Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: Light'n'Go bonfire log

Its log, its log, its heavy hard, it's wood, not new from Blamo.

Here's an interesting product from Light'n'go
that I saw whilst visiting my local Bunnings for  gardening supplies and tools. Bear with me. This is  a weird one. What I saw was a round of a log, 1/4Cu foot / 7.1L /  430 cu cm in size, with  length of sisal rope bolted on as a carry handle. It has a series of radial cuts in the log through its center and along is flat end surfaces in order to make combustible surfaces.

The Bonfire Log is new, unique, and the "most extraordinary innovation in firewood of our time". Put it virtually anywhere and create a beautiful bonfire with one match. No chemicals, just pure kiln dried beautiful white birch, with a paperboard firestarter, with its patent pending design, delivers a great fire and an instant good time. Bonfire Logs can be enjoyed in a fire pit, chimnea, or fireplace, indoors or out. Light'n'Go suggest you can take them camping, cook marshmallows or hotdogs on a stick, or drop a frying pan on the log for eggs.
 It's year round instant entertainment, never easier or cooler.

The cuts are crude chainsaw plunges and could be easily replicated by any skilled operator and the concept of the Swedish or Finnish fire log   is widely known. Take a log, and use a saw to cut at least 3/4 of the way down the length of the log. Adding kindling to these cuts allows a fire to be lit inside the log, which both allows the fire to burn surrounded by fuel but also shelters the fire and insulates it. the cuts allow air into the fire from it base as well as the sides, ensuring  good steady burn. The raised base allows the fire to be lit on wet, or snowy ground, and if both ends are properly flat, the top can be used as a cooktop, where a grill could be placed, or a pan placed.

This could even be enhanced with  the addition of a purpose  built grill-top such as the Sportes MITI grill.

Back to the Light'n'Go log: It is reported to be suited to both indoor and outdoor fireplaces. apparently it can be successfully lit with just 1 match and then would burn for more than 1.5 hours while the bonfire jumbo log burns for about 2.5 hours.

Lacking accelerants, the all-natural, fire-log, being kiln dried birch, lights with one match, burns 2.5 hours produces a large halo, a clean flame, and a charming aroma.

The Light'n'Go log is  a commercial product you can pick up at a hardware store, but you could make your own easily enough if you have dried seasoned logs and you're a deft hand with a chainsaw. However, if the plunges or cross cuts seem a little too much, a similar effect could be achieved by simply splitting the log with an axe four ways, and binding it with a length of wire to hold it together in much the same way as the Sportes MITI grill.

 I have a couple of logs in my fire woodpile that are flat ended and will see about cross-cutting one with a hand saw to give this a try myself but as an eyes-on, it looks like the Light'n'Go bonfire log is a very simple, easy to use and effective looking product. but its nothing you couldn't do yourself, given skills and simple materials. ust like baking bread or sewing pants. Before you scoff at its simplicity and redundancy, consider the utility and convenience. Time not spent setting up a good fire is time spent securing your site, food prep, setting camp and doing vital gear and personal maintenance. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

review - Kogalla battery

I'm a fan of my electrical gadgets, and with that comes the need to keep them charged on the go. whether it be in transit, on the trail, out cutting wood or doing chores, I like to listen to my tunes, stay in touch with the news and my feeds and all of that takes electron juice. 

I have a collection of batteries, from simple vending machine ones to those that came as bonus to some of my solar chargers like the Kogalla solar bank I recently covered.

I've covered some of my battery collection as well in the Limefuel by Limeaid . 
But, this new one is very nice. The  Kogalla BatPak 2 is a rugged, rechargable storage bank. Designed specifically to power the Kogalla RA Adventure Light, it also does a great job charging phones.

Built with  a whopping 48,580 mWh charged by a 5V, 2.1A Micro USB port. Outputs are by 3 5V 2A USB ports. which can be run simultaneously, for a 3.7V/13,400mAh capacity

Compared to the vending -machine issued Promate charger ,with only 10,000mAh with a 5V 1A and 2A dual outputs. The power dense Kogalla BatPak 2 is wallet sized and fits nicely in a pocket.

With its triplicated power outputs, and compact size, the BatPak 2 is a remarkably portable and powerful tool to keep your gadgets and devices charged on the go.
The protective case is simple and simple, with a single texture and  few extrusions, high- speed, low drag indeed!

I keep it charged up and couple it with a rugged Lightning cable to keep my iPhone charged. It usually sits in a side pouch of , my EDC pack the Mystery Ranch 1DAP but it just as easily sits in cargo pocket of pants or tucked away in my Hazard4 Escape RG harness.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Talking Australian pt 3

See Part 1: A-D here.

