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Archive for the 'Survival' Category

Trick Or Treat

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

We used to have over 120 kids come to our door on Halloween. That was years ago. Now I think there are a lot less young kids in town and most of go to the new subdivision. I suppose it’s a lot safer to walk around there. I remember we used to cover a fair amount of ground in the town I grew up in, but we never treated Halloween like this. That’s a business plan!

I saw a picture of a large bottle of soda held up by a tiny piece of tape inspired by gecko feet lately but I didn’t bookmark it and couldn’t find it. People keep mentioning being able to play Spiderman with it but I can just imagine all the practical jokes it might be used for. Here are ten innovations inspired by nature including that one.

This is just funny. It’s so small I’m surprised anyone noticed.

I normally carry a lighter when I’m camping. After watching Bear Grylls use flint and steel on Man vs Wild though it looks remarkably effective. It’s difficult enough to get far enough into the wilderness in Indiana to not be within walking distance of a restaurant. I suppose if I was in a survival situation somewhere where I didn’t know a lot of the plants I would take this guys advice. Around here there are numerous edibles in the wild. There are few I would choose to eat though. Spring beauty and sumac lemonade are quite tasty, as are the morel mushrooms that grow around here.

I’ve heard golden orb weaver spiders are big but I didn’t realize they ate birds. Also speaking of spiders, I’m glad humans  don’t eat their mates.

One of these days carbon dioxide may be considered too valuable to throw away.

Strangely enough, if you use scotch tape in a vacuum it emits X-rays.

For some reason I don’t think this picture of a lion and a zebra is as ‘touching’ as it seems.

Don’t panic but in 1.1 million years we are all going to die, unless we move.

Check out the world’s most relaxing room.

And finally, what is cuter than zoo babies?

Lion Taming

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

On Thursday evening my wife ask me to come outside. There were two small kittens under our cars. They looked about 4 or 5 weeks old. We have a barrier across our driveway to keep the neighbor cat from annoying our two 17 year old cats. Our cat Maggie used to keep the neighbor cat in check but she passed away last spring. Maggie would have never tolerated the barrier as she lived to hunt but our cat Kelly seems to be content to stay inside it as long as we take her out for an occasional walk around the yard. Walking with Kelly reminds me of the character Monk from the TV series by the same name. She has to stop and rub against every stick she passes. The barrier consists of six 4 foot by 4 foot PVC pipe frames with deer netting on it. Because it is flimsy, cats don’t try to climb it and although they could rip through it, they don’t seem to try.

a sleeping kitten

My cat Amy rarely goes outside but she was out at the time and was hissing and growling at the kittens. Kelly was a little more restrained but obviously irritated. The kittens were trying to find a way through the barrier so I initially thought they were tame and someone had dumped them. After ranting about people not being responsible with their animals, we decided we needed to catch them. This town is pretty overrun with wild cats. While I have never looked out the window and discovered a pile of puppies in my yard, kittens seem to show up semi-regularly. We put our cats inside and opened the barrier. The kittens backed off under the cars and seemed pretty shy. By then the neighbors were out and said they had seen them the night before. They seemed healthy and we wondered what happened to their mom and other siblings. We set out some food and they ate but when we approached, they dashed back under the car. We got some string and the urge to chase overcame their fear of us. Once they were in a corner of the barrier I grabbed them. They went crazy trying to defend themselves. It’s amazing how tough the little things are at such a young age. I managed to get the black one into a box suffering only a couple scratches but the blond one bit through a leather glove and into my finger.

kittens and flowers

Now that we had them in a box we needed to give them food and water. We decided to put them in a larger box. When we went to give them food, they showed us we haven’t had kittens for quite a while and had forgotten how high they can jump. Blackie took off for our garage which is full of places to hide. My wife managed to grab Blondie but she was wearing the gloves and my hands took some more damage. After realizing the futility of trying to get the black one at that point, we decided we would leave the barrier and the garage open for the night. I just let the blond one go figuring the two siblings would reunite under the cars where they had been living.

