All posts by Richter

Self “Defense”

To make clear right away: this is NOT an article on how to fight.  This is an article on how to not NEED to fight.  Techniques on how to disarm maim or kill will not be covered.  No flashy folding knives, “tactical” flashlights, kubotans, fistloads, or knuckledusters will be discussed here.  These are all weapons (tools you use offensively), or offensive techniques, and this is an article about defense.  A weapon is a tool for harming another human being by offensive action.  Is there such a thing as a “defensive” weapon?  Likely not, unless you want to split hairs about shields, which you carry to a medieval battlefield, not every day on your usual rounds.  This is a discussion on situational awareness and how to carry your self (aka. “street smarts”), to discourage and minimize the possibility of getting in a confrontation. 

Your author, it should be mentioned, is NO great street fighter, warrior, martial artist, or psychology expert.  Training in these fields he HAS had, but the following ideas are gleaned from walking into and out of some shit more or less intact.  If you’re in a rowdy bar, bad part of town, or walking a country road when the banjos start, it will seldom be immediately obvious what kind of situation you’re in, or what the perfect response is until after the fact.  Perfect responses don’t matter.  If you walk away free and unhurt you did it right.
DO:  Take these ideas, incorporate and use as they make sense to you. 
DO NOT:  Replace entirely how you conduct yourself with this advice.  Even the schmuck writing it doesn’t consider it definitive.


Step 1: Awareness. 
Know what’s going on around you, that simple.  Keep eyes, ears, and mind open.

If there’s a part of town where people get rolled for having the wrong skin color, guess where you shouldn’t go.  If you see or hear police getting ready to sweep and area, or a group starting to argue / fight, it MIGHT be good to make your way elsewhere.  Information heeded in time is easier, cheaper, and safer than bullets when things go bad.

Step 2:  Don’t look like a target.  Unless someone has a personal reason to harm you, they usually are NOT looking for a fight.  They are looking for an easy target.  There are always exceptions, but most muggers, pickpockets, etc, only want to hit a mark and get away unscathed.  Looking like a hard target will dissuade many problems.  Being tall, wide, or male helps right off the bat, but looking cognizant and ready can be done by anyone regardless. 

Keep moving confidently and steadily, like you are supposed to be where you are and know EXACTLY where you are going.  RELAX; holding your shoulders or arms tensely is an easy way to signal nervousness.

Though you should be aware of surroundings, use more senses than your eyes.  Constant backward glancing and head swiveling looks nervous and unsure.  Eyes forward, head slightly down, just keep on trucking.  Use eyeglasses or glass storefronts to check what’s behind you. 
Wear clothes you can move in, and shoes you can run in.  Avoid ANY kind of shoe which makes a nervous “TAP TAP TAP TAP” sound when you try to walk faster. 
Don’t take out your wallet, phone, or anything expensive if you’re unsure of the surroundings.  People like to steal things that hold money or cost money, so don’t let them see that you have them. 

Try to avoid any action which would take your attention off of your environment.  (Rummaging through a purse or bag to find a lighter for someone who asks you for one, for example.)  Not always possible, but having your face glued to your phone / map / iPod is a GOOD way to look vulnerable.  (If you decide to wear headphones, learn to adjust the music and volume when the player is in you pocket.) 

If you need to carry a bag, wear it across your torso, or high and tight on your shoulder.  Carrying one loose on the lower arm, on one shoulder, or held in the hand makes them a PRIME candidate for a run – by snatching.


Step 3: Aversion. 
A good glare will get you out of more situations better than fighting. 
If you can’t or don’t want to try a staring contest, you can always be gross.  Sag forward and drool in a train seat, hack up a lung, talk like a retard, rant to yourself, VOMIT, shit your self, (as the situation warrants, of course).  Most mugger / rapists do NOT want to deal with this.  Most regular folks will get disturbed and stay away too. 

Step 4:  Get out of Dodge.  If you know you’re being followed, suspect it, or even get an attack of the “Spider Sense”, make your way to a more populous area.  Call the cops or a cab.  Again, move purposeful and steady.  If you must, RUN.  Yes, it signals panic, and may encourage the pursuer to give chase, but if you can reach a safe place fast, it works. 
If confronted with a gun or a knife, handing over your cash is MUCH cheaper than medical bills.  Give (Read: toss your cash), to the shithead, back off, and RUN.  Keep credit cards and ID separate from money.  If you’re carrying BIG change, keep it somewhere away from your pocket cash.

