Archive for July, 2009

Better Braided Survival Belt With 550 Paracord

July 31, 2009

If you’ve read my previous post on making your own braided belt out of paracord, then you’ll be very happy to know it gets even better 🙂  I’ve since made a couple more belts, with increasing complexity, coolness, and amounts of rope.  My latest has worked pretty well, and stores close to 100 feet of cord.  In a pinch, it would be easy to separate two 25-foot pieces of rope and still have a working belt.

My finished paracord survival belt - very strong and comfortable!  I used two different colors of cord, a lighter accent color, and a darker main color.

My finished paracord survival belt - very strong and comfortable! I used two different colors of cord, a lighter accent color, and a darker main color.

Start with two 50-foot pieces of paracord.  If you get two different colors, it’ll create an interesting pattern.  I’ve used two shades of green.  Locally, Cabela’s seems to be a good place.  You can get 100 feet for $7 or 1,000 feet for $40.  With as much as I’ve been using, I plan to pick up a 1,000 foot spool soon.  That’s actually a better price than I’ve even been able to find online.  Without further ado, here’s how to create a sturdy paracord belt that should hold all the rope you need for an emergency.

Start with a 1-inch slide buckle.  I found this at Cabela's for $1.50.

Start with a 1-inch slide buckle. I found this at Cabela's for $1.50.

Loop the paracord through one side of the buckle.  It's not shown here, but you want the outer strands to be the longest, and the inner strands to only be about 6 feet long.

Loop the paracord through one side of the buckle. You should have both strands of the same rope on one side, and both strands of the other rope on the other side. Don't worry, it'll create a symmetrical pattern once we start.

Pull the outer paracord almost all the way, so that only about 6 feet remains on the inner strands.

Pull the outer paracord almost all the way, so that only about 6 feet remains on the inner strands.

We're going to start tying a knot called a portuguese sinnet.  It's the one knot we'll use over and over to "braid" the rope.  Pick which color paracord you want to be the accent (outer) color.  Loop that behind the inner strands, and in front of the other outer strand.

We're going to start tying a knot called a portuguese sinnet. It's the one knot we'll use over and over to "braid" the rope. Pick which color paracord you want to be the accent (outer) color. Loop that behind the inner strands, and in front of the other outer strand.

Second half of a portuguese sinnet with paracord

Take the other outer strand, and pull it through the loop we created.

Tighten the knot, and push it upward.  Now do this about a thousand times :)  You'll always loop the accent strand, and pull the main strand through it.  You only touch the outer strands, and the inner strands stay straight.  That's why they don't have to be very long.

Tighten the knot, and push it upward.

Caption.

Now repeat the knot about a thousand times! You'll always loop the accent strand, and pull the main strand through it. You only touch the outer strands, and the inner strands stay straight. That's why they don't have to be very long.

Measure your waste, and subtract a few inches.  Keep braiding the belt until you reach that length.

Measure your waist, and subtract a few inches. Keep braiding the belt until you reach that length.

Now flip the belt upside down, and tie another portuguese sinnet over top of your last knot.  We're going to add another layer, braiding over the top of our original layer.

Now flip the belt upside down, and tie another portuguese sinnet over top of your last knot. We're going to add another layer, braiding over the top of our original layer.

Continue braiding over top of the original layer.  This creates the width and thickness of the belt, and more than doubles the amount of paracord used.

Continue braiding over top of the original layer. This creates the width and thickness of the belt, and more than doubles the amount of paracord used.

Oops!  I didn't use enough rope.  That's because I didn't take pictures the first time, and this is a cheater belt, just a few inches long.  You should have plenty of paracord, not to worry.  When you get to the end, you can simply cut the extra cord, and melt the tips together with a lighter.

Oops! I didn't use enough rope. That's because I didn't take pictures the first time, and this is a cheater belt, just a few inches long. You should have plenty of paracord, not to worry. When you get to the end, you can simply cut the extra cord, and melt the tips together with a lighter.

You should have 2-3 feet of paracord left.  Previously, we stopped the braid a few inches short.  That's because this is your room to shrink!

You should have 2-3 feet of paracord left. Previously, we stopped the braid a few inches short. That's because this is your room to shrink!

