Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day


Please take a minute today to remember all of those who have served our country.  Whether fighting in Vietnam or Iraq, serving as a gunner a SEAL or a WAC, all of these people have helped (and given their lives, part of their souls, etc) to give you the freedom to live in one of the best countries in the world.  If you have more than a few minutes, consider doing these things:


  • Attend a Memorial Day service (most military graveyards have these going on today)
  • Thank a veteran for their service
  • Watch a military-related movie (Blackhawk Down, the Hurt Locker, or one of my favorites, the Fighting Sullivans)
  • Check out this movie about the Navy SEALs on PBS
And for those of you who have served, a hearty "Thank you for your service!" from CNI.

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 see...one 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 purses...you 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).