Friday, January 29, 2010

How to Survive a 35,000-Foot Fall - Plane Crash Survival Guide - Popular Mechanics

How to Survive a 35,000-Foot Fall - Plane Crash Survival Guide - Popular Mechanics: "You're six miles up, alone and falling without a parachute. Though the odds are long, a small number of people have found themselves in similar situations—and lived to tell the tale. Here's PM's 120-mph, 35,000-ft, 3-minutes-to-impact survival guide."

Chances are against you but survival is possible.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The iPad Will Change Something

There are a lot of nerds complaining about what the iPad can't do, and while those things are true they also don't seem to have anything to do with reality.

It doesn't have a camera: Fine by me. I've got a camera on my phone on my laptop and guess what my camera is a camera too. What do I need with another camera anyway? Some people are whining that it needs two cameras (one toward the user and one away for videoconferencing) If I want to videoconference I'd use my laptop anyway because I can put it down and it will stand up by itself.

It doesn't multitask: Great. Multitasking is overrated, I am much more productive with a couple of hours of no email, chats, or browser singing its siren song to me.

The big thing for me is iBooks. I read a lot of non-fiction and I like to take notes but there is no version of a book that really works for taking good notes in. Margins are too small except for tiny notes or a simple diagram. A Kindle will let you enter some annotations and some highlighting, if B&W is fine.
I hope that eventually that we can split the screen reading an iBook into the text and a notes section. Highlight a line and then reference that line to the notes much like a footnote but now have infinite writing room and I can stick drawings and diagrams in at the same time. It can't do that now but the core capabilities are all there.

I usually end up reading in less then ideal lighting circumstances I have a booklight I take with my on trips and use at home. So a backlighted screen is fine for me as long as I have some really fine dimming control. My iPod touch doesn't quite go low enough.

This is important to me because a big part of readiness is learning and mental preparedness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Which way the wind blows

231-mph NH wind gust is no longer world's fastest - Yahoo! News: "The concession came three days after the World Meteorological Organization posted a snippet on its Web site saying a panel of experts reviewing extreme weather and climate data turned up a 253 mph gust on Australia's Barrow Island during Cyclone Olivia in 1996."

Do you have to worry about 253 mph winds? Unless you are in Tornado Alley, probably not. But wind is a real issue. Here in the Rockies we can get canyon winds that will exceed 55 mph making them hurricane force winds.

You really don't want to have an open window and then open a door the wind can get through the house and make the roof a big ol' wing and pull it right off.

Hurricanes, tornados are obviously windy, but what about the which way the wind blows in your town.

From which direction does the worst weather come for Colorado the worst weather tends to come from the Northwest from over the mountains. This is where most of the winter blizzards come from but there are conditions where we can get Chinook winds, warm moist air gets sucked up from the South causing strong winds and rain.

Knowing the weather patterns for your city will help guide your decisions for how to build or alter your home. Our last house had the garage in the Northwest corner and it was great the garage took the brunt of the force of the wind and rain keeping the rest of the home calmer and warmer.

You can put up evergreen trees and fencing to alter the wind patterns around your home. Be careful about putting in a fence because the posts can rot after several years and the fence will just fall over. Every time there is a windstorm around here, and that is 4-5 times a year there are fences down all over the neighborhood. Often one of the posts is rotted and it takes down the ones on each side too.

Yeah Right: Harrison Bergeron

It's interesting how many 40 year old stories are coming to life right now.
It's a scary story, the trailer looks cool.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti Air Traffic Control.

Usually if you ever think of air traffic control you think of something like this.

Computers, big displays, lots of radios and electronics.

This is what they are using in Haiti.

Just a little different.
ht strategypage

Dave's Garden

While I am pretty sure that there won't a Holodomor here in the US, I am pretty sure there will be a spike in food prices later this year. So having a garden would be a good idea and not just for this year either.

Producing food in your own garden is a major skill to have. But there are a huge number of factors to worry about. What plants grow best in your area, sunny or shady, wet or dry beds and so on.

