Labor Day Weekend

This weekend is usually seen as the last hurrah of the summer. Lots of cookouts, backyard games, and no doubt a fair amount of adult beverages being consumed.

Please, stay safe this weekend. I want each of you to have exactly as many birthdays as you’re supposed to have. If you’re going to be drinking, be sure you have a safe ride home lined up ahead of time.

This weekend, consider practicing some of your outdoor survival skills. When you go to light your fire pit, do so using a magnesium striker or a flint. Instead of cooking everything on your fancy gas grill, do it over a campfire.

In fact, here’s a quick recipe I’ll share with you that is perfect for doing outside over a fire.

Core a few apples. Granny Smith is a great variety for this but any apples that are great in a pie will work well. Core the apples and slide them onto roasting sticks. Take a bowl and fill it with about a cup of sugar and mix in some cinnamon. Roast the apples until the skin starts to crackle and peel. Carefully peel the skin from the apples, then roll them in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roast a few more minutes, until the sugar glazes. Slide the apples off the sticks onto plates and cut up to eat.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Stay safe and I’ll see you after Labor Day.

Food For Thought, Continued

A couple days ago, I posted a rant about the state of the country. One of my pet peeves is when people complain about something but don’t offer up any solutions to fix the problem. That being the case, I didn’t want to be accused of doing the same thing so here are some of my own suggestions on how to get this country back on the right track.

1) All elected officials should be subject to the exact same health care and retirement packages as the rest of us. If it is good enough for us, it should be good enough for them.

2) We, the citizens, are in control of when Congressmen get raises and how much they get. Personally, I haven’t seen a raise in almost six years, due to the economy. Why should they be any different?

3) At the state and federal levels, compensation for politicians is tied directly to the economy, unemployment, and the budgets. Salaries are adjusted up or down based on those factors.

4) Welfare and other subsidized benefits should only be available for those who truly NEED them. If you’re on the dole, you should have to prove you are actively seeking employment or have a damn good reason why you aren’t.

5) If the churches want to get involved in public policy, they should be taxed at the same rate as any other commercial entity. Let them pay the same admission price as everyone else.

6) All states should have “shall issue” permits for concealed carry.

7) No more excuses for bad behavior. Caught driving drunk? Mandatory one year imprisonment. Drive drunk and injure or kill someone? Ten years, minimum. Engage in pedophile behavior? First offense — life imprisonment. There should be harsh sentences handed down quickly for severe crimes. No more of these cases that drag on for years. Every criminal matter should be on the “rocket docket.”

8) No more tenured positions in the public school system. Reviews and compensation are based solely on merit, not length in the position. Teachers should be well paid, provided they are doing their jobs effectively.

9) Mandatory retirement accounts. By that, I mean a small percentage of your income is withheld from each paycheck and kept in an account for when you retire. Something similar to social security except that the funds are untouchable by anyone until you retire or die. In the latter case, the funds would get distributed to the estate. These funds would come out pre-tax and not be taxed upon disbursement.

10) Academic teams should receive the same budget as athletics. There should as much focus on debate teams as there is on football. While I’m at it, no more full ride scholarships based solely on athletic performance. If the athlete doesn’t have the grades to enter the college or university, how fast they run or how high they jump shouldn’t matter.

All that would at least get us moving in the right direction, I think.

Back to School Survival Kits

Well, you can hear the collective sigh of relief from parents across the country as kids shuffle back to school. Some schools are already in full swing, others don’t start until next week.

If you have kids heading back to the halls of education, consider adding a small survival kit to their book bags. Obviously being in a school, students can’t carry anything that could be construed as a weapon, so no pocket knives. But there are some things that might prove useful should they be stuck at school for an extended period of time.

Snacks: a couple granola bars, some crackers, maybe a few pieces of hard candy.

Water: one or two bottles of water, sealed tight.

Light stick: One or two of those snap-n-shake sticks you can pick up at the dollar store.

Whistle: Each of my kids has [a survival whistle] in their bag.

Wipes and hand sanitizer: Great for quick clean ups.

First aid: Just a few adhesive bandages will hopefully suffice since each classroom probably has a larger kit.

Emergency contact info: A small wallet card with names and phone numbers of each parent and other emergency contacts. While the school has this information on file, it may not be readily accessible in a disaster.

