Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Beginning 2014

2013 has been an interesting year for me, my first full year as a cancer survivor, I have come back from that dark adventure with a new lease on life, and a new determination to take advantage of the strengths and gifts God had granted me. I think that this year was the first to truly teach me the safety of perspective, the power of distance, and the advantage of forethought when facing a situation. Even when pressed, I understand now, more than ever, than I not only still have time to face a challenge, but I can set out to make more time, often to the detriment of my challenger.

To know something, and to understand it are truly different things, and this year taught me that I can, indeed work, and work well with someone whom I don't like. I can trust to unpleasant, I can even defend the unkind. I can stand for principle, even one opposed to my own, without compromising myself in the process. To be friends, coworkers, allies or neighbors are truly different things, and while they should coexist in the ideal, I have learned to keep each roll carefully in its place when the different relationships will not coexist.

To be linked is good. To be respected is hard. To be trusted is earned. And to be true is, honestly, to be hated at times. Each of these has there place, but it is good not to mistake any of them as universal.

To look into the mirror is to see a preponderance of flaws, shortcomings, and failures. The silvered glass offers no hope for the critical eye. Instead, one must look at the refection offered by those around him, friends, family, spouse, and child. In these I see both the critical judgement needed to burn off impurities, but also a heartfelt appreciation of not only accomplishments, but of the spirit that propelled each one.

As these, the final hours of 2013 drawn to the arbitrary close that is the end of the year, I look back, take stock of my life, and use these lessons to force a compass that will guide me through the year to come.


I shall strive to work harder, mentally and physically, to demonstrate to others, and to prove to myself that I can, and well be an example of industriousness, determination, and resolve.

I shall endeavor towards formal certifications in skills important to me, both personally and professionally.

I shall compete unreservedly, setting my goal no one step ahead, but ten of those around me. In victory I shall celibate the good health of those I passed. In defeat, I shall celebrate twice as hard for them, for it is their example that I should learn from, and they who will likely be there when I fall, answering my cries for aid.

I will forgive my transgressors, and free myself of the heavy, painful chains of hatred and spite, not because they deserve it, for they truly do not, but rather, because I need the peace it will offer, and can stomach no more fighting on these fronts.

I will look inward, and scrutinize myself, a personal crucible to burn away all but the truest thoughts and desires.

I will look to others. I will be more aware of those who have made efforts to befriend me, and will make efforts of my own to reach out in kind. For these are the bonds that raise us up from just existing in this word to truly living in it.

I shall read more, for the page is both mentor and playmate to the mind.

I shall write more, for the pen can is as fine as any doctor's scalpel, as powerful as any sword, as strong as any fortification, and as enduring as any mountain. With my words, I hope to entertain, to educate, to declare and to defend in the new year.

I shall not answer the cries of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy or pride.

I shall aid the weak, uphold the honest, defend the persecuted, give to the wanting.

I shall cherish all that I have, and acquire only what I truly need.

I will love my wife all that much more because she is so dear to my heart.

I will cherish my son, and be glad in his every joy, for his is a legacy I have the privilege of helping to build, and one that I hope will surpass my own.

And finally, I shall endeavor to learn from every mistake, every failing, and refocus myself yet again this time next year.

So say I,
Cisco Cividanes

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Keeping everything in it's place.

Well, I spent some time sewing today, and worked on a little project I have been meaning to tackle for a while.

There is a product out there called "Grid-It", which is more or less a board with elastic straps woven through each other, and used to hold small items in place for transport and storage. Its marketed to the  computer user demographic with some success, and has gotten some good reviews. I liked the idea, but wasn't about to pay the market prices for it, exotically when I wasn't sure it would work for me. Fortunately, the concept is fairly simple, meaning the DIY community has come up with countless ways to make your own.

I went to Wal*mart, got eight yards of elastic, and then came home a pulled out the sewing machine and an old shoe box. Two hours later... I came up with this.

And the other side.

And as a final test, with all of this stuff jammed in there, will it fix in the medium pocket of my bag?

And the answer is...


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Some customization (the bag)

Okay, I've been busy in my (extremely rare) spare time. I wanted to make my bag a little more of my own, so I added a few things. 

First, some before and after shots for you, see below.


First, lets talk about my handles.

I actually spend a most of my time carrying this bag like a brief case, since I don't actually need to wear it for any duration of time. So, when I read into the car to get it, I've found that if the light is bad, I spend too much time trying t find either of the two carry handles on it.

I used a cobra stitch to wrap them in high-visibility orange and white cord, as you can see. The added durability and volume make the handles easier to grip, and more comfortable to hold, while also meaning I can see them and reach for them in even the weakest light.

