Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Have No Idea What You're Talking About, so Here's a Picture of Me Wearing a Finnish Gas Mask


$10 at Cheaper Than Dirt. "New Condition Protect Against Airborne Virus and Bacteria -Flu Pandamic [sic]"... nope, no fearmongering there or anything.

The included carrying case is pretty nice (though the material is a bit thin), if you're looking for something to satisfy your ironic military-surplus hipster/artist pose while you convert the mask for fetish play:


If you have something against the Finns, there's also a Czech gas mask for $7.50.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wanted: A Dumb Crisis Manager; Plus, Reviewing The Colony, Episodes 1 & 2

Ever since CrisisCamp, I've been mulling over ways we can leverage pop culture depictions of crises to get people thinking and doing more for their personal disaster preparedness. As we've seen, throwing preparedness guides up on Ready.gov just isn't doing it -- we can argue about why elsewhere, though I think it's because ready.gov gets us thinking about preparedness in the "scary way we prefer not to think about," as opposed to the "scary way that entertains us" that we see in pop culture.

Pop culture is awash in constant crises, ranging from earthly disasters like fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, and pandemic; celestial hazards like meteors, comets, and asteroids; and man-made disasters running the gamut from terrorist attack, dirty bomb, biological warfare, all the way up to total nuclear holocaust and post-apocalyptic aftermath.

And of course, we can't forget zombie attack, alien invasion, robot uprising and every other monster incarnation.

Because pop culture crises are ultimately entertaining and diverting, people are more willing to engage them. So what can we do to leverage the power of pop culture depictions of crises?

Enter the Dumb Crisis Manager
One thing we can do, of course, is comment on how crises, disaster preparedness, and crisis response are depicted in TV and movies. Basically, I'm talking about trying to recreate Phil Plait, whose Bad Astronomy site rose to prominence by highlighting bad (and good) depictions of science and astronomy in TV and movies, and creating a personality who can authoritatively talk about these issues.

I'm pretty sure that person isn't me. And it may not be a single person. But I'll fill in until someone else steps up.

The Colony, Episode 1 (a.k.a. Real World: Thunderdome)
Right now, I'm two episodes into The Colony on Discovery. I don't think I'll make it to the third. Originally, I thought it might be interesting way to show useful survival skills (at least for the immediate aftermath period), but it's pretty clear now that it's basically Junkyard Wars-style engineering challenges, with a some fake Mad Max thrown in.

The problem I have with reality TV in general is that it's manufactured drama, and this is especially telling with The Colony: There's no prize at stake (that we know of), no one's getting kicked off the show, and there's no "game," so why do these folks insist on acting like typical reality TV meatheads? Worse, why make a show of swinging around sticks and pipes to fend off scavengers, intruders, motorcycle marauders (a recurring theme) -- did they sign a particularly permissive waiver that said they were participating in blood sport? It's just silly.

Anyway, here are the skills they show off in the opening episode. (The participants are foot-mobile, so they have no personal supplies to speak of -- no real lessons to be learned there):

Skill: Looting, fending off other looters: Useful as it may be (in the "collapse of civilization" scenarios that gets TEOTWAWKI types all hot and bothered), I would suggest that "grab anything that's not nailed down" isn't really a skill that needs to be taught.

Skill: Water Filtration: They gave a cursory demonstration of how to filter water through buckets with alternating layers of sand and charcoal, which was good. However, they glossed right over the post-filtration boiling part, though which was bad. Very bad. And even after that, I don't know that I would trust water from the LA River.

Reality TV moment: One of the early Survivors (maybe the first?) featured a conveniently-placed "natural" container of sketchy-looking standing water. Some of the cast worried about brain parasites and such, but the gameplayers realized that the show's producers wouldn't have provided water that they couldn't drink. So the reality TV safety net is in effect. Witness the disclaimer at the end of The Colony credits:

"The participants in "The Colony" experiment are presented with situations that were created by the producers. They receive support from off-camera experts when their health or safety may be in danger. Viewers should not attempt ot engage in the activities depicted in this experiment."