Dave's Garden does a lot of that work for you. Their PlantFiles will help you find what plants are best for your city. Here's an example for Idaho Falls. Generally, we have been using the Western Gardening book which is a great resource, but you still have to do all the cross referencing for your area. You have to figure out what zone your city is in and then you have to cross reference that to all the plants you think want to plant this year. This is a huge timesaver.

They even have a tool to help you find out how long your growing season is and when the frost dates are for your area.

Right now we don't have a garden since we are in an apartment though we are growing some herbs to make the foods we do have taste better.

I noticed that we could even create certain micro-climates within our garden just by putting large flat rocks near plants. The rocks would absorb heat during the day and so keep the plants warm overnight.

You probably won't have to grow all your own food, but picking and eating your own foods sure does something good for the body and soul.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reports from Haiti

Team Rubicon blog
Report from USNS Comfort

Disaster Porn - Frankenstorm

My Way News - Scientists create model of monster 'Frankenstorm': "As torrential rains pelted wildfire-stripped hillsides and flooded highways, a team of scientists hunkered down at the California Institute of Technology to work on a 'Frankenstorm' scenario - a mother lode wintry blast that could potentially sock the Golden State."

I can see the TV-movie now. Flash floods, mudslides, romantic tension.
I mean, come on 'Frankenstorm' I guess they've used up all of the super, ultra, hyper versions so we'll be going to Bride of Frankenstorm, Son of Frankenstorm, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstorm, and the Mother of All Frankenstorms.

Actually, doing this is a really good thing, despite the name. Take the largest amount of precipitation, combined with the highest windspeeds recorded in your area and see how they might affect your home and city.

There are probably places around your home where water tends to pool that need a little upgrading of the landscape to deal with.

There are always areas around town that get flooded in major rainstorms and it makes sense to plot them on your maps so you can avoid them.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

ARRLWeb: ARRL NEWS: ARRL Sends Ham Aid Equipment to Haiti

ARRLWeb: ARRL NEWS: ARRL Sends Ham Aid Equipment to Haiti: "Even though the communications infrastructure in earthquake-ravaged Haiti is being rebuilt, there is still need for Amateur Radio communications. To assist in this effort, the ARRL's Ham-Aid program is providing equipment for local amateurs to use."

I've added a link to ARRL's Ham Aid program.
Amateur Radio Operator take their own equipment and with their own money set up stations to help out in disasters.

Some Hams from the Dominican Republic even got shot at and wounded while attempting to install repeaters in Haiti to help out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Don't choose a charity for Haiti based on administration costs

Don't choose a charity for Haiti based on administration costs: "While it seems logical that the less a charity spends on administration the more of your donation reaches the people that need it the most, it's not as simple as that. In reality the amount that a charity spends on administration costs is a meaningless and potentially harmful indicator."

This is a good article on choosing a charity.

Like anything else it is best to do it before you need it or in this case before someone else needs it urgently.

ht Marginal Revolution

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Latest storm brings tornado-like winds, floods roads and causes small mudslides in foothill communities [Updated] | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times

Latest storm brings tornado-like winds, floods roads and causes small mudslides in foothill communities [Updated] | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times: "The latest winter storm moved through Southern California with a wallop this afternoon, flooding roads, causing tornado-like winds in Ventura and Santa Barbara and causing small mudslides in foothill communities."

California is having some difficulties with rain and mud.

Disaster Cooking For Lots of People

Another lesson to learn from the Haiti earthquake is that with a lot of people in distress there will be a need to feed them. Even if the food from the stores are looted a lot of that food needs to be cooked in some way. Especially things like rice and beans, which take a lot of water and heat to cook.

75% of American homes have a grill in the backyard. This means that most people have a backup cooking system in place already. After about a day without power you are going to need to cook any uncooked meat from the frig as it will be getting too warn in there. You may get a couple of more days before you have to do the food from the freezer.

A typical 20# bottle of propane will run for about 10 hours depending on the output of your grill. An important thing to do is to conserve fuel. Cook as much as you can in one go. If you can't fill the grill, you can always add a pot of water to boil to make safe drinking water.

If you have a side burner you can just use that and it would use a lot less fuel because you have the heat focused on one pan.

