The other blog

As some of you know, I have a second blog I started in conjunction with a group I run on Facebook.

It’s called “Sailing and Cruising: Preppers”.

Rather than reiterate or copy what I wrote over there, here’s the link to the latest entry today:

https://sailingcruisingpreppers.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/hurricane-irmajose/

I would urge folks to go read it.  Agree or disagree with my opinion, it’s important to me that people learn from history, they learn from mistakes, and they learn skills before they need them.

I wrote a book called “Basic Survival and Communication in the Aftermath”.  The “Aftermath” is that thing that exists when it’s all over.  Disaster, zombie apocolypse, hurricane, asteroid strike.  You name it.  Any sort of thing that befalls some portion or all of the human race, putting them into survival mode.

Maybe people pooh pooh such things as science fiction.  The truth is that disasters DO happen. We know for instance dinosaurs once walked this planet.  Giants who ate one another, and whole trees in one sitting existed.  We have found their bones.  We have found their skulls.  We know they were….

We also believe they were eventually killed off in a rapid extinction, perhaps by as asteroid hitting the planet.  That is, of course, the belief of science today, and while not 100% certain, it definitely has a good following, even from me.

The point though, is that these mega critters had all they could eat, and lived the “good life” as critters go.  And suddenly over a few decades, simply ceased to exist.  Human beings aren’t very large.  We’re not very powerful.  We’re not all that tough as creatures go.  We do have civilization, technology, good (and bad) eating habits.  We live in a world of other humans.  We mostly get along.  We mostly don’t kill each other for lunch (though there are a few times it’s happened).

But we, like the dinosaurs, populate this planet in abundance and dependence on the planet’s resources.  The two recent hurricanes prove that we’re stronger than we look and resilient, yet, dangerously dumb at times.

Many of my prepper friends ask me about my book, mentioned above.  They ask why it’s not in a paper format, because, you know Rick, when the EMP comes Kindles and digital media will be no more!

Here is why.  It kills trees to make a book.  Books wind up in garbage cans or burned as a fire starter when the end comes.  It isn’t the BOOK that is important, it’s the KNOWLEDGE inside said book.

Reading and knowing information is all we as a race have.  Understanding things.  Knowing HOW to do things in both a technological manner and a primitive manner are what keep us alive.

That you can take a computer, get the weather from it and know where the hurricane is, where it’s headed (with in a reasonable guess anyway) and know which way to go to get out of the way is one thing.  Gazing at the sky and seeing after noon clouds building and knowing a thunderstorm is in the making is more important in the hear and now, than the hurricane five days out though.

Knowing how to pick up a few things in the woods, and start a fire that night to keep you warm, in the shelter you made with your own hands – it’s THOSE things you should know.  Sure, you might have a cell phone to call for rescue.  Sure, you MIGHT be able to get a chopper to come pick you up from the mountain with one.  If they battery isn’t dead, if you’re in cell service range, if the phone isn’t wet, and and and…. etc.

The fact is, sometimes, one must stop, drop and roll to put out a fire on their body, or duck and cover from a nuke attack.  Sure, those things are few and far between, but it could happen.

So can hurricanes.  Category V hurricanes.  And denuded Islands happen.  And flooded land in Texas could happen.  Earthquakes in California could happen.  Typhoons in the Pacific can happen.  And knowledge is forever in your head when your book blows away in the rain.

Final thoughts here, do yourselves a favor.  Do not be normal.  Don’t follow the masses.  Don’t believe everything you see on TV, hear on the radio or read on the Internet.  Believe instead, in yourselves.  Believe you can be better than you are, that you can do things no one else can do.  Because, friends, you can.

Read.  Learn.  Understand.  And then Teach.

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New Book: Basic Survival and Communications Skills

I wrote a book.  Just thought you’d all like to know.  It’s called:

Basic Survival and Communications Skills in the Aftermath

The current Amazon link is at Amazon

The publication date was 30 November 2014, so it released on Sunday (yesterday as I write this).  The book was written specifically for the Kindle in mind, but will eventually be released to other eReaders in the next few months.

Here’s the description:

Nuclear war looms, an errant asteroid is headed for Earth, Yellowstone is showing signs of an impending explosion. Will be survivors. Are you going to be one of them? If so, how are you going to survive and contact your friends and loved ones?