Skill: Flushing a toilet with a bucket: Really? Really? This is a big deal? Not only is it completely obvious to anyone whose water's even gone out (even briefly), but wasting gallons of potable water to flush toilets, instead of setting up a latrine in a corner of that big-ass compound of theirs, is idiotic.

Reality TV moment: Picking up sticks, pipes, and other beating implements to fend off a night-time intruder. Or else, you could, you know, have the cameramen shine their lights at them?

Reality TV moment: The addition of the second group of survivors. Again, if you see a group of people with a camera crew, it's a pretty safe bet you can let them in. At least one guy (the contractor who's also an ex-con) had a pocketknife on him.

Supplies so far:
* Food: Canned, other relatively shelf-stable stuff. Could go into more detail. (e.g. how peanut butter is a good energy food). Haven't introduced any annoying food preferences or allergies, fortunately.

* Flashlight. Looked like a standard 2-D incandescent.

Skills Challenge: Lighting. Good thing they just happened to have that bank of batteries and inverter, eh?

Skills Challenge: Water cistern with semi-permanent filtration system, budgeting 1 gallon/per person/day.

Reality TV moment: The cast is really engineer / mechanic heavy. They really should have included more deadweight -- even their IT guy came up with the water filtration method.

Skills Challenge: Rainwater collection. Wow, they discovered the rainwater drain pipe just as it starts raining. Oh, no: time pressure! What a coincidence.

Reality TV moment: Wouldn't be reality TV without blurred out genitals now, would it?

Summary: The first episode set the stage -- looting, motorcycle marauders, engineers gone wild. It gets worse in the next episode...

The Colony, Episode 2:

Reality TV moment: Oh, look -- a conveniently-unopened crate. Good news: It's filled with tools. Bad news: They're cheap-ass Harbor Freight tools. I guess Survivors... er, sorry, "Colonists" can't be choosers.

WTF moment: You know, people were able to do work before power tools. I, myself, used hand saws and a hand-drill back in shop class. Just wanted to point that out, in case you're ever faced with a choice between recharging your reciprocating saw vs. keeping the lights on in a survival situation.

Reality TV moment: Yeah, they're setting up cranky old guy for a conflict / redemption arc. At least in the first episode we learned he was having coffee / booze / tobacco withdrawal.

WTF moment: They move a step beyond looting, to actually stealing from other refugees. And look, they're getting fake worked up over fake danger from the fake motorcycle marauders (who, in voiceover, we learn can't actually hurt the Survivors... er, "Colonists", but they don't know that... DUM-DUM-DAAAAA)

WTF moment: Oh look, a conveniently-placed oxy-acetylene torch.

Summary: As you can see, not much in the way of usable skills here, even more contrived Junkyard Wars projects, and even more contrived reality TV conflict. The talking head interludes add psychobabble and nothing else. And if that gassified wood-powered generator actually worked (without the magic of television), I'll drink some of that LA River water.

That's it, nothing more to see here. I'm outta here.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Zombies vs. Bean Counters -- Guess Who Wins?

[The third in a series of entries looking at the modern zombie. See why zombies are the perfect enemy for our time and why you shouldn't try to overanalyze zombies -- like I'm going to do here.]

Crunching the Numbers on Zombie Cracking
For the bulk of World War Z, the world is in the throes of a full-fledged, Class 4 zombie apocalypse scenario, where zombies roam the Earth and humanity is under constant assault, hunkered down in a few safe zones. It's essentially a static siege situation.