Now braid back down the extra length.  If you lose weight you can unbraid these last few inches,  remove some of the extra, and rebraid.  If you gain weight, you can let it out, as well.  Now cut the extra paracord, and melt the tips together with a lighter.  Do this on the inner side of the belt that won't be seen.

Now braid back down the extra length. If you lose weight you can unbraid these last few inches, remove some of the extra, and rebraid. If you gain weight, you can let it out, as well. Now cut the extra paracord, and melt the tips together with a lighter. Do this on the inner side of the belt that won't be seen.

Congratulations!  This was a fun project, and a much better belt than my original.  There was also an in-between version where I only braided along the line once, not doubling over.  This looked more like a kid’s belt, and only uses about half the paracord.  This project took about three hours, but I just worked on it over a couple nights while I watched TV.

There are two tough parts.  The first is that you’ll be pulling a lot of cord through the loops each time, several arm lengths.  I folded the cord twice so it was only a quarter of the original length, and tied it off to shorten this.  Second, the knots will appear a little uneven until you’re practiced enough to tighten the knots the same each time.  The good news is, your first few hundred knots won’t be seen under the double braid.

Enjoy!

Camping for Survival Preparation

July 29, 2009

As I’ve made survival preparations that include water storage, survival supplies, and surival skills, I’ve realized that the perfect way to turn them into practical experience is camping!  It’s so obvious now that I’ve figured it out.  I started out small last thursday, setting up the tent with a large inflatable mattress in the backyard.  It was the best night’s sleep I’d had in a while.  I think part of the reason is that, after setting everything up, you’re nice and tired – ready for bed!  I only had my oldest son with me.  We read one of his funnier books, laughed over cookies and milk, and called it a night around 10:30.

The next night, I tried the same thing with all three of my boys.  Partway through setup, I decided to skip the air mattress.  I wanted to see if I could really “rough it” under survival situations, and the comfy mattress seemed out of place.  Plus, it’s large and took up just too much space in my 4-man tent.  That night ended up being miserable!  I didn’t sleep very well on the ground, and the younger two boys wanted to stay up way to late playing and fighting.  When I woke up on Saturday morning, I took down the tent, ate a quick breakfast, and took an hour-long nap on my real bed.  Fail.

That afternoon, I reached out to my friends on SurvivalistBoards.com, asking for tips and experiences sleeping on the ground.  Within hours I had great advice from several experienced campers.  The most helpful for my particular situation were comments from Hick Industries, IceFire, GunGourd, and ex-hunter. They got at the core of my problem – confusing recreational camping with survival preparation.  They should be approached differently, and bedding is a good example.  IceFire even made the amazing point that in survival situations, you probably want to sleep lighter, and therefore slightly less comfortably.

So, I’m over my concern that nicer bedding isn’t “rugged” enough.  If I can thrive with small amenities like a sleeping pad and matches for fire starting, I’m still way ahead of most people.  And as ex-hunter pointed out I can always practice the harder stuff whenever I want, to build up a tolerance.

Saturday night, practice time was over.  We drove out to an actual primitive campsite.  Basically an outhouse, water pump, and fire pits were the only amenities, which was perfect.  Because it was so low-demand and low-maintenance, it was even free!  I took all three boys again. AND the mattress.  It wasn’t big enough for all of us, so I bought some foam sleeping pads from Wal-Mart, and doubled them up under the kids that slept on the ground.  They were fine with it, since it hadn’t really bothered them to sleep on the ground the night before, anyway.  It did create a space issue, the kids on the ground were too close together in a 4-man tent with a queen-sized air mattress.  I’m going to buy a larger tent soon.

I brought one of my 7-gallon water containers, which was perfect.  I prepared well, since the previous couple nights in the back yard taught me what I’d need.  There was only one gaping flaw in my plans: my cell phone was undercharged, and I ended up having to shut it off for most of the trip and only text-messaging with my wife to coordinate our pick-up time the next morning.  This was a big liability, and kept us from extending the trip well into the next day.  I’d wanted to do a longer hike, maybe even stay for lunch.  I’ll be sure to charge any electrical supplies in advance next time, and bring extra batteries for the items that use them.

Thus ended my 3-night tent streak, and I upped my number of consecutive outdoor hours from 4 to 14.  Very shortly, I plan to do a multi-day camping trip instead of just overnight visits, and then I’ll be comfortable staying outdoors indefinitely (within reason).