two playing kittens

The next day I discovered I was right about the reuniting but wrong about the location. Now I had two kittens living in my garage. In the mean time, our neighbor had been on the phone and had surprisingly found someone to take the kittens. I went off to the hardware store and purchased a box trap. At least this time I won’t be spending money getting the Humane Society to take the kittens, but I’m still spending money. We set the trap up in the garage but it was getting late. We ended up just setting out food because we didn’t want a kitten to spend the night in the trap.

a kitten with a silly look on its face

By Saturday I was pretty sure Kelly knew there were kittens in the garage. It’s starting to smell. Amy seems pretty much oblivious but as I said she doesn’t spend much time outside. We set up the trap and within minutes we heard the sound of it going off. We had practiced a mock transfer into a cat carrier. Unfortunately the trap is just slightly larger than the opening of the carrier. We went into the garage and the black one was trapped. It was understandably scared and throwing itself against the doors. We put the trap against the carrier, opened one door and the kitten ran into the carrier. So far so good, but when we tried to remove the trap and close the door the little creature once again showed us how hard this was going to be and squirmed out to once again disappear into the garage.

more kittens playing

We reset the trap and a few minutes later it went off again but this time there was nothing in it. Two more times it went off and again nothing. They were learning fast. It was a hot day and Kelly decided to sleep inside so we sat out with the garage door open. The black one wanted to play string while the blond one was off sleeping somewhere. I was amazed that within an hour or so I had the little guy (girl) playing right at my feet. After a really long nap, the blond one got up and although it seems a little shyer, we eventually had them both playing within reach. By then it had cooled off and our cats wanted out so we decided to just close up the garage.

a cute blond kitten

Sunday I went out to find them using the litter box I had given them. As the momentary sense of pride passed over me I realized this bonding process was going both ways. By now I was starting to really think about their future. What kind of life are they going to have? Will they be indoor or outdoor cats? I figured since we have found a home for them we might as well enjoy having kittens for a while. We played string a good part of the day. The kittens began to relax in their environment and explore. We sat there looking at all the dangerous, precariously stacked stuff in our garage, the pitch fork hanging from a couple of nails, the trimmers, and the sledge hammer. Suddenly my garage reminded me of that scene from Twister when they look for refuge from a tornado in a barn full of cutting tools. This is no environment for babies.

A black kitten on a ladder

While we worried, the kittens showed us how much fun lawn mowers can be as cat toys. They climbed on a leaning snow shovel to the ladder to body slam each other. They also wandered outside. I had forgotten how entertaining they could be and shot video of them leaping, pouncing, and playing with each other.

two kittens on a mower

Watching them play I had the thought they are so cute but also this was preparation for serious business. Amy is a domesticated cat. She mostly wants to be in your lap. She doesn’t hunt much and what she catches she lets go. One night she caught a mouse, brought it to bed with us and dropped it, quite unharmed, on my wife’s head. On the other hand, Maggie was sweet to us but deep down she was a cold blooded killer. I calculated after she died, she was probably responsible for the death of over ten thousand critters. In summer, she had a 5 or 6 mouse a day habit and still begged for food all the time. If you have ever watched a cat eviscerate a rabbit, you never look at them the same way again.

a kitten hunting a bug

Sunday, toward evening, I really thought they were getting close to letting us touch them. I held my hand out and the black one started to come to me. It came close but at the last minute scampered away.

two kittens sleeping

Yesterday I finally pushed the issue and tried touching them when they chased the string near me. We seemed to make progress as each time they ran away but less far away and came back quicker. We had a feral cat come live with us when I was young. I remember it took a long time but eventually it was pet-able. I’ve never worked with wild kittens and I’m thinking this is going to take longer than I hoped. Maybe we should just grab them and send them off to their new life. I suspect they will be indoor cats from the neighborhood but the family has a screened in porch. I hear they have two 7 year old kids, an older cat, and the father said the kids will learn or get scratched. I guess that means they will keep their claws. If I had retractable claws, i sure wouldn’t want to give them up.

three kittens sleeping

I hope their lives turn out to be as good as it was for these three kittens. That’s Amy on the left, Maggie on the right, and Kelly in the back.