Now, in the Max Brooks books, zombies freeze solid in the winter (though they thaw in the spring with no ill effects). Additionally, winters are harsher and longer, lasting 8 months out of the year due to a "nuclear autumn" effect, where soot and particulates from burning cities and limited nuclear exchanges block sunlight, causing global cooling. (Where "spring's like winter used to be," p. 320)

It's also established that inhabitants of besieged outposts wait for the zombies to freeze solid, then raid the surrounding areas for supplies to get them through the rest of the year. (p. 190)

Now, ex-infantryman Todd Wainio talks about the liberation of Detroit, where they faced a zombie "moat" of over 1 million zombies (also known by the nickname "Zack," a callback to Vietnam's "Charlie") surrounding the twin forts of Comerica Park and Ford Field (p. 321)

Here's the problem. You're surrounded by a million zombies (who have to pretty much be wall-to-wall: see below). Winter starts, and they freeze solid. So those people who aren't out foraging take their trusty crowbars and start cracking zombie skulls (example, p. 130). So the question then becomes:
How many zacks could a zack-cracker crack if a zack-cracker could crack zacks?
Let's start conservatively: 1 zombie per minute. (I'd originally gone with 2 per minute, but we'll take into account snow, fatigue, illness, travel time, etc. 1 skull cracked per minute is a good start.)

That's 60 zombies per hour. Assuming 8 hours of workable daylight, with rest periods and such, call it just 4 hours a day of actual crowbar-swinging time. That's 240 zombies per person, per day.

With zombies frozen 8 months out of the year, call zombie season 240 days out of the year.

That means, each individual frozen zombie skull-cracker could account for 57,600 zombies per year.

Which means that, in theory, 20 people dedicated solely to zombie-bashing (and not worrying about disposal, maintenance, or anything else) could crack over 1 million zombie-skulls in a single year.

Assuming the "forts" sheltered a few hundred people, there's still plenty of additional zombie-busting capacity if people can't get close to their theoretical maximums.

And that's just by hand.

For More Fun, Just Add Guns

The book also talks about the Battle of Hope (New Mexico) where the military, using massed lines of infantry and a one-shot, one-kill philosophy, fights and wins their first major engagement to retake zombie-occupied America (everything east of the Rockies) -- (p. 273, my favorite part of the book).

The soldiers line up shoulder-to-shoulder in two ranks for uninterrupted firing (one shoots while the other reloads), shooting at a rate of one shot per second in a deliberate attempt to keep a mechanical pace and "Out-G the G." (This is actually a nice David Hackworth reference, though for Hackworth, the G stood for guerrillas in Vietnam, not ghouls. As far as we know.)

Since Brooks' zombies are slow zombies, they'd be converging on the defensive position, slouching and shambling almost shoulder-to-shoulder. 1 primary/secondary shooter pair, killing one zombie per second, gives you 60 zombies per minute (assume just slightly less, since shooters have to switch position every 30 shots or whatever the magazine capacity is); or 3,600 zombies per hour. (In reality, no one could keep up that rate of fire for an extended time -- you'd burn out the barrel of your rifle.)

If you assume a constant rate of killing (at the Battle of Hope, the pace slows down as zombies start piling up), you just need 278 shooter-pair-hours to kill a massed bunch of 1,000,000 zombies. Which means that 556 shooters (and their supporting personnel) could theoretically pulp 1,000,000 zombies in an hour.

(The bloodiest human battles, like the Somme or Antietam, don't even begin to approach these numbers -- if you look at the number of killed, not wounded. Zombies always walk -- upright and slowly, they don't dodge, they don't take cover and they don't shoot back. However, they won't stop for anything but a headshot.)

The timeline extends since you have to allow plenty of time for the zombies to walk into firing range, which is a good thing, since you need to rotate shooters to give plenty of rest breaks and allow time to switch out weapons and replace barrels.

Basically, if the humans are able to pick their battle; if they're set up in a good, well-defended position; have enough supplies and enough backup shooters; and nobody panics, it's a foregone conclusion. (Oddly, in the Battle of Hope, they rely on firepower alone, with no barricades, elevated firing platforms, earthworks or trenches to slow down the zombies -- though eventually the massed zombie corpses form their own barricade. This would seem to ignore the lessons of the Battle of Yonkers, where insufficient or irrelevant force protection measures contributed to the debacle).

