Quote of the Week

"One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty councils."
- Woodrow Wilson

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why Not Take BOB For A Walk This Weekend?

Got any big plans for the weekend? If you can, why not take BOB for a walk. You know BOB, your Bug Out Bag, Get Home Bag, Survival Bag or whatever else you want to call it. Mine is merely a hiking day pack with a few extras items. I refuse to call myself a "prepper." I just like to be self reliant in the event of a minor emergency.

Whatever you want to call it, having some basic items packed and ready to go is a good idea for anyone to have. Especially if you spend time enjoying the outdoors in remote areas. It's not uncommon for an experienced hiker or hunter to get lost and have to spend the night in the woods. Or have car troubles on your way back from a remote area

What you should have packed will vary greatly per individual, what the situations they plan for, where they live, and a whole host of other items to consider. But most will cover in one way or the other, the basics. Certainly some tools, extra clothing, medical supplies. Most likely food, water (or ways to gather), fire starters and shelter materials. One can, and often will acquire a lot of stuff for their BOB. Sometimes too much.

With the popularity of some reality TV shows, many people are getting into have some type of prepacked bag of essentials for quick access when needed. A person just getting into this can spend hours watching YouTube videos and spend hundreds of dollars on Amazon and army surplus stores building a kit that they feel will allow them to survive an apocalypse of any variety; be it Biblical, economic, man made, natural or zombie.

Having a little something for any possible situation may seem like good planning, but it can cause a big issue. You may have to actually carry around that bag. While I highly recommend anyone, especially someone who lives in remote areas or spends a lot of time in the outdoors, to been well prepared; it's best not to over do it. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to walk or hike a distance to get to safety, carrying a bunch of gear you really don't need can be a great hindrance.

As hikers know, ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. That's why I strongly recommend you keep things simple with your emergency gear. Like I mentioned before, my kit is merely a hiking day pack with a few extras. What those extras are will vary for each person and may not always be the same throughout the year. I take summer items out in the winter and vise versa. For example: having a small bottle of bug spray doesn't do me any good in the middle of a Wisconsin winter.

So, how does one determine if they have too much gear packed? Simple. Take your emergency kit for a walk. Sometime this weekend, put your BOB on your back and go for a 1 or 2 mile walk. You may want to take it to a hiking trail, so you don't look goofy walking around the neighborhood with an Army surplus backpack on, but make sure you go for at least a mile walk.

If your are worn out from that experience either you have too much gear or you're out of shape, and most likely both. Now you need to look into lightening up your pack.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Things You See Along the Side of the Road

I am fortunate enough to live in a great location. I have a small house on 8 acres of land between the Governor Knowles State Forest and the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area. A great place for an outdoors lover to be.

Both areas attract a lot of tourist traffic. From hikers and hunters to fisherman and photographers. Some of the photographers I see when I'm out in Crex have some very impressive equipment. Giant telescopic lens, tripods, light meters,etc. A lot of cash invested into their hobby, that's for sure.

I've seen some real amazing nature and wildlife pictures taken by people from around here. Sunsets, inspect, plantlife, flocks of geese, deer, bear,etc. Many of the photographers this area attract have a lot of talent. But sometimes the photographers can be a road hazard.

Many times I've seen some have their car stopped right in the middle of the road with their gear scattered about. Once I came upon one setup on the road right where the gravel road came out of a series of sharp turns. I stopped and politely recommended the guy to move his car off the road. It was late afternoon during duck season. I could picture a truck load of hunters come racing around the corner faster than they should, trying to get to there favorite evening hunting spot on time. He responded with "F you! I can park where I want!" Gee, sorry for trying to keep you, your gear, and your car from getting ran over.

Tonight on my way home from work I saw another photographer set up in the middle of the road. I no longer bother advising photographers about blocking the roadways. Even if I still did, I wouldn't have said a word to this guy. It wasn't because he was stopped in the northbound lane of the straight stretch of County Road F. It was because of the what he was taking a picture of.

As I slowly drove by, the guy was focusing his camera with a ginormous telescopic lens sitting on a high end tripod at his subject five feet in front of him in the ditch. The subject for the stop in the road for a photo was a roadkill deer. Nothing fresh either, one that was bloated and quite ripe.