See Part 2: F-S here.

Language Lessons on Breach Bang & Clear!: Talkin' Strayin' S-Z according to ME: Apocalypse Josh

So, the time has come to draw a close to my A to Z of Aussie lingo. I hope its been educational and amusing, and prevented more punch-ons than it started. These are by no means complete lists, and the lingo is heavily regional and varies in different communities, but I hope I've give a broad enough basis to communicate with any stray Aussies you might come across and maybe even interpret for them. In this final segment, we'll cover from S - Z and discuss some pretty obscure Aussie terms. Enjoy!

Shag: To have sex, a milder term for fuck, but only having a sexual connotation. "We were at Dave-o's party and there was this Sheila from out of town there, someone's cousin, and I really wanted to shag her, but, it wasn't happening, mate. She'd had too much to drink, and I'm a gentleman".

Sheila: A girl, a chick. Diminutive term for a generic female person. "They all piled out of the wreck, lucky no one was hurt. Three dudes and a Sheila. She looked a bit flustered, and one of the dudes got on the phone to call someone and the Sheila started yelling at him to call the cops, but they weren't having none of that."

Snag: A Sausage, like a bratwurst or Frankfurt. There are myriad kinds of sausage in the Australian culinary line-up. The humble snag is really the simplest and least glamorous, perfect for a Saturday morning Bunning's Sausage sizzle or other mass-public catered event. "Sure mate, bring them and the kids, we'll throw some snags on the barbie and everyone can go for a dip in the pool."

Snap: A response to a simultaneous event or phrase. Used much like "jinx". Originates from the simple make-a-pair card game of the same name. "Macca's run? Macca's run! SNAP!"

Sannga: A contraction of sandwich, equivalent to "sammich." Generally a simple two-slices of bread and one ingredient bachelor-grade meal. "I'm afraid all I can offer you is a cuppa and a cheese and vegemite sannga. Not even an snags left, that mob cleared me right out!"

SAUCE!: Made not of chocolate or apples, but tomatoes. What would usually be called ketchup is just called sauce in Australia. Good on snags, burgers and chips. Not to be used on steak, unless you're a monster. Could be put on pasta, but not where your Italian neighbor's gonna can see, or it's the wooden spoon for you!

Specie: A sporting term referring to the "spectacular" aerial tackles of "Aussie Rules Football" in which one player runs up or otherwise climbs up an opponent to intercept and catch an incoming football, marking and thus securing it for their side for the next play. Quite a rough technique that can lead to impact and cleat-related injuries on the marked player, and to the performer upon landing due to the heights attained and the marked player's movements. Also used as the cheer for when such an event takes place, on or off the field. "We were at Stevo's wedding and when they threw the bouquet, up comes this Sheila, Sheryl, from three rows back and just goes mental, chucks a speccie, up over the bridesmaids and takes it, but didn't stick the landing, did her ankle, had to call an ambo .. not pretty."

SUSS: Contraction of "suspect." Suggesting something isn't quite right, or in some way tainted or illegal. "The whole unit couldn't be any more suss if it were run out of a van parked behind a Target, where a guy called stinky Pete who wears a raincoats all year long makes belts out of shopping bags. But, we elected them."

Spew: Vomit, to vomit, to chuck. "Mate, pull over quick, I'm gonna spew, hurry, hurry. BLAAAAARRRGH, too late."

Sun's coming down like an anvil on a nail: Colloquial expression indicating a very hot, overpoweringly sunny day. Could also be used as an authority figure in response to wrong doing. "If I hear about any of you blighters trying to shag those exchange students, I'll be coming down on you like an anvil on a nail, understand?"

Texta: The Brand name of a felt-tipped marker. Kids coloring pens. Generally not permanent markers for those, it's usually a Sharpie. "Hey, I found these Textas's in the porta-crapper, figured we could use them for maps. But we need to get some sharpies, cause those dick pics just wipe off."

Tea time: Dinner. Supper as a meal term is not used much in Australian conversation, but "tea time" is fairly common. Not to be confused with a tea-break, which is equivalent to a coffee or smoke break. "Go out if you want but if you're not home by tea time there'll be hell to pay."

Trooper: A person showing resilience, especially through adversity. Also the private rank in the ADF. "Look at Trooper Marra there, yomping up that hill, in full pack in the rain. Pack's as big as he is. What a bloody Trooper! Credit to the Regiment he is."
[Edit from the peanut gallery:Pretty accurate, Trooper is not the Private rank of the ADF however. A Private in an Armoured Corps is called a Trooper, same with SASR. Infantry Privates are just Privates though.]