Second, the black compression straps from the top photo have been replaced with slightly heavier red ones so that the bag as a little more of a personal touch.

As a last touch, I stitched up some loops of the same cord on both ends of the strap so that I can see both ends in poor light if need by. Also, on the loop I installed, I now clip it to the bag so that the strap isn't hanging down while I carry the bag.

You can see it here in some poor detail, its the orange knotted loop at the bottom of the photo.

I've also moved things around and adjusted the content a lot to better balance the space.

Work in progress, to be sure, but I'm still outrageously happy with it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Convention Conversations: Swords

I am going into my 5th year as a director of operations for Izumicon, and I wanted to take advantage of the Facebook visibility to start some talking point with con attendees. My goal here is not to lecture, but to share the benefits of my experience, and to provoke some thought.

But first...
Disclaimer: This is not an official Izumicon communication, and the statements made here are not representative of, or policy of Izumicon. I am not a policy maker within the Izumicon organisation, and while my opinion is asked for, it is not the overriding factor in safety related issue.  This blog post is my opinion and experience only, and should be considered that, and only that.

After five years heading up safety for our con, I've had the true privilege of shaking hands with, and talking to some amazing people within the cosplay community. The words "creative" and "dedicated" do not begin describe the craftsmanship I have seen in some costumes. People's ability to take on a whole different persona is brought to its fullest potential at conventions, and the pageantry and showmanship has never left me disappointed.

All of that being said, Anime (and Manga) do have some truisms associated with them that we need to acknowledge up front. And the critical point I want to make here is the fact that a vastly higher number of anime characters are armed in some fashion than people in real life. So just playing the odds, if you cosplay, chances are good your character does, or should, have a weapon of some sort.

There are some other things, however, that I think should be brought forward as we got into the winter con season and move towards spring and summer break.

First of all, local laws.

I seriously can't tell you how infuriating it is to have someone go to Facebook and post twenty or thirty lines of emotional opinion or "What the con said doesn't matter because X works for the police there and he said...". Its not simply a mater of the information being in question at that point, but when a counter point is offered, the discussion turns into either A ) a full blown flame war, or B ) a passive aggressive snipping match between rival social circles. The real casualties in all of this are the con-goers themselves, a lot of whom honestly want to have fun, show off, and not get in trouble.

So, who do you trust?

Let me give you a hint, they aren't on facebook, and they aren't part of the convention.

Most major cities have a designated public information officer within the police department. Oklahoma City (the jurisdiction for Izumicon) has such an officer, and it is his express job to speak to the public and answer questions regarding the laws within the authority of his police force.

The easiest way to contact a Public Information Officer:

1. Google "Police non-emergency number" and the name of the city or town your convention is behind held in.

2. The number you find should connect you with the police department "front desk"

3. Call the number, and when you reach an operator or dispatcher (the calls are often times routed to the 911 call centers, depending on the jurisdiction) say: "Hi, my name is [first name only] and I wanted to speak with someone in the police department about local laws about a few different types of bladed weapons. Do you know who I could talk to?"

A few pointers on this as well.

You shouldn't need to give your last name, or any major identification, and in general I usually try not to when asking law enforcement these types of questions.

Don't say "I have this sword...", your descriptions are probably not going to sound to the office the way they sound to you. You want to ask questions like "What is your city policy on swords?" for example. Quite frankly, you shouldn't need to say what you have at any point in the conversation. You could legitimately being asking ahead of a purchase, or you could be calling from a location where your weapon is legal, and you just want to respect the laws of where you are going. My point is, don't get sucked into handing over an itemized list of your costume pieces to the police, they don't need it, and what you do or don't have is irrelevant to what the laws of that location do and don't say.

If anyone asks, it *is* a costume piece. Being sharp does not automatically make it anything else. That being said, you will want to ask if an edged costume item will be treated diffidently than a dull one.

While this conversation can be had on the phone, I really, really suggest you ask your questions in writing (e-mail is fine). IF (God forbid) you do wind up in a legal dispute, your attorney will want to know what you were told, and a printed E-mail will clarify things a lot faster than your recollection of a phone call.

The process isn't terribly difficult, it is a little time consuming, but it is also the best way to find out what to expect from local law enforcement, and what they will expect from you with regards to weapons.

And then, convention policy.

This really is something you don't need to start asking yourself the day before the convention. There is such a thing as too early, but realistically, you should be able to get a solid answer on what type of props the convention will allow three to six weeks ahead of time.

Now, that really raises some interesting questions.

1. Where do you get the "official" convention policy?
2. Who's interpretation of the policy will you be dealing with?

1.   Where do you get the "official" convention policy? There are a few places where you can get the official stance on weapons for a con. My first choice is the convention website. Not all of them will have the ink-on-paper policy you are looking for, but it is a good place to start looking.