Financial Survival: Severance Pay and Employee Notice

July 28, 2009

A recent NY Times article about Gannett cutting severence pay was alarming.  A major newspaper company I’ve never heard of had a generous severance package (1 week per year of employment) during previous layoffs, and now they’re changing to a state-funded unemployment.  In most cases, people faired just as well or better, but researchers were quick to find the handful of people that were getting “screwed”.  These included people in real trouble, who didn’t qualify for state unemployment because of part-time side gigs they have.  It also included people who found another job quickly, but were miffed that they only got 1 week of unemployment pay instead of the 10 weeks of severance pay they would have gotten under the old policy.

Here’s what I think is fair.  Companies should be able to make whatever severance packages they want, but it should work both ways.  If a company offers 2 week severance to all employees, then they have every right to require two weeks notice when an employee quits.  When I say require, I mean any shortfall should be taken out of the final paycheck.  Companies are usually in a better position to make good, so I’d say if a company wants to offer *additional* severance, go ahead.  But they should be able to require up to an equal commitment from their employees.

If this seems unfair, remember that this is legally the case right now.  Companies are not legally required to give you a dime when you’re let go, and you’re not legally required to give any notice when you quit.  It comes down to accountability.  We need to be able to financially support ourselves during times of unemployment.  We shouldn’t expect to go our whole lives gainfully employed with no breaks.

I’m almost just as guilty as most – I don’t have enough saved up yet to be unemployed for 6 months, which I feel is a realistic number in this economy.  I’m not quite as guilty though, because I can at least see my own responsibility and I’m working to fix it.  I probably have a more enlightened take on this, because I’m a freelancer.  I’m used to occasional work gaps, and I’ve had to weather tough times.  I have much more personal responsibility for my income than most people, and that’s how I like it.

The real lesson of this article, even though they choose not to say it explicitly, is that we each need to be responsible for providing for ourselves.  That’s capitalism – we reap the rewards every day, and we need to take the responsibility as well.  Companies don’t owe us anything for working for them, other than the compensation we’ve been getting all along.  If you work for a company each pay cycle, and they pay you according to your agreed arrangement, then your obligation to each other is fulfilled.  Anything above that is gravy, and you should be prepared to go without it.

Water Rotation for Emergency/Disaster Use

July 27, 2009
This is the drinking water we use day-to-day, to rotate our supply.

This is the drinking water we use day-to-day, to rotate our supply.

I’ve started filling and storing 7 gallon water containers, the blue Reliance containers I talked about in my Water Storage and Purification post.  So far I have 9 containers, totaling over 60 gallons of filtered tap water.  Now it’s time to start rotating them!

I found a great spot on a shelf  above our washer/dryer, which are just off the kitchen.  I put the water container on that shelf.  Keep in mind, this container weighs almost 60 pounds, so I kept it all the way to the side, next to where the shelf is supported.  This will keep the shelf from bowing or breaking under the weight.  Now, instead of getting drinking water directly from the tap, we can use the water stored in this container.  When it empties, I’ll refill and take back to the basement.  I’ll then bring up the next oldest water container, and the process will continue.

With our containers tagged with the fill date, we never have to guess about freshness, barring a basement skunk attack :)

With our containers tagged with the fill date, we never have to guess about freshness...barring a basement skunk attack 🙂

Speaking of, it’s time to tag the water containers in the basement.  None of them are more than a month old, so I tagged them as “07/01/2009” to be safe.  Whenever I get a new container for upstairs, I’ll check if any have hit the 6 month mark and refill those as well.

The result is that I never need to remember to empty/refill the water containers every few months.  It will happen automatically, ensuring fresh and clean water when we need it.

Altoids Survival Tin

July 24, 2009

The survival tin made out of an Altoids can is fairly popular, and I’m nothing if not a popularity-seeking sheep that loves to follow the masses.  With that, I present my own Altoids survival tin!

My Altoids survival tin, wrapped in 6 feet of electrical tape for waterproofing and survival use.

My Altoids survival tin, wrapped in 6 feet of electrical tape for waterproofing and survival use.

Most homemade survival tins use repurposed tins from something else.  Altoids tins are the most popular, but I’m also experimenting with “gift card tins” which have become popular.  I picked one up for $2 at Cabela’s, and I’m going to try it later.  Right off, though, I know I’d have to get a different whistle since only Altoids tins are tall enough to hold the one I have.

