Fire Log #5: Testing the Armageddon Option

The first ferro rod I ever bought was the GobSpark Armageddon with an attached magnesium rod. At the time I was just starting to think about the need to have something that I could start fires with beyond the lighters I had always used. My goal was to have a fire starting system that could…..

1. Be stored in rough conditions without any care to taken to avoid breaking it or to maintain it.
2. Be used to start fires by even an amateur who had little experience starting fires.
3. Be used to reliably start a fire even in awful conditions.

The fact that it was a Ferro rod with a hard plastic case is what I pinned my hopes of meeting the criteria number #1 on and I can say I have carried it many places without it taking the least damage. So that part worked at least.

But for goals number #2 and #3 I was relying on the attached magnesium rod to magically make everything work. I knew even when I bought this thing (this was before I had ever used a Ferro rod myself) that a Ferro rod can take some skill to use effectively and I knew that they had trouble if you did not have good tinder or were trying to use them in rough conditions. But I also knew that if you made shavings of magnesium and then ignited them, they burned really hot. It was this that I was relying on to make it useable even for those with little skill in bad conditions.

In theory this sounds good. But I never tested it. So for this fire starting test I decided to see how it would work.

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Fire Log #4: Tape As Tinder Retest And Trying Out The FireBox Nano.

For this test I wanted to revisit the use of duct tape as tinder and try out my FireBox Nano. Both things were done with one fire but the two tests did not work very well together so the test of the Nano was not very fair. As the fire starting was pretty straight forward I am going to keep both things in one narrative.

Conditions: It was 29 Fahrenheit just like last time. This time there was a dusting of snow but had been raining hard earlier in the week so everything was wet just as it has been since I started doing these. And in another shocker, there was also solid cloud cover. The weather has been depressingly consistent this month.

Test: Start a fire with duct tape and lighter in a FireBox Nano.

Equipment Used: Bic lighter, duct tape, FireBox Nano, and a one liter metal water container.

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Fire Log #3: Belt Kit Test and Hypothermia Drill

The goal this time was to test my belt fire kit and to see how long it would take me to get one liter of water to a rolling boil. Both things were tested with the creation of one fire but I am going to split out the discussion of the belt kit into its own section I don’t want the review of the Wazoo gear to get lost in the middle of the discussion of building the fire (which is where the discussion would naturally fall if I was strictly chronological).

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Fire Log #2: Wet Lighter Drill and Backpacking Lighter Test

The rules I set for myself for doing a fire every week were that I had to try something new every time. To my rational mind, the concept is similar to how you go up when you are lifting weights. A little bit more every time is how you progress. The problem is that my irrational daydreaming mind thinks it knows more than it does and just doing one new thing seems boring.

As a result, I had planned on doing four new things for this test. I wanted to do a wet lighter drill, I wanted to start a fire at night using only the flashlight I almost always have in my pocket for light, I wanted to use what I call my “backpack” lighter to start a fire by itself, and I wanted to start a fire with no other tools then my “backpack” lighter and flashlight in wet conditions without relying on evergreens to provided my wood. I did not think this would take me much time (I was on a tight timeline for this test) as I figured I could test all four of those things with one fire. But in the end, I only succeeded in successfully accomplishing two of my four goals because I did not know as much as I thought I did.

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Fire Log #1: Winter Coat Fire

Last year Emily Sotelo was going to hike all 48 of New Hamsphire’s peaks before her 20th birthday. She got though 40 of them before dying on a hike. It was unexpectedly bad weather along with some rookie mistakes that killed her. From an article recounting her death…..

According to Kneeland, Sotelo wasn’t carrying any of the essentials that officials recommend for day hikes, even in the summer. No map, compass, or matches. No flashlight or headlamp, though her parents said she used her phone as a light and had a backup battery pack.

In her pack, she had granola bars, a banana and water that likely froze very early on, Kneeland said. She wore long underwear but only light pants and a jacket. She had heated gloves and a neck warmer but no hat. Her shoes were for trail running or trekking rather than insulated boots that are recommended for winter.

“I often refer to them as a glorified sneaker,” Kneeland said. “Low on the ankle, no ankle support. Probably what happened is, when you start post-holing in snow and underbrush, they get pulled off.”

Emily made a lot of mistakes as we all do (especially when we are young). But if she had the equipment and the knowledge of how to make a fire, the same ice covered trees that hindered the search party looking for her could have saved her life even with all the other mistakes she made. At least, that is theory behind why the Park Service in New Hampshire tells you to take matches with you when you go on a hike in the mountains.

Now when I was Emily’s age, I never had any equipment with me to start a fire either. These days when I am out and about I generally have something with me to start the fire. But all my fire starting has been done in good weather. When you actually need to start a fire, the weather is generally pretty bad or you would not need the fire. So how well would I do with what little knowledge I have and equipment I have on hand in less than ideal conditions?