If, like me, you are part of a group preparing for a disaster and you have a place you can setup as a shelter you may end up trying to feed hundreds of people. Then the equation chances. To give you some perspective try the Manual of Army Cooks and Manual of Army Bakers.
These are old manuals from before WWI, which would be close to the level of technology we would have after a major disaster.  They even have plans for field expedient ovens.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Earthquake survivor says iPhone helped save his life

Earthquake survivor says iPhone helped save his life: "Here's a remarkable story coming out of the horrendous tragedy in Haiti. Colorado Springs resident Dan Woolley was at a Port-au-Prince hotel when that tremendous earthquake struck, trapping him with a compound fracture in his leg and a laceration on his head. Fortunately for Dan, he had his iPhone and a medical app with him (plus a lot of luck), which he used to successfully diagnose and treat his injuries."

Knowledge is power. An amazing use of an iPhone. Is there anything it can't do?

They link a few apps. I grabbed Phone Aid of my iPod touch.

The "If There's Time" List

Hundreds evacuated as storms batter Calif. - "Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies are preparing to go door-to-door Wednesday morning to order people out of their homes as another powerful storm moves toward foothill communities at risk of mudslides and flooding."

Are you ready to leave your home because it may be destroyed.
A 72 hour kit is great but it is for personal survival in case of a come as you are emergency.
There are probably some things you haven't thought about putting in it in a case like this. The good thing is that there is plenty of warning this time.

The problem that happens in a case like this is that you are rushing around trying to get everything together and you'll run right past the things you know you want. The sentimental items that you have out that you see every day but don't think about much any more since you see them everyday.
You don't want to be driving past the checkpoint and then remembering you forgot the family photo book on the mantel.

You may want:
Family photos
Sentimental items
Antiques or hard to replace items
Computer backups or the computer itself

You don't have to keep them in a box by the door, but you should go through the house and make a list of the items and where they are. You could even take pictures.

Now print up a checklist and put it at the top of your 72 hour kit.

This way when there is a mandatory evacuation it will take you mere minutes to collect all the important items you don't want to forget and you can be calm because you did the work beforehand and didn't forget anything important to you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Earthquake Preparedness Ideas

We used to live very near a major fault line (<1 mile). Once I figured out what that meant we made some minor changes to our habits.

We lived in an apartment so we had to do things differently then in a home. We kept an evacuation kit in our car, and kept the car half full of gas almost all the time.

The most unconventional change was where we would park our car. I would pick parking spots away from trees and buildings so if an earthquake did happen anything that did fall down would be less likely to hit our car. Our car being our primary backup to our apartment.

Sure, we would have to walk a little further but that was not a big deal at all. There were no  earthquakes that we could feel while we were there but the potential was there. It helped us feel a lot safer be thing it through.

If you are in a home, you would have put a kit in a shed in the far reaches of the backyard so even if everything fell down it would be still pretty easy to get to. You could also add some rescue equipment like a couple of crowbars, some cribbing and a chainsaw and fuel.

Monday, January 18, 2010

72 Hour Kits Are Just Not Big Enough

I think it is quite obvious now with what we have seen in Haiti and really all the big disasters lately, is that a 72 hour kit just isn't big enough.

The idea for a 72 hour kit is valid. It takes about that long for national organizations to mobilize and get to the disaster area. That doesn't mean they'll get to you in 72 hours. I still have a 72 kit but it is more for evacuations rather then hanging around.

It's been almost a week and their still working really hard just to get stuff out to the capital and that is next to the airport. It will be a long time before they get to all the outlying areas.

Two weeks would be a much better level to achieve. One thing that means is not just some water storage but a water filter. You can get great portable ones from a camping store. The major feature you are looking for is a filter that will filter out viruses and cysts. That means an absolute pore size of less then 1 micro.

Something you'll want to add to a water filter is a bandana and some rubberbands. While most filters have a prefilter, it is best to pre-prefilter it through the bandana so it lasts as long as possible.

You want enough capacity to last a couple of weeks so it needs to be able to do 14 gallons or 56 liters times how ever many people are in your family or expect to supply with drinking water. A typical backpacking filter can filter about 500 gallons of water before the filters need to be changed for 14 days that would serve 35 people.

