole, it is rather filling. I made a bowl of the stuff and most of it is still uneaten, even though this was all I had for dinner last night.

The Real Cost of the Olympics and World Cup

Regular readers of this blog know that I often encourage people to exercise more and make such simple lifestyle changes as taking the stairs instead of a lift. The subject of today’s blog may therefore come as a surprise to some of you. Some of you may really disagree with my view here, but I only ask that you think on the issues raised with an open mind.
Recently London was the host to the Olympic Games. In the middle of a economic recession and two foreign wars we decide to spend thousands of millions on what are mainly some pretty mediocre spectator sports? All sorts of unlikely justifications were made for having the Olympics. It was claimed that it would stimulate the economy. It never has done in most countries that have hosted the Olympics. Britain is now downsizing its army, police services and medical services due to a budgetary deficit that is oddly very close to what was spent on the Olympics. The Olympics were going to improve public fitness by encouraging people to take up sports. Three solid weeks of spectator sports are going to encourage people to not sit on their sofas snacking? Many of those few who did feel inspired to take up sports probably injured themselves by overdoing it. So we won a few golds in some events? What changes has that made to our lives? Just we have to sit through a few lame advertisements featuring sports personalities. For the amount of money spent we could have saved money minting a gold medal for every single person in the British Isles.
It was very interested to hear Brazil was hosting the World Cup and Olympics. Even more interesting was the suggestion that the favelas were to be knocked down to make way for the Olympic village. My Brazilian girlfriend’s response was one of amazement. “There will be a civil war! Last time they tried anything against the favelas they went into police stations and shot everyone!”
Olympic host cities have historically cleared away and marginalized their homeless in advance of the games. Over the twenty years prior to Brazil the Olympics has displaced over two million people. This figure has undoubtedly increased since the Rio games and World Cup.


Two Methods for Better Shooting.

200th Blog Post!
I must have been little more than a toddler when my father told me “you don’t pull a trigger, you squeeze it.” He had been trained this in the army and so deeply ingrained was this that he felt obliged to pass it on even though I was knee high and using a toy.
Many years later I was visiting Los Angeles and my hosts took me to shooting range. My hostess was very proud of the fact that she had been on a firearms training course run by well know trainer and gun writer. In a passing I mentioned something about “squeezing the trigger” and got a blank look. She had been on this intensive and expensive course, run by an “expert” who writes for gun magazines, and yet the concept of not jerking a trigger was new to her.
The other day I came across this article posted up on scribd. It is well worth a read and has some interesting ideas. It could have used an illustration of the recommended one handed grip, but you can probably work this out once you have mastered the two handed techniques. The idea of balancing things on you pistol while dry firing to check stability is kind of neat. I will also note that if you suspect your gun may not be suited to dry firing you can always chamber an empty casing or acquire some dummy/drill rounds.
Handgun Accuracy Overnight by A DANGEROUS MIND

Another article I recently read suggested ways to improve your instinctive aiming. I don’t have a weblink for this one since it was rather old. The idea was quite simple.
With an unloaded gun you close your eyes, aim at the target and then open your eyes. Correct your aim and then repeat the process again. The idea is to improve and educate your “muscle memory” to improve coordination of where you point and where you want to aim. The author suggests progressively making your target smaller as you improve. The latter echoes something I observed when I learn knife throwing. Throw at a man sized target and soon you are hitting a man sized target most of the time. Put a chest sized mark on the same target and soon most of your blades will stick in that area. Put a simple X on the target and most of you blades will hit within a few inches of here. It is all a question of focus. Often I would end up hitting knives I had already stuck.
If your gun has a laser spot system this can be a useful training aid in using the above techniques. Toy guns such as airsoft pistols can also be useful training aids.


Shooting Over Trenches and Around Corners

Given that it is Monday morning I will am going to avoid making this post too text intensive and just pass on some interesting images today. These are not really that useful for self-defence but they may interest or amuse, which is not a bad thing for a Monday morning.
Someone brought this image to my attention.