Here’s a list of my survival tin’s raw contents, some of which have been modified to fit:

  • 2-3 cotton balls
  • orange whistle
  • mini pocket knife
  • matchbook
  • pencil
  • button compass
  • fishing line
  • 2 fish hooks
  • 2 fishing line sinkers
  • nylon thread
  • sewing needle, magnetized
  • sewing thread
  • snare wire
  • candle
  • 2 razor blades
  • 2 safety pins, different sizes
  • 5 small pieces of paper
  • 3 band-aids
  • 1 alcohol swab
  • the Altoids tin itself
  • 6 feet of electrical tape
All the contents of my survival tin, minus the fish hooks.

All the contents of my survival tin, minus the fish hooks.

I only had to buy three things to put this kit together: A can of altoids, cotton balls, and a larger survival kit from Wal-Mart that I paired down to the essentials.  You can buy survival tins for not much more than I paid for the individual pieces.  If you do this, I recommend buying two – one that remains sealed for emergencies, and one that you open and play with.  The advantage of my kit is that I decided what was important, I’ve played with all the pieces, and I can unpack/repack them at will because I designed how they fit together.

Everything is designed for multiple uses where possible, and often many items come together for one purpose.  I’ll outline the purposes below:

Making fire. I ripped the front cover off my match book, for the added room.  It’s not very thick, but the extra folds over the matches took up room.  The candle was carved down to fit in the last available space of the tin, which is why it’s shaped so funny.  It’s mainly for lighting a fire – if I can light the candle, it can stay lit under kindling until a bigger fire emerges.  The cotton doubles as rattle-proofing for the kit, and as excellent tinder.  I wanted to include flint/magnesium, but I didn’t have room.  I should ultimately replace the matches with waterproof strike-anywhere matches that are dipped in wax to keep them from lighting in storage.

Securing food. The snare wire can be used for trapping smaller land animals for food.  The fishing gear (line, hooks, and sinkers) are used for fishing, but in a pinch they can be used for other tasks.  In fact, I used the extra space in the blue spool of fishing line to wrap as much nylon cord as possible, so that no space is wasted.  I can use the small pencil in my kit as an “axle” to allow the fishing line to spin freely as needed, and to help in reeling.

Medical care. The cotton can be used to stop bleeding, the alcohol swab to sterilize, and the band-aids to prevent infection.  The needle and thread can be used to suture a wound first, if needed.

Navigation. The kit includes a button compass, and also a backup.  I magnetized the sewing needle so I can set it on a leaf in calm water and it will point north, should I lose the compass.  Backup compass requiring no extra space was a no brainer once somebody suggested it.  The pencil and paper can be used to map your route, or take notes on landmarks or surroundings.

Getting found. The whistle was a costly item – it takes up a lot of space, which is a waste since it’s hollow.  I had to cut off the plastic loop used for a lanyard, and file it down to fit better in the kit.  But I’ve heard that when you need to attract attention, your voice doesn’t carry as well, and wears out easily.  A whistle cuts through ambient noise, and lasts as long as your breathing.  The tin itself can be used as a reflective surface to attract attention on a sunny day.

Crafting/repairing clothing and shelter. The remaining pieces are largely for the work you’ll need to do while you’re waiting for rescue.  The pocket knife required a lot of engineering to fit, but I felt it was worth it.  The nylon thread, safety pins, and razors can be used to repair clothing, tie together shelter, or even craft weapons for hunting.

As I mentioned above, the kit is closed and wrapped in electrical tape.  The first layer is mainly for waterproofing the kit.  I added 5 additional layers so that I’ll have that much extra tape as part of the kit.  Every wrap around the tin is about 1 foot of tape.

My kit doesn’t have everything I want.  I just bought a compact cable saw I’ll have to add by replacing/repositioning something else.  I wish there were more fire tools, and a light source.  I’m limited by room and budget, which is fine.  My kit also doesn’t have much for rope, just a few feet of nylon thread.  However, I’ve started wearing a belt I made out of paracord, and I plan to replace the laces in my shoes as well.  I also replaced my watch band with braided paracord which actually looks pretty good.