 

Hopefully this will add a few ideas and some security to readers, and hopefully they never need to find out.  Comments, questions, or contradictions are always welcome, as this kind of thing is ALWAYS work in progress.

 

Fire.

Yes, it’s time to have a bit of pyrotechnic CRAZY in CRAZY PREPARED

KNOW how to start a fire.
Fire = dry heat = one Maslow’s #1 priorities on his hierarchy of needs.
Yes, we have heaters, boilers, and wood stoves nowadays, but if you’re out of your usual surroundings, camping, hiking, or escaping the crumbling ruins of a once great empire, you DON’T HAVE ANY OF THAT!

Regardless of planning, preparation or intent, most folks who do things in the outdoors will end up cold, wet and miserable a couple times a year. (Law of stupid happenstance) When this does happen, it makes you appreciate good roaring fire to dry off next to like nothing else will, and makes knowing HOW to get one started an indispensable skill.

If you grew up in the outdoors, you likely know this, and may read a few novel tricks here, but then this article isn’t for you so much.

To build a fire, you need about three stages of fuel: tinder, kindling, and logs.  Tinder is where you start. Paper, lint (dryer lint especially), wood shavings, dry leaves, or VERY small twigs work best. You can also use steel wool and a 9 volt battery. You don’t need a direct flame, like from a lighter, (Although it REALLY helps.). What you want to get in your tinder is a spark which starts everything else glowing and smoking. Then, you GENTLY blow or fan this spark to get a more serious flame, and start adding your small twigs and other kindling. Use the kindling to expand and intensify the fire, until you can catch the smaller of your logs. Play around to get the hang of it. A charcoal grill can be good to practice with, if you aren’t using instant – light stuff.

If you have engine fuel, spray on lubricant, hair spray, air freshener, alcohol, hand sanitizer, most automotive oils / fluids (except radiator), or chaffing dish fuel (aka Sterno) as an aide to starting the fire. (Take care, and remember MOST of those will evaporate into flammable vapors. (Save your eyebrows.)

Keep in mind, when you’re out in the woods it takes some foraging to find dry stuff to burn, the wind will never blow the right way, and things in general will NOT work out easily. It helps to have a shielded area to light the fire in, too, so making a small pit, circle or windbreak will help. Fire is hot, and likes to spread, so be aware. Don’t breathe the smoke and pass out face – down in the coals.

If you have a lighter or fire starting tool you can speed up the process a bit. The only difficulty is the greater the level of heat and flame they provide, the more disposable they are, or the more consumable resources they need.

The simplest and longest lasting tools are flints, lenses, or anything designed to make a hot spark to start a bit of tinder glowing into an ember. (That is ALL they will do, so practice building from ember to fire if you’re going to rely on one.) Most flints you can buy come with a block of magnesium attached that you can shave off flakes to help light the fire with. These shaving will burn very hot, but too quick to help do much more than light the tinder.

Actual Lighters are a GREAT convenience since they give you flame on demand without having to puff one up out of an ember. Downsides are reliability and longevity. Butane can leak out over months in storage, and “zippo” type liquid fuel lighters have a way of drying out if not well sealed or carefully packed. Zippos do have the bonus of being very renewable when supplies are around. There are also anecdotes of folks pulling out and lighting the fuel- soaked wadding inside the lighter when they need to produce a BIG fire in a hurry. This is best used only to save a life or scare off a wild animal, since it renders the lighter inoperable until repacked and refueled. For most folks out and about day to day, a lighter is an excellent and versatile thing to carry, and about as prepared as most are likely to need.

There is no real ”Instant campfire”, but a few things come close. You could lug along a portable stove, most of which use kerosene, alcohol, gasoline or diesel fuel. (Be aware of fuel availability, especially for brand – specific fuels) Many of these are quite compact and clever, many also resemble a gas kitchen range, but are bulky for traveling long distances on foot. Hobo stoves, cans with cut – outs to allow feeding fuel to a small hot fire, are not a bad thing to cut out of a steel can, or bend out of metal. There are many designs, but the basic idea of an enclosure for a wood fire. With all versions of these stoves, you do look at lugging both range and fuel (lessened with the hobo stove).

