Friday, August 30, 2013

Your Smallest and Greatest Security Risk

I'm an avid Smartphone user. Due to my vocation, it's a necessary evil that I must use to schedule, Email, text and invoice customers and students. Without it, my day would be longer and I would have less fluidity with my customers. They like immediate responses to Email and phone calls. Technology today has brought communication on any medium to a seamless procession of information. This (when used properly) can make you more productive and more popular than the competition.

Unfortunately, it can also make you a target. There are mass reports of stolen passwords and Email accounts, deceptive hotspots, government spying, malware, spyware and many other issues that can make the smartphone your greatest enemy. The greatest threat to is to your personal security.

How many times do you see someone walking while using their phone? Zero situational awareness, danger avoidance or situational control. You might as well close your eyes and walk into traffic! Even the simplest things can be dangerous. Light poles, bollards, curbs, shrubs, and uneven surfaces can bring you great pain. These wouldn't be a bother if you would get your head out of your phone!

A few tricks to keeping your phone safe. Turn off the bluetooth transponder and never use an open WiFi hotspot. Many are fakes that are there to steal your login info and send inappropriate Emails to your contacts. Never leave the phone out in public. Some phones have known faults that can allow hackers to access it. If they see what type of phone you have, they might be able to access one of those faults.

Password protect your phone. Change the password every month. Secure your phone with a protection application that takes a picture of anyone who enters a wrong password. This will help identify a possible security threat.

Another threat is to have yourself filmed saying something inappropriate. In today's society, we have a large chance of being filmed when we least expect it. I've used this tactic myself when I was entering into a gentleman's agreement with another party that I felt wasn't going to be honored. Upon first learning of the breach of contract, I simply sent the person an Email with a youtube link of the conversation. Problem solved. Check your local laws on this, they aren't the same everywhere.

Text messages and Emails are forever. They can be accessed by civil and private entities at any time. Never text or Email something you don't want people to know about at a later date. This includes medical or psychological information about family members. Any communication is fair game these days.

I've long bemoaned the use of a phone over polite conversation, especially at an eating establishment or family outing. I can't tell you how many times I've seen 4 people sitting down to eat and all 4 are on their phones instead of talking. Small talk will be a lost art in 20 years.

A smartphone is an invaluable tool for today's economic and social environment due to it's ability to multitask and help the user keep on schedule and in contact. As long as you are careful and always vigilant, you should be safe. My emergency kit doesn't have a traceable smart phone, it has an untraceable dumb phone.

Gear Review: HK Epidemic Auto Knife

With the recent law change that allows the fine citizens of Indiana to carry auto knives again, I decided to go ahead and upgrade my knife. The options were endless for side opening and out the front models. The Benchmade Infidel was a top choice, but I don't care for a double edged blade. The side autos I saw seemed too easily opened unless it had a safety that defeated the idea of an auto opening blade. If I want an auto, I want a fast, one hand opening unit that will last. After looking at many options, I chose the HK Epidemic auto knife for daily carry duty.

This quality knife has several features I really liked, and some I wasn't aware of until I received it. The action is fast and strong. If you hit something while opening it, all you have to do is flick your wrist to get it all the way out. The button action is sturdy, so there is very little chance of inadvertently opening the knife in your pocket. The pocket clip is extremely solid, it can be difficult to get it in your pocket if you have reinforced pocket tops. Getting it out of your pocket is always smooth. The side actuating button is another feature I liked over the Infidel, it leaves the hand in a more natural position after you've opened the knife. It also makes incidental operation less likely because you can't lean against something and hit the button against your leg, where it might be uncomfortable even if it doesn't actuate.

The blade itself is D2 tool steel. It's a very strong steel that holds an edge very well. Corrosion resistance isn't as good as I would like, but it's more than fine for most people. I didn't have to sharpen the knife for over a month when I started using it. That's 2x longer than most knives I've used. I should have come to expect this from a knife made by Benchmade, they make great stuff! Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that! Yes, this knife is entirely made by Benchmade and sells for less than half the MSRP of the Infidel.