If you find something that looks largely definitive, I highly recommend printing it out and keeping it handy when you head to the con.

2. Who's interpretation of the policy will you be dealing with? This one is quite simple, ask who will being handling security/safety/operations (or whatever the convention chooses to call their rule enforcement team). When you find out the name of that department, I highly recommend you point your questions at their director.

For better or for worse, the director is the one who's interpretation you will likely be answering to. I don't care if the rules say "blades up to 41" are allowed", if the ops director says "I will ask anyone with a sword over 20" to take it outside", well, guess what, that's your new rule.

Now, at this point, I highly encourage you to engage in a conversation with the person and point out that there is information out there that is different. The other information may be dated, or he may have misspoke. My point here is that when two things conflict, talk about it before you choose the one you like and hope for the best.

Once you are at the con, there are a few other things I would like to mention here.

So, why do we zip-tie weapons? Let me be honest with you, its not the the reasons you probably think.
Securing a weapon to its scabbard has (for me at least) two, and only two purposes.

First: I want to protect the weapon from other people. That zip-tie is your insurance policy that some Idiot (with a deliberate capitol I) doesn't say to himself "hey, I bet I can do something cool," and then snap your weapon out of its scabbard. As much as I respect a person's ability to protect themselves and control their personal belongings, I don't think any of us have the type of personal training needed to retain control of an openly displayed sword in a close quarters situation like a crowded con. Drop your guard for 1 minute, and you could very legitimately be hosed.

And to explain that philosophy a little more, I am a Oklahoma Concealed Weapon license holder, and I carry my sidearm in a daily basis. That weapon is hidden, and on my person at all times when it's not in it's gun box back home. If anyone were to reach for it, I am ready, and willing, to use brutal force if necessary to maintain control of that weapon. The main reason is that part of having a gun is the dire responsibility of making sure you don't ever loose control of it.

I have taken that ideal and simply transported it over to the swords and weapons at the con. By securing it to its scabbard, the idea is to buy you that added level of protection if someone else has a not-so-good idea.

Its one thing to snatch a pretty stick away from someone, its another thing entirely to suddenly have a 41" blade in hand.

Second: That zip tie tells the con that you and they are on the same page.

One of the conversations I really don't like having to have with cos-players who have weapons is when they say "I tied it down myself, I don't need to have your people zip tie it."

Actually, yes, you do.

That zip tie is also our way of telling, at a glance, twenty feet away, that your weapon had been checked, and that you and the con have talked to each other. This isn't a minor issue, Ops staff sometimes like to make sure you know important things, like places where you can go for photos, where to go with weapons related questions, places where we don't want to see weapons and so forth. And sometimes they don't have anything to say, but we still need to know that one of our people has looked at the weapon and said "yep, its snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug."

That tie is effectively our signature saying that we have agreed that we are all agreed on things about your weapon.

Another goo case in point are non-weapons that get zip-ties.

I've seen a lot of people who say "its not real, I do I really need to zip tie this?"

Actually, yes, we really do, and for a lot of the same reasons I just said. You may know it's not real, but let me tell you, the last thing anyone needs is to be misidentified as armed in an escalating situation. If all you have is a pretty prop that can't cut butter, that zip tie is my way of looking and knowing that at a glance.

You're note that I never said, or implied that I was protecting anyone from you.

The truth of the mater is that is someone went bat-sh*t crazy and wanted to use their sword as an offensive weapon, a half dozen plastic zip ties aren't going to stop him and we all know it. Weather or not your weapon is secured by plastic ties is not going to have a major bearing on how you choose to use it, and I, for one choose to not delude myself with thoughts to the contrary.

I really, really wanted to just skip this part, but after this year, I think we need to have this conversation as well.

When dealing with other people, you need to treat your weapons as if they were real.

In translation, that means:No pointing a spear (or a gun, or a sword, or whatever...) at someone, & you don't swing anything (let alone a real sword) anywhere near people.

The one, and only one exception for this type of rule that I am aware of is a staged fight or scene, and that has its own common sense rules involved, first of which is making sure your acting area is free of by-standards.

Brandishing a weapon (even a toy) in a threatening manor can escalate a situation to the use of lethal force in seconds. If the person you are "playing with" doesn't realize you have a toy, and thinks, even for a second that you are about to hurt him, he is legally allowed to defend himself.

And just to be clear, he doesn't have to think you intend him harm, just that you might hurt him. So, if he thinks you are acting like a moron, and you just happen to be doing it with a real knife, he's probably just as justified taking a punch (or worse) at you.

Let me say this again, when carrying a prop that looks like, or looks like it could function as, a real world weapon, you need to treat it as real.