The world has no set time of destruction and it might never come, or next Thursday while you’re on your way home from work might be the very day the killing blow comes. Will you be prepared?

Join the author in an imaginative exploration of several scenarios of “What Might Happen” and practical ideas on mitigation of the “Aftermath”. Survival isn’t always about stocking food and water in a mountain hideaway, collecting the best knives, guns and most ammo. Discover the important information you’ve been missing! This book was written specifically for the Kindle devices in mind.

For almost fifty years I’ve been working with and around radios and communications.  I started repairing shortwave radios at the ripe old age of Ten.  Since then I made it a career and life style (I’m a ham radio operator and was a military radio communications technician in the USAF).  Even my wife is a ham radio operator.

I wrote this book because, as a prepper and survivalist we’ve always worked to stay in contact with our children and family members.  While not the best at writing letters (sad for a writer, I know) we have always tried to figure out ways to contact our kids if there are emergencies.  We’ve always tried to keep one or another method open to us.

Over the years I’ve taught electronics and radio theory to civilians and military alike and have combined the skills I have in bringing this book to the general public as a way to help folks who aren’t really “radio savvy” or new at survival and preparedness skills (also called, “Prepping”).

The book is the culmination of many years of writing on blogs, forums and answering questions to students, military and civilians.  This book is not an in-depth study of one and only one thing however, it is more of a general purpose, basic/beginner’s book to get you started thinking on the path of how to communicate in emergencies.

Of course the book is colored with “End of the World” scenarios and situations but it should get you thinking.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a sailor or a close friend and possibly feel you’re already an expert at survival.  But I am dead certain that even experts will gather information from this manual that you’ve not considered in the past.  Remember, it is not a rehash of other books.

I urge you all to pick up a copy from Kindle.  The price is $4.99 US and that’s about the price of a couple of beers.  I don’t expect to make millions of dollars, that’s not why the book was written.  But, it will certainly help the cruising kitty if a few folks buy it.  (Hey, at 35% royalties, I’m not making a killing here!)

Keep your eyes open for when I can release it to other readers besides Kindle.  There will be follow ups to this book with more in-depth and detailed answers about radio systems, licensing (for when aliens aren’t invading because we all know we don’t want to break the law!) and I will most likely work on a ham radio specific companion book at a later date.

Fair Winds!

Rick

Continuing Studies

Something I’ve learned over the years is that I learn better when someone shows me how to do something.  As a teacher I discovered that students had all sorts of learning idiosyncrasies and most of them learned either by reading, listening or seeing demonstrations.  I endeavored to  do all three for students in my electronics courses.  Some simply refused to learn and just ‘wanted the answers’.

Those students who just wanted the answers were the kind who simply wanted to “be done” with college and really weren’t planning on doing anything with their lives after getting finished with their degrees.  One day during a class, after a test, we were going over the test answers after I’d graded the tests and recorded the results in my record keeping.  That particular week we were studying how semiconductors functioned, very specifically we were discussing diodes and P-N junctions.  A diode is an electronic device which passes current in only one direction and blocks current flow in the other direction.  They are used as rectifiers to convert alternating current into direct current.  The concept is actually one of the simplest things you learn in electronics next to resistance, and Ohm’s Law.

One student had asked me questions all week, and I had explained several times verbally how a diode works, showing circuits with current flow, an oscilloscope (which shows the sine waves and the subsequently converted wave forms of half-wave rectification).  Just before the test, this student asked for a review of specific points.  We reviewed with the whole class.  The student expressed confidence that “I’ve got this” and I passed out the test material – basic 30 question tests with 25 multiple “guess” questions and five “essay questions” – asking students to, in their own words, explain some basic concept they had learned this week.

I generally studied my own materials while awaiting students to finish but something told me to look for the “visual feedback” you get from student’s faces and actions.

The confidence of the previously mentioned student began to falter; I could see him struggling with the test so I quietly began walking the room as I often did to get a glance over their shoulders to make sure no one was cheating (something that was very rare in my classrooms I discovered, but did occasionally occur).  The confusion of this student was apparent when he hit the question we had discussed just before the test.  I had actually covered almost every thing on the test before passing it out and I was shocked that as I scanned quickly and walk on that this person was completely lost.

What was *I* doing wrong, I asked myself.  How could I have explained this over and over in the space of a week and given these students essential information needed to understand the material AND pass the test and yet this student was going to fail this test.