What you are seeing is an attachment for an MG-42 that allows it to be aimed and fired from a trench or foxhole without the user exposing their heads. Similar devices date back to the First World War. Trench warfare was a predominant facet of this conflict and understandably a number of devices to facilitate firing from trenches were developed. Many of these devices adapted the standard service rifle, which often necessitated some mechanism to work the bolt action the chamber a new round. There were also periscope equipped Lewis Guns.
During World War Two the Germans developed an alternate approach. The story goes that an institute that developed turrets for aircraft had a problem. The guns and their mountings had to fire a variety of directions including straight upwards, but bullets raining down from thousands of feet was a problem. A curved barrel fitting was created that would deflect the rounds into a mound of earth. The German army was concerned about the high number of head injuries that occurred while troops tried to fight from trenches. They also had a problem with Russian soldiers who would succeed in getting so close to Panzers that they could not be engaged with standard tank weapons. Someone saw the potential of a curved barrel fitting to solve both problems. The “Krummlauf” attachment was fitted to the StG44, a 30 degree model with a prismatic sight being used by infantry and a 90 degree model with a mirror being used by panzer crews. 45 and 60 degree models are also known to have been made and the sighting system might vary depending on the vehicle it was used from.

After the war both the Americans and the Russians experimented with the Krummlauf for a number of weapons including the M3 and the PPSh-41. The fitting for the M3 is interesting in that part of the barrel is a gutter, open on its inner side. In recent years we have seen a new “gun that can shoot around corners” for SWAT teams. This is the Cornershot, using a video camera system. In the James Lovegrove novel, “Age of Zeus” these are called “Perseus Guns”.
I will leave you with another image, a rather ingenious way to blind fire utilizing the MP40’s folding stock.


Four Tricks for Cleaning Water

Today’s blog will be a short one, but it will cover a couple of useful and interrelated ideas, all to do with water.
If you find a source of water, the chances are that it will not be too clean.
All sorts of mud, dirt and grit may be floating in it and the organic components will affect the efficiency of chemical purification methods you may employ.
One solution is to use a cloth bag to filter the water through.
I have even seen it suggested to use a spare pair of trousers. Tuck one leg into the other to form a double layer and then tie a knot in end of the leg(s).
Hang this up and pour water through so that it drips into a container.
In a long term camp, the filter can be packed with sand and straw etc.
Note that the water produced will be clearer, but cannot be considered to be safe until it has been boiled or chemically treated.
A variation of the above is the wick method. Fill a container with your crude, suspect water and place an empty container lower down. Connect the two with a strip of cloth such as a bandanna and allow capillary action to do its thing. This may work with other materials such as paper or string. Experiment.
This method is a lot more economical on materials. When your wick becomes too dirty wash it or discard it.
Note that while the water produced will appear clearer it cannot be considered to be safe until it has been boiled or chemically treated.
A third method I was taught to call an Indian Well.
We have all seen the movies when the protagonists get to a water hole and it is all muddy. “Oh no!” they cry.
What they should do is start digging a hole near the shore of the waterhole or river.
If the ground is too hard for your hands find an object you can use as a digging stick. A tent peg, tire iron, even a stick!
The hole should be about half a metre across and deep.
Since you have dug down into damp ground the hole will begin to fill with water.
Poke a few holes in the side of the hole and it will fill even quicker.
The water will probably look muddy and still something you do not want to drink.
Using your hands, a bark scoop, tin can or anything else you have handy, bail out the water and cast it onto the ground nearby.
Eventually the water coming through should become clearer. Leave it a while and more material will settle out.
The water will still need to be filtered further and boiled or treated.
This is not the fastest method of getting cleaner water but does have the advantage that you can use it when not near an obvious water source. Just dig down into damp ground.
Obviously, digging at a low point will be more productive than a hilltop.
The Boy Scout Handbook (1911) tells us that an Indian Well should be several feet from the water source, twelve inches across and six inches below the water level.
Empty by bailing at least three times before considering using the water.
Our fourth method is useful for sunnier locations such as the desert, but may work elsewhere.
Take two bottles, glass or plastic. Clear is good but if both are opaque use the darker coloured one for the “crude” water.
Partially fill one bottle with untreated water and tape the necks of the two bottles together.
Since we are in the desert we will assume you have a vehicle nearby (working or not) and it has some tape in the tool kit. (don’t go to places like the desert without a tool kit and other essentials in your vehicle!).
If you have a suitable tube, use this to connect the two bottles rather than taping them neck to neck.
Find a slope or pile of sand, Select the side that will get the most exposure to the sun (the south in the northern hemisphere).
If the bottles were taped directly together, lay the two bottles on their sides and bury the empty one in the side of the slope, leaving the one with water exposed to the sun.
Let nature take its course.
The water in the outside bottle will be heated and evaporate. Being in a closed system it will pass into the interior of the buried bottle and the drop in temperature will cause it to condense.
After a while, the buried bottle will contain drinkable water which can be collected if you take the apparatus to pieces carefully.
If you had a suitable tube, you could have run this into the collection bottle when you constructed the device.
If you paid attention in school, you will recognise this method as distillation without the need for Bunsens and heatproof glassware.
The source water you used could have been urine and the produced water would still be safe to drink.

