April 29, 2009

The Best N95 Face Mask (for swine flu or cutting concrete)

Face masks are all over the news these days, with countless photos of fearful eyes peering over blue surgical masks. You'd think they were the new fashion accessory, like going clubbing while wearing a Biore Nose Strip.

I'm not going to start wearing one all the time--that's just a little too paranoid even for me. But I did check my CERT gear to ensure I had one ready.

The best N95 mask is the 3M 9211 Disposable N95 Respirator.

This specific mask model is the one I use in my kits for the following reasons:

  1. N95 rating means it blocks about 95 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns in size or larger. Keeps out concrete dust, anthrax spores, tuberculosis, smallpox, and other nasties. Swine flu coronaviruses are smaller, but the droplets of sneeze juice are bigger. Better than nothing.
  2. Folds flat to pack well in CERT kits and other go bags.
  3. Exhalation valve means you don't get all fogged up inside the mask. This is an important distinction--masks that don't have valves have to force your exhaled water vapor out through the mask membranes. With a valve, you breathe out easy. This does mean that these masks are useless if the wearer has a contagious condition and is trying to protect others, but in this self-absorbed society, how often do you see that sort of thing?
  4. Relatively inexpensive, when there isn't a flu scare going on. Right now I'll bet they're flying off the shelves.

The real differentiator for the 3M 9211 mask is that it folds flat. Here are some snaps of an individual mask:

Photo of 3M 9211 respirator folded flat package

Photo of 3M 9211 respirator folded flat package

I've worn these a lot, when painting the house or cutting the concrete retaining wall blocks in the yard. The 3-fold design means they fit pretty well unlike the molded half-dome masks, and when you're done you can fold it up and put it back in its wrapper, back into the toolbox.

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January 15, 2007

Alone in the Wild for 5 Weeks with a Crappy Novel

The recent story about a woman who was found in the New Mexico wilderness after five weeks alone in the wild (well after searches for her were called off) had a funny twist, as the newspaper reporter mentioned this tidbit:

The brothers said they realized Dorn was too weak to go with them. They gave her food - Tang, almonds, dried apples, an energy bar, some hot soup and a little cheese - scavenged firewood for her from the other side of the river, filled her water bottles and left her a book - suspense author Michael Connelly's "Chasing the Dime."

Ugh. I mentioned Chasing the Dime here in a previous blog post, and didn't think much of the story. Maybe she just wanted more tinder for firestarting?

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October 20, 2005

Noahs Ark Expandable Cabinet Shelter

Now when are those reality home improvement shows going to tackle the whole Homeland Security angle?

You know, "Queer Eye for the Survivalist Guy".

Knitted cozies for your AR15 mags, accessorizing from the Galco and Blackhawk catalogs, etc. What matches best with your eyes: digital or gray urban camo?

They could use one of these expando shelters, for example:

Wood cabinet with pullout plastic NBC-rated tent

Is it just me or is this just kind of hokey?

Kids inside fallout shelter.

Like these kids are so calm and everything. I'd be freaking out--"Oh no! I must have gotten that funky immune disorder that John Travolta had in that Boy in the Plastic Bubble movie!!!".

And why are they wearing clothes out of the 1950s? I guess that was the Golden Age of the Fallout Shelter, so maybe these promo photos are to rekindle that paranoid spirit.

But I'm more inclined to do my preparedness the old-fashioned way. What's wrong with burying a bunker in your backyard?

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June 06, 2005

Wallet Survival Kit, Part 2

Back in January I mused about keeping survival tools on my person at all times. That post was prompted by the case of a day hiker who got lost in one of our verdant parks (one of the great things about the Bay Area is the closeness of nature to the urban centers) and had to sit outside for a couple of days.

When day hiking, I usually have a day pack with the Ten Essentials, plus all sorts of goodies. But what if I went on an impromptu hike and didn't bother with a day pack? What could I do with what I have on my person?

I never get dressed without my Spyderco, so I'd be able to make tools, cordage, etc with a sharp knife. But what else could I carry around with me on a daily basis?

I added a Fox 40 whistle to my keychain. That'll be the extent of my on-board signalling capability. I already had the Streamlight KeyMate and a Victorinox Signature II Lite on the car keys, and a Leatherman Micra on the main keyring. Pretty soon I'll need one of those retractable chain holders like elementary school janitors.

Photo of ToolLogic Ice Companion showing knife and other tools I put a ToolLogic Credit Card Companion in my wallet. That added a magnifying glass (firestarter), compass (direction), an itsy-bitsy knife (hate to have to use this on anything/anyone, but better than nothing), tweezers, and can opener. You can never have too many knives, I always say. Oh yeah, a SwissKey is on the keyring too, but it looks so much like a key I forget it's there.

What's really lacking is a better Warmth function. The Boy Scout Metal Match is kind of bulky, but I'll probably add one to my keychain soon.

