Saturday, May 23, 2015

Earthquake--35 Questions

Apparently there was an earthquake in Las Vegas yesterday.  I, however, didn't feel a thing.  There was a slight rumble which I attributed to a heavy truck going by but a few minutes later the TV news, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook all lit up with claims of a 4.8 earthquake about a hundred miles north of Las Vegas.  Some in the neighborhood felt it, others didn't.

While I was quite happy that the earthquake was little more than a shudder instead of a major quake like I had experienced some years ago (which sent myself and a room full of disaster responders under the tables in our meeting room--and left us quickly calculating the possibility of the building we were in failing) a number of questions did come to mind...

  1. Are earthquakes even common in this part of the country?  Yes but not to the extent of California or Washington.
  2. Do I have earthquake insurance?  Nope but it might be a good idea.
  3. Do I have the means to turn off the gas and is it necessary?  Yes and no.
  4. Ditto for the water.  Yes and no.
  5. Ditto for the main electricity breaker.  Yes and no.
  6. Are my loved ones safe?  Yep the spouse had no idea there was a quake either.
  7. What about neighbors and friends?  There was no commotion outside and the relatives we have nearby are all out of town on vacation.
  8. Do I have a way to tell distant friends and relatives that all is OK?  Yep, Facebook and Twitter took care of this.
  9. Is there any damage to my house?  A quick look around, both inside and out, showed no noticeable problems.
  10. Do I have access to updated information on the situation?  The TV news, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook took care of this.
  11. Will there be aftershocks?  According to the news there was a 25% chance of this and and according to the USGS there were a few even smaller quakes that happened a couple hours later.
  12. Do I have alternate water in case a larger earthquake happens?  Yep, lots of bottled water stored.
  13. Do we have enough food stored so we don't need to go to the grocery store (these type of events can lead to store shelves being cleared immediately).  Yep.  Lots.
  14. Do I have enough gas in our vehicle in case we need to evacuate?  Yep, a full tank.
  15. Do we have enough other supplies (toilet paper, soap, etc) to last for a while?  Yep.
  16. Do we have enough cash to buy food or gas in case the electricity goes down and bank cards won't work?  Yep.
  17. How will we cook if we have to shut off the gas?  Electric appliances (toaster oven, rice cooker, etc), a backyard grill, a camp stove, and a backpacking stove.
  18. How will we flush toilets if the water is off?  Grey water from washing, and water from the fish tank if necessary.
  19. How will we wash up if the water is turned off?  Wet wipes, sparingly with stored water, collecting rain water (it's been raining here quite a bit).
  20. Where would we evacuate to if our house is damaged?  Haul out the backpacking gear and set up shop in the back yard (fortunately it hasn't got extremely hot yet this year).  We could also use any of the relatives homes in the area.
  21. Could we evacuate even further afield?  Yep.  If necessary we could head to any number of states (however in a massive disaster many other people will have the same idea so evacuating won't be easy or quick).
  22. If the situation was more severe would we be safe in our neighborhood living outside for a while?  Meh.  It's a nice enough neighborhood but still in a city and while our neighbors seem nice enough as well, I don't know them well enough.  I don't have a lot of confidence in city folks in the event of a major disaster.
  23. Am I prepared to protect myself and my family if necessary?  You betcha. 
  24. Could we take care of any minor medical emergencies by ourselves?  Yep.
  25. Would there be enough resources to take care of major medical emergencies in the event of a large-scale disaster?  Lemme Level 1 trauma center, a handful of hospitals, 300,000(!) people in town for the holiday weekend...I'm guessing no.
  26. Does the spouse have enough prescription meds for a good length of time?  Yes.
  27. Do we have a plan for travel around or thorough the city after a larger disaster?  Yes, there are very few overpasses and no bridges that could collapse except for on the I 15 freeway.  Surface streets should be structurally sound (they are flat and wide since it is the desert, off-roading wouldn't be a problem here if needed).
  28. Will there be weather concerns if there is no gas or electricity?  Not currently, it is neither too hot nor too cold at this point (but it should be getting pretty hot in a couple of weeks).
  29. Will this incident interrupt our ability to work and earn money?  Nope, we are retired.
  30. Will this incident interrupt our ability to access our money?  Everything is done online so no (as long as we have access to the bank via online or phone).
  31. Do we have a way to charge our cell phones and laptops?  Yep, both a converter to use in the car's cigarette lighter and a backpacking solar charger.  Whether the internet will be up is another story.
  32. How will we keep ourselves entertained with no electronics available?  Kindle books, cards, board games, etc.
  33. Are there other related disasters occurring that I need to deal with?  Fortunately we were at home and not on the freeway that ended up being shut down due to possible earthquake damage.  Being stranded in the car would not have been a huge problem (we have a thorough emergency kit in the car and it isn't too hot to wait out a prolonged back up in our vehicle).
  34. Are there other unrelated disasters that could occur now?  There has been some rain but not enough for major flash flooding, also the city is situated up river from the Hoover Dam (and the dammed area is sadly lacking in water anyway) which shouldn't be overlooked as dams can be compromised during an earthquake causing even bigger problems.
  35. How prepared is my community for such a disaster?  Meh, like most cities there are preparedness activities taking place at all levels of government and reams have been written on the topic but in reality we will be pretty much on our own for a while due to many limitations (number of responders, remote location, number of people overall in the city, etc).