There are also fire starting fuel bars. Your good author will personally espouse the fun and efficiency that is the U.S. Military trioxane fuel bar, which can ALMOST replace kindling in a well built and shielded fire. Wood fire “logs” are also around, but haven’t been observed to be as efficient. Good in a pinch, but designed for a fireplace, not a campfire.

As always, play around, but play safe (as possible). Repetition and practice make bad cold situations EASY.

Pragmatic Gear

Neil Gaiman, in his excellent “Sandman” series wrote that tools can be the subtlest of traps.  I’m still not sure what I think about this, but if there’s a practical way to drive a nail barehanded, I’d love to see it.  Tools, it’s been mentioned, are petty much essential for performing certain functions.  If you’re looking to julienne an onion, whittle down a stick for tinder, or fix a rip in your clothes or backpack, you’re likely to need some kind of implement to get things done.  Where Gaiman starts to make sense (to your author, anyways) is in the extremes of said implements.  At one end of the scale, I’ve seen the bargain basement / dollar store tools.  They work, in theory.  They are the shape of something that COULD perform a tool like function, but the actual functionality and quality is a crapshoot.  The cheap hammer technically works; it applies physics admirably, but may shatter due to the temperature of the steel being off when it was drop – forged.  The pry bar that you can bend by hand?  NOT going to be much use on a stubborn joint if you can warp it with puny human muscles.  The cheap tools have their use, where excessive wear or expendability is needed, but they’re not the ones I’d keep in the car repair kit.

The other end of our spectrum features a marvel or modern implement distinguishment, the “Gear Nuts” (Other less flattering names apply).  Add the words “tactical”, “military spec.”, or “professional grade”, to any item, and someone will likely buy it for that sake, but may rarely have use for it.  High powered flashlights, absurd folding knives, and futuristic boots abound.  They certainly have high – quality tools, but few have a use for them, taking preparation, even CRAZY PREPERATION into absurdity.  A tool you do not need is dead weight.  (If you don’t want to take my word for it, carry around a 10 pound sledge for a day.  Unless you work on a farm or in construction where you need it, it gets old fast.)

Be pragmatic when acquiring tools.  Of course with utility razors, markers, or drill bits, you look at a limited life span regardless of what you acquire.  Things you expect to use hard, for a long time, do your homework on as far as features and potential maintenance.  A wooden handle will need eventual replacing, and I’ve yet to see a pair of boots that doesn’t benefit from regular cleaning, oiling and waterproofing, for example.  Where you need it, seek out well crafted stuff, shell out what is practical for your use / means, and take care of it.  (Cain had a great example with his long – lasting hiking boots.)

As a closing thought, while some things just seem AWESOME, resist the temptation.  (Yes, the 64 oz. engineer’s sledge may look fun as all hell, but for the occasional project it won’t be as easy to use or precise as a 20 oz. claw hammer.)  Utility first, then novelty.  Good luck!

The Way of MacGyver (10 simple steps)

Are you prepared?  It’s a simple, devious question.  Most folk can mostly deal with the mundane stuff they see day to day, but, depending on the person, are less able to deal with the unexpected and unusual.  When life throws a weird situation at you three things will resolve it; will, ideas, and tools.  Will is the most important, the hardest to measure and instill.  Do you throw up your hands and panic, or work with things and solve the problem?  This, you need to figure out on your own, practice and experience will your best teachers.  Ideas, (concepts, techniques, and resourcefulness), are the next most valuable, as they are take up no space, have no weight, are wear proof, and (according to Alan Moore), bulletproof.  They cost only the time it takes to learn them, (remember, time is your most valuable, fleeting asset).  Tools can’t be overlooked despite their lackluster place on this list.  Actions impossible barehanded become easy with the right implement, we’re a tool using species.  This makes tools indispensable if you know what to do with them. 
People’s takes on what is necessary to know and carry will vary WIDELY, but here’s a rough starting point based on various life and work experience in the city, country, and on the ocean.  These aren’t meant to make you an expert survivor or engineer overnight, but are handy things to know for situation from the minor inconvenience to difficult pinch.  Adopt what works for you, get rid of what doesn’t.  Choose wisely.