Closing thoughts
In the end, a convention is about having fun, but as costumes and props get more elaborate, and animes get more and more diverse in its character development, the con-going population is going to have an ever increasing number of cos-players who own costume weapons. As there is no central governing body to regulate this group, it is up to each and every one of us to individually learn, and apply the rules, laws, ordinances and manors that should go with weapons safety at a convention.

Cisco Cividanes is a Customer Support Technician for Dell computers. His history includes 3 years as a fully certified volunteer firefighter in the state of Virginia, one and a half years as a Correctional office in Oklahoma as well as 3 years as an (armed and unarmed) professional security officer. He holds a bachelors degree in safety from Oklahoma State University), and worked as an Fire Sprinkler engineer for 5 years. His hobbies include medieval reenactment, writing, blogging, tabletop gaming (RPG and board), walking, "tinkering",archery, knife throwing, performing arts, and fixing things. He has also moonlighted as a photographer, bounty hunter, and celebrity body guard on select occasions

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My new bag.

So, this Thanksgiving, my family did an early Christmas due to the fact that my in-laws would be out of town for December. As a result, I got my gifts early this year.

the one I really want to talk about is my new bag. Wal*Mart is (or maybe was, by now) selling the Fieldline Tactical ROE bag (which is a low cost clone of the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger bag) I've had my eye on the bag for a while because of how it works. By rotating the bag around to your front, you can access it all without having to take the bag off. I found the concept novel, and wanted to see if I could take my EDC kit and transfer it to one of these bags.

The bag is actually smaller than my old one, but more soundly built. The face and sides are lined with MOLLE/PALS webbing, allowing for the attachments you see here, namely the red, blue and yellow bags.

The point of EDC ( every-day carry) is to have a reasonable mix of what you know you will need on a daily basis, and what you will likely make good use of during the unforseen.

Now, lets get a few things out of the way up front, the ROE bag is a small bag for a lot of small items. This isn't a military filed bag, and never wants to be. The primary reason I have the red external pouch on it is so that I can have my Individual First Aid Kit on hand, and in something I can detach if I want to leave it behind for some reason. also, their are times where I might want to have the IFAK on hand and not the bag itself.

So, lets get down the the nuts and bolts, shall we?

Starting with the IFAK itself, as you can see I pretty much have the old girl loaded to bear. More or less, I intend to be able to address most medical incidents from minor cuts and scrapes all the way up to a major laceration or puncture wound.

This is actually a cool little slot called a "torches layer". It fits a flashlight and that is held in place with shock cord. iuts actually a nice little setup.

This is the pocket right under the IFAK. Right now, it doesn't have much and I'm sort of looking to see what I want to put it there. At the moment it has my emergency whistle, my extra carabeaners and my thumb drive and so-forth.

This is the head pocket at the top of the bag, right under the flashlight. Here we have hand sanitizer, Aspirin, Tylenol, my camping spoon/fork/knife, chapstick, matches and a lighter.

The main pocket!
Now, you have to understand, this is what it would look like if I were wearing it and has it pulled around in front of it. I look down and this is what I would see. There are two mesh pockets in the middle there, and the one on the left has my pens and writing tools, and the one on the left has my folding mirror, with more hand-tools and such to follow.

The space isn't vast but its good for a lot of small things, but not any large ones. The subdivision is good for keeping those things accessible and easy to keep track of.

The small bag you see inside the main flap above has a lot of odds and ends in it, mostly computer and small mechanical tools that I have used in the past and are worth keeping on hand.

This is the same pocket, but with the notebooks pulled up so you can see the pocket where my kindle fits in (its turned out so you can see it better).

The yellow bag on the side is mostly my "flaps and straps" bag. I have my 50' of para-cord in there, the locks for it, one of my red straps, and at the bottom of the bag is my compass (just because I didn't have any other place to reasonable put it)

All told, I'm happy with it. It definitely takes some getting used to, but I like the organisation, the size and the fact that I don't have to take it off to get to the contents, a major complain I had with my old bag. If someone asked me for something, I had to take it off, kneel down, and usually unpack half of the bag to get to what I needed. With this... flip it around and "bam", it's there.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Bag... in the field

This is a little bit of an update for those of you who follow these things. As you have read before, I have really geared up my bag with lots of odds and ends so that I am more or less ready for a lot of different situations. I wanted to take a minute and talk about some of my more resent uses just to give you an idea what how much I actually do use this this.

The rope:  I actually had to use the rope the other day. My wife and I do medieval reenactment, and after pitching our pavilion tent, I realized that the cord I used to hang the interior walls from  was missing. I plucked the 50 foot cord out of my bag and used it, worked like a charm, for which I was grateful. We had friends camping with us that weekend and we all were glad for the privacy of the cloth walls I had made.

