Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some of my favorite tactical things

My name is Neal and I am a gear geek.

These are some of my favorite things. Tactical is a word with a variety of meanings. IMHO tactical gear is anything designed for getting shit done.

Cable Ties

My favorite piece of tactical gear is the humble cable tie, aka zip-tie. They are tough, light, small and cheap... the ideal tactical item!

 Working the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival has taught be the millions of uses of cable ties. Not only are they handy for building bike corrals and securing scaffolding, but you can use them as handcuffs or to tourniquet a traumatic amputation or as a field expedient ponytail holder.

EMT Shears

Zipties are easier and safer to cut with scissors or pliers than with a knife actually. Trauma scissors (or EMT shears) are fantastic. |Amazon|

 Like zip ties, they are tough, light, small and cheap. What's not to like?

They are also helpful for treating people with serious injuries. You'll want to remove some of their clothing to treat their obvious wounds and inspect them for other injuries.

Trauma scissors are part of my everyday carry (EDC). I usually have a pair in my "tactical bag", which is a 5.11 SERE uber-tactical man-purse.

First Aid Kit

Trauma scissors should also be part of your first aid kit (or kits)!

After 9/11, people reacted in different ways. I reacted by buying first aid kits and reading first aid manuals. 

For an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK), I currently run a Condor tactical EMT pouch. I've been running this minimalist version when I work the bike race. |LA Police Gear|

Some people denigrate Condor gear for being cheap... I've found it reasonably tough and I'm not going into battle, so it's good enough for me. There are lots of first aid kits on the market.

Some first aid kits are pre-filled while others are DIY... suit yourself and your budget... but I definitely recommend assembling a first aid kit!

I also recommend collecting first aid supplies for your home. There's no need to go crazy, but a well-stocked first aid kit never hurt anyone... unless they dropped it on their toes.

Pepper Spray

I almost always have pepper spray. I like Sabre pepper spray, especially in a small, hard case. |Amazon| It fits in my pocket well next to the cell phone.

The clip makes easy aiming and by indexing it in your hand.

Pepper spray is a less-than-lethal weapon, actually making it more likely that I would use it to defend myself in a self-defense scenario than a knife or a gun. Under American common law principles, you can only use lethal force when your life or safety are imperiled (i.e. a high risk of death, dismemberment or rape -- robbery is not enough).

But pepper spray is rarely, if ever, fatal, So I can use it much earlier in my threat assessment process! If someone starts acting belligerent or unstable around me, I get my pepper spray out of my pocket and hide it in my hand.

Smart Phone

Being able to call 911 is always handy. And I'm a cyborg... I prefer having a connection to the Internet whenever possible. I currently am running a Samsung Galaxy II. I like everything about it except the battery life. Enough said.

Tactical Pen

This year, I stopped carrying a pocket knife as part of my EDC and switched to a tactical pen. I love knives, but the pen is more practical for my urban lifestyle.

As a germaphobe, I like using my own pen instead of other people's nasty pens. The pen is also a less-than-lethal weapon, so again, I'm more likely to get it out and actually use it in a threatening situation than a knife. 

I'm also less likely to cut my own finger off with it. Using a folding pocket knife in a life-or-death struggle is going to subject the knife to significant strain and if it breaks, it's likely it will cut into you and your opponent.

Tactical Flashlight

Darkness makes it difficult or impossible to see. We are sight-oriented creatures, therefore light is helpful and makes you more proficient. Therefore, another part of my everyday carry is a tactical flashlight.

Unless I am in the shower or my pajamas, I generally have a Fenix flashlight tucked in my pocket or man-purse.

Mainly I carry a PD-31 |Amazon|YouTube Review of 4 Fenix flashlights|.

 Fenix has since come out with a PD32, which is what I would likely buy if I bought another one.

 There are lots of great tactical flashlights out there. I would suggest checking out the reviews at Candlepower forums.

 My backup lights tend to be Surefire G2's. I run big lithium batteries in them, but they are designed to run on two (2) CR123 batteries.

CR123s are advertised with a ten (10) year shelf life. I think they're likely superior in terms of shelf life to alkaline batteries but YMMV (your mileage my vary).

Update: Firestarters

A firestarter is not a bad idea. This suggestion comes to us from Cliff's son. Magnesium bars are definitely on the list. Light, small, relatively cheap and tough! I like Swedish fire steel as well, which comes with its own scraper. I am a bit concerned about cutting myself if trying to use a magnesium bar when my fingers are wet and cold, so a blunt scraper (like a screwdriver) would be handy as well.

To be candid, I am not an expert firestarter, so I like to include a simple bic lighter and some waterproof matches as well in my firestarting pouch of my bug-out bag.

Dryer lint makes great kindling for firestarting. Char cloth is ideal of course.

I like tea lights as minimalists candles.


So those are some of my favorite pieces of tactical gear. Feel free to share your thoughts of favorite pieces of tactical gear in the comments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Franconia II, originally uploaded by Anton Th. M..

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A modest proposal for improving our gun laws

First, I am a gun owner. I love my guns. I give them names like zombie killer and the holdout.

I don't have any children, which is good, because my home is littered with guns, swords, machetes, bayonets, hatchets, and batons.

I like to say that the mind is the weapon and everything else in the world is a tool. But a sword is a tool elegantly designed for the sole purposes of stabbing and chopping.