5 Useful Things to know:
1. Surroundings:  What is there / happening?  What ISN’T there / happening?  How does it work?  Be aware, size things up, and absorb.  Make it a game.

2. Tool use:  Know how to hammer, pry, screw, or bend things.  Know how to safely and effectively cut, whittle, trim, or prep food with a knife. 
   
3. Fire starting:  Read up on methods and play around to get the hang of them.  Tinder, dryer lint, liquid / solid / gas flammables, napalm, etc.  If nothing else, this makes you look proficient at cookouts.  (Watch your eyebrows!) 

4. Basic Sewing:  Knowing a few basic stitches turns torn clothing from a bad situation into a solved one.  Beyond that, knowing how to manipulate flexible expanses of cloth, hide, or plastic opens up whole realms of improvisation.  Learn knots for thread and rope too.

5. First Aid:  Learn how to clean / close wounds, treat shock, severe allergies, hypothermia, stop bleeding, etc.  You don’t need to be a field surgeon and you SHOULD NOT try to be one unless medical care is a far off hope.  You may need to go beyond basic first aid courses for meaty info, as they defer to the medical system whenever possible.  Advanced Courses or First Responder training are good to have.

5 Useful things to have:
1. A water bottle:  Thirsty?  You will be.  Keep one around and fill up whenever possible.  Dehydration SUCKS.

2.  A knife:  Trust me, you want one around as legality allows.  They are very useful tools.  What knife to carry is a long discussion, but for MOST daily utility uses a well made folding knife, or Swiss Army knife (provides other options), will do. 

3.  A lighter:  Even if you’re not a smoker.  Think of all the things that require or can be helped by application of direct heat.  Fire sterilizes things.  Remeber our cookout example?  It beats knocking rock together should you need a fire. 

4. Sewing kit:  with a few sizes of needle and types of thread, this can save your ass (from exposure caused by an embarrassing rip in your pants).  Yes, you COULD improvise sutures, but leave that to the pros whenever you can (it stings).  Beyond that, you can floss or tie small items with the thread, or use the needles when small scratching or piercing is needed (like removing splinters).  Add some parachute cord to this kit for greater flexibility.

5.  Small first aid kit:  Even an empty mint tin stocked with disinfectant swabs, small bandages, antibiotic cream, antihistamine, a few aspirin, and some tape will NEVER be useless.  People always get hurt.

This list hasn’t covered things like clothing or shoes, which are best adjusted by the individual depending on area, exposure and occupation.   Specific advice for unique situations will follow, but improvise for fun when you can to try out what you know.  Add and remove items as you find need or lack thereof.  This additional practice and knowledge will just build upon and compliment what you already have.

Richter’s Introduction

Howdy, I am Richter.  Warrior poet, slacker, pervert, and craftsman.  I’m a currently an employed college refugee with a psychology degree, and I’ve spent most of my time alive doing an odd assortment of things.  Having worked as a sailor, trucker, roofer, building manager, camp counselor, residential counselor, phone monkey, corporate lye smith, and teacher, one does get some sense of how  a lot of things work (and don’t work, and get fixed.)  The experience has led me to become something of a habitual problems solver, and I have been accused of thinking like MacGyver, and engineer, or a survivalist with a sense of PR.  Although I haven’t seen it all by a stretch, I’m always happy to discuss it, educate, and learn. 

 

While I have my interest in literature and philosophy, I’d characterize myself as more focused on the actual.   This, I try to bring out in my entries titled “CRAZY PREPARED”, which address the navigating life’s odd situations.  They will encompass ideas, commentary on useful equipment, and discourse on developing the will to deal with as much of anything as we can.  The title, Cain’s suggestion, references the character trope, (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CrazyPrepared).  In that spirit, these articles aim to combine the fun of oddball knowledge and inventive improvisation with pragmatism about what it is realistic to actually do.  Read, enjoy and comment!