My tools: Ive actually traded out some tools lately, but the other day, I actually had to pull out an Allen wrench to help someone while we were working on prepping the shafts on wooden arrows. It wasn't a bit deal, but I have to admit, it felt cool having the tool we needed when we needed it.

First air kit: What I can I say... I use this thing way the hell too much. Paper cuts, infected scabs, bumps... whatever and wherever, for me and about a dozen other people. Between work, home SCA and general life, I can't count all the times I can said "Oh, I have X if you want it" and moments later was digging into my kit for someone. I'm always glad to do it, I consider comfort and health important things to have.

The drink pocket: Yeah, I'm using and refilling that pocket all the time, it's good to have flavored water on hand, let me tell you.

So, yeah, anyway, that's what I have. I just wanted to take a moment and actually show what the bag can do and when it has done.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Some personal political foundations

I don't suppose that anyone who reads this will be surprised to know that I consider myself a conservative and/or libertarian to one extent or another. I generally have more faith in the individual than the government, and I generally have more hope in the community than any elected body.

Now to be clear, that is not to say that I have no faith in government, or even minimal faith. I think that the reality of my situation is that I am a pragmatic more than anything else. For as much as I believe in capitalism to grow out nation, I know that without safeguards, there are those who would deliberately create a more stratified society specifically to line their own pockets For as much as I believe self determination, and self reliance, I also know and understand that there are times where private assistance just isn't there in time to help. As much as I hold fast to my faith and its principles, I know that they can be misapplied, as any faith's can, and to great destructive ends. I believe that the faith of our elected leaders can, and should influence their decisions while making laws, but I also believe in the power of our constitutional safeguards to root out those problems.

But most importantly, I believe in the rule of law. Now, this is not an absolute faith, mind you. God and God alone holds that position in my heart. But I consider the laws of this nation, and the procedures they lay out critical important in order to protect and grow our nations.

I opposed the Affordable Healthcare law when it was first put forward. And I fully understand that the vigor of it's implementation was (at least in part) due to the democratic party's wish to help cement President Obama's place in american history as the first president to accomplish such a thing. Still, I opposed it through my legal means for as long as I could.

And guess what... My side lost.

And here, more than anything else is why I am not a registered Republican.

We lost. It is now law. It is now written on the same document that starts with "We the people...". Say what you will, say it however you want, but the democratically elected governing body of the US passed the law with the process that we, the voting body, let them put in place.

If it were truly as unpopular as some would make it out to be, I think the midterm elections would have been a very different story.

Ergo, what we are looking at is a minority faction of the national government, with a minority mandate, opposing a US federal law.

Just to say the obvious, if you look hard enough, you can find a minority mandate for just about anything... including female castration, racial segregation, antisemitism.. you name it. The idea of a minority mandate scars the hell out of me because it means one of the cornerstones of democracy is being challenges, and potentially eroded.

What is going on right now in Washing DC isn't about democracy, or running the nation. And it most certainly isn't about the rule of law.

What its about is a minority that don't like that they lost, and are willing to undercut the rule of law in order to salvage the scraps of a loosing battle.

This may sound like an attack on the government shutdown, and to some extent it is. But more to the point, it is talking about the wider problems with the Republican party today, problems that are highlighted by their current behavior.

I will probably never be a Liberal democrat, but the current mess in Washington is a good example of  why I will probably not ever be a Republican again either.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A thought, and a prayer.

In the movie "The 13th Warrior", we are introduced to an banished Arab bureaucrat sent north as an ambassador to the Scandinavian tribes of northern Europe. In the adventure that follows, the man is transformed from a bookworm and showoff into a dedicated fighter, a warrior, a man of courage. 

Faced with what certainly looked to be his final battle, the man stepped to one side and uttered these words in quiet prayer: 

"Merciful Father.... I have squandered my days with plans of many things.

This was not among them. But at this moment, I beg only, to live the next few minutes well. For all we ought to have thought and have not thought... All we ought to have said and have not said. All we ought to have done and have not done. I pray thee, God for forgiveness."

Yes, it is written by american screen writers (William Wisher Jr. & Warren Lewis), for a Muslim character, fighting along side Scandinavian Odinists.

Yes, it probably has little theological research to it.

And yes, it might well fly in the face of a strict reading of the Koran, the Pentituke (Jewish holy text), and/or the bible.

But I have never held myself above being inspired by others outside my faith, and I can not get past the poetic beauty of the words. This is not ceremony, this is not formality, this is not asking for a miracle.

This is asking the Almighty to help you do what has to be done, to live the life that needs living, to see through to the end what was begin so long ago.

Is it a "deathbed" prayer?

Perhaps, but perhaps not.