I guess if you drive up here from the cities with thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment to take wildlife pictures; you're not going to pass up any photo opportunity.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Being an Engineer Can Take The Fun Out of Things

Having the mind of a engineer can ruin a funny picture.
Sometimes being an engineer can take the fun out of things. If you have the "engineering knack" like me, you have a habit of over analyzing things sometimes.

I can rarely pick up anything with a plastic body or housing, such as a remote control or kid's toy, without looking it over to see how it was molded. After being involved in the plastic injection mold making trade, in one capacity or another since 1996, I can't help it.

I determine the parting line, look for actions, ejector pin and gate locations, and try to imagine the tooling used to mold the part.

The over analyzing plastic parts may be an occupational side effect, but nothing is safe from over thinking from an engineer.

Besides obviously all things mechanical, other everyday things are over thought. I have a hard time answering a simple question without going into great detail. I can't even laugh at a funny picture without thinking too much about it.

Like this picture a good friend sent me on Facebook this morning, stating the picture reminded her of me. I should have took that as a complement. I should have at least laughed at the picture. But I couldn't do that. I had to critique the concept of roasting marshmallows with a yard rack.

My thoughts in chronological order were as follows:

  1. There are way too many marshmallows for the number of graham crackers and chocolate.
  2. Why are the graham crackers and chocolate on the rake in the first place?
  3. Should I be roasting the graham crackers and chocolate?
  4. Hey someone else makes s'mores with peanut butter cups besides my family!
  5. I wonder if this picture is of a cousin?
  6. How would you roast the other side of the marshmallows without dumping the graham crackers and chocolate?
  7. Can't get even heat distribution over the span of the rack.
  8. Can't rotate and evenly roast each individual marshmallow.
  9. Those tangs are going to warp in the heat.
  10. They may carburized too. Probably snap off the next time the rake is used..
  11. The paint and God knows what else has touched that rake lately is going to cook into the marshmallows.
  12. With the small surface area bearing the weight of the marshmallow and the coefficient of friction of the tangs, those marshmallows are going to fall into the fall before they're done.
  13. If one of the center marshmallows caught fire, would it cause a chain reaction?
  14. Cant beat a soft wood stick for roasting marshmallows.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Road Raging in the Northland, Along the South Shore

A few weeks ago I was heading up to my parent’s cabin. It was the weekend of our annual family get together. My parents have a small three room cabin about a mile off of Lake Superior. Around the same time each year, a bunch of my extended family go up there and set up camp in their yard. With many of my aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws hanging around the campfire and the beaches of Cornucopia, Wisconsin, we always have a very fun time.

Wisconsin Highway 13 is a two lane road that runs along the south shore of Lake Superior. It’s narrow with lots of curves, hills and views of Lake Superior. It’s no autobahn like freeway, but it’s a very enjoyable ride. Unless of course you have some jackhole tailgating you. With all the curves and hills, there is a lot of no passing zones on this 55mph highway.

On my way up to the family get together I had one of those jackholes behind me for a long time. No matter how close he got behind my truck, how much he shuffled his car side to side like an Indy racecar cleaning its tires during a caution lap, or how much he mouthed “come on” at me, my cruise control didn't move from its 63mph setting. If my cruise control didn't see a need to adjust itself, I wasn't going to change it either. If you’re following me and 8mph above the posted legal limit is too slow for you, you’re stuck behind the wrong driver.

Finally this guy couldn't take it anymore and passed me in a no passing zone, flipping me off as he went by. I just smiled widely and waved to him like he was a long lost friend. I've found handling people like that with kindness just pisses them off more; which is a lot of fun by the way.

As the little Subaru wagon sped along with its two kayaks on top, I noticed a bumper sticker that made me laugh out loud. It was that “coexist” sticker with the letters made out of religious symbols.

Seems a great percentage of people who have this bumper sticker, don't exercise the very idea they're trying to promote.
Now I am not the confrontational type of person. With the exception of a rare internet comment exchange, I avoid it as much as possible. But in my mind, I imagined myself following him (at a safe distance of course) to his next stop. Calmly walk up to the back of his car, peel off the bumper sticker, and tell the driver he can have it back once he starts living up to it.

Of course I didn't even consider doing that. No one would allow a stranger to walk up to their vehicle and remove a bumper sticker in the first place. Plus have you ever tried to remove a bumper sticker in the first place? They don’t just peel off in one fell swoop. It can be a real chore.