More 3D

Monday, May 26th, 2008

For those of you who can see 3D images using the cross-view technique here is a site that has some nice ones. I thought the light painting one was interesting. I’ve always wanted to shoot a 3D lightning picture, but it would be challenging (not to mention dangerous). If you want to learn to cross view, there is also a tutorial link there or you can read mine.

I’ve been writing about exoskeletons lately, here’s an exoskeleton motorcycle.

Years back Pons and Fleischmann announced they had achieved fusion at room temperature. The trouble was they hadn’t. There are few technologies which could have such an enormous impact on the world. Now a Japanese researcher has made the same claim. We’ll see.

The Forkinswift is an electric car built from used forklift parts (electric motor, etc.), used golf cart batteries (and a golf cart PWM motor controller) and a pair of near-dead “host” cars.

Turns out one of the things killing coral around the world is sunscreen. I watched Man vs Wild on Friday and ironically he used goo from a coral as sunscreen.

120 square feet of living space for $1500? I don’t really consider a bathroom and kitchen optional, but I suppose you could join a bunch of them together.

Speaking of bathrooms, check out the view from this one.

Here are tips for Green lawn care. As i get older I’m thinking the just get rid of the grass option is maybe the best. I keep wondering why I grow the stuff. I can’t eat it and it’s a pain to take care of.

I was reading about all the new lakes created from landslides as a result of the Chinese earthquake. Here is a series of satellite images showing one forming.

Here are some funny pictures made from food. I like the watermelon one the best.

Optimus Prime from the Transformers movie sculpted out of junk sounded kind of lame but after I clicked on it, I was impressed.

And finally, you know I always finish with a cute animal shot.

The Nerf Car of the Future

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

I thought this was pretty clever. Instead of a whole medical imaging machine, why not just hook a scanner up to a cell phone and transmit the data out and an image back. Real Trekkie Tricorder Invented.

Here is another one of those world statistics pages.

I think the most interesting part of this collection of high speed video is the tires on the race car at the end, deforming from the acceleration.

I used to joke about the nerf car of the future. When people run into each other, they just bounce off laughing. Volvo has set a date for an injury proof car.

Wired looks at some Survival Gear That’s Just Crazy Enough to Work. We are usually pretty comfortable when we camp in our van. That last one reminded me I used to think about how you might take a small horse trailer and add a kitchen, bathroom, and shower. I didn’t realize you could buy something like that.

This site may be down. I’m going to post the link and hope it works for you because it was pictures of unusual things people turned into homes. Think jets, boats, and missile silos.

This is a video of a strange magnetic toy.

Here is yet another photo voltaic system which claims to be cost competitive with fossil fuels.

Brazil has an interesting history of how they became energy independent. Part of it was they had a military government and it’s a great place to grow sugarcane. Part of it was they decided to do something about it after the international energy crises of the 1970s. I was interested in where you can grow sugarcane so I looked it up at Wikipedia. I found the whole article pretty interesting.

Here are some pretty nice photos of African wildlife.

Yikes! Check out this spider bot.

Years ago we were in Florida eating breakfast. I was reading the paper and realized the shuttle was about to launch. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to see it, but we ran out to the beach and there was a huge column of smoke. Here is a pretty cool picture of a launch at night into the clouds.

Finally, here is another funny cat picture.

