Discussions

Yes, it’s justified. Because the average person doesn’t fully understand the gravity of this pandemic.  “It’s just a bad flu, right?” No it isn’t. Those pictures are legitimate images of mechanically ventilated ARDS patients placed in the prone position to improve oxygenation.  These particular images could represent patients with non-COVID disease but this exact treatment is what is being utilized in the vast majority of COVID cases requiring mechanical ventilation. Mechanically ventilated COVID cases with ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) have a lower overall survival rate when compared to other ARDS causes, plus they are requiring ventilators for a much longer duration when they do survive. It’s important to remember that COVID patients only have a 20% chance of being successfully extubated, so far (hopefully this improves with the relatively new data showing that treatment with corticosteriods is effective at preventing severe respiratory and cardiovascular complications).  And those 80% who remain in the ICU will likely die alone because of hospital isolation policies to minimize further spread of the disease. Hospitalization in the ICU causes PTSD in a large percentage of patients.  Plus, a large percentage of the healthcare staff caring for these patients during the pandemic are at risk for PTSD, too.  PTSD is horrible, often career-ending for people suffering from it, and sometimes life-ending by means of suicide. This is no joke.  This is an insidious pandemic that appears to be capable of slowly culling the human herd of its poor, old, unhealthy, and unlucky in the months to years ahead. Basic public health measures, such as contact tracing, isolation, and minimizing contact in public spaces is our best bet for containing this disease at this time.  If these pictures lead to increased social isolation, we’re all the better for it.

I’m in California, too, and I’d probably start with a handgun again as my first centerfire weapon.  I like Glocks.  I tried some fancier brands with German names before I finally had to admit to myself that I actually hit stuff better with the homely little plastic buggers.  I don’t think you could find a better SHTF weapon given how ubiquitous they are and they just plain run well. It’s hard to beat a 12ga shotgun if you only want one gun that can do a lot of things reasonably well.  It’s not fun to learn on if you’re new to firearms, though.  The Benelli M4’s superb gas auto is actually quite pleasant to shoot, but you could buy 3-4 pump guns for the price.  Their Nova pumps can be fitted with a recoil reducer in the stock that tames them down to a very reasonable level, too.  The 870s and 500s work great but will beat you up more. I avoided going the AR route here in Cali because I just don’t see the benefit of relying on a weapon that has most of it’s useful features neutered. You might look at some of the KelTec models that have been designed to skirt CA rules, the SU16 is handy little utility rifle that uses AR mags, they have a funky bullpup, too.  Troy sells a pump action AR that’s super accurate, if you really want the pistol grip. I like the M1A for this state because optically it’s not “scary” and, as long as you don’t plan on humping its 10 lb weight too far, it’s a joy to use.  Super easy to learn because you can look right down into the action and see what’s going on and the iron sights are arguably some of the best ever fielded on a military rifle.  They’re not cheap, they’re heavy, and they’re older than dirt, but I love ’em.  I buy spares when I can because someday I may need to outfit  some of my friends and neighbors who don’t quite understand (yet) why they might need a gun someday.

Topography made it difficult to hit my local 2m/440 repeaters with handheld 5W radios when I started out a few years back.  In retrospect, I should have started out with a mobile rig and longer antenna. Since 2m is where most of the action is in my area, I got the 75W Yaesu FT-2900R and paired it with a roll-up portable slim jim antenna from N9TAX (which can be connected to HTs, too).  Worked like a charm for getting out of the hole my house is situated in and didn’t cost me much more than $150.  It’s really a great emergency set up, with more than enough power and still reasonably portable, plus you could always mount it in a vehicle hooked up to purpose-built mobile antenna as it was designed, although I prefer using it as a portable base station. HF is obviously the more expensive and complicated side of the hobby in terms of equipment, knowledge, and skills.  Biggest obstacle for a suburbanite like me is the length and height a decent antenna needs to be placed at, so I honestly don’t get on the air much at all.  Despite that, I would still get my Yaesu FT-450D HF/6m rig again.  It’s a high-value starter rig that’s remarkably compact and easy to learn on and still gets rave reviews from noobs and experts, alike.  Although I paid more for it back when it first arrived on the scene, nowadays it’s running less than $700 on sale.   If I ever manage to get my act together and actually really use my General ticket, I’m going to reward myself with the cool stuff over at Elecraft. Another recommendation I would make as you’re entering the hobby and obtaining radios and gear is to standardize your 12V power systems around the Anderson Powerpole connectors.  Everybody uses them and they really simplify power distribution and interoperability. Honestly, ham radio taught me more about DC power distribution and storage more than anything else, which goes a long ways in helping one prep for grid down situations.  If I never got on the air again, I’ll always be grateful for what it’s taught me.