Root: A coarse equivalent to shag. Also to break. "Mate, I could totally do with a root.

Rooted: To break something or have sex. "Can I get a lift down to the servo for smokes? The car's rooted"

Pie: The idea of what constitutes pie differs between Australia and North America. In North America a dinner plate-sized baked desert under a pastry crust is "just like mom used to make." However, in Australia the pie is a savory dish. Sized like a hamburger, filled with minced 'beef" and gravy, in an all-enclosing crust, and eaten with care because "Caution: contents HOT". A squirt of tomato sauce and you have yourself a hot, almost nutritious meal when at the footy, on the building site, or between classes.

Pissed: To get angry, or drunk, sometimes both. Derived from the term "piss" which refers to booze. "So the boss came down from section five and was seriously pissed. After the shellacking he gave us, we're gonna all need to get pissed tonight!"

Piss-up: Drinking party, a kegger. A most Australian of conventions, usually centered around a BBQ. The piss-up is rarely the advertised formal goal, but it just takes a bit of imagination, a wink and a nod to escalate from "just a barbie at Kev's" to a full on piss-up over a long weekend.

Piss off: Dismissive insult, also a negative reply. Can be used in a variety of contexts including to depart an unpleasant situation. "So I told him if he was that pissed off that Davo's kids BBQ wasn't a piss-up, that he could pack up and piss off, right smart."

Povo: Poor, a contraction of "poverty stricken". Often used as an excuse for not taking part in some shared activity, or potentially to escape paying one's share. More often than not it's a legitimate plea for aid. "Sorry mates, I'd love to chip in but rent was due and the kid's birthday, so I'm totally povo till next pay".

POETS Day: Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday, a cute way of saying "I'm pissing-off and taking the rest of the day as a Poets Day." Perhaps there will be wine, beer, or dancing on bar-tops with a tie around one's head. The important thing is there is a long standing Aussie tradition of "knocking off early once the work is done, and going for a drink".

Where ya goin'? To the pub?: A self answering question. Usually asked in pairs, and often obvious. Another Australian quirk. "Is it wet out? Maybe I better take a coat?"

Westie: The majority of the Australian urban populations tend to live along the Eastern coast, from Cairns and Brisbane in the north, Sydney further south, and in the more bayside cities of Adelaide and Melbourne (where I live). It seems a socioeconomic effect of being far from the coast is that the less affluent suburbs are further west. In keeping with the fine Aussie tradition of abbreviation these folks are called "Westies" and generally looked down upon by the more sophisticated Eastern suburbanites.

Yeah nah: An acknowledgment and negative reply all in one. "I have heard and understood you, but I disagree." A polite way of declining. "Maccca's run? Yeah-nah. I'm povo." The inverse, "Nah-yeah," can also be used as appropriate.

Yeah-yeah-nah: An expansion of "Yeah nah." "I have heard and understood you, I agree but I have to decline." Sometimes you can concur with the situation but not be able to do anything about it.

Yobbo: A special kind of hoodlum, causing trouble and being obnoxious. "What is that noise? Is it bin night? Is it a riot? No, its just some yobbo's coming home early from the pub! PULL YOUR HEADS IN, you Westie Dickheads!" Derisive, and counter to the usual appreciation of someone who bucks the system. Nobody likes a yobbo.

Wedges: Finger sized slices of potato, with skin on, deep fried and often served with our cream and sweet-chili sauce. As distinct to the rectangular, peeled, jumbo French-Fried style "chip". "I could murder some wedges mate. Hold the sour cream, don't want to spew."

Zed: The last letter of the alphabet. It gets pronounced differently in Australia, for no good reason I can determine. Aye, Bee, Cee, Dee, Eee, Eff, Gee.... Double You, Eckss, Why, ZED. As in: "Whose motorcycle is that? It's Zed's. Who is Zed? Zed's dead, baby, Zed's dead." Also, the white African horse with the black stripes?" A zeb-brah not a ZEE-Brah. Don't ask me why.

There you have it, my Aye to ZED of Australian terms of phrase, a user's guide to Strine! I'd be remiss however if I neglected our antipodean cousins from New Zealand. They're the Zack of the aNZac name and we're as proud as punch of them, especially when they're not over here collecting welfare and getting famous (I'm looking at you, Russell Crowe). They also talk funny. Here are a few choice terms that spring to mind. Hope they help you communicate with any Kiwis you come across.