Another important thing we are seeing is that in a major disaster you might be trying to help rescue or care for people, so you are going to be needing lots of calories.

For this kind of kit you don't need to worry about a balanced diet. You can survive for months before nutrient deficients become a problem, if you are eating correctly now.

This is emergency food not your regular daily diet, priorities are different during a disaster so plan accordingly. Go for big calories in small packages, things like peanut butter, honey, canned fish packed in oil, candy and other foods packed with fats and sugar.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Marginal Revolution: Sentences to ponder, Haiti edition

Marginal Revolution: Sentences to ponder, Haiti edition: "“Money is worth nothing right now; water is the currency,” one foreign aid worker told Reuters."

What's really important to have on hand?

Friday, January 15, 2010

More on Haiti and community preparedness

Haiti 48 hours later - The Big Picture - "Two days after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck beneath Port-au-Prince, Haiti, some of the massive damage is becoming more apparent."

Mind blowing pictures of the devastation.

There is also some security video from outside, it was very violent.

Popular Mechanics wonders about what preventative measures could have been taken. Mainly cutting out corruption and not cutting corners in construction.

We've passed the 72 hour mark and now a big worry would be the criminals figuring out that the law is not working and they can take charge because they still have guns and organization.

One of the things my church is working on is organizing the members in case of a major disaster. We have a few hundred people spread over a good sized area.

Mapping them out has been a bit of a pain. Fortunately, they have tended to clump together so we are organizing the neighborhoods and apartment complexes and mobile home parks into what we are calling blocks which are about a mile square.

We are calling people as block captains who will have radios and will check up on people during a disaster. This is our Plan B if the telephone system is down.

We are working through the scenario of no power or phones and a Tornado or Blizzard being the disaster. Those being the most likely or our area.

Ideally we want everyone on ham radio since we already have a thriving Ham community, but we'll probably use FRS/CB for those who don't have a Ham license.

It takes time to build a prepared community but it will be very worthwhile if it ever needs to be activated.

ARRLWeb: ARRL NEWS: Haiti Earthquake: "It's Chaos, I'm Telling You -- It's Real Chaos"

ARRLWeb: ARRL NEWS: Haiti Earthquake: "It's Chaos, I'm Telling You -- It's Real Chaos": "On Tuesday, January 12 at 4:53 PM Haiti time (2153 UTC), a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince, the island nation's capital. Communications in and out of Haiti have been disrupted. The ARRL encourages US amateurs to be aware of the emergency operations on the following frequencies: 7.045 and 3.720 MHz (IARU Region 2 nets), 14.265, 7.265 and 3.977 MHz (SATERN nets), and 14.300 MHz (Intercontinental Assistance and Traffic Net); the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition (IRESC) is also active on EchoLink node 278173."

There hasn't been much communications between, well, pretty much anywhere and Haiti.

Things in Haiti still remain desperate, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson has arrived which should make a huge difference.

More news. Expect bizarre behavior during disasters.

Some information on helping.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Relief - Coast Guard, Navy and Hospital Ship in Haiti - Popular Mechanics

Haiti Earthquake Relief - Coast Guard, Navy and Hospital Ship in Haiti - Popular Mechanics: "When calamity on the level of Haiti's earthquake strikes, the first U.S. responders bear a heavy load. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, Navy sailors, Coast Guardsmen and professional urban rescue teams will be some of the first to save lives amid the rubble."

Lots of assets on the way already.

The Death Star?

The Death Star?: "The Earth could soon be wiped out by the explosion of a star more than 3,000 light years away, according to American scientists. The star, called T Pyxidis, is set to self-destruct in an explosion called a supernova with the force of 20 billion billion billion megatons of TNT."

Something else to not bother worrying about. We got more down to earth problems to get ready for.

Haiti: Earthquake! � Global Voices Online

Haiti: Earthquake! � Global Voices Online

The earthquake in Haiti has done a lot of damage but things are being mobilized already.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Many Different Kinds of Disasters

I was playing around with mindmapping and came up with this for how they are. There are lots of different kinds of disasters but they do seem to fall into 2 broad categories, natural and man-made.
You can quibble about wether famine is natural or man-made (it depends on the cause, but does that really matter when you're hungry) or that something might show up twice.