Several years ago I tested Technora, Spectra, Kevlar, and Dyneema cordage specimens against the more plebeian nylon and polyester stuff.  There’s no getting around the fact that the exotic stuff is incredibly strong for its weight. All the exotics are very hard to cut using the usual tools and don’t expect to burn the cut ends with your lighter and get pretty results.  They don’t stretch either, much less than the polyester stuff you usually consider to be static, and nowhere close to what you’re used to with nylon.  Dyneema, Spectra, and Technora cut best with a dedicated bench hot knife in order to accomplish a clean finished end that won’t unravel.  The slippery Dyneema and Spectra will often not hold a knot without it slipping through in a terrifying instant.  My Spectra sample was so slippery that I had to move to using a triple fisherman’s knot to complete one of the tests because the double fisherman that worked well with everything else would slip through 75% of the time. The Kevlar was the hardest to cut and it’s difficult to dress the ends to keep them from unraveling, since it will not melt.  Both the Technora and Kevlar feel dry to the touch and hold a knot very well, but apparently these fibers don’t stand up to repeated loading of the knot or being pulled through small diameter pulleys and have been known to break catastrophically in those circumstances. Honestly, the only one that I use at all is the Dyneema and only in very specific circumstances where I really need the most strength for the least bulk and I can utilize an adequate knot that won’t slip.  Nylon is just better for what I need to use cordage for most of the time.

Footwear is a very personal thing.  Your buddy’s favorite boot could be the absolute worst on your own feet, so be a little leery of rushing out and buying something without taking the time to try them out adequately. I have a very difficult time finding shoes/boots that my feet agree with, so when I do find something that works well for me I stick with it and buy multiple pairs to keep in reserve.  The other thing I’ve learned the hard way is that I’ve got to junk the boots as soon as they’ve worn to the point where I’m starting to notice discomfort anywhere from the foot to the hip.  It sucks, because they usually still look and work great, except for where the soles have worn down, especially in the outside heel area.  For me it’s the right side that goes first and I just have to suck it up and move on to a new pair. My go to all around boots are the Asolo Fugitive GTX (I’ve bought at least a dozen pairs) and they must be popular enough because they have remained unchanged in terms of design and materials for over 15 years.  They don’t require much break in, are relatively light weight, have sufficient stability for carrying a moderately heavy pack, and the Gortex keeps my socks and feet clean in the desert environment I hike in and yet still doesn’t overheat my feet.  I rely on these so heavily that I usually try to keep two pair in reserve at all times.  If I watch the sales, or use my REI dividends and discounts right, I can avoid paying full price, which isn’t cheap. For times when I really need more support and protection, either due to tougher terrain, snow/ice, or carrying heavier loads, I rely on La Sportiva Karakorum.  I have yet to wear out a pair, but once I figured out how great they worked for my feet I bought a spare to keep in reserve.  They are nowhere near as light and flexible as the Asolo, but that’s really the whole point.  Despite that they did not require the break-in period that most boots I’ve tried in this class require.  Another downside is that they don’t stay as dry as other climbing boots like this, but in my climate and terrain that’s of secondary importance. The only combat boots I’ve tried are the Danner Acadia and, while they were well made, they were not the kind of footwear I could put many miles on at a time.  I wound up using them more as a work boot when I had the rare need to work in the mud. Interestingly, I’ve seen many pictures of soldiers wearing both these Asolo and La Sportiva boots in Afghanistan, which makes a lot sense to me based on my experience with them. I also have been putting SuperFeet insoles in all my boots for about 20 years.  They’re frightfully expensive but I can’t live without them.  Fortunately I don’t have to replace them as often as the boots. The final thing is you need to figure out what socks pair well with your boots and stock up.  For me, Smart Wool Hikers go with the Asolos and Smart Wool Trekkers go with the Sportivas.  If I’m not doing many miles, Costco’s Merino wool socks work fine in the Asolos and you can’t beat the price, although I’m finding that their more recent socks aren’t lasting as long.  I just started experimenting with Darn Tough and am very impressed but don’t have enough miles on them to judge whether they’d be better for me than the Smart Wool.  I definitely stock up on quality wool socks whenever I can get them on sale.  My wife complains bitterly about my sock stockpile, but it’s one of those things that you’ve got to have. Yeah, I know, all this adds up to a lot of money.  But being able to move efficiently on your feet is never more vital than when the SHTF.