I choose to see it as something worth saying when other words fail me.

For my purposes, I have elected to personalize the sentiment slightly, and am going to use this to help me refocus myself in the times to come.

"Merciful Father, 

At this moment, I ask only to live the next few minutes well, and to be the person that is needed for your will. 

For all we ought to have thought and have not thought.

All we ought to have said and have not said. 
All we ought to have done and have not done. 
I pray thee, God for forgiveness. 


Friday, August 30, 2013

A new look, sort of anyway

Well, if you want an explanation of why I look like this, that's going to be long in coming.

But short and sweet, on the way home today my eye started bothering me, and by the time dinner rolled around, the eye in question was sore and red. 

So, pink-eye, or conjunctivitis of some sort seems to have found its way to me. Depending on how this goes, I might or might not go to the doctor's office. what I have read says that most cases are viral, and I don't feel like taking medications for no good reason. For the moment, the plan is to keep the eye covered and closed, keeping my hands away from it and giving it time to deal with itself. 

No, the reason I am writing here is not to complain about my eye, but to talk about wearing the eye patch a little. 

Its actually an interesting experience. Yes, there are the drawbacks of being 50% blind, and having no depth perception what so ever. In fact, the whole situation of having half of my visual awareness gone is just... od.

But still, I actually find the process interesting. I am suddenly aware of my other scenes needing to compensate for the blind-zone. All of a sudden I hear sounds from directions I can't see, and I am ruining into things (literally) that I can't see. Also, the right eye still works, so even closed, I can see a pattern of light and dark (like when you close your eyes and press on them, the signals to the brain can get interesting for some) from my right eye, and its overlays my field of view on my left eye, the effect is... well, just interesting.

Oh, and yes typing is a headache with just one eye, so that is as much I will say tonight

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Bag: Part three

Well, it's bee a little while since I posted, so I figured I would talk some about the improvements I have made about my bag.

First of all, I've moved some stuff out of it. The change in clothes, as well as the "overnight" provisions have been shifted to a small bag in the truck of my car. The logic there is that if I get stranded somewhere, odds are good that I'll be with my car, or at least have access to it.

The major addition to my bag is an "outdoor products" fanny back that I have re-purposed as a clip-on first aid/medical kit.

Here you can see the overall shape and proportions of the bag.

Before I get too far into this, let me explain a few things about the scope of this thing. I'm not a formally trained first responder (any more) and I don't hold any advanced medical training. What I have his first air, CPR, and a lot of accumulated knowledge. I'm not going to be running into any mass causality incidents with this and preforming life-saving emergency repairs. On a scale of "scratches" to "multiple gunshots", this is designed to help me deal with most injuries up to a major incision or puncture. Beyond that and I'm hoping I have cell phone reception so the 911 operator can advise.

Now, this is a fully functional fanny pack with a belt, and I really didn't want to cut it up, so what I did was shrink it down until the buckles were at their absolute shortest, and then folded over the left-over material with pony-tail holders.

Speaking of which... I have found that girl's pony-tail holders are like tactical rubber-bands. They are just great for all sorts of things.

Anyway, you can see there how I looped the reduced belt through the bag's built-in loops. It flops around a lot, but all told, it holds it where I need it to be, so I'm not complaining.The thing smacks into my butt when I walk, but its  a small price to pay for having it on hand.  I have it pretty well maxed out... but I've been pleasantly surprised at how well it's held up over the past year.

Back pocket:

Clif bar

I know, I know, "Why in the hell does he have a Cliff bar in the thing?"

Well, actually, a couple of reasons. First, its food, and honestly, there have been times in my past where I was just distracted enough by my stomach that I nearly did something stupid. With this, I can reach in and have something on hand and that way not have to push myself on a complaining stomach. Also, it's nice to have it for when my 8 year old starts to complain... I can throw this at him and say "here, have a candy bar!" Trust me, it works.

Front mesh bag:

Yep, that's exactly what you think it is!

Dental Floss

I have a crown that the spacing isn't perfect on, and the number of times I have had to improvise something to dislodge a chunk of meat is innumerable. I'm actually on the verge of replacing this roll because it's getting low.

Front pocket:

Clean wipes & alcohol pads.

I just keep about a dozen of them in there. Easy access, easy to use, and quick to pull out. When I run low, I either restock from a pharmacy, or loot the bit at the doctor's office when I am there.

Main pocket:

Oh good heaven's where to we start?

As you can see, I have a lot in there, and yes, it's loaded to bear. I try to keep useless stuff to a minimum, but I do like to keep what I reasonably might need on hand.

So, here we go...

Well, first up, lets look at the ziplock bag in the front of the pouch. That's actually a smaller bag inside a larger one.