Wisely, the book also doesn't specify the size of either the human force or the number of zombies killed.

Back to Detroit -- the Summer Scenario (Also with Guns)
So we're back to the Siege of Detroit. It's the summer and there are a million zombies shambling around the streets. Think the Dawn of the Dead remake, where the mall is completely surrounded by a sea of zombies.

This is actually a little problematic -- looking at the satellite map, Comerica Park and Ford Field are in the middle of the city:

There's some open space, but it's not like, say, FedEx field, surrounded by parking lots:

Assuming each zombie requires about 3 square feet of standing room, that's 3 million square feet of zombie; it's a square about a third of a mile on a side, or about 69 acres total.

Anyway, forget that for now. As long as the defenses are good and the zombies can't get in, you can airdrop rifles, a crapload of ammo, and a Special Forces instructor to train shooters, then thin out the zombies at your leisure until winter comes and you can start cracking skulls.

At more realistic rates of fire -- a zombie headshot every 10 seconds, or 6 aimed shots a minute -- that's 360 zombies per hour, or 2,880 zombies per 8-hour day (again, we'll assume two-man teams -- one person shoots while the other rests and reloads), that's 347 shooter-pair-days to kill a million zombies.

If you figure Brooks's zombies are unfrozen 120 days out of the year, 4 shooter teams -- 8 shooters, plus support -- firing constantly, 8 hours a day, every day, could break the siege in a single year (as long as they could keep the ammo supply coming and rifles functioning).

(Also, 6 aimed shots per minute is extremely conservative, considering that a Civil War soldier with a muzzleloading black powder musket could fire 2-3 aimed shots a minute.)

Air Supply
As for the ammo required in the zombie shoot -- figure 30 lbs for a case of 1,000 rounds of 5.56mm ammo. A million rounds is 1,000 cases, or 30,000 lbs, well within the capacity of a C-130 Hercules. Making allowances for the weight of the different parachute delivery systems (I'm not an expert -- whatever would be appropriate for a small landing zone; low speed, low altitude would be okay -- it's not like zombies have anti-aircraft capability), you wouldn't need too many sorties, and the book establishes that the U.S. still has a most of its airlift capacity (p. 170).

It would seem to be an efficient way to help thin out the zombie population. After all, each zombie killed at a static defense spot is one less the army has to deal with, and that's why safe zones were left in occupied territory in the first place -- to serve as bait (p. 109).

So What's the Point of All This?
That's a very good question. Basically, it shows that, as enumerated in the book, once the situation stabilizes after the Great Panic, the zombie threat is best seen as a logistical problem -- an exercise in pest control.

Sure, you can rationalize it by saying that even my conservative zombie disposal numbers are too high, due to lack of ammo, too much snow, other factors (feral animals and people, disease, etc.) , etc. It's primarily a thought experiment -- one that shows that I've spent way too much time with what's my favorite book right now.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Looking at the Zombie Revival: The Perfect Enemy for Our Time

[This is the first of a few entries about the modern zombie.]

Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, by Max Brooks. And a skull
Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. The skull x-ray was salvaged from a book publisher's basement storage room during a work-study job a lifetime ago.
In case you can't tell from the picture, Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z are two of my favorite books right now. I keep re-reading them. I've got zombies on the brain. (Braaaaains.)

And I'm not the only one.

We seem to be in the middle of a zombie revival (er, make that "zombie renaissance"), with fast zombies, reimagined zombies, zombie thrillers, zombie comedies, zombie walks, zombie colleges, zombie shoppers, zombie video games, zombie flash games, more zombie flash games, zombie underwear, and more.