All of these supplies (except the water bottles) can fit into a quart size zip lock bag and placed in the backpack for safe keeping. If you have the opportunity to do so, talk to the teacher and let him or her know that you’ve given your student this kit and it should be kept either in their backpack, locker, or ideally their desk.

Food for Thought — A Rant

I posted a link to this video on my Facebook page yesterday but wanted to discuss it in a bit more detail here today.

This clip is taken from a new HBO series called The Newsroom. I’ve not seen it myself and, in fact, had no knowledge it even existed until a couple days ago. But I’ve had several people tell me it is one of the best shows out there so I’ll check it out when it hits DVD.

Anyway, here Jeff Daniels is playing some sort of news network head honcho who is engaging in a debate and is asked what makes America the greatest country in the world? His answer is both shocking and thought provoking.

Indeed, is America still the greatest country? I think if you’re talking historically, then the answer is a no brainer. The United States is responsible for the freedom of many, many countries over the last couple hundred years. Our involvement in WWII alone was critically important. Our country’s citizens have been at the forefront of innumerable technological and medical advances. And despite how much we might bitch about things, we still have the freedom to make blog posts like this.

But, are we still great? If we’re just speaking comparatively, we’re still much better off than most other nations. I know I certainly wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I love this country, I truly do. And that is why it so saddens me to see the current state of affairs.

We are a nation of whiners and finger pointers. We can’t ever accept responsibility for our actions.

Overweight? That’s because fast food chains don’t serve healthy food and groceries are chock full of artificial ingredients.

Kids don’t behave? That’s the fault of violent video games and/or a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD.

Feel a little anxiety? Well, just take this little pill and you’ll be fine.

I’m reminded of comedian Christopher Titus. He said, “Did you know you’re supposed to feel anxiety? It is a human emotion and has been around for a million years! You’re supposed to worry about how the rent is gonna be paid because THAT’S HOW THE F&%$ING RENT GETS PAID!

We send our men and women to other countries to fight for their freedom and our own. We reward that sacrifice upon their return home by giving them often shoddy medical care and homelessness.

Our government treats citizens like mushrooms — keeping us in the dark and feeding us crap.

I don’t know, maybe this is all just a sign of my age. I’m in my 40s now and gone is the invincibility of youth, that feeling that I and my country can do no wrong. Even so, I’ve often felt like that curmudgeonly old man down the block, always ranting about “these kids today.” They have no respect and no ambition. I routinely hear kids say things to their parents that would NEVER have been tolerated by my folks.

It seems to me that the life goal for many people is just to be fat, dumb, and happy. As more people reach that goal, we’re seeing the effects of it. I’ll admit I’m carrying a few extra pounds but compared to what I see around me every day, I look like an Olympic sprinter on a starvation diet. Used to be, stores had those motorized carts for the elderly to get around in the store. Nowadays, I see retirees shuffling along in walkers while Suzie FatAss loads her HandiCart with four cases of Ding Dongs, hollering on her cell phone the whole time as her demon seed children run around like monkeys on meth.

Used to be, if you found yourself having to go to court for some reason, you wore a coat and tie, or at least a dress shirt and clean slacks. Today, I regularly see people standing in front of a judge while wearing flip flops, pajama bottoms, and a Slipknot t-shirt.

Our public schools, to be quite blunt, suck. The teachers are so hamstrung by the school boards and legislation that they are doomed to fail right from the start. It wasn’t all that long ago that students who needed special attention were given it. Today, we have kids who make Freddy Krueger look like Mary Poppins sitting in the same room as the students who truly want to learn. I understand the desire to mainstream those troubled youths. I get that, I really do. But when you have a young man whose default is to throw chairs and punch teachers when he gets upset and you have to bring in a special assigned counselor to deal with him EVERY SINGLE DAY, there’s a problem with that system. Thirty or so students receive less of an education because one kid has issues that aren’t being addressed properly.

I can sum it all up with this — Neil Armstrong died the same day Snooki gave birth.

I love this country dearly…and it is breaking my heart.