I’ve decided to carry my kit at all times for one month, to see how it feels.  I think the Cabela’s tin might be better for me, since it’s flatter and holds more.  It’s not as compact though, so I’ll have to experiment and see what feels right.  Below, I’ve included pictures showing how my kit fits together.  You can spend hours deciding how to make everything you need fit, and it’s not a bad idea to do so.

To start, I line the bottom of my tin with a stretched out cotton ball to quiet any rattling.  The whistle is so big, I have to form the cotton around it.  The knife goes in as well.

To start, I line the bottom of my tin with a stretched out cotton ball to quiet any rattling. The whistle is so big, I have to form the cotton around it. The knife goes in as well.

Continuing to add the bulkiest and oddest-shaped items first, I place the matches, fishing line spool (with nylon thread added), pencil (which I had to cut down by an inch) and compass.

Continuing to add the bulkiest and oddest-shaped items first, I place the matches, fishing line spool (with nylon thread added), pencil (which I had to cut down by an inch) and compass.

Next, I push the sewing thread reel into the middle of the snare wire to save space.  I add some cotton inside the reel, to keep from wasting any space.

Next, I push the sewing thread reel into the middle of the snare wire to save space. I add some cotton inside the reel, to keep from wasting any space.

I shaved a tealight down to the height and shape I needed to fit the tin.  I wanted as much wax as possible.

I shaved a tealight down to the height and shape I needed to fit the tin. I wanted as much wax as possible.

I added cotton everywhere it would fit into the nooks and crannies of the other contents.  The more, the better.  It eliminates rattling, and is valuable tinder.

I added cotton everywhere it would fit into the nooks and crannies of the other contents. The more, the better. It eliminates rattling, and is valuable tinder.

This is a little backward, but I added the razor blades and safety pins after the cotton.  I should have done it the other way around, but in my head I knew where I wanted them so I left space.

This is a little backward, but I added the razor blades and safety pins after the cotton. I should have done it the other way around, but in my head I knew where I wanted them so I left space.

This is the tin, packed with all the odd shaped objects, filling the deeper half of the tin to capacity.

This is the tin, packed with all the odd shaped objects, filling the deeper half of the tin to capacity.

I added the paper, band-aids and alcohol swap to the lid of the tin.  I add them last because they add very little width, and fit perfectly.

I added the paper, band-aids and alcohol swab to the lid of the tin. I add them last because they add very little width, and fit perfectly.

I add one last layer of cotton to take up the extra space.

I add one last layer of cotton to take up the extra space.

Variety in a Spiceless Life

July 23, 2009

My best friend and I have wondered something  for a few years now.  How could our fathers work all their lives at government jobs neither of them really liked?  We’ve examined a lot of theories.  As gen-y-ers in our early 30’s, studies have shown we’re one of the most pampered generations ever.  That’s resulted in us being really productive and creative workers, but also very high maintenance.  We constantly need to be interested and challenged by our work, or we’re unhappy.  There are other theories too, but none of them have ever helped solve the problem of why I’m an amazing guy to have on your team when the work is interesting, but I struggle a *lot* to stay focused on bland work.

I’ve come up with a new theory.

I’ve known for a long time how sanitized our lives are.  My earliest memory is not liking hand-sliced cheese on my sandwiches.  I preferred Kraft american slices – all the same shape, size, and consistency.  Same with the meat – precut to the same thickness, and a prefect fit for the square, machine-cut bread slices.

But lately, as I delve into survival mode, my understanding has grown.  Processed food is always the same, and familiarity is somehow cherished over quality.  Think of a McDonald’s hamburger – not great but always the same, always familiar.  Air conditioning means most of us are only comfortable in a very small window of temperature and humidity.  Cars mean that something 10 blocks away and something 10 miles away provide an almost identical driving experience.  We don’t value short distances, fair weather days, or a really good burger anymore because we don’t experience as wide a range of quality.

This brings me to work, and the fundamental question: why do I care so much if my job provides variety and challenge?  Because I don’t get it anywhere else in my life.  I remember growing up, my mom had a list of  “A” meals and “B” meals, and we planned dinners with only 2 or3 “A” meals a week for budget reasons.  Now I only eat meals I really like, and there are fewer of them.  Good meals are now standard, and common.

