Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Home Front: Old Melb Gaol grounds.

So .. .long time no post from me.

LONG STORY SHORT: I had a "massive stroke" that was luckily caught really early so I have been making " a remarkable recovery" at the expense of a lot of motivation, but here's my return to writing ..

Museum trips are something that are good for us as a family but we took  a chance on a variation and visited the infamous Old Melbourne Goal one weekend and I was struck by its castle-like construction, and thought it would be an interesting site to add to my list of bug-in locations; following on from Ikea, self-storage facilities and the like.

The Old Melbourne Goal is a retired corrections facility,  built between1843 and 1864 during the Gold Rush,  and  expanded  between 1852 and 1854; the construction using bluestone instead of sandstone. 

The design was based on that of British prison engineer Joshua Jebb, and especially the designs for the Pentonville Model Prison in London (which suited the current prison reform theories at the time). The boundary wall also being extended during this time. In 1860, a new north wing was built; which included entrance buildings, a central hall and chapel. Between 1862 and 1864, a cell block was built for female prisoners on the western side – it was basically a replica of the present east block (until this time, female convicts were not kept apart from the male prisoners).[4]

 Started in 1843 and not finished until 1864, the ironstone perimeter wall, and the gaol overall, was completed; making it a dominant feature of authority on the Melbourne skyline.

As the Gaol was progressively decommissioned, the building’s fabric, including bluestone grave markers of executed prisoners, was incorporated into a sea wall at Brighton in Victoria in the 1930s. The grave marker for Martha Needle, executed in 1894, has recently been rediscovered after being buried by metres of sand.

The Second Cell Block is scientifically significant as an illustration of the Pentonville type gaol based on the universal specifications of the British prison engineer Joshua Jebb. The complex of buildings is historically significant for its role as Melbourne’s oldest surviving gaol and as the Remand, Trials, Debtors and Females prison for the metropolitan area for much of its functioning life. The site of the whole extent of the original complex is archaeologically significant in so far as it contains remnants of the original gaol structures and the site of the original burials of prisoners hanged at the gaol, including Ned Kelly.  That old style construction is what made it appeal to me.  Thick, thick solid bluestone walls and fittings, made to last! The current facility features the large securing wall, with heavy metal gates and barred windows still in place to keep the general public out...

Garden beds line the walls in its current setting, the large forecourt big enough for concert marquis to be set up ... outside the main cell block but still within the thick and high external walls.

The main cell block is three stories with iron gantries and stairs connecting the floors. Electric lighting has replaced the gaslights originally fitted, but light is supplemented by vaulted windows in the walls and the ceiling.

Based on the Pentonville prison style, It had a central hall with five radiating wings, all visible to staff at the centre. This design, intended to keep prisoners isolated – the "separate system" first used at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia – was not, as is often thought, a panopticon. Guards had no view into individual cells from their central position. Pentonville was designed to hold 520 prisoners under the separate system, each having his own cell, 13 feet (4 m) long, 7 feet (2 m) wide and 9 feet (3 m) high with little windows on the outside walls and opening on to narrow landings in the galleries.[2]  The cells currently are empty but for museum fittings, and the occasional replica mattress... barely big enough for a Tactical Baby ...

Each cell comes with its original door, complete with portal and two-stage lock. With a little work the doors could be rigged to open and lock from the inside, if you don't care about the Heritage listing and have powertools...

There is also a window set high into the outside facing wall which allows a considerable amount of light and air into the rooms.

The floors are polished, these days, which helps to keep it clean. There is also a drain hole set into the bottom corners of the rooms, allowing them to be washed and to drain out over the outer wall... Reports from the time suggest the cells were "admirably ventilated", a visitor wrote, and had a water closet, though these were replaced by communal, evil-smelling recesses because they were constantly blocked and the pipes were used for communication..... as horrid as that sounds.

On the top floor there were double sized rooms, with double windows, and are currently fitted out with lounges for when the Gaol is hired as a social venue for events! Back when they were in use as prisons, Mental disturbances were common. An official report admitted that "for every sixty thousand persons imprisoned in Pentonville there were 220 cases of insanity, 210 cases of delusion, and forty suicides".[3] However, conditions were better and healthier than at Newgate and similar older style prisons.
That said, the renovated and cleaned for public viewing cells were clean, neat and presentable, if sparse. outside bars, behind smoked glass, reduce the prison-cell aspect slightly, and keep the weather out. even in high summer, he facility is cool, due to the high vaulted ceilings, and by virtue of the thermal mass of the bluestone construction.