Apocalypse Maybe

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

This article in the New York Times; Duck and Cover: It’s the New Survivalism made me think about the end of the world as we know it. I tend to think about those types of survival scenarios as the stuff of science fiction. However, on September 11th when I saw Hoosiers lining up at gas stations in some kind of irrational gasoline buying frenzy, it sent a chill down my spine.

I had a funny thought; one thing you could do to survive is to have a still and know how to run it. Alcohol is pretty useful stuff; you can drink it, start a fire with it, use it as fuel, or sterilize a wound. But the real point would be when you showed up at some stockade looking for protection, knowing how to make booze could get you in the door. Note: distilling spirits in the U.S. is illegal.

I enjoy watching Survivorman and Man vs Wild. This article about Man vs Wild being somewhat staged didn’t surprise me. It was pretty inconceivable Bear Grylls was starving while his film crew were enjoying their morning coffee. I still enjoy the show and wouldn’t have the nerve to do a lot of the things he does. I guess I like Surviorman slightly better because I enjoy Les Stroud’s style of film making. Both shows make me hungry and often for strange things I’ve never eaten. Watching those two guys gobble up bugs makes you wonder if people in this country are going hungry simply because of the social stigma attached to Entomophagy. Here and here are a couple of sites devoted to eating insects.

I have no doubt; we wouldn’t be prepared in an apocalyptic situation. However, for short term situations we might be more prepared than most. While buying a cabin and stocking it with years of food is certainly outside the economic capability of most Americans, being prepared for some type of short term emergency isn’t really expensive. We live in the Midwest and big snow or ice storms are a real possibility. Here are some of the reasons we are somewhat prepared.

We Camp

While a lot of camping gear such as a tent and backpack are useless unless you are traveling, certain gadgets do come in handy. We have a compact white gas cooking stove plus a propane one for van camping. Our water purifier failed on our last canoe trip. I realized it was just the pump part and MacGyvered a gravity feed system by fitting a number of tubes together and hanging a jug in a tree. Water purifiers are not that expensive, however unless you camp you may not feel like spending the money. Here are several ways to sterilize water.

Our power goes out a lot.

Usually it’s for less than an hour, but it has lasted an evening or the better part of a day. I have one of those compressor/battery/inverter things which will run a small TV for a while, or a laptop/router/modem. I mostly use it to fill my tires or jump the car. We have lots of LED flashlights. They have really gotten inexpensive and last summer when the lights went out I got mad at myself for not having enough to light the house. My main concern though is heat. We had an old kerosene heater but the wick shaft got bent. Last winter I kept looking at one at Lowes for $180 but by the time I got around to buying it, spring was on the way and they had marked it down to $60. I have our phone plugged into the battery backup for my computer, but we have one of those old style phones that don’t need power in the attic.

I shop at Costco.

That means I have at least a 6 months supply of toilet paper on average. Not exactly a survival necessity but the point is, we started shopping there to save money. Because a lot of the stuff they sell comes by the case, since we started shopping there we really have a lot more food around the house.

A lot of my interest in green homes isn’t so much apocalyptic preparation or even the ecological aspects. It has a lot to do with the fact that our economic situation has fluctuated wildly over the years. Unfortunately our retirement planning consisted of growing whatever business we were in at the time. Now that we are serious about investing, the economy is in yet another meltdown. I guess the alternative is to try to come up with a cheaper way of living. Most of these houses are rather strange looking and as the site mentions local building codes might be a problem.

On to a totally different subject, I got a kick out of this guy’s idea. He tied a disposable camera to a bench with a note that said;

Good afternoon,
I attached this camera to the bench so you could take pictures. Seriously. So have fun. I’ll be back later this evening to pick it up.
Love, Jay / The Plug

Here is his site.

I sometimes wonder if genetic engineering is going to save us or kill us all. It is fascinating reading about how sophisticated it has become. In this article they describe the creation of corn containing three different enzymes by splicing in genes from a hot water microbe, a fungus, and a cow.

Finally, here’s a funny picture of someone using a rake to cook hot dogs.