We used to get variety and challenge out of our actual lives, not where we spend 40 hours a week to pay the bills.  The spice of life came from a sunny day with a cool breeze, or when the place you needed to visit was within walking distance, or it was taco night.  Bottom line, we’re asking too much of our jobs.  It’s time to let work be work, and challenge ourselves on our own time.  Enjoying what you do is still important, but be thankful for the boring.  It makes the interesting stuff all the sweeter.

Concealed Carry Amendment Defeated in the Senate

July 22, 2009

Yahoo today reported that the amendment to mandate concealed carry reciprocity among states was defeated by the slimmest of margins.  While the article is unusually objective sounding for being part of the popular media, it does make this defeat out as more than it is, by saying “opponents prevailed in their argument…”

To me, “prevailed” means they really swayed general opinion.  They didn’t.  Votes were actually in favor of the amendment, 58 – 39.  However, the senate requires 60 “for” votes in order to pass legislation, so this measure failed.  But I think this misleading tone is due more to the need for media to overdramatize.  A story saying “despite growing support, things stay the same for now” doesn’t sell.

One part of the article really interested me.  It was the anti-gun crowd’s sudden concern for “state’s rights” that they wholeheartedly ignore when they’re trying to eliminate the whole country’s second amendment right to bear arms.  Are we being hypocritical?  I firmly believe in state’s rights, and I know we’re not.

The right of individual states to make their own laws and govern their own people is invaluable.  I dare say when it comes to legislation, the smaller level the better.  But those laws are not allowed to infringe on constitutional rights, and the right to self defense is one of them.

Private businesses and private residences are the only places that should have the right to enforce stricter gun rules on their own property.  I have no problem with that.  I’ve seen news reports with bar owners who complain about lax gun law.  In my state, and most I believe, bars are like any other private business and have to right to restrict guns, or anything else, as much as they want.  Heck, put up a “no republicans” sign, I don’t care – I’ll simply take my business elsewhere.

Water Conservation in the Shower

July 22, 2009

This is not that old joke about conserving water by showering together. Experience says you’re likely to be in there long enough to negate any water savings.  There are still benefits, but none of them are conservation-related 🙂

As I fill each of my 7-gallon water containers for long-term storage, and lug the almost 60-pounds down to our basement storage area, I’m filled with newfound respect for clean, purified water.  It even tastes better when I drink it.  I’m no longer a slave to milk and pop.  There was a day when I lacked the will power to drink plain water, but now I appreciate it so much more.

And so I’m increasingly agitated by just how much of this wonderful, life-giving, purified water we waste all the time.  I’m not ready to give up indoor plumbing anytime soon, but I’ve realized just how amazingly efficient outhouses were, back in the day.  Zero water usage for an unlimited number of people.  Think of how much water we waste for the privilege of going to the bathroom indoors.

I’ve also started to notice how much water I waste waiting for the hot water to make its way up the pipes to my bathroom sink before I shave – or to the shower.  In a survival situation my family could live quite well, and indefinitely, on 5 gallons of water per day, per person.  Yet the average household uses 12-14 times that.  My family could survive on much less in the short term.

All that being said, I’m looking for ways to cut down on water, and I’m not just looking at convenient ways.  I’m willing to get creative, and it’s just lucky that I found one way that is both creative and convenient.  My shower has an extra attachment with a hose, which I’ve never really needed.  The up side is that there is a push/pull button that redirects water to the hose, cutting off water to the main shower head.  This gave me an idea: clog the hose, and I can effectively shut my water off during the middle of a shower when I’m shampooing, or scrubbing.  The faucet knobs will remain in the same position, preserving the water temperature for a few minutes between uses.

In the pictures below you can see my shower setup, and how I plugged the extra shower head with just a few inches of paracord, tied in a half-hitch knot and stuffed into the head.  Don’t stuff it into the hose, or water pressure pushing on it could move it.  By stuffing it into the head and making sure it’s firmly planted, added water pressure will only serve to keep it in place.  Paracord is a nice material because it’s easy to remove (no permanent clogging) and it’s synthetic so it won’t rot.  It’ doesn’t need to be 100% sealed – reducing the flow to a dribble is good enough for my purposes.

By clogging my extra shower head with paracord, I'm able to create a shower where I can turn water flow off, and the water temperature will be just right when I turn it back on a few minutes later.