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April 28, 2004

More on Range Estimation

Bowhunters have to worry about range estimation too, and so Jeff Phillips at FastestBows.com has a nice article on the topic.

I really like the common-sense approach to the thumb method, which basically relies on elementary-school geometry to work. Just shoot the damn thing! says Phillips.

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Range Estimation Practice

I've started practicing range estimation.

Here's a problem for you. Look outside your window. There's a car passing by. How far away is it?

I started thinking about this when looking into bullet drop tables. Let's say you sight in your rifle to hit point-of-aim at 150 yards. If you need to hit a target much closer, say 40 yards, how low do you need to hold to hit where you want?

The same problem crops up when playing golf. Of course, with me playing a round every 3 years or so, it's a moot point, but knowing how far you are from the pin helps you select the right club and swing speed.

Football players probably get used to judging distances (at least within 100 yards) and get a lot of help from those hash marks on the field. But you don't get that sort of thing in real life.

Way back when I remember reading a book that gave several "rules of thumb"*. You'd hold out your hand at arm's length, and if a man appeared to be as tall as the length of your thumb, he was x yards away. If his height fit between the tip of your thumb and the first joint, he was y yards away. I wonder if Amazon's new search feature will find that long lost book for me again.

*Maybe this is the true origin of the phrase "rule of thumb"--rather than the allusion to wife-beating that everyone always cites?

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January 14, 2004

Watch out for those airbags

The LA county sheriff's department put out a bulletin--watch out for delayed deployments of car airbags. A couple of firefighters got knocked out when they were extricating a victim from a crashed car. Even after the car has been motionless for some time, the airbag can still fire.

With around 12 or 14 airbags in a car these days, between the dash and the side pillars and the seats, you've gotta be careful out there.

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January 08, 2004

More Skills for Life

On the subject of vocational courses like Woodshop, Metalshop, or Auto Repair--maybe a more general "fix-it" course would've been better. Like "This Old House" in a semester. You'd tackle:

  • Drywall
  • Framing
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Flooring
  • Painting
  • yadda yadda yadda...

Wouldn't such a course prepare vocationally-minded students better for their future trade, while preparing the more domestically-minded how to fix up their house 20 years hence?

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January 06, 2004

Day Hiking and Preparedness

In the midst of one of the worst cold snaps in recent memory (ok, I hear the folks back East snort in your -40 ice storm, but lows in the 20s is damn cold for us Californians), a day hiker got lost in the local redwood forest.

Now this isn't real wilderness, like Alaska. Nor is it getting lost in Central Park. but the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve borders some of our more affluent bedroom communities, like Woodside and Hillsborough.

According to writer Sean Webby (how's that for an online journalist's name?) in the San Jose Mercury News, the hiker was found after "two bitterly cold nights" and was being treated for hypothermia and dehydration.

Avoiding Monday-morning quarterback speculating, and thinking purely of what-if scenarios, I started thinking about the stuff I carry on day hikes, and what I have on my person on a daily basis.

I rarely have fire-starting materials (Survival precept: Warmth) in this anti-smoking community. Signalling, assuming lack of cellphone reception, would be limited by my voice. And shelter would probably be a hasty lean-to from scrounged materials and cordage.

Time to start giving this serious thought, and to pack accordingly. More later.

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January 05, 2004

Skills for Life

I was musing the other day about classes I wish I had taken while in elementary school or college--skills that would've helped me in later years, had I taken advantage of the "free" training offered by my educational institution.

For example, while at State I could've taken judo as a P.E. elective--and trained under/with several Olympians.

Other topics that would've been nice:

  • Speed-reading
  • Woodshop (I took metal shop instead)
  • Home Ec
  • Espanol (I took French)
  • Various memory/lateral thinking/creativity techniques
  • Schmoozing

I guess a lot of these aren't individual skills--they might be just innate talents. You either have them or you don't. Like a natural ability to schmooze. Maybe folks who lack the EQ (in the Daniel Goleman sense) just can't learn such "soft" skills, but wouldn't they have helped if you learned them early on?

I was lucky enough to have had speed-reading instruction in the fourth grade. We were part of a special program, where every week we got to ride a little yellow bus to a central school in the district, and got tastes of such topics as botany, optics, library science, video production, and so on. Man, that must've been fun for the teachers. Prop 13 killed all that, though.

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August 15, 2003

Lights out...What do you do?

Years of "rolling blackouts" here in California make the recent East Coast Blackout an intriguing story. Every time a disaster like this happens, you think, man, what would I do if it happened here? Would I be ready?

It was like that after the '89 Loma Prieta quake: with the contents of the fridge out on the kitchen floor, along with the fridge itself and everything in the cabinets, the only thing to eat for dinner (with no power to keep food fresh) was peanut butter sandwiches.

Now there's scenes of folks in Ohio without water because their pumping stations need electricity. Gasoline pumps, too.

Got those MREs handy from that whole Y2K thing? You just might need 'em...

Good preparedness info: Doug Ritter's Equipped to Survive site.

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