Part of the reason why I think there's a resurgence in zombie interest is that zombies are the perfect enemy. They're not human (they just used to be human), so it's okay to hate them. They're already dead. They feel no pain. And once they turn, they're really obvious. There's no political correctness; no one's going to accuse anyone of zombie profiling.

(Zombies really stand out in a crowd. Unless it's a crowd of other zombies.)

And zombies want to destroy us -- there's no question about it. They can't be bargained with or negotiated with or even surrendered to. They are merciless and remorseless (and deserving of none in return). They're the enemy of all living things, they're relentless, and they won't stop until they're destroyed.

The solution to the zombie problem is drop dead simple:

You shoot them in the head, or you get eaten.

We are living. They are dead (well, undead). If they get you, you become one of them. "You're either with us or you're against us" doesn't get any clearer than that.

In other words, they're an unambiguous, black-and-white, us-or-them, guilt-free enemy.

And the kicker that makes them the perfect enemy? They stand up, moan, and come straight at you -- walking slowly. They don't take cover, they don't hide behind civilians, they don't plant IEDs, they don't learn from their mistakes (or ours), and they don't melt away into the shadows.

(Well, they're a little like suicide bombers in one respect -- they come at you with no regard for their own safety. But the classic zombies move slowly. They also don't explode.)

They never change tactics. They just come out, line up, and wait for you to shoot them.

It's a refreshing change. The perfect enemy for our time.

BOOM (Guilt-Free) Headshot!

What's more, I also see a lot of survival and gun-types have embraced the zombie preparedness theme pretty enthusiastically. Sure, preparing for the zombie apocalypse is a fun game that prepares you for other disasters, both natural and man-made: Do I have the provisions and equipment to bunker down and shelter in place? If I had to leave quickly, would I have a bug-out bag or go kit ready with the right supplies? Where would I go? How would I get there? Do I know how to read a map, treat injuries, start fires, purify water?

But as a bonus, in the zombie scenarios, you get to discuss -- even fantasize about -- the best ways to shoot lots of other people in the head.

What's the optimal range for zombie engagements? Do you use a scope or open sights? For quiet kills, a suppressed .22 or a crossbow? What's the better zombie-slaying assault rifle, the AR-15 or AK-47? Would buckshot fired from a 12 gauge shotgun be overkill (considering your reduced ammo load)? How much ammo should you carry for each of your weapons? How do you increase the probability of a headshot under extreme stress? What's better for close-in work, an axe, crowbar, or machete?

Because they're not really people, zombies are the perfect stand-in for your boogeymen of choice: Communists, terrorists, LA Riot/post-Katrina rampaging mobs, illegal immigrants, or jack-booted government thugs.

Even the most-hardened, callous keyboard warrior might be a little reluctant to endorse wholesale slaughter of a group of people (at least, in an open forum). But zombies? They ain't human -- fire at will.

[Next: Overanalyzing zombie science.]

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tactical Ninjas, Islamic Terrorists, Zombies and Mall Shootings

I read a bunch of Web forums that focus on tactics, self-defense, military strategy, disaster preparedness/wilderness survival and other various manly he-man pursuits. It's part of my training to become a well-rounded ninja and to better face the impending zombie apocalypse.

Even in the more enlightened of these sites, the politics tend towards staunch, rock-ribbed (though it's probably more like dunlapped) Republicanism. Though the presence of socially-progressive Libertarians, gun-toting liberals and the token Democrat/European is usually tolerated.

However, on some of the other, harder-core tactical forums, if you don't conform to a certain political mentality, you're a lieberal, freedom-hating terrorist sympathizer, and your opinions, and even your membership, are not welcome.

Defining characteristics of these inhabitants include:
  • Thinking that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh really do make a lot of sense
  • Using terms like homicide bomber, comlib (commie liberal) and Islamofascist in a sincere, non-ironic fashion
  • Having a definition of liberal that comes from a Jack Chick or John Birch Society tract
  • Abilty to read NewsMax and Free Republic without laughing, crying or vomiting
Fetishizing Fear and Gear

It's a world that's incredibly fearful, but it's a kind of fear that thrives under the guise of preparedness.