What I want you to do is red through it and think about how a particular disaster might effect your home and family.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Skylights Let the Heat Fly Out of Your Home.

I am not a fan of skylights. because they are a a very big hole in your roof. heat rises and like water, except upside down, it will find the easiest way up and out of your house.

This becomes a big deal if there is a utility failure disaster. If power goes out or the gas line is broken or a fuel delivery is delayed by weather or cost, then not having large amounts of heat escaping through a skylight or three would be a very good thing.

You can put plenty of good insulation in your roof and walls and you could super-insulate them and you wouldn't need much heat at all. I am also a bit of a cheapskate so making a home that I don't have to spend lots of money maintaining at a particular temperature is nice.

But a skylight like punching a hole through your roof. Heat is going to leak out of it like crazy. Sure, there are all kinds of fancy multi-pane, noble gas infused skylights but they will leak over time and their R value will be greatly reduced.

Now I won't say that you can't have skylights if you want them. I'm libertarian, if I was liberal I would want to ban them for all homes. I figure you can have them if you want them and just let you pay the extra cost in fuel yourself.

That said there are a few rooms I would strongly recommend against putting skylights in. Rooms with faucets: the kitchen, baths and laundry rooms all have water in them and if there is a skylight in that room then they will get colder in the wintertime. A cold room will make freezing your pipes more likely and frozen pipes in a home are a very bad thing.

I would also recommend against putting them in bedrooms. If you are without heat a bedroom can be made cozy enough with lots of blankets on the bed. (A four poster bed with heavy bed-curtains does make a nice tent.) With a skylight or a very large window, which I've noticed as fashionable in the last few years will let out a lot of heat. You can put drapes on a window, putting them on a skylight....

Well, I guess you could put an insulated panel of some kind over it. Home stores do have sheets of foam insulation you could cut to size. The edge around the drywall may have a metal strip around it, so you would be able to mount it using neodymium magnets. I did that with some posterboard to better seal the fireplace.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Nil by mouth - Roger Ebert's Journal

Nil by mouth - Roger Ebert's Journal: "I mentioned that I can no longer eat or drink. A reader wrote: 'That sounds so sad. Do you miss it?' Not so much really. Not anymore. Understand that I was never told that after surgery I might lose the ability to eat, drink and speak."

Here's a scenario you might want to ponder happening in your life.

We learn best by experience, but wisdom comes when we learn from someone else's experience.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creating a Useful Kitchen

I was talking with one of my nephews about some of the frustrations we have with the places we are living in. Just about everyone joined in with stories of design decisions that just made no sense.

The kitchen was one of the favorite topics. The idea of the work triangle (sink, stove, refrigerator) has been around for a long time and it is still only mostly implemented. We still see places that put one corner way off to one side, or worse crush them so close together that the door clash.

One thing of the wonderful things builders have done is put the sink and dishwasher together. But in my nephews house the cabinets for the dishes are nowhere near the dishwasher. Putting the dishwasher and the cabinets for storing the dishes, glasses and flatware next to the dishwasher would make things much more efficient. We have that in our apartment and it makes loading and unloading the dishwasher pretty fast and easy. Unfortunately, it is not near the table so setting the table is a bit of a pain.

I've been in some pretty expensive houses with huge kitchens with top of the line appliances but there is an ugly trash can sitting at one end of the counter. One thing that is very surprising is that there is often no designed in place for trash in most kitchens. We are fortunate enough to be able to fit a small trash can under the sink but you would think they could come up with something better. We once had a house that had a really nice kitchen, there was a prep station next to the sink with the trash right underneath, it was the logical place to put it since you often open packages near the sink so you can wash or drain the contents and need to toss the packaging.

There is also a link between the stove and the table since most food is served hot having a clear, short path from stove to table is pretty nice so there is less chance of dropping, spilling or bumping into someone with pan of hot food.