Now, the quarter before this one, I had a similar problem with another student who has passed but was barely keeping his grades up in each of his courses.  Was there something happening here I wasn’t getting?

After grading his test – he passed by one question – we begin going over the test.

At that point I realized that the majority of the students in the classroom has gotten 100% on their tests.  To me, that was a measure of 1) How well I presented the lesson and 2) how well the students grasped the concepts.  All but a couple of people, and one in particular were doing very well.  Instead of chalking this up to “poor learning” or “poor teaching” I thought I’d turn this around on the students.

I asked, “Ok, some of you had issues with this concept (which I explained quickly) and I’d like to get an idea where you’re not understanding this.  Would anyone like to share with the class and me what sort of problem this is causing?”

It was enough to get the student in question to say, “Well, I don’t know the answer.”

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t know the answer’?” I queried.

“Well, it’s like this….” and this student regurgitated the exact process of how a diode works, not only from the beginning of the chemistry portion (where you dope different sections of silicone with boron or arsenic to make P or N junctions – but explained electron movement and hole-theory to the class in precise and professional terms).  I was shocked.  He could explain exactly what it was he’d learned.  I applauded him on his knowledge… then he said, “I just don’t know THE ANSWER!”

I prompted once again for an explanation of the “answer”….

So he said, “Ok, its like this.  If I am working in a radio shop for instance and someone gives me a radio to work on, if a diode goes OUT in the radio… what is the answer?  What symptoms does that diode show me that tells me it’s broken?”

The light came on for me.

What the student wanted wasn’t all the theory behind how electronic components functioned; he wanted a set of RULES that told him how to easily fix or repair something.

A communications gap the size of Texas was what we were having.

Today – twenty plus years later I can see this attitude in everyone around me.  No one wants to study a subject and understand it inside and out, they want a pat answers to a series of questions that allow them to move on to something else!  Email messages that contain more than three lines are rarely read.  Even this article will have 2 readers out of 100 who read the entirety of the article because, frankly, it’s “too long” for the limited attention span of most people.

Over the past five years of preparing for our voyage my wife and I have read a multitude of books.  I read, almost exclusively, technical texts containing scientific discussions of how to anchor and keep a vessel safe to operations of diesel engines, to repairs of water makers – among other things.  These books contain math, charts, explanations that put my verbosity to shame.  But I have come to the conclusion that there are those who will never venture offshore because they won’t read anything; worse they WILL venture offshore – without reading anything.

In my estimation today’s electronic communications technology–which has essentially made radio almost obsolete, has taken the fun out of learning, it has forced people who are in the midst of information overload in their everyday lives to skip over anything they deem “extraneous”.  I’ve found that this sometimes even affects me and I tend to ignore long emails, or skip reading attachments when I should probably at LEAST glance at them.

As a skipper of a vessel one must be aware of all that is going on, stand above panic and think through every detail of what one must do to make things work, keep the ship going and to keep the vessel and crew alive.  Fortunately, it’s not flying planes or space ships.  You’re not traveling at high speeds or falling from space (or high in the sky) if things fail on a boat.  However, shorelines get in the way, and winds and blow you into the weather shore, lines break, sails tear, engines get dirty fuel, anchors can get jammed in coral or rock, anchors can drag and winds can blow when you’re not expecting them because you ignored this morning’s weather report; or over slept and didn’t listen to it.

There are NO “pat answers” in anything in life.  There are jobs all over the country that require thinking processes and regardless of how mindless a job becomes (I picture someone installing lug nuts over and over and over and over in a car factory, but even there robots have taken over…) there is some thinking required.

You can make a list of answers for your students so when they are troubleshooting a robot, computer or a space station they can simply check off and when they have one left over that’s “the answer”

I suspect my former student never made it “to the big time” with his degree.  He grabbed some job somewhere that required little thinking on his part.

All to often today in conversations I have with random people I see his “lack of thinking processes”.  They can regurgitate what they hear on television, from a show, or their favorite movie, and can even repeat things they learned in high school or college courses.  But they can’t take two or more related (or even unrelated) concepts and combine those in a logical and reasonable fashion to come up with answers to their questions.

Is there an answer for this problem?  I’m sure there’s a list someplace that can help us “fix” the problem, right?