Monday, May 18, 2015

10 Hacking Issues You Should Be Aware Of

In no particular order...

  1. There has been a lot of back and forth in the media about whether airline flight controls can be hacked.  This articles points out that it may be possible.
  2. Your car is basically one big computer these days.  Unfortunately there are a number of ways these computer systems can be hacked.
  3. When you consider how tightly bound you are to the country's infrastructure (everything from relying on the electric grid to assuming that there will be gas at the gas station each time you go there), it is no wonder that these high value targets are a major area of hacking activity.
  4. While the title of this report is kind of cutesy--Hacking Medical Devices for Fun and Insulin--the underlying premise is pretty scary (ie: if you have a medical device that you rely on for your very life having it hacked would make for a very bad day).
  5. Of course, hackers can steal your entire identity (or just parts of it) and ruin your week (...or month...or year... or decade) as well.
  6. The newer the tech, it seems the greater the hacking thrill.  Such as 3d printer hacks, Apple watch hacks, and Starbucks card hacks.
  7. Another type of new technology that has become a hacker target...drones.
  8. Of course cell phones are relatively old tech but they are still a nice target for hackers.
  9. Of course hackers like money and what better way to get money than via hacking a variety of financial institutions.
  10. Finally, the world pretty much revolves around social media these days so you can just imagine how hacked social media accounts could result in bad things happening.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fight Weekend...Some Considerations

It's Las Vegas and it's fight weekend.  While most (all, now that I think about it) of the people I know will refrain from attending said event (at $3500 for the cheap seats at least all of the people I know have some common sense!), 16,000+ die hard fight fans will make the trek to Vegas to watch Paquiao and Mayweather fight in person.  Here's some things to consider:

  • You will get a better view on pay per view.  I've been to a few fights at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and while the view isn't terrible, I spent more time looking at the overhead screen so I could better see the action.  An even better view can be had from my own sofa.  Which is where I will be on Saturday evening.
  • Do a bit of recon first.  I've been to many arenas, some with better access than others.  This arena has only a couple of ways in and out and both can easily become clogged with people.  I like arenas with lots of entrances and exits which makes it more difficult and expensive for crowd control but easier to get into and out of for attendees.
  • Get there early and leave earlier or later than the crowds.  The last fight I attended there had me leaving at the final bell.  I went down through the convention center and out to the parking garage, I got into my vehicle and out of the parking lot before most people had even left their seats.  I'm not one for crowds.
  • Be prepared to spend money.  These big fights are all about making money.  From the sports books to the valets to the waitresses to the big prize will be spending money left and right at these kinds of events.  Hotel rooms are jacked up, ticket prices are (really) jacked up...basically everything you will pay for will come at a premium because the event is so popular.
  • Security will be beefed up.  Vegas is no stranger to big crowds and big events and both the security you see and the security you don't see will be beefed up for the weekend.
  • Nevertheless, you are still responsible for your own safety.  There are a number of safety tips for dealing with big crowds, namely: secure your valuables from pickpockets, know where the exits are, don't get into the middle of the crowd but stay on the edge, watch the overall crowd for signs of problems, be patients and chill instead of tense and hostile, set a meet up spot in case you lose your group (cell phone lines may be overloaded at the venue), curtail any drug use or excessive alcohol until you are in a neutral place, don't get dehydrated (this is the desert after all), wear comfortable shoes.
  • In the event of a major problem (stampede, shooting, etc) go for cover and concealment until you can make your escape.  Duck and hide and/or duck and run depending on the situation.
  • Come prepared as much as possible.  While my idea of being prepared is a bottle of water, a few granola bars, and a concealed weapon, some or all of these items may be refused entry at the door.  Most big events will include a bag search (all bottled beverages are usually not allowed in) and a metal detector screening (all weapons, even will a permit, are generally banned).  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Praise of One Baltimore Mother

If you've been watching TV, you have probably seen the riots in Baltimore.  If you've been keeping up with social media, you've probably seen the one mother in the entire riot-plagued area of Baltimore stepping up and being a parent (not discounting the parents who quietly and calmly protested with their children in this same city).

My general response when I hear of riots on TV==whether by urban blacks or drunk college kids--is meh.  A bunch of idiots making their entire demographic look bad.  Glad I don't live there.  Glad I'm well armed in the event that such a thing ever did happen where I live.  So it was no wonder that this lady who saw her kid acting up, and no doubt putting his own life in danger, captured the country's attention when she did what any responsible parent would do.

And that is what is often missing in today's world where people act like fools and there is no one to correct them and teach them that there is a proper way to do things (and reach your objective) and an improper way to do things (and possibly end up dead or in jail).  This goes for everything from kids who bully and riot to kids who find a gun and don't have the knowledge/skills to know what to do with it.  On a slightly unrelated note and even more surprising, if that's possible, was a recent movie I watched on Netflix (Food Inc or Fed Up, can't remember which one) in which a group of elementary kids couldn't even name a bunch of common vegetables and had no idea where they came from (other than the grocery store).

I know that parenting is a hard job (and that the best parents can have idiot children despite their best efforts) but it is even more imperative in this day and age that parents make the effort to teach their kids well.  Back (way way back) in the day, the only influence kids had came from their peers, family, and neighbors.  Communities had collective values and everyone pretty much toed the line.  These days kids can be influenced by anyone--from their friend's parents who think it is cool to host a party for teenagers, with alcohol, then post about it on Instagram, to ISIS recruiters who (somehow) make jihad look enticing.

I know that there are many more factors against parents (and that the good old days weren't always so good no matter how rosy the glasses) these days but the basics of parenting haven't changed:

  • spend time with your kids (not just driving time to and from school but actually doing things with them and talking to them)
  • keep your kids busy and occupied (a busy kid has less time to get in trouble)
  • know what is going on in your kid's life (no, checking their cell phone from time to time is not spying, it's being a responsible parent)
  • have high standards and high expectations for them (in manners, morals, behavior, education, etc) and hold them to these
  • know where they are and who their friends are (easier said than done sometimes)
  • give them as many learning opportunities as possible (this can be any kind, from volunteering in a soup kitchen to planting a garden or going to the zoo.  Kids who have a broad-based education are often more confident and do better in school)
  • build up their self esteem (not in the 'everyone who shows up gets a trophy' way but by praising what they do well and correcting things that they don't do well)
  • model the behavior you want your kids to emulate (when the kids were young we attempted to model the kind of behavior we wanted them to follow--and were marginally disappointed that they still, on occasion, sometimes more often, acted like idiot teenagers, but somewhere along they way they grew up and became really good parents to their own kids)
If more parents went out of their way to do the right thing when it counts, the world (and Baltimore this evening) would be a better place to be.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