The smaller one is my "bo bo" kit:

Band-aids, a burn gel, some butterfly strips and the like. Nothing fancy, and stuff I use all the freaking time.

The larger bag:

Now we're getting into some more serious stuff.

On the right, gauze pads, 4 x 4 and smaller. Good for general cuts, abrasions and so forth.

On the left are two surgical pads. If I pull these out, someone is already on the phone with 911, because we're plugging up some major bleeding with these things.

As a side note, I have these left over from when I was dealing with some post-surgical seepage following my biopsy. These things can hold unholy amounts of fluid, let me tell you. I don't think they are overly experience, but they aren't cheep. Box of 4 was close to $12 if I recall.

If you don't have these, don't want to pay for them, or need something in a pinch... The two best alternatives are woman's maxi-pads, or diapers... both use the same science to adsorb and hold fluid. Nothing really beats these pads for effectiveness, but if your in a pinch, this is science that's worth knowing about.

I keep a chemical cold pack on hand just because I have seen what unchecked swelling can do to someone. Haven't had to use it yet, but if the time comes, I will have no problem popping this thing out and handing it over. Cold is your friend a lot of the time, and not having it can cost people dearly.

Next to it... medical tape. This roll I looted from the ER the last time I was there. (its cool the nurse actually let me have it). Sticks to anything, and it will take the hare off your arm in one pass.

Yep, I have one of these.

And no, I don't have  tin-foil hat to go with it.

Seriously, this was like $1.50 at Wal Mart, and after having seen someone go into shock right in front of me, I figured it was a sound investment. Just having something to pull over someone after a jolting experience can save their life, and you can bet I wanted to have the option.

Gloves... about 6 pair as I recall.

Really, these speak for themselves, but I don't use them that often. Most of the stuff I have had to deal with are scraps and bruises. But if it turns into a "fluids flowing" situation, I have these, and I can hand them out liberally.

Also looted from the ER....

And trust me, they don't mind, especially if you know what your doing.

Now, back in the bag, on the inside of the pocket there is a mesh interior pocket witha  zipper.

I keep the rest of my small stuff in there, and even through it doesn't look like it, I can actually reach everything in there without having to empty the main compartment.

Okay, going from the bottom up:

Speaks for itself really, more tape, some non-latez gloves (left over from my old kit) tongue depressors, cotton swaps and a set of medial scissors that are as sharp as a shaving razor and a pointed as a scalpel. I keep it all in a bag at the bottom of the pocket. I doubt I will need any of it in a real emergency, but they can be very useful when trying to fix or mend to look at something less urgent but no less painful.

In the middle is a small bag with hole skin and some pulls. Mostly general purpose stuff: Ibuprofen, aspirin, ant-acid, and so forth.

On the top, where I can get to it quick is a tube of antibiotic, a thermometer and a rubber tourniquet.

The tourniquet, also from the hospital, is a "oh-shit" thing I just decided was worth having.

The tube of antibiotic ointment... should speak for itself.

The thermometer... yeah, I actually need that now. Last two times I've been hospitalized was with uncontrolled fevers, thanks to complications following my cancer treatment. Anyway... the ability to measure a body temp and put a number on it is vital, and this was just an investment I wanted to make.

I wanted to move back to the bag for a minute. I've redone the side pockets, and wanted to show them off, left side specifically.

I emptied this one, move all the electronics into other locations, and then used this one for my "tie things down" pocket.

Now, let me set the record straight, I don't have, don't want, and don't even really believe in some of these internet "pocket rappelling" kits that some less reputable dealers are peddling. This isn't that that. If I wanted to rappel any distance, I would be using a whole bag of heavy kernmantle line tested for 800 pounds.

But more seriously, the a ability to secure things, raise things, tie things down and the like is a major boon in general, never mind an emergency situation. I can make a harness, I can lower things down, or pull things up...

Hell, even outside of an emergency, I could just grab a rope or tie and lash together or tie down something that's come loose.

As you can see, ropes aren't *all* I have in there.

But, starting from the top"

Thats 100 feet of 200 pound line with two quick-secure hooks that let me tie things down without knotting the rope. (major find at Wal Mart, let me tell you).

The two red and black thing in the middle are straps I use for... whatever. Usually holding a rolled up towel or maybe holding something to a car roof rack. Whatever. Just handy. And the black bands... more ponytail holders!

The black thing at the bottom is my flashlight, left over from my security days. I have the red lens in it at the movement, the logic being that if I need a flashlight, I probably don't want to toast everyone's night vision in the middle of an emergency.

Okay, I know...

"What's with the matches and lighter?"

Seriously, they are just good things to have. If you know anything about just being ready, you know why, if not... just take my work for it, these are good.