By clogging my extra shower head with paracord, I'm able to create a shower where I can turn water flow off, and the water temperature will be just right when I turn it back on a few minutes later.

Keep in mind that the longer you do this, the cooler the hot water in the pipes will be when you turn it back on.  But I just need it “paused” for a couple of minutes at a time, so it’s perfect.  This should turn a shower with 10-15 minutes of water usage into a shower with less than 5 minutes of running water.

I’m also going to try another change in bathroom water habits – not waiting so long for hot water.  I’m guessing that by waiting for shower/shaving water to be just “acceptable” instead of perfect, I can cut the wait/waste in half.

Building Survival Fitness from a Rut

July 21, 2009

I made a commitment to get 5,000 steps in every day this week, no matter what.  The first test came tonight, after staying home all day and only having 1,300 steps counted.  The good news is that it feels like a plan, a routine.  I felt “commited” because this was the first time that the only reason I was exercising was to meet a rule I’d laid down for myself.  It’s easy to exercise when you feel like it, or to tack on extra steps throughout the day.  This was different, and better because I was exercising my will power at the same time.

It’s not all roses, though.  At nearly 300 pounds, I realize I’m in a fitness rut.  I define a rut as any situation where the further you dig yourself in, the less able you are to get out.  Like getting in shape – the more out of shape I am, the less active I’m able to be.  It’s the same for a financial rut where your problem is directly hurting your means to solve it.

If I have $10,000 in credit card debt, I can shore up extra money – maybe just $50 a month – and start paying down one card.  When that card is paid off, suddenly I have $150 a month to put toward paying off the next debt, and so on.  I think experts call it a debt snowfall, or something similar.  It’s the same for fitness.  I will leverage my current, meager abilities into more fitness, which I will reinvest into even better conditioning.

From here I rise.

Crime Statistics on Concealed Carry Permit Holders

July 21, 2009

As I’ve researched concealed carry laws in different states, I’ve learned a lot.  Part of the reason for this research is because we’ll likely be taking a trip down to Texas soon, and I wanted to know if my future Kansas concealed carry permit would apply all the way down.  It does, because both Oklahoma and Texas honor a Kansas concealed carry permit.

One of the things I’ve learned is that, since concealed carry provisions are on the rise in states (Nebraska just enacted their concealed carry permits a couple years ago) they’re eager to show that it was a good decision.  Or maybe they’re just eager to make sure that if it isn’t working out, they’ll be the first to know.  But states are publishing interesting statistics on crime, and the demographics of concealed carry permit holders.  Interestingly, the highest demographic for violent crime (men in their early 20’s) are also one of the smallest groups of legal concealed carriers.  Old people are packing, people!

I recently researched getting a 2nd concealed carry permit from Texas, to add 9 states to the list of places I can legally carry a concealed weapon.  I stumbled on some great statistics.  I based all my numbers on data from 2007, because that’s the most recent year for which all data was available.

From Many Eyes I learned that the total population of Texas is about 23.9 million people, of which 16.6 million meet the age requirement for a concealed carry permit.  The rest of my stats were provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Concealed Carry site, which was extremely helpful.

According to this pdf, there were 288,908  concealed carry permit holders in 2007.  This means that 1.75% of age-eligible residents own a concealed carry permit.  And according to this pdf, only 0.26% (about a quarter of a percent) of gun crimes are commited by concealed carry permit holders.  That means that concealed carry permit holders are seven times less likely to commit gun crimes.  Concealed carriers are safer!

This makes a lot of sense.  Concealed carry permit holders are required to pass a course covering the law surrounding firearms use, including when it is acceptable to use deadly force, and how to do so within the bounds of the law.  The course also requires a level of proficiency with handguns that lowers the risk of accidental injury.  Concealed carry permit holders also undergo a federal background check, submit their fingerprints, and photo identification.  In short, it would be much easier to identify and convict them if they were to abuse their privilege.  Concealed carriers have more to lose by commiting a gun crime – they’re held to a higher level of accountability.

This shouldn’t deter you from obtaining a concealed carry permit, and using it responsibly.  Of course, I wish people were allowed to carry firearms freely without a permit, and regulation.  Criminals are bullies, and they thrive on the weak.  It becomes much harder to rob a convenience store, or go on a shooting rampage at a school or mall when the shooter has to think twice about how many people might also be armed.