To answers these questions, I intend to do one fire a week from the start of January through the end of March. I am not trying to teach myself anything exotic but rather to see how well what I “know” and what I have carries over to fire starting in winter weather. The goal is to try something new either in terms of conditions or in terms of equipment used every week. I also plan on timing each attempt just to have some kind of basis for comparison (and also because if you ever actually need a fire, you don’t have all day).

So with that preamble out of the way, below is my first fire report for the two fires I made on January 2nd 2023.

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How nuclear weapons work

I did not learn anything from the below video but most of what I already to know about the effects nuclear weapons is in this report. So if you watch it and retain it, you will pretty much know as much as me about the effects of nuclear weapons for what that is worth (other areas of the video are a little weaker, at least compared to what I know).

I think the most important thing to learn from this video (if you don’t already know it) is why all your standard Covid PPE gear actually makes sense to use if faced with the fallout from the dreaded bomb. Keep this in mind when you are going through the boring (at least to me) physics at the start of the video. If you don’t have some understanding of that, you will not understand why a dust mask and some kind of eye protection is worth wearing if you have to deal with a post bomb environment. You will also not understand why it is fairly easy to guard yourself against significant portions of the radiation produced by the bomb. These things used to be discussed more but nowadays people only know radiation=panic.

The lingering fear

On February 26, 1993 a truck bomb detonated below the North Tower of the complex commonly known as the Twin Towers. The people who made this bomb hoped that 250,000 people would die but a misplacement of the bomb meant only 6 people would die (although about 1000 were injured). Although the people who made the bomb had some passing associations with al-Qaeda, there is no evidence that al-Qaeda was responsible and the US government has never claimed that it was.

On September 11 2001, al-Qaeda did manage to destroy the Twin Towers. They only managed to kill around 3000 people and injure about 25000. They set off a global conflict that saw America taking military action in almost every Muslim country around the globe.

At the time, there was a lot of chatter about terrorist using weapons of mass destruction. It was one of the major justifications for the massive blood and money poured into the “War on Terror.” The idea was that if we let terrorist organizations continue to get better and to keep trying, eventually they will pull off an attacked that is truly damaging to the US. It was easy to feel that the third time very well could be a 6 or 7 figure causality attack on American soil.

And so America killed a lot goat herders. Americans dropped a lot of space age weapons on people who could not read or write. Al-Qaeda was reduced to a shadow of its former self. All of its top leadership on that time of the Twin Towers attacks were killed or died of naturally causes. No major attacks every happened on US soil. And America got tired of the endless war all over the world.

Now the Taliban control more of Afghanistan then they did in 2001 and American is back to being more worried about Russia and China then they are about some random non-state actor hoping to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. But I am still worried about New York City’s fate. I still expect to see it go up in flames. I expect there to be a third and final attack with a weapon of mass destruction that ends it as a functioning city.

To be clear, this is an emotional expectation on my part and not a rational one. I don’t think there is any non-state group that can do this right now. And I don’t think any state group (not even Iran) is crazy enough to do it at the current time. So if rationally, I don’t think it is possible at this time, why do I have this feeling that it is going to happen?

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In Context: World Grain Harvests

One of the frustrations I have with just posting links is the lack of context that comes along with them. I tend to gravitate towards links talking about the bad news as because everyone has a strong tendency towards normalcy bias. Even those who are pessimists are generally in the grip of this cognitive bias. They talk as if they are expecting the worst to happen but they rarely act that way.

Having said that, I think one of the causes of normalcy bias is the fact that we tend to look at negative indicators devoid of context. Because we tend to look at negative indicators in isolation, we are not very good at figuring out when things are truly serious and when they are balanced out by positive factors that we don’t realize are connected. This trains us to disregard negative indicators without knowing why because so often they are balanced out by positive things we don’t see. Then when we are confronted by indicators of a true disaster, we disregard them even though in retrospect it should have been obvious that something bad was coming.

Part of this is an unavoidable result of our cognitive limitations. We simply can’t make all the connections that we need to make to truly understand things. But it would help if would occasionally take the time to try to look at things in context so that we can come to a better understanding of what is really bad news and what is just a wash because good news is not being reported.

In this particular case, we are going to focus on the current and projected harvests of the three major grains (wheat, corn, and rice) to try to put the good and bad news on that front into context. My primary source for the following discussion is the US Department of Agriculture August survey of world agriculture production.


If your main source of news is links posted in the Ethereal Voice, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world is going to be experiencing a major wheat shortage. Most stories posted here that mention wheat are all about how bad the crop is in India, the EU issues with drought, and how war in Ukraine is going to lead to starvation. I think I might have done one link on how the harvest was looking good in Canada and I know I made mention that Russia was looking to have a really good harvest. But those stories are in the distinct minority. And that is why you might be surprised to find out that this “Marketing Year’s” worldwide wheat harvest is expected to be about the same as last year’s.

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