I'm all for maintaining awareness of your surroundings at all times, knowing how to defend yourself, and being prepared. And I also know that the world is a dangerous place.

However, some of these guys (and they're invariably guys) fetishize this fear by imagining themselves in scenarios that belong in a tactical Penthouse Forum ("I never thought it would happen to me..."), where a father-raping, baby-killing, meth-abusing, home-invading ex-con is hiding in every shadow.

If you don't believe me, you haven't read any discussions about the tactical use of public bathrooms. The extreme practitioners are kind of like me in high school -- avoid at all costs. My teen self parts company, though, when they say if it's an emergency, go with a buddy, use the end stall, and if you have to take a dump, take one leg completely out of your pants so your feet aren't shackled together by your pants. I'm not kidding.

There's also a fetishization of tactical gear, where the pantheon of saints includes Kydex, Cordura nylon, paracord, anodized aluminum, and stainless steel (in your choice of flat black, desert tan, or olive drab). They say they don't do it, since it's about the man and mindset, not the materiel ... but they do it anyway.

And I'm not even getting into the guns...

Like 9/11-Truthers, Only Better-Armed

Now, getting into political discussions with these people is useless. It's like trying to discuss politics with my Dad (sorry, Dad). They see the world not just as black and white (which would be manageable) but as part of an apocalyptic conflict between good and evil that's driven by the fervent belief that their own wacked-out religion is superior to everyone else's (but most especially Islam.)

In this world, moderates, and even advocates of realpolitik, are, at best, useful idiots.

Their hypocrisy is rampant, they consume information only from trusted resources, and they refuse to accept information that runs contrary to their worldview.

So they're like 9/11-truthers, only better-armed.

Holding a special place in their hearts is Islam (and not just radical Islam), which seems to have taken over where Communism left off. Just do a search-and-replace on Communism and Islam, right down to the the "fighting them over there so we're not fighting them over here" rhetoric, the sentiment that the politicians/media are losing the war, and the omnipresent threat of the domino effect.

Plus, throw in the Crusades and a dash of "GLASS PARKING LOT."

I'm no apologist for radical Islam. It can't be ignored that most of the world's active terrorist groups are associated with radical Islam, and no other terrorist ideology has embraced suicide bombing as readily (save for the Tamil Tigers, I guess -- remember folks, just because you're brown, doesn't mean you're Muslim).

"No greater love" is one thing, but as I said to Chuckie a while back, when your religion is being used as a justification for suicide attacks, maybe it's time for a hard reboot for your belief system.

Why is this? The denizens of these boards will say that Islam is inherently prone to this (they would probably just say "evil") and consider the part to be the whole.

These supertroopers forget that Christianity basically had a 1,300-year head start, a schism, a Reformation, a whole bunch of religious wars, and its own history of expansionism and ethnic cleansing, before we finally had a couple of hundred or so years of secularism that's helped to moderate things to the point where religious wackos look like wackos.

Chuck Norris and the WOLVERINES!!!

Anyway, many of these board denizens are insane, but the forums do provide some useful information for gearheads and mall ninjas. I stay out of anything resembling a political discussion, though when they see something like the Salt Lake City mall shooting (which was stopped by an armed, off-duty cop), they have a collective orgasm, since their online existence is validated.

Plus, some see that the mall shooter was originally from Bosnia, and they get all twitchy, looking to blame Islam and jump on the front lines of the impending Muslim invasion, to better set up their Invasion U.S.A. fantasies (which are moderately less implausible, though infinitely less amusing, than their zombie outbreak scenarios).