If nothing else, I have been able to say "sure I have a light" and deduce a tense situation in a heartbeat.

Its all about options.

Now, lets leave off with a bit of a bang.

Even with my moving stuff out of the bag and clearing out the main compartment for day-to-day use, there have been a few times when I just needed more space. Not even necessarily heavy-lift, just more volume.

Well, guess what, I found something that works for me.

Inside my small compartment, which is now where I keep my pill bottles, note pad, combs and miscellaneous crap, I have a small fold-up bag.

I think this was like $5 at Wal Mart, and it literally is smaller than my fist.

Black synthetics, draw string, and a grand total of about 8 oz, if that.

Open it up, and you have something that is actually fairly large.

The gray stripe at the bottom is actually the top of the bag, that's the zipper. This is meant to be something you throw a change of clothes into and head to an overnight party or something. I wouldn't call it "durable", but it does hold up surprisingly well to regular use.

So, anyway, it has about the same volume of my bag, and can easily hold a complete chance in clothes. I wouldn't' use it for long term storage, but if I need to effectively double the carry volume of my bag for a while, like say an hour or two, this is the ticket.

You can see here an example of how I secure it to my bag with three cheep clips. One at the top, and one at each side of the bottom, using the same loops that the medical kit clips to.

In this example, I have a few sweat pants stuffed in the bag for volume and heft.

it actually does work well. I have used this to carry stuff for up to two or three hours in a pinch. So, if you need to double your cargo capacity, this is a trick to do it with.

And here is the bag upright so you get an idea of the way it rests.

So, anyway, there is it. That's my current kit. No,I don't carry any firearms or ammunition for my sidearm, I don't need to have to leave this thing at the door, which is exactly what would happen at my office. And I don't carry a lot of specialized stuff. The truth of the matter is that in any situation, be it an emergency or not, I believe my brain is my best resources, so I build all my kits to work with and around my skill sets, not in place of them. By that I mean if I ever need a full trauma kit, I'll probably pull my leatherman and cannibalize a shirt or something. And if I ever need to carry something really heavy, I'll probably pull out my rope and fashion some harness to my bag...

You get the idea, right?

So, anyway, not a Get-home-bag, not a Bug-out-bag, and not a Zombie survival kit.

Its a "me" kit, and I use it just about ever day.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

And finished!

Oh, almost forgot...

I Finished it!
Not perfect, but it works!

Saturday Afternoon... Build day 2.

Well, things could have gone smoother. When I started to actually assemble the shelves.. things came apart like a house of cards. Turns out that liquid nail is not any good on wood.

So, I wrote off three of the morning's hours worth of work, and then went about trying to figure out what I could do. While I was scraping the remains of the glue off of all the wood and plastic, I called my wife and conferred with her. A friend of ours was with her, and offered a suggestion of JB weld. Figuring that I had nothing to really lose at that point, I went to the store and grabbed a tube of their binary epoxy that saying wood and "most" plastics.

After that, I actually went to a frind's house to help her and her folks unload  a piano. It was a distraction I needed, and she is loads of gun to chat with so we all spent about twenty minutes moving the piano out from her father's truck, and then another half an hour eating venison burgers.

So, then I get back to my house, then start gluing the parts back together with the compound.

Later on the same friend showed up at my place and helped me move some old furniture to the dump, and then move an old entertainment center to the garage to make room for the shelves. Without her... well it just wasn't going to happen without help, and she was glad to reciprocate for my help with the piano. So, anyway, she left just as I started putting the pieces all together, leaving me to assemble, move, stack and tighten things on my own. But at least I had room to work.

Saturday morning... Build day 2

You can see the colors and proportions starting to come together  The couplings are glues to the wood, the rest is waiting for me to flip over the boards and glue them in place

I ran out of work bench, so I improvised a place to let the glue cure
The bottom and top pieces, respectively.

This is just less than half of it, to sort of give you an idea of scale and color.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Build: Day 1

Okay, so I got home from work around 6:30 and more or less jumped into this.
Sanding the boards... about 3 hours of "fun". 

What had I sanded so far...

What was still left to go.

A lot of the boards had stencils on them. 

Ten minutes, an electric sander and  a lot of elbow grease later...

After my wife got done with the first coat of stain.

Another vantage point. 
Cutting the risers turned out to be a major undertaking, with a lot of hand cutting and fudging and measuring and... well, it was a lot of work. I spent two hours chopping up pipe before I realized I was short couplings, so I need to grab about a dozen more tomorrow at Walmart. 

The ones that had couplings got painted. it's not black, actually, but a metallic "brushed bronze" 

What was left of the 12' pipe after I was done chopping it up into the 18 risers I need. 

And yes, it was night by the time that last photo was taken.