The only drawbacks I've found on this knife is the large case. It's not as slim as I like but not so bad as to be bothersome while wearing pants or athletic shorts. The case is a little boxy and has some sharp edges on the inlay machining, but nothing that bothers me while using the knife. The anodizing has begun to wear off, but that's to be expected on a tool I use as much as I do a knife.

Overall, this knife is a sure winner in the auto market. It's durable with good quality steel and a stout clip that should last for years. This one's a keeper!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gear Review: Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Hammock

The scout troop I'm an adult leader for made a trip to a mosquito infested swamp that was once a strip coal mine. On that trip, the mosquitoes were so bad that many were kept awake at night due to the constant buzzing in your ears. I have a small life hack that helps, but it was still miserable. 80+ degrees, raining and buggy as it gets makes for a long night. If I was covered in my patrol bag, I was hot and sweaty. If I chose to uncover, my deet wouldn't last very long and I'd be awakened by constant biting. It was really a no win situation.

At the time I was using a Grand Trunk lightweight hammock and it worked great for normal conditions. A simple tarp was used to cover my sleeping area. This picture is from another stay a month or so before the fated swamp stay. Same equipment though. The only thing that kept me sane was a small head net and a baseball cap to keep it off my face while I slept.
 After that weekend of little sleep and many bites, I decided to look into a way to keep the little buggers off me and out of my ears while I slept. I searched the web for an option and even looked at the army surplus stores. After much research, the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro was on the radar. I waited until Amazon had a sale and snagged one at a decent discount. I'm sure they will have them on discount in the off season this year.

The Skeeter Beeter hammock has a 400lb capacity and is big enough to fit two people if you're in a pinch. The material is a similar consistency to the standard lightweight units, but this one is constructed of at least two different color fabrics. The netting is super small matrix mesh netting with elastic banding sewn into the netting. One side has a very well made and easy to use zipper for entry/exit. It goes 80% of the way down the side of the hammock to make entry a breeze. You can even use a toe to open the zipper by pushing it down the side with your foot! The sides are high walled and keep the light and wind from intruding into the hammock.

 The unit comes with a couple pieces of rope and some elastic cord to hold the netting up above the hammock and off the user. The rope is fairly small, and if you have a decent size tree, it will be difficult, if not impossible to get it  around the tree. Being a high walled design, it's not the best for the more flat style, offset sleeping some can be used for. You definitely sleep in it, not on it. If you stretch it tight, side sleeping is fairly comfortable.

Overall, I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a summertime hammock that effectively keeps the bugs off and is durable for extended use. I've used the item many times now and will continue to do so as long as the bugs are out. Once the bugs go away, I'll go back to the lightweight unit I use regularly. It's lighter and better for side sleeping. It has the same bug issue that most hammocks do, they can bite through the bottom and get you that way. You will need to get something under you to protect yourself.

The Pros: Big, with a high weight limit. Comes ready to set up, no extra stuff needed. It works well and sleeps comfortably. I've never had to worry about bugs keeping me awake while using it.

The Cons: Not great for side sleeping. Slightly heavier and bigger than a standard model. Could use longer ropes than the ones it comes with. Slower setup than a standard model.

This Item was purchased with my own money and is intended for my personal use. I was not paid to review the item, nor have I been offered any deals for a favorable review.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Witless Protection

Why has our society become so fascinated with failure? Every day we hear of the atrocities committed on other humans at the hands of their family, neighbors, community and government. This atmosphere of complete failure continues to make "The pursuit of happiness" an impossible task due to the pressure of the world coming to bear on the shoulders of prudent citizens. The honest, hard working citizen of the United States is responsible for funding so many failure based policies and contingencies that they cannot cope with the financial or moral burden they are carrying. The seemingly best way to cope is to ignore it all. Ignore the money stolen from your check, ignore the fact that the cities they support cannot afford to keep criminals in jail due to bloated budgets and political greed. Criminals have more rights than the people that support them. Failure wins again!

Let's look at the causes of the societal failures. Who has the right to life in our society? Everyone once they fall out of a vagina within the US and her territories. As a society we have laws stating that each of us is created equal in the eyes of the law. Unfortunately that idea and rule of law has been twisted to the point that it's no longer recognizable to us. The right to life has been expanded to the point that they have the right to live at your expense. That means their right to life trumps your right to life if you have enough to share. Rewarding failure becomes common place.