Chully bun: "Chilly bin," an ice box, a cooler. "You brought beers? Great, chuck them into the chully bun, bro."

Chup: "Chips," hot chips. In combination with battered deep fried fish, served with vinegar and salt or sauce as "FUSH und CHUPS."

Jandal: A sandal, or flip-flop. Thongs. Footwear, not underwear. "Get your jandals off the table you duffer, here comes the fush und chups."

Sex: The number that comes between five and SIVEN (seven). Play games with your pet Kiwi, get them to order fush and chups for you and your five friends, and get them to repeat the order. "So, it's sex battered pieces of flake. Sex dim sims. Sex pieces of calamari, sex bottles of Coke and a fried pineapple ring for Stevo, you cunt?"

Shear: To cut the wool off a sheep. "No I'm not shearing this sheep with anyone, get your own you randy bastards".

This isn't really a thing, I'm just teasing. It's a common joke between the Aussies and Kiwis. We say that Kiwis are outnumbered by sheep, and farmers get lonely ...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Home Front: Big Dumb Blocks

As first seen on Breach Bang & Clear: Big Dumb Blocks

Following the recent mass-casualty vehicle attacks in Charlottesville and New York City, I'm prompted to finish a piece I've been working on related to these tragic and horrific incidents.

Back in January 2017, a dude out on parole thought he'd dodge a police pursuit by driving through a crowded pedestrian mall in Melbourne on a Friday afternoon during school holidays. Within the thronging crowd, 35 were injured — two critically — and by the end of the rampage, four people (including ten-year-old Thalia Hakin, 22-year old Jess Mudie, 33-year old Matthew Si, and an unidentified 25-year old man) died on the scene.

Five-month-old Zachary Bryant later died in hospital, while his two-year-old sister survived her injuries. Ten days after the attack, 33-year-old Bhavita Patel died in hospital.

Police officers rammed the car and the driver was shot in the arm before being arrested. He was charged with six counts of murder and 28 counts of attempted murder.

Bourke St Mall bollards are staggered along the pedestrian access. Tram lines are obviously unblocked.

Witnesses reported mass chaos in the wake of this attack in Melbourne. Most people were uncertain what to do, while some courageous first-responding citizens rendered first aid and moved stricken victims out of danger until the driver was neutralized. Since it's effectively an unarmed society, there was little to be done to stop the driver. All bystanders could do was attempt to avoid the danger and helplessly watch the attack unfold before their eyes.

But in a paved pedestrian mall, where and how can people take shelter from a steel-bodied motorized human crusher?

June rolled around and the Victorian state government proposed a solution to the problem of vehicular slaughter, taking a page from WWII static defense, and installed dragon's teeth. Around sixty concrete bollards appeared at key Melbourne locations overnight, a rollout of "anti-terror" devices to prevent a vehicle attack similar to those in London or Nice. Lines of concrete bollards are now in place along scenic Southbank Boulevard, near Queensbridge St. and Crown Casino, and at Southern Cross Station — all popular crowd-filled locations.

Overnight, upwards of 140 concrete bollards were placed at eight locations, adding to those already installed on June 10th in the Bourke St. Mall and at Federation Square.

My size 11's putting some personal perspective on the Big Dumb Block issue.

The bollards aren't the classically pyramid-shaped dragon's teeth of the Atlantic Wall, but they follow the same general principle.

The three-foot cubes are made of utilitarian concrete, with rebar fittings to make them easier to haul and crane into place. They're crude and ugly, to the chagrin of the cultured and erudite Melbournite. To my eye, they offer safe haven if you manage to get behind them "Run Forrest RUN!"-style, and also provide a disincentive for attackers to mount the curb and ram squishy pedestrian herds. Some rough eyeball guesses and fast math suggests that the 1m cubes would likely weigh around 2.5 tonnes (around 5,500 pounds). Staggered as they are, I feel pretty safe that a driver of a rogue car, van, or light truck would come to a pretty abrupt and painful stop if they chased me past one at speed.

So, big dumb blocks started littering our scenic spots, offering refuge and deterrence. As I said, big, dumb UGLY blocks.

Some serious thought went into their placement. Sub-committees were formed and met weekly, no doubt. Melbourne Council installed the bollards at the request of the State Government and Victoria Police. The new locations are:

* Queensbridge Square at Queensbridge Street, Southbank
* Queensbridge Square at the intersection with Southbank Boulevard footpath
* Boathouse Drive under Princes Bridge
* Federation Square at the Swanston Street/Flinders Street intersection
* Flinders Street Station at the Swanston Street/Flinders Street intersection
* Southern Cross Station between Collins Street and Lt Collins Street
* Southern Cross Station at Bourke Street
* Queen Victoria Market surrounds

Federation Square bollards are staggered along the sidewalk curb. Tram lines and roads remain unobstructed.