Vacation, Sort Of

Beginning tomorrow evening, I’ll be out of pocket through Labor Day. Every year at this time, I work security at the local county fair. A good friend of mine runs the security department and for the last ten years or so, I’ve been working the backstage and overnight security details. Great money, great people, and generally a goodly amount of fun but not a whole lot of sleep. I’ll put in about 90 hours in six days, which is a lot but it does go by quick.

I’m lining up the blog posts ahead of time for the week so you’ll not really notice my absence but I won’t be around to respond to emails or comments until Tuesday next week. While I’m told we’ve finally gotten wi-fi at the fairgrounds, I probably won’t have a lot of time to spend surfing the ‘Net.

To circle this post back to providing at least a bit of practical information, I thought I’d share with you what I normally carry with me when working security at the fair. When we’re working, we have to carry all of our stuff with us and we’re often on foot. We’re out in the elements, no matter what the weather brings, and usually for upwards of 12 hours at a crack.

Here’s what I carry around with me.

–Radio: provided by the security department, it is equipped with an earpiece and lapel microphone.

–Pocketknife: While the exact one varies from year to year, even day to day, I always have a sharp knife in my pocket.

–Hat: During the day, this is usually a ball cap, though I’ve been known to wear my Australian outback leather hat from time to time. It helps a lot to have a wide brim to keep the sun off my face. However, at night it can get quite chilly so I always bring a knit hat as well.

–Sunglasses: It is either that or squint all day long. I keep my prescription glasses in a case in my pocket for after sundown. One year, I made the mistake of just putting my glasses in my pocket without a case and ended up with a deep scratch on one lens.

–Sunscreen: The first year I worked this gig, I ended up with bad sunburn on my face and arms. My ears looked like the tops had been melted due to blisters. That was a lesson I only needed to learn once!

–Ear plugs: One of the events I work is the truck and tractor pull. I’m often mere feet away from these monsters as they rev up and take off down the track.

–Snack: I usually toss a granola bar and some trail mix into a pocket. We routinely have the ability to stop and grab something from one of the vendors as we’re patrolling but that isn’t something we can always count on. Myself and a few of my partners have a tradition of bringing sacks of peanuts with us as well.

–Water: There are numerous water fountains throughout the fairgrounds but we usually carry bottles with us, just in case.

–Flashlight: Once the fairgrounds are closed, many of the lights are turned off. Having a reliable bright flashlight is critical. Mine is a little 9 LED metal flashlight I picked up for a few bucks at Menards. We also have a few Maglites in the security office we can take with us when patrolling after closing.

–In my pack that I keep at the security office, I have extra clothes, including socks, more snack food, and a few odds and ends. We share office space with the paramedics so I don’t worry about bringing any first aid stuff with me. Of course, I also have my bug out kits in the car, if needed.

You guys and gals have fun this week while I’m gone. Behave yourselves, at least a little bit!

Review: Survival Quest (movie)

Yesterday, I asked on my Facebook page what survival movies people particularly liked. I got the usual, expected responses:

–Red Dawn
–The Road
–Mad Max, The Road Warrior
–The Book of Eli
–I Am Legend

No one, other than myself, brought up this great little flick from 1989 called Survival Quest.

Lance Henriksen, one of my all-time favorite actors, plays wilderness survival instructor Hank Chambers. The outfit for which he works is sort of an Outward Bound type of school, where he takes a small group of students out into the wilderness for several days, teaching them not only wilderness skills but how to work together as a team. He is sort of a mountain man type, preferring to work with nature instead of doing battle against it. His class this time around consists of several relatively normal people, each with their own quirks and such. Among these are a recent divorcee, the requisite smart ass, and a convict whose parole hinges upon his successful completion of the course.

At the same time, there is another group of students being taught skills in the forest. Led by tyrannical “survivalist” Jake Cannon, the class reminds me of the sort of schools that used to advertise in Soldier of Fortune magazine. They are being taught ways to stalk sentries and take them out with knives, that sort of thing. One of the students, going by the nickname Raider, is particularly enthralled with these more violent types of exercises.

Realizing quickly that the groups are having to share the forest, Cannon makes a point of using Hank’s students as targets for his class. They are shot at with paintball guns and stalked frequently. At one point, there is a brief confrontation between Hank and Cannon, which ends up embarrassing the latter character, making him even more determined to get revenge.