Our fiscal policies reward failure. The more dependent upon the government we become, the more they take from us. Individual liberties are being stripped from us at an alarming rate in recent history. This practice is failure based, to protect the people from themselves. The less free we are, the better we become at mediocrity. The more gifted a student or entrepreneur, the more they are depended upon to provide for the less fortunate or less gifted.

Criminals have more rights than I do. They have the right to eat 3 times a day, the right to cable TV and a free place to stay with a stipend for good behavior. I get none of these things guaranteed to me, I have to work for them. I rarely get a lunch break, I don't have cable TV and I have to pay for the roof over my head. Failure rules supreme!

If you've failed so miserably that you cannot feed, house, or cloth yourself- No worries, we've got you covered. We will further reward you if you have children you can't afford! Yes folks, this is how we do it here in the USA. Let's not stop there, lets look at the other side of the same coin. Businesses are also failing to provide profits, so instead, they buy a politician to insert language into a law that will subsidize their bottom line. Rewarding failure, once again.

The government subsidizes alternative energy companies instead of the universities that have fresh minds to solve problems. The companies then continue to fail because if they succeed, they will be penalized. They aren't held accountable for the funds, so the investment disappears. Why not let the market decide which innovation is worth investing in? Crazy to think anything else is the prudent path.

We will continue to fail as long as we choose to reward failure. The political elite, corporations and the destitute don't have any real consequences to their actions, the honest citizens get to pick up the tab and clean up the mess. What a reward for being the backbone of society. If you screw up bad enough, you might even get your own reality show!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lightweight Backpacking.

Of the many skills a prepared person or group can master, I find that backpacking is the culmination of the preparedness mindset. You take everything you will need and throw it in a pack and take off into the wilderness to test your skills. We are taught to plan for every possible issue, but doing so while backpacking can cause one to be terribly overloaded. This leaves us to ponder what we can do to maximize our load with gear that is truly multipurpose and lightweight. I've been looking at Brian Green's backpacking Blog at for some great information on the subject. Another great place to look for info is on different blogs used to track the progress of hikers on the Appalachian trail. You can do a search anywhere to find useful information on what works and what doesn't from the people doing 10 miles a day every day for months.

In my limited experience, I've found that many rather economical items are more than serviceable. Over thinking the items you choose or over packing is a huge issue.The simplest items can be the best choices for overcoming a situation. Never leave the basics behind. Paracord, gorilla tape, extra clasps, clothes pins, lashings and extra lightweight tent stakes are invaluable when needed.

My economical lightweight packing list:

"The big 3"
-Ultralight hammock by Grand Trunk-$24.19 at Amazon
-6x8 lightweight tarp- $4.99 at Menards
-Stansport tree savers
Sleeping bag
-USGI surplus patrol sleeping bag-$16.98 from
-cocoon inflatable pillow
-NC star VISM backpack- $28.72 from amazon

Added equipment:
-Camelback bladder with Mil Spec attachments and big bite mouthpiece and cover.
-98% DEET bug spray
-Write in the rain spiral notepad and golf pencil
-old garmin GPS w/ extra batteries
-First aid kit
-Dopp kit
-Headband light w/ extra batteries
-Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter
-2 cup stainless steel camping cup
- Esbit folding camp stove with fuel tabs
- Aluminum mess kit
-Head net
-Microfiber towel

Mountain house meals
Tea & Coffee
Spice kit
Trail mix

Without extra scout gear and a backup water filter I'm sitting at 17lbs without water. Pretty good without going high end. With high end gear you can drop another 4-6 pounds.

I'm an adult leader with a local scout program and I personally set up the trek for this weekend in very rugged terrain. I handed out my heavier extra gear to some of the scouts that had none as well as my kids lightweight gear since they couldn't attend. The Friday night before we set out on our adventure, myself and the other adult leader tore through packs and dropped an average of 5 lbs from everyone's pack. It seems that every kid in the troop was packing for a weeks hike.

You have to get past that mentality. Every hike, every weekend trip, evaluate your gear. Drop what you don't need or use. Especially that big manly knife you carry. It's not often you will need anything longer than 2".