I've even seen a few folks try to characterize the 2002 Beltway Sniper Shootings as domestic Islamic terrorism ("OMG, his last name was Muhammed!"), when if you actually know anything about the case, it's kind of obvious that it was domestic crazy terrorism (viz. his utopian vision for Crazy Black Boystown in Canada).

(These are the same folks who go nutso if you point out that if you use that same criteria, then Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph are Christian terrorists. Also, suggest that maybe some Iraqis see themselves as the WOLVERINES!! side of Red Dawn and their heads might explode.)

Anyway, I will continue reading the useful sites and keeping my mouth shut (as I said, it's pointless to argue, and I prefer to not get banned because I like having my saved preferences), since it's a window into the mindset of a completely different reality and you can usually find good information on knives, flashlights and deals on ammunition.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

My Keychain Is Prepared For Disaster

Here's a photo of my current primary keychain, which I will warrant is more prepared for disaster (both man-made and natural) than most people's pockets, purses and man-bags:

My Keychain

First, holding it all together in the middle is a flat wire gate carabiner from Bison designs. (It was originally blue.) Because it's a biner, I can add and remove individual items pretty easily; I can also clip it to the top of my pocket. It's pretty secure, though I still have to make sure everything stays together, lest disaster happen.

Then, starting at the top and going clockwise, I've got:
  • My car keys and remote; they're together on their own split ring. Also on that section is an orange Photon II keychain light. For fun, there's a now-obsolete NYC subway token.
  • An ARC AAA LED flashlight. It looks a lot like a Maglite Solitaire, but it's not -- it costs 3 times as much (so, about 30 bucks) and it is worth every penny. It's incredibly reliable, practically indestructible, and it doesn't have a bulb to blow out -- the LED will last thousands of hours.
  • A Swiss Army Knife Rally, which has a blade, bottle opener, phillips screwdriver, nail file/flat screwdriver, tweezers and toothpick.
  • A Spyderco Ladybug knife; it's on a quick-release plunger so I can detach it if I need to go somewhere where knives aren't allowed. It's got a partially-serrated blade that's a smidge under two inches.
  • A safety pin. Useful things, those.
  • My housekey (The cuts are photoshopped so you can't dupe it from the photo, though if you were going to break in, it would be easier to just make a bump key.)
  • A green Traser Glowring -- it will glow in the dark for about 10 years, because it has a little vial of Tritium gas, which is radioactive (but perfectly safe). If you want one in the US, you need to find someone abroad who can send you one, since they're not available here and can't be shipped in.
  • A storage capsule, also by Bison Designs; I keep a rolled-up twenty and some Pepcid AC antacid tablets (critically important, for reasons I've mentioned before).
So why carry all this crap on my keychain? It's not just "be prepared" stuff -- I use a lot of what's on it pretty much every day.

The lights are probably the most useful things. Lights are incredibly handy to have even if you're not worried about blackouts or being stuck in elevators or on the Metro. (Flashlight geeks like to say that there's a 100% chance of darkness every night -- what more reason do you need?)

On any given day, I'll use the ARC for looking under my desk, poking in the dark corners of my laptop bag, or checking inside my mailbox.

The knives I use less often, but only because I usually have a handier knife or multitool available.

Now, there's other stuff that gadget and personal preparedness types might carry that I think is overkill, at least for a primary keychain -- whistles, magnifying lenses, hotspark fire starters, pens, mini-compasses, mini-prybars, small multitools, GI can openers, etc.

Plus, I try to avoid any other keychain junk: USB drives, SecureID tokens, buyers club cards, wifi hotspot detectors, coin purses, condom holders, laser pointers, and the like.

(Besides, if I need to carry any of that other stuff, it'll usually be in another pocket or my laptop bag.)

Short legs = short pants = small pockets, so I don't want too much stuff dangling from my keychain.

As it is right now, it's fairly discreet, with no jingling. Everything goes in my pocket except the car remote, which I let drape over the edge of my pocket.

I guess it also helps that I only need to carry two keys.

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