The ironwork is all sound, the stairway and gantries as well as bars are all in good order. lending the site a very sturdy, robust and long lasting feel. The wash houses and kitchen facilities are not open to the public, so its hard to say what they are like, ut there is certainly lots of space to accommodate both many inhabitants, but also by cross-purposing:storage and amenities on site.

So. Given its age pre-dates running water I suspect it will have or have easily  restorable water reservoirs or at least drainpipes that could be diverted. The courtyards are already fitted with raised garden beds and the makings of vertical gardens all behind the heavy walls and bars of HM Prison Melbourne!the garden beds around the inside of the outer wall could also be converted for crops. Plenty of space in the courtyards,so given water and exposed soil, there could be land enough to grow substantial crops in a secure environment... not unlike the rather more flimsier-perimeter walled West Georgia Correctional Facility ... 

So, it may not be that prisons, active or retired make excellent refuges in a post-disaster setting, but what they lack in amenities and comfort hey certainly make up for in security and robust design. These are places built to last ... inexpensively and generally in harsh settings.

The Old Melbourne Gaol would certainly seem like a secure and defensible bug-out destination, if the food and water situation could be addressed, and there is much to be said for getting as far from civil centers as possible. However, you'd be hard pressed to find a more castle like site near where I live, should you be of a fortification minded perspective, as I am ...

Of note is that  in 1974, several buildings in the complex have been given over to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and were refitted as college style teaching facilities; The Melbourne Gaol's main entrance gates, governor's residence, female hospital, service wing, bath-house and chapel were constructed in 1860-61. Collectively these facilities are known as RMIT Building 11. Architect: Colonial Government Architect. Remodelled for the food and fashion departments of the Emily McPherson College by architects Eggleston, McDonald and Secomb in May 1974. The bath-house and chapel now serve as art studios.

So, all told. I was impressed with the potential the old Melb Goal showed as a bug-out stronghold and in the event of som kind of society-crumbling event, it would appear well suited for re-purposing into a reasonably simple to maintain and defend keep.

Even with its modern restorations and conversions, and lack of internal resources, its imposing structure and history lend itself to the mind as a suitable "fall of civilization" fall-back point. Imagine a supermarket resupply semi-trailer parked in the main courtyard, and corn and cabbage in the vegetable plots, barrels of water filled by re-routed gutters, street-facing windows blocked up ...... solar panels and windmills.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Home Front: Stabbing Lcpl Schmuckatelli

Here's a bit of fun I had a weekend or so ago. I have used polyethylene cutting boards as faux armour inserts for some time for my roleplaying and MilSim purposes. They're about the right sized and shape, are cheep, durable and stiff enough to add some realism without being either heavy, difficult to come by, or plain illegal for a Regular Aussie Bloke to have in their possession, unlike folks in other Western World nations with newly elected governments.

I've used polyethylene boards in the kitchen for a long while now, and have often marveled how they hold up to cuts, hacks and stabs. I have even on occasion, slipped one under a jumper when I've been "expecting some trouble" and helping out a friend in a possibly stabby situation, Ned Kelly style.

So to test this, I loaded up my very under-inspiring Zombie Outbreak Grunt plate carrier with one of the boards I typically use, a Legitim from Ikea, which at 500g, (1lbs2oz) and 8mm (1/4") thick, has always served me well in the kitchen.

Up against it, I pitched an assortment of blades.
  1. Schrade US Army knife
  2. KA-BAR Famine Tanto
  3. American Kami Super Colubris
  4. Boker Tomahook (front and back)
  5. United Cutlery M48 Tomahawk (front and back) 
  6. Ontario Black Wind sword
  7. United Cutlery M48 spear 
 I loaded the cutting board into the front of the plate carrier, which I had loaded up with 10 2L bottles of water, giving it a mass of 20kg (45lbs) and suspended it on a Tough Hook, with side-supports, in the hope of mimicking a free standing human target. Hitting a board laying on a block of wood or even free standing wouldn't be a very good simulation of being stabbed, but I hoped that this set-up would, as well as giving me a penetration "bleed" effect, if anything managed to make it through the board.

Here is the video we made of the testing.

I gave each stab or thrust a "I want to do you harm" amount of effort. Taking from my 16 years of kendo I have a fairly good idea of what these impacts would have on an armored target, as well as stabbing a bunch of things over the years for the hells of it. I was pretty happy with my strikes.