Self-Defence on the Toilet

Today, as I still lay asleep, my dreaming mind decided to consider what today’s blog would be about. It considered several topics, which in the manner of dreams mingled and interwove. These resolved into two articles, both part-written as I travelled into work. All that was needed was to write them down and decide which was more suitable for a Friday blog. Regular readers will know that I often elect to make Friday’s blog a little different. Usually it is something humorous, and failing that something a little off-topic that may still entertain or provoke thought. I had decided to post the more off-topic of the two possible articles. Then I looked at my emails and a link a friend had sent me and I knew that I had Friday’s blog topic.

In Spider Robinson’s book “Callahan’s Crazy Crosstime Bar” an alien character is asked what he finds most remarkable about living on Earth. His answer, to the surprise of everyone else, is “bathrooms”. He then gives a long list of reasons for his statement. One point I recall is that he asks why people waste so much time running hot and cold taps to get the desired temperature when a cheap electronic addition could do this? I have discussed on this blog that we frequently use hot water in the bathroom when we do not need it.
Years ago the friend who sent me today’s link and myself got into a long discussion on illogical aspects of bathrooms. I seem to recall that one topic was the shape of toilet bowls. Why is the back of them gently sloped? If the rear part was more vertical, or even receding towards the bottom this part would be less prone to fouling. The horse-shoe shaped toilet seats used in some public institutions are more hygienic than the more common horse-collar shaped seats, being less prone to drips of urine from a seated user.
Friday blogs has semi-humorously mentioned the topic of self-defence in the bathroom. It is a place with just one way in or out in which you may be naked or partially dressed. Is it that outlandish to have some means of defence in that room against an intruder? I watched a movie the other week where the female protagonist survives and encounter with two psychopathic serial killers. Unlike most movies of this ilk, the heroine realizes one or both of these men may come after her and makes preparations. We see her moving around her home. There is a knife taped under the counter top, a stout stick in the umbrella stand and in her shower is a screwdriver in the cup with her toothbrush.
Possibly the most interesting point in the “Poop like a Samurai” article is how the master also considered this posture to be better for evacuation. I have yet to try it but it did remind me of the works of Alexander Kira. Kira was an advocate of the modified squat position. There are various companies and individuals that will sell you gizmos to make your toilet more like squatting over a hole, but these are not really necessary. Just rest your toes on the floor and lean forward so your elbows are on your knees.(middle right, below) It really does make things easier.


The Step-Across Sacrifice Throw

A friend of mine posted this image up on his facebook page.
Apparently, if someone grabs your wrists you should break your own tailbone and the assailant will laugh so hard he will hit his head against the convenient nearby wall.

There are a lot of simpler and far more effective things you can do against a wrist grab like this.
Most of these are detailed in my book, so I will not repeat them here.
A technique that the above illustration does remind me of is one of my favourite sacrifice throws.
A sacrifice throw is a technique that takes you down to the ground as well as your adversary.
As such, it is not the best choice if you are facing a mob of people who may be tempted to kick you if you are so cooperative to lay down near their feet.
For an one to one encounter this can, however, be a useful trick to add to your toolbox.
This is a very simple technique and is somewhat easier to initiate than the better known Stomach Throw (Tomoe nage).
There is doubtless a Japanese term for this throw but it is easier to just think of it as the Step-Across Sacrifice Throw.
Firstly, you must have some kind of connection to your foe. Grab his shirt or he has grabbed you lapels. Hook your hands around the back of his neck.
If he has your wrists as in the illustration above hook your hands outward so you do not lose contact.
If your foe should release your wrists as you execute your technique you will end up on the floor with him standing over you, which is embarrassing to say the least!
Step your right foot over to the outside of his right foot (or left foot to beyond his left). The result is one of your legs crossed over the front of both of his.
Drop to the floor. You can sit down on your rear heel, drop down on one knee or just fall down, whatever suits you and the situation.
The important thing is you remain in contact and the foe has to suddenly handle your entire dead weight.
Executed correctly this will pull him forward, but he cannot step forward to compensate because your front leg or body is obstructing his legs.
The foe is pitched forward, head first.
The photo below shows a variant of this using a drop to the knee and disrupting the foe's balance to throw him to the side.
The mechanisms and techniques behind this are covered in my book.
A Sacrifice Throw
If his arms are free, he may be able to arrest his fall.
If he has the training and quick wits he may manage a forward breakfall or roll.
Be prepared for this by regaining your feet as soon as the throw has been made so you can maintain the initiative and counter attack.
In training, be careful with this technique since it will throw a partner headfirst and they may be injured if their breakfall technique is not good.
I don’t know if this throw is legal in competitions. Best consult the judges beforehand.
For information on practical self-defence techniques please by a copy of Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence.