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Yes, it’s justified. Because the average person doesn’t fully understand the gravity of this pandemic.  “It’s just a bad flu, right?” No it isn’t. Those pictures are legitimate images of mechanically ventilated ARDS patients placed in the prone position to improve oxygenation.  These particular images could represent patients with non-COVID disease but this exact treatment is what is being utilized in the vast majority of COVID cases requiring mechanical ventilation. Mechanically ventilated COVID cases with ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) have a lower overall survival rate when compared to other ARDS causes, plus they are requiring ventilators for a much longer duration when they do survive. It’s important to remember that COVID patients only have a 20% chance of being successfully extubated, so far (hopefully this improves with the relatively new data showing that treatment with corticosteriods is effective at preventing severe respiratory and cardiovascular complications).  And those 80% who remain in the ICU will likely die alone because of hospital isolation policies to minimize further spread of the disease. Hospitalization in the ICU causes PTSD in a large percentage of patients.  Plus, a large percentage of the healthcare staff caring for these patients during the pandemic are at risk for PTSD, too.  PTSD is horrible, often career-ending for people suffering from it, and sometimes life-ending by means of suicide. This is no joke.  This is an insidious pandemic that appears to be capable of slowly culling the human herd of its poor, old, unhealthy, and unlucky in the months to years ahead. Basic public health measures, such as contact tracing, isolation, and minimizing contact in public spaces is our best bet for containing this disease at this time.  If these pictures lead to increased social isolation, we’re all the better for it.

I’m in California, too, and I’d probably start with a handgun again as my first centerfire weapon.  I like Glocks.  I tried some fancier brands with German names before I finally had to admit to myself that I actually hit stuff better with the homely little plastic buggers.  I don’t think you could find a better SHTF weapon given how ubiquitous they are and they just plain run well. It’s hard to beat a 12ga shotgun if you only want one gun that can do a lot of things reasonably well.  It’s not fun to learn on if you’re new to firearms, though.  The Benelli M4’s superb gas auto is actually quite pleasant to shoot, but you could buy 3-4 pump guns for the price.  Their Nova pumps can be fitted with a recoil reducer in the stock that tames them down to a very reasonable level, too.  The 870s and 500s work great but will beat you up more. I avoided going the AR route here in Cali because I just don’t see the benefit of relying on a weapon that has most of it’s useful features neutered. You might look at some of the KelTec models that have been designed to skirt CA rules, the SU16 is handy little utility rifle that uses AR mags, they have a funky bullpup, too.  Troy sells a pump action AR that’s super accurate, if you really want the pistol grip. I like the M1A for this state because optically it’s not “scary” and, as long as you don’t plan on humping its 10 lb weight too far, it’s a joy to use.  Super easy to learn because you can look right down into the action and see what’s going on and the iron sights are arguably some of the best ever fielded on a military rifle.  They’re not cheap, they’re heavy, and they’re older than dirt, but I love ’em.  I buy spares when I can because someday I may need to outfit  some of my friends and neighbors who don’t quite understand (yet) why they might need a gun someday.

Topography made it difficult to hit my local 2m/440 repeaters with handheld 5W radios when I started out a few years back.  In retrospect, I should have started out with a mobile rig and longer antenna. Since 2m is where most of the action is in my area, I got the 75W Yaesu FT-2900R and paired it with a roll-up portable slim jim antenna from N9TAX (which can be connected to HTs, too).  Worked like a charm for getting out of the hole my house is situated in and didn’t cost me much more than $150.  It’s really a great emergency set up, with more than enough power and still reasonably portable, plus you could always mount it in a vehicle hooked up to purpose-built mobile antenna as it was designed, although I prefer using it as a portable base station. HF is obviously the more expensive and complicated side of the hobby in terms of equipment, knowledge, and skills.  Biggest obstacle for a suburbanite like me is the length and height a decent antenna needs to be placed at, so I honestly don’t get on the air much at all.  Despite that, I would still get my Yaesu FT-450D HF/6m rig again.  It’s a high-value starter rig that’s remarkably compact and easy to learn on and still gets rave reviews from noobs and experts, alike.  Although I paid more for it back when it first arrived on the scene, nowadays it’s running less than $700 on sale.   If I ever manage to get my act together and actually really use my General ticket, I’m going to reward myself with the cool stuff over at Elecraft. Another recommendation I would make as you’re entering the hobby and obtaining radios and gear is to standardize your 12V power systems around the Anderson Powerpole connectors.  Everybody uses them and they really simplify power distribution and interoperability. Honestly, ham radio taught me more about DC power distribution and storage more than anything else, which goes a long ways in helping one prep for grid down situations.  If I never got on the air again, I’ll always be grateful for what it’s taught me.