10 Medical Prep Tips for the Elderly

Having dealt with the elderly and their medical care as well as aging myself, here are some medical prep tips I've learned over the years, useful whether you are teetering on the brink of elderly-ness yourself or taking care of someone who is:

  1. Balance and strength exercises--everything from bowling and yoga to walking and bicycling--will go a long way towards keeping older people from falling (which is the leading cause of injury and death for those over 65).
  2. Eating a nutritious, well-balanced, mostly plant diet will similarly usher you into old age without many of the old age maladies that affect a large segment of the elderly population (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc).
  3. Get your eyes and ears checked on a regular basis (you often don't realize you are losing your sight and hearing since these things happen so gradually.  You don't want to be the one driving over the neighbor's garbage can--or cat!--because you can't see as well as you used to and you don't want to be the one always saying "what? what?" because everyone's speech is you anyway).
  4. Regularly check your medications for side affects and drug interactions (it's often the SO or caretaker who will notice these things since the side affects can often be cognitive glitches or "odd"symptoms).  Doctors tend to prescribe medications for every single ailment (I saw one lady at the pharmacy last week picking up no less that 30 prescriptions!), unfortunately this often leads to drug interactions or side affects which are then attributed to "being old" or "having a senior moment" when it is really due to some of the meds they are taking.
  5. Become more safety conscious.  When you are 20 years old and climb up to your roof to make a quick repair you will (probably) bounce if you fall off.  If you do this when you are 65 you will probably break into a bunch of small pieces.  Ditto for balancing on the top step of a ladder on a few toes when setting the star atop the Christmas tree or skipping over the third stair because it is wobbly and about to fall through.  The things we did at 25 because our strength, youth, and invincibility allowed us to defy the laws of physics (like racing cars, doing stupid human tricks to impress our friends, etc) are not as forgiving as we get older.
  6. Stay active socially.  Many people dream of the day they will retire.  There is even a segment of the population planning for financial independence/retirement at the ripe old age of 30 or 40.  The thing no one tells you about retirement, however, is that when there are absolutely no demands on your presence or time, you need to make up things to do to stay active or you will wither away in front of your TV in short order.  By keeping active you will be less likely to become socially isolated, depressed, and physically ill.
  7. Prep for the end even if (you hope) the end will be in the far distant future.  Do all of the regular stuff (have a Will, Medical Power of Attorney, and secure retirement income) as well as have contingency plans for long-term care (where will this be at? how will you pay for it?), a plan for what will happen if you can no longer drive safely, a plan for what would happen if your SO should pre-decease you, etc.
  8. Plan for other common disasters that could affect you (how would you evacuate from a disaster area if you no longer drive and can't walk far? how will you get your prescriptions or oxygen tank filled if these services are wiped away in your town? do you have a stockpile of food and water at home in case you are ill temporarily and can't get to the store?).
  9. Trim your decades of personal possessions down to a minimal amount while you are still able to do this yourself (your kids/next of kin will thank you for this) and rather than willing items to your descendants consider giving them these things when you are still alive (which will alleviate a great deal of hate and discontent amongst family members).
  10. Enjoy your old age.  By the time you become old, you have earned the right to: do as you please, date as you please, let others worry about things you had always kept a tight reign on (lest the world fall off its axis), spend your money as you please, and generally let others take up the slack while you enjoy your later years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Website/Blog Update

In the interest of saving time and making my life less complicated, I have decided to move everything from the website over to this blog.  Eventually the web address will be pointed to this blog (eventually.  When I get all of the particulars taken care of).  You can still find all of the information from the website here--from blog posts (scroll down) to the Daily Insight links (click on the link in the sidebar) to a bunch of useful survival links (ditto, in the sidebar).  Hopefully this will make updating everything faster and easier and much less complicated (like keeping the website from being hacked.  Repeatedly).  Thanks for following along...