Jiu-Jitsu Shoulder Pinches and the Brachial Plexus

As I have mentioned recently, I am currently reading the Pellucidar novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Often the protagonists prevail against their caveman enemies by their “Outer Crust” knowledge of Boxing or Jiu-jitsu. Consequently this has got me interested in again reading some of the older Jiu-jitsu manuals that I have available.
One of the oldest I have come across is from 1904. The two Japanese fighters demonstrating the techniques do not look like they are much taller than five foot. What would they make of modern Japanese, I wonder?
The book has some interesting techniques, most of which will be familiar to modern students of martial arts. A couple of techniques can be criticised as being overly elaborate, although that can be said of many manuals. Just because a book shows a thing as possible does not mean it is the best solution. It may be there for illustrative purposes of basic principles, for example. This particular book can be praised for often avoiding complicated throwing techniques when simple strikes can produce the desired result. I do not recall any kicks being used in this book, the strikes used being the knife-hand, the elbow and a two-finger jab directed against the solar plexus.
A section of the book that struck me in particular was on the various uses of “the Shoulder Pinch”.
We get told that pressing into this point with the thumb or fingertips is a good way to make someone release a hold, move them aside when they are obstructing you and various other applications to induce compliance.
The one photograph that purports to show the Shoulder P does not show its location with sufficient clarity. The recipient’s head prevents me seeing where the thumb is being applied. The text tells us:
The thumb is pressed into the front side of the top of the shoulder, while the grip is kept by grasping with the fingers at the back of the shoulder. A very little practice upon his own shoulder will show a jiu-jitsian where the spot is that is hyper-sensitive to the pinch with the thumb. Bear in mind that the ball of the thumb should dig in at the point where the head of the upper arm joins the scapula.”
I would have assumed that the “Shoulder Pinch” was against the brachial plexus but the last sentence suggests a more peripheral location. The brachial plexus is quite an effective location to apply a thumb or fingertip to. The nerves from the plexus continue into the arm and can also be pressed upon closer to the shoulder joint if you use deep pressure. It is possible the author considered both locations to be “the shoulder pinch”.

The brachial plexus is pretty easy to locate. Just search around where the neck forms a corner where it joins the trapezius muscle. The anatomical diagrams should hopefully make this clear.
The brachial plexus is also a good target for strikes such as the knife-hand, hammer-fist and forearm. You have probably heard of the “brachial stun” technique that has become well-known in recent years. Often the technique shown in videos is a strike to the side of the neck. A strike to the actual brachial plexus will have similar effects and this point is often easier to hit during combat than the side of the neck.

Like any strike to a major nerve centre, this can be potentially very damaging so do not attempt this except in a real self defence situation.

The Origin of Boxing.

The other day I mentioned how difficult it was to write about hitting with the hand without implying a closed fist punch. Punching and hand-striking are effectively synonymous in common English. This morning I was reflecting on the term “boxing”. Generally when we talk about boxing we mean the western combat sport, but terms such as “boxer” or “boxing” are used for Chinese martial arts, for example. Why do we call fighting with our fists “Boxing”? Wiktionary says:
Middle English boxen (“to box, beat”) and box (“a blow, a hit”), of unknown origin but apparently akin to Middle Dutch boke (“a blow, a hit”), Middle High German buc (“a blow”), Danishbask (“a blow”). See also Ancient Greek πύξ (pux), πυγμή (pugmē) (fist, pugilism).
That a similar word exists in a number of European languages suggests it may have a very ancient root. It is also possible that the word has an onomatopoeic origin. Many more words in English have an onomatopoeic origin than you might suspect. Ever thought about why a device that makes a “tock” is a “clock”?