I now sell swords (steel, wood, and plastic ones) at costume conventions. And I have implemented a simple security procedure that would make Wayne LaPierre of the NRA or Justice Antonin Scalia apoplectic if applied to firearms.

If someone under the age of twenty-five (25) wants to buy one of my swords, they must talk to me for at least ten (10) minutes and persuade me that they are mature enough to buy a sword. Even if someone is over the age of twenty-five (25), if I think they are unstable in any way, I won't sell him or her a four foot piece of gleaming steel.

In a nutshell, I believe that the problem with our current gun laws is that there is absolutely no procedure to determine if someone is stark raving mad or if they can even feign sanity for a short period of time. 

Three recent examples of people with borderline personalities who were able to purchase and practice with weapons prior to going on a killing spreee come instantly to my mind: Jared Lee Loughner, Seung-Hui Cho, and James Holmes.

All three of these individuals were obviously disturbed in retrospect. I am willing to wager that a mere thirty (30) minutes spent speaking to someone with any psychiatric training would have raised some red flags.

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and the city requires that I obtain a special permit from the police department if I wish to buy a pistol or an assault weapon. I had to wait nearly an hour to obtain the permit. I wasn't pleased about it, but I did it because I wanted an assault weapon. :-)

Is it so much to ask that before a person purchases their first firearm, they have to talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist for thirty (30) minutes? 

Isn't it a reasonable public policy goal to ensure that disturbed people get as much help as society can reasonably afford to give them?

Seung-Hui Cho had a record of being admitted to a mental hospital, if the psychiatrist or psychologist knew about that, they might spend more time with him. They might even have denied him a firearm or requested he get some counseling before approving him for a firearm.

Mr. Loughner appears to have had some sort of break with reality before he attacked Gabbie Lee Giffords. If so, then he is exactly the type of person this cursory interaction with a psychologist is likely to stop from obtaining a firearm and committing mass murder.

Mr. Holmes is a more recent case and a more troubling case.

It is certainly possible that he could have charmed the psychologist and pretended to be totally stable for a mere thirty (30) minutes. He also moved beyond firearms and assembled Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

So admittedly, he likely could not be stopped from committing mass murder by any gun licensing scheme. Indeed, he could have committed mass murder with his IEDs even if every gun in America had been destroyed. But the test of adding a new component to the process of being licensed to purchase a gun does not have to be perfect. It just has to be better than what we are doing now.

The perfect should NOT be the enemy of the good. And asking a prospective new gun owner to spend thirty (30) minutes with a psychiatrist or psychologist seems a minimal burden on the Second Amendment to me. But I'm sure there are people out there who will claim this is an unconstitutional burden on the Second Amendment.

I'd be happy to discuss this matter with anyone who wants to have a respectful conversation about the matter. If you want to have a disrespectful conversation about the matter, we can discuss it at dawn. Be sure to bring a second. ;-)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pandemic Simulation Video Game

The game Pandemic II challenges you to destroy the world. Are you up to the challenge or will you let a bunch of monkeys in lab coats defeat you?

Cross-Posted to theBellman and the Safety Neal's Zombie Defense Blog.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Safety Neal's New Health Care Directive

I just updated my health care directive. A copy is available on Google Docs and the original currently resides in the 3rd drawer of the filing cabinet of my office at William Mitchell.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Earth Gazing

Time lapse images of the Earth as seen from the International Space Station below.

This makes me wish we had a thriving low orbit manufacturing industry so I could escape the bonds of Earth...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Google Makes the World a Cyber Place

Google apparently is well en route to marketing augmented reality glasses.

[Google's augmented reality] glasses will have a low-resolution built-in camera that will be able to monitor the world in real time and overlay information about locations, surrounding buildings and friends who might be nearby, according to the Google employees. The glasses are not designed to be worn constantly — although Google expects some of the nerdiest users will wear them a lot — but will be more like smartphones, used when needed. Internally, the Google X team has been actively discussing the privacy implications of the glasses and the company wants to ensure that people know if they are being recorded by someone wearing a pair of glasses with a built-in camera. |Google to Sell Heads-Up Display Glasses by Year’s End - New York Times|
Fast Company suspects Google will eventually try to monetize this technology... but that strikes me as a small price to pay for Google making augmented reality a reality. Cross-posted at the Bellman.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Cyborg Neal Approaches

Scientific American has a short discussion of the potential of displaying information in a person's contacts or on eyeglasses.

The new system consists of advanced contact lenses working in conjunction with lightweight eyewear. Normally, the human eye is limited in its ability to focus on objects placed very near it.

The contact lenses contain optics that focus images displayed on the eyewear onto the light-sensing retina in the back of the eye, allowing the wearer to see them properly.

Conventional mobile device screens are often too small to read comfortably "and certainly too small to enjoy," Willey said.

In contrast, Innovega's contact lenses could effectively generate displays with a screen size "equivalent to a 240-inch television, viewed at a distance of 10 feet."

Moreover, by projecting slightly different pictures to each eye, the display can generate the illusion of 3D. "You get full 3D, full HD, fully panoramic images," Willey said. |SA|

Based on the article, I believe this technology is still vaporware, but the potential for displaying pixels wirelessly in contact lenses has been demonstrated sufficiently that DARPA is now playing a funding role in developing this technology.

This gives me goosebumps on my fleshy parts.

Cross-posted at the Bellman.