Here is the board once we removed it and married it up to the footage.

The two main "bleeder" shots were the back of the M48 tomahawk, the American Kami Super Colubris and the maybe M48 spear (if it actually punched that hole of its own accord).

So, in conclusion, unless someone is coming at you with a spear, or the pointy breaching end of an axe, you will probably be able to shrug off some stabs, and certainly all the slashes that land on a cutting board under your shirt. The good thing about polyethylene is that it is heat-labile, meaning you could mold it to be more chest-shaped.

Obviously there are commercially available, professionally made and certified stab proof inserts and garments you could use, if they were legally available to you, but for my purposes, they sem to fit exactly what I need from them. Won't stop a bullet, sure, but will turn a blade wielded by someone as strong as me.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: LimeFuel - Limeade Blast 18000mAh charger

I was asked "what piece of gear do you think you'd be pissed, if you went out and left behind?" and I had a hard time coming up with a single item, as I have a lot of redundancy in my EDC. However, one thing that I have found that I really don't like realising I have left behind, or lent out, is my external power source. My personal go-to power-pack is an item I originally backed as a Kickstarter, and have now moved into full commercial production, the LimeAde.

This is the Limeade BLAST L180X, their 18000mAh high-capacity option at the time of the Kickstarter campaign. It has been with me since July 2013 and faithfully charging my devices every other week or so.

Read the rest of the article on Breach Bang & Clear, here.

I've had very good service out of my Limeade Blast, and when I go on adventures, or even just have solid days away from my desk off-site or in meetings, it's an invaluable addition to my loadout, and one that is appreciated by anyone else who wants to sponge Amps off me.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Wish Lust: Nubé Stratos Kickstarter

I had to get this out to you all. The makes of the camping hammock tent system, that I love, the Nube, from designers Sierra Madre Research, have a Kickstarter going with a new and improved design, and it looks great. I've been in touch with them and gotten some press-release details, which I really wanted to share with my readers, to see if I could get more of you hanging above ground! New word: Hangers, those who hammock-camp.

The Nubé Stratos is a modular, lightweight, hammock shelter that offers 360° elevated protection from rain, wind, and insects for one or two hammocks, and up to 45 kg (100lbs) of gear (such as hiking packs, or a LOT of booze) that store neatly protected suspended below in the Gear Stash. The Nubé Stratos is comprised of two independent layers that can be set up as two independent shelters, or connected together with a color-coded quick connect system. The external layer is the StratosFly and the base layer is the StratoShield.

Hangers are offered the option to setup each layer in tandem for optimal protection, or as two separate shelters for efficient coverage and maximized viewing capabilities.

This versatility allows the outdoor explorer to “create their own adventure” by choosing which layer to utilize according to the needs of the ever changing environment.

External Layer: The StratosFly.
The StratosFly is much more advanced than any typical tarp or rain fly. It’s patented aerodynamic design, asymmetric shape, unique lightweight materials and factory-seam taping, work together to deflect rain and wind like a water shedding force field. Most tarps or flys leave your hammock ends completely exposed to the rain. SMr’s Patented Closure Sleeves synch down around the hammock suspension lines creating a watertight seal. This feature existed on the original Nubé and I really liked it. No damp feet or heads!

Base Layer: The StratoShield.
SMr put their master craftsmanship into the engineering of the StratoShield and created the first ever, Air Gap design. This beautiful design, is a 3 dimensional barrier that completely separates from the insect world and offers the most spacious interior imaginable, unlike the claustrophobic design of most bug nets on the market today. One of the most useful and praised integrations of the StratoShield is the Gear Stash. Rather than leaving your extra gear or pack in the mud, everything you brought becomes easily accessible, fully protected, and suspended inside right below you. The no seeum mesh is a unique blend that is extremely tightly
woven and quad layered lock-stitch making it soft to the touch, impenetrable by insects, and virtually invisible. The S-Curve dual sided doors for a sleek entrance zip is the main difference I noted, with a "S" shape rather than "U" shape, should make for much easier opening and closing from within the hammock.

There are many more intricate and ingenious SMr inventions layered throughout the system. Such as T-Locks (to fit a hiking pole from underneath to elevate the lip), opening up a wide viewing window to the beautiful world outside. Pocket Locks and Line locks built into the corners add to the existing designs options for neat, no tangle storage of  guy-out lines.
 The addition of interior Sky Hooks to hook a ridge line for hanging personal items, clothing to dry or interior lighting. is a brilliant complement to the pockets previously added.

Here are the vital statistics of the components and the system as a whole:

Nubé Stratos Hammock System
(Composed of StratosFly and StratoShield as a System)
Intended use: Hammock Camping/Backpacking
Seasons: 3
Recommended Capacity: 1-2 person (for those who don't realise, the Sierra Madre Research hammock systmes are designed to STACK. Bunk hammocks!)

Hammock Compatibility: Most Camping Hammocks (I would certainly recommend their Pares hammocks, awesome ... )
Packed weight: 1.02 kg (2lbs 4oz)
Packed Dimensions:    28cm x 15.2cm x 15.2cm (11" x 6" x 6")

Protects From: Rain, Wind, Sun
Packed weight:   0.50 kg (1lb 2oz)
Packed Dimensions:    18cm x 13cm x 13cm (7" x 5" x 5")
Material Exterior: 15D Nylon Ripstop Silicone impregnated Exterior
Interior: 1,200mm PU
Covered Area: 48sqft
Setup Dimensions: Width: 160cm x 254cm (63" x Length: 100")
Diagonal Coverage: 218cm (86")

Protects From: Insects, Muddy Gear
Packed weight:    0.50kg (1lb 2oz)
Packed Dimensions:    13cm x 14cm x 10cm (9" x 5.5" x 4")
Number of doors: 2
Material: 15D Quad-Layered Lockstitch Nano-see-um Mesh
Gear Stash Weight Capacity:    45kg 100lbs)
Design: Symmetric
Setup Dimensions: Width:    96.5cm (38") x Height: 137cm (54")

There's no doubt in my mind that these are going to be awesome. If you love hammocks, and camping, and hammock-camping then you should totally look into the Stratos system to cover your existing hammock, and if you are just getting into it, check out their hammocks as well.

I expect good things to come from Sierra Madre Research, they've not let me down this far.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Wish Lust: Green Traveler

Here is a neat container that is being Kickstarted that I was quite keen on.

I have a number of survival caches, but they are all pretty small, such as the neat aluminium Sentinel-X by Ti2 and of course, the PathoPak "Dead People Jars" but having a purpose built food-storage, especially with rugged and dependable construction. Having enough storage components to make a whole meal or meals worth of food travel with you, up and down mountains, and along the trail. Something like the Green Traveler from My Green Traveler is in order.

It is only in its pre-production state currently, and I haven't had one in hand as yet, but here is what they say about it, and what I think about that. Made from injection molding out of ABS, and is made from 8 pieces. Two flat bottomed tray sections, each with a sealing lid, and two cup end pieces, with screw caps.

The tray sections, called Nooks, each hold 355 ml (12oz), and the cups hold 237 ml (8oz) for a total of 1.3 L (44 fl.oz) with overall dimensions of 34.5 x 9 cm (13” x 3.5”) and weighs 500g (1.1lbs) on its own. Solid. Heavy is good, if doesn't work, can hit them with it.

When sealed up, the Green Traveler has four isolated compartments, is reliably liquid tight, so won’t come apart inside a bag. It has two sets of clips on the top side of the nooks, to allow it to be clipped to be the outside of any bag, strap, sling or belt loop and fits in the beverage net on the side of most backpacks. It can keep items inside dry as well as hold liquids in.
It is designed for everyday uses such as around a city during your daily life to carry food, while traveling on airplanes, or driving to the park and is rugged enough for hiking, skiing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, climbing and other adventure sports.

I suspect it wont like a rapid altitude change, such as on an airplane of a sea to summit trip, so be sure to burp it, if that's you plan, but the combination of screw clips on the cups, latch clips on the nook lids suggests

•Pack a lunch for a day trip
•Take food to-go or meal leftovers
•Pack a lunch for your kids
•Fill with pre-made food at a hot bar or food truck (this sounds excellent)
•First aid or other supplies to keep dry while boating
• Prevent soggy food from melted ice in a Esky

The Green Traveler looks like it will be a good sturdy food container, not to mention other supplies that can be stowed in it: medical supplies, fire starting kit, or electronics might well work in it, for kayaking trips or the like. ABS is a great plastic for this kind of build, and I think it will hold up well. I have LEGO that's almost 35 years old and still kicking around and going strong. I'll be curious to see how well the seals hold up, but as a one-piece set of food carriage gear, I'm impressed.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Home Front: Home defence and preparedness.

The folks atSimpliSafe home security, have done a lot to help everyone understand the importance of protection. This month, they're having everyone think about the subject and hear how we'd survive if we found ourselves in one of our favorite scary movies or shows. I wanted to give you all my take on what items would you utilize to protect yourself and your home in the case of a zombie apocalypse or lawless nation?"

The idea being how it's hard to find accurate survival movies, and we can all agree there is nothing worse than an incompetent character trying to survive in a film. Being such an avid survivalist myself, or at least a vocal one, I wanted to give my take on protecting my home from the most terrifying of scenarios. Bug-in-style.

So first up, lets talk scenario:
Without going too supernatural, in which a lot of options are right out, I'd like to go for a grounded, realistic and scary situation, the top of my list would sit at the 28 Days later or Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse: mass casualties, civil disarray, utilities slowly winding down as infrastructure collapses, total lawlessness, and fast, savage, infectious and hungry semi-living foes.

Not a lot of lead up, maybe a couple of days at most as the situation escalated from "this just in..." news on the TV to "martial law" and then "....static ..." of the fall of civilisation. Sure it would be possible to talk about "how to best make a fort, but I've covered that kind of thing before. This situation is "hey, the world just ended, how do you make your house safer?"

Aside from providing a secure wireless security system, the folks at SimpliSafe had this cool Layered Defense presentation that made a lot of sense, in a regular world security perspective, and I thought I'd build on that:

  1.  The Safe Room: safe, flashlight, mobile phone.
  2.  Inside the house: TV & lamp timers, hidden valuables, obstruction under windows, heavy drapes, wireless alarm systems.
  3.  Walls, Doors & Windows: Garage with multiple locks, solid reinforced doors, waring signs, security film, keyed window locks.
  4.  The Grounds: security lights, gravel, outdoor lighting, prickly plants, dog.
  5.  Locked gates: low level fencing, more warning signs.
  6.  The neighbourhood: Know your neighbours, street lighting, neighbourhood watch.

So that's a lot of good points. Do we have a "safe room" well, given the layout of the house, the best option is probably Tactical baby's room, which has a single window facing the side of the house next to us, and no access to it elsewhere. Protection through obscurity.

More on the neighbours houses later ...
Inside the house we have a lot of things covered, blinds and locks, including sliding windows blocked with rods dropped into the rails to prevent unwanted sliding, even if unlocked. In this situation, you wouldn't want timers switching lights ON at night, but rather, OFF, to obscure your presence, even if there were still mains power.

Our grounds could do with some serious work, but the solid wall of houses on one side acting as a double protection, the biggest concerns are the bay-window facing the street.

My plan would be to barricade this inside and out, using futon-bed slats as a basis to bar it and layers of cladding to seal it up. Higher windows aren't as much of a concern, except for noise and light discipline.  Our backyard fence is a bit rickety, but can be reinforced from the inside, and materials salvaged from our shed could also assist in reinforcing it, and barricading. In the worst case, we could just fall back, and barricade the back of the house, abandoning the back-yard. If I could rig up hurricane fencing, even on the inside of the wooden slat fence, I'd be a lot happier. as its a rental, the chances of getting the fence replaced is pretty slim.

Our front yard, with its white picket fence, and big windows presents its own problems. Not high enough or strong enough to obscure the home, or repel hordes, it does offer a buffer, and allows you some visibility as to what's going on. By reinforcing and barricading the windows, again, with shed walls, and bed-slats, you could quickly rig up a hurricane and zombie resistant house-front.

We recently replaced the aging fly-wire and aluminium frame screen door, with a steel mesh and framed security door, complete with new wooden beams to fit it to, giving us a much more secure front entrance. Coupled with our Strike Plate lock, the front door is more secure now.

Here's where my plans get devious. Given the scenario laid out, our home isn't great, defensively, but my neighbors house is. Walled in by our house, and their other side neighbors, and again at the back. Walled garden at the back. Solar power, rain tanks. Roof access between their and ours (the gap is only about 1.5m).

If the world came to a horrid, zombie infested end? We'd secure our place as best we could, and make plans to move one house over. Know your neighbors. Know your neighborhood. Be well respected, appreciated and valued. Look out for each other and be ready to help when called, and you'll be welcomed in times of adversity, AND know where the best bolt-holes are.
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