Things come to a head when Hank is shot with a real gun by one of Cannon’s students. Cannon, having not intended things to go that far, begins to assault the trigger man, Raider. He defends himself by stabbing Cannon in the neck, then telling his classmates that Cannon was killed by one of Hank’s students. Raider then leads his group in an all out attack on Hank’s group.

Believing Hank to be dead, his students attempt to get back to the home base, a small airfield. Using skills they’ve been taught, they work to survive off the land until they reach safety.

I’ll not spoil the final act of the movie. Suffice to say, it is all wrapped up in the end. “Fire is nature’s cleanser.”

While this movie didn’t do anything spectacular in the theaters, I quite liked it. In particular, the lesson (though they do sort of beat you over the head with it) is that nature isn’t a force to be conquered. Rather, it is to be respected.

Unfortunately, Survival Quest isn’t available on Netflix, at least through the instant streaming feature. But, if you look around a bit, I’m sure you can find a used DVD copy fairly cheap. It is worth the hunt, trust me.

Multi-Use Item — Trash Bag

Many of the items we put in our survival kits have multiple purposes. Given that we have a finite amount of space in each kit, we need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each potential addition. Today, let’s talk about the different ways in which we can use a trash bag.

Please note though that we’re not talking about the thin kitchen garbage bags here. What you want is contractor grade trash bags. They are made of thicker plastic and are much more durable.

The first use that comes to mind is water collection. Fashion a quick box type frame from branches, open the bag inside, and catch as much rain as you can. You could also use it flat on the ground to collect dew overnight.

If you’ll be at your camp location for a while, dig a hole and line it with a trash bag. Pour water into it to have a larger supply on hand than just your canteen.

It can serve as as waterproof ground tarp. Lay it flat and build your shelter over it. Or use it as a waterproof top for your shelter.

If you fill it with leaves or grass, it may make for a rather nice mattress or comforter.

Cut holes for your head and arms and you have a pretty decent expedient poncho.

Fill it with air and tie it securely closed for use as a flotation device.

While not ideal, you can use it as a container to carry your gear if you lose your pack.

Given that even a couple of these bags weigh next to nothing and add almost no bulk to your kit, they are certainly worth having with you in an emergency.

10 Days Until National Preparedness Month

We’re just ten days from National Preparedness Month. While prepping should be a year round endeavor, every September we try to ramp up our efforts to get more people involved in doing things to be better prepared.

FEMA has been hammering on citizens for a few years now to do three things:

1) Get a kit
2) Make a plan
3) Be informed

When they say to get a kit, they are referring to the bug out bag, the get home bag, the home emergency kit, and/or the evacuation kit. Every family should have a kit at home for emergencies as well as having bug out bags in each vehicle.

Making plans includes Continue reading 10 Days Until National Preparedness Month

Workplace Violence Warning Signs

Recently, there was a situation in my town where a guy who’d been fired from a company came back and made all sorts of threats. This wasn’t anything that made the news, I just happen to know a few people who work there. It never amounted to anything but this sort of thing has been happening rather frequently around the country for a while now.

Back in the day, I taught corporate classes about workplace aggression. One of the first things we taught was many warning signs of potentially violent workers. As I always stressed, the presence of one or more of these tendencies or behaviors should not be seen as definitive evidence that someone was about to go postal. Rather, you need to see them in context first and understand the overall situation. They are just what I said — warning signs.

1) The person is short-tempered and argumentative. While we all know at least one jackass who just can’t seem to get along with anyone, it is a warning sign of potentially violent behavior.

2) Signs of drug and alcohol abuse. Quite often, those who become violent do so under the influence of alcohol or another drug. Continue reading Workplace Violence Warning Signs

Review: The Hunger Games (movie)

Over the weekend, The Hunger Games arrived at Redbox. Having read most of the trilogy, I was excited to see how the first book translated to the silver screen. My interest in the books waned about halfway through the second book and I never did finish the third.

I find it difficult to say I liked the first book, or the movie for that matter. Enjoyable is another term I hesitate to use. For those who aren’t familiar, the story is set in the future where, after some sort of major calamity, the United States has been broken into 13 districts. District 1 is where the ruling elite live in the lap of luxury, never wanting for anything. As you go further from that district, the people get Continue reading Review: The Hunger Games (movie)