But what does this have to do with readiness? Lots, really. A well designed kitchen can save you lots of time, energy and money. If you don't like to be in your kitchen you are going to go out more and that costs lots more money then making it yourself. It will also save you time because you won't have to go to the gym to work off those extra pounds from eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. And you'll have more energy because you can feed your family better and faster then you can get from eating out. Also, when you go through a period of infirmity, if it is easy to make food, the longer you can survive on your own.

Take a good long look at your kitchen and see if there are ways to rearrange things to make it better for making and serving good foods to your family.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolve to keep your computer backed up

There are two kinds of people:
Those who have lost data,
and those who will.
A long time ago I wanted to digitize the collection of posters our church library had. I was the librarian at the time and it was frustrating to try and find a image for the Sunday School teachers to help out their lessons.  Everyone knows that even a static image will help dramatically in knowledge retention.

There were a few thousand pictures and all I really needed was a thumbnail and the reference number. Someone had put reference numbers on the back and a slightly helpful catalog in a binder but unless you knew exactly which one it was it was a pain to find. I wanted something to be easier and faster to flip through.

So during class time and during the week I would take pictures of every image front and back until the cameras memory card was filled or the battery died. then I would type in the reference number, title and keywords in iPhoto. This part alone took a couple of months.

I was almost done, I uploaded the last batch of photos and then it happened. iPhoto crashed and the database was corrupted. While I had a backup of my family photos from before the project everything else was scrambled, badly. I was able to pick out our family photos but I gave up trying to reconstruct the project. A lot of work down the drain.

What would be lost if your computer's hard disk failed?

It isn't just family photos but many important documents and emails. Keeping them save is a bigger deal then ever before.

Nowadays, computers have backup software built-in, but have you turned it on?
The Mac has Time Machine and Windows 7 has Backup and Restore Center.

On the Mac if you just plug in an external drive it will ask if you want to use it as a Time Machine backup drive.
On Windows you'll have to tell it to use the disk but that is easy enough.

For more on keeping your Windows computer backed up and clean see this lifehacker post

But that is only the first level of keeping things backed up. The next level of backup is keeping a separate bootable backup. In case your computer goes completely belly-up you have a disk you can take to any other computer that you can boot from so it acts just like your old computer. For the Mac you can use Carbon Copy Cloner and for Windows Norton Ghost.

The next most important level is an off-site backup. If your home or office burned down having all the backups in the back room is not going to help, though a media safe would help (a regular fire safe gets to hot.)
This can be as simple as keeping a backup in your desk at work or at a relatives house. There are now also online backup companies, like Carbonite.
Now that your data is out of your direct control you may want to look into encryption, but don't forget to write down the password somewhere safe too. But that is another post.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hundreds of cars torched in France at New Year | Reuters

Hundreds of cars torched in France at New Year
| Reuters
: "Youths burned 1,137 cars across France overnight as New Year's Eve celebrations once again turned violent, the French Interior Ministry said on Friday"

I think that over a thousand cars burned would count as more then hundreds for a headline. No wonder the newspapers are having troubles they are not reporting very well anymore.
Europe has been in trouble for a while. I didn't know it was this bad, though.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Some New Year's Substitutions

Rather then New Year's Resolutions I am thinking about making them Substitutions.
Most of the things I want to change in myself are habits and it is way easier to substitute a new  habit then just try to dump an old habit without changing anything else.

One of the things I want is to fit in my skinny pants again.
The obvious thing is to Eat Well and Exercise.

I am 2 weeks into my Oatmeal Challenge and I am feeling pretty good. Okay, today I went with a couple of over easy eggs, bacon and Apple juice. I don't feel bad about doing that since it is a minimally processed and high-protein meal. The oatmeal is also minimally processed and is high in carbohydrates.

One of the problems that I am having is that there is information on diets but a lot of it is contradictory. High protein vs low protein, high carb vs low carb, all fats bad vs some/specific fats good.

Even trying to figure out my ideal weight is confusing. The BMI tells me that my ideal weight is something I haven't weighed since early High School and when I was in my best shape ever after biking around Germany for a year I would be classed as obese. So that is no use to me.

I'm going to have to do some information hunting and gathering but I can't classify the usual sources as good enough.

Happy New Year

Here's to a safe and better New Year.