Several years ago I tested Technora, Spectra, Kevlar, and Dyneema cordage specimens against the more plebeian nylon and polyester stuff.  There’s no getting around the fact that the exotic stuff is incredibly strong for its weight. All the exotics are very hard to cut using the usual tools and don’t expect to burn the cut ends with your lighter and get pretty results.  They don’t stretch either, much less than the polyester stuff you usually consider to be static, and nowhere close to what you’re used to with nylon.  Dyneema, Spectra, and Technora cut best with a dedicated bench hot knife in order to accomplish a clean finished end that won’t unravel.  The slippery Dyneema and Spectra will often not hold a knot without it slipping through in a terrifying instant.  My Spectra sample was so slippery that I had to move to using a triple fisherman’s knot to complete one of the tests because the double fisherman that worked well with everything else would slip through 75% of the time. The Kevlar was the hardest to cut and it’s difficult to dress the ends to keep them from unraveling, since it will not melt.  Both the Technora and Kevlar feel dry to the touch and hold a knot very well, but apparently these fibers don’t stand up to repeated loading of the knot or being pulled through small diameter pulleys and have been known to break catastrophically in those circumstances. Honestly, the only one that I use at all is the Dyneema and only in very specific circumstances where I really need the most strength for the least bulk and I can utilize an adequate knot that won’t slip.  Nylon is just better for what I need to use cordage for most of the time.

Footwear is a very personal thing.  Your buddy’s favorite boot could be the absolute worst on your own feet, so be a little leery of rushing out and buying something without taking the time to try them out adequately. I have a very difficult time finding shoes/boots that my feet agree with, so when I do find something that works well for me I stick with it and buy multiple pairs to keep in reserve.  The other thing I’ve learned the hard way is that I’ve got to junk the boots as soon as they’ve worn to the point where I’m starting to notice discomfort anywhere from the foot to the hip.  It sucks, because they usually still look and work great, except for where the soles have worn down, especially in the outside heel area.  For me it’s the right side that goes first and I just have to suck it up and move on to a new pair. My go to all around boots are the Asolo Fugitive GTX (I’ve bought at least a dozen pairs) and they must be popular enough because they have remained unchanged in terms of design and materials for over 15 years.  They don’t require much break in, are relatively light weight, have sufficient stability for carrying a moderately heavy pack, and the Gortex keeps my socks and feet clean in the desert environment I hike in and yet still doesn’t overheat my feet.  I rely on these so heavily that I usually try to keep two pair in reserve at all times.  If I watch the sales, or use my REI dividends and discounts right, I can avoid paying full price, which isn’t cheap. For times when I really need more support and protection, either due to tougher terrain, snow/ice, or carrying heavier loads, I rely on La Sportiva Karakorum.  I have yet to wear out a pair, but once I figured out how great they worked for my feet I bought a spare to keep in reserve.  They are nowhere near as light and flexible as the Asolo, but that’s really the whole point.  Despite that they did not require the break-in period that most boots I’ve tried in this class require.  Another downside is that they don’t stay as dry as other climbing boots like this, but in my climate and terrain that’s of secondary importance. The only combat boots I’ve tried are the Danner Acadia and, while they were well made, they were not the kind of footwear I could put many miles on at a time.  I wound up using them more as a work boot when I had the rare need to work in the mud. Interestingly, I’ve seen many pictures of soldiers wearing both these Asolo and La Sportiva boots in Afghanistan, which makes a lot sense to me based on my experience with them. I also have been putting SuperFeet insoles in all my boots for about 20 years.  They’re frightfully expensive but I can’t live without them.  Fortunately I don’t have to replace them as often as the boots. The final thing is you need to figure out what socks pair well with your boots and stock up.  For me, Smart Wool Hikers go with the Asolos and Smart Wool Trekkers go with the Sportivas.  If I’m not doing many miles, Costco’s Merino wool socks work fine in the Asolos and you can’t beat the price, although I’m finding that their more recent socks aren’t lasting as long.  I just started experimenting with Darn Tough and am very impressed but don’t have enough miles on them to judge whether they’d be better for me than the Smart Wool.  I definitely stock up on quality wool socks whenever I can get them on sale.  My wife complains bitterly about my sock stockpile, but it’s one of those things that you’ve got to have. Yeah, I know, all this adds up to a lot of money.  But being able to move efficiently on your feet is never more vital than when the SHTF.


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