In a statement, the council stated, “The concrete barriers will provide greater security to people visiting and gathering in the city. We will continue to work closely with State Government and Victoria Police to ensure public areas are kept secure.”

Police Minister Lisa Neville said more bollards would go in around Melbourne at new, unnamed locations. “These are temporary, these are not what people will have to put up with forever,” she told radio 3AW’s Neil Mitchell the morning of their arrival. “It would be great if we didn’t need to have this, it does change the nature of our city a little bit.”

Thirty to forty bollards line the entry to the busy Southern Cross station, preventing cars from entering. The bollards are similar to those placed at Federation Square earlier this month, as part of the state government move to prevent terror attacks in Melbourne’s CBD.

A longways view of Federation Square bollards staggered along the sidewalk curb.

As soon as the bollards started showing up, people started decorating them. Painted stencils, slogans, and even fabric covers brightened up the cold grey slabs of concrete. Predictably, this then brought on an anti-graffiti response from the Victorian police. Artist duo Cit Cat alleged its members were threatened with arrest for painting stencils on a bollard.

"I think we can reach a very good understanding with Victoria Police that says the bollards are almost like Hosier Lane – they're fair targets, fair game (for street artists)," Mr. Doyle told Fairfax Media. "Police ... threatened to arrest me if I didn't give my name," one of the artists said. "They told me they would process the issue and to expect a summons in the mail."

Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle said police were "maybe ... a little overzealous" in reprimanding Cit Cat. "I suppose by the letter of the law it is illegal – it is damaging other people's property, it's not ours," he said."However, I do think when there is organic creativity and humor, the last thing we should be doing is stamping on it."

A spokesperson for Cit Cat said governments had initially sent "mixed messages" on what was and wasn't appropriate by promoting street art to tourists. "Street art is part of Melbourne," he said, adding that it was "incredible" the lord mayor had now endorsed painting the bollards.

"I have spoken to the police today to more or less say 'let's just cool our jets, let's just watch what happens'." Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has given street artists the green light to paint hundreds of concrete safety bollards in the CBD.

concrete blocks, big blocks, blocks

Mayor Doyle had already given a tick of approval to the cloth covers members of the public have added to some of the bollards. There are currently approximately 200 of these "temporary" bollards scattered around the CBD, installed as anti-terror measures. Reports of up to 500 in total when more are rolled out in coming months.

The bollards are on loan from crowd control supplier Harry the Hirer and the council would likely need to return them in the condition they were given, Mayor Doyle said. "But we've got graffiti removal units who are quite expert at doing that," he said. A green light for street art on the bollards did not mean people could simply "tag" them, however, and the council reserved the right to remove anything "offensive or obscene." The City of Melbourne has a detailed policy on graffiti and street art management, including definitions on what constitutes street art and designating places such as Hosier Lane available for artists to use.

However, Melbourne rose to the challenge. My favorite so far is the perfect LEGO cube in "Welcome to Melbourne" livery. The little kid in the photo above shared my sentiment.

concrete blocks, big blocks, blocks

Finally, Mayor Doyle announced that it could take up to a year for permanent bollards to replace the temporary ones, but that he would be open to keeping some of the best artistic contributions.

"If we get a series of these that become much loved that are really very clever and additions to the streetscape, of course, I would consider keeping them," he said. A Victoria Police spokesperson said police will "respect the rights of the City of Melbourne in regards to their property."

"There are offenses relating to criminal damage, littering, and graffiti which could be applicable, however, every incident is treated on a case-by-case basis," they said.

I suppose stopping vehicular spree murderers is hard to do preemptively, and malicious bollard-taggers can be caught red-handed. But as long as the authorities are going to be putting these up to protect the thronging hordes — and I sincerely hope the blocks achieve that goal — I also hope people will have a go prettying them up. Concrete is cheap, and so is sidewalk space. Little kids minding their own damn business is priceless.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

WISH-LUST: UV PAqlite MSL micro-safety-light

So, here's a Kickstarter project I thought I should promote. It's an upgrade product of something I already have and I am only too happy to share the news . I've covered products by UVPaqLite before, their unpowered glow-in-the-dark items are awesome  but none have been as impressive as the powered Mule ORB lights. These USB rechargeable battery powered LED lit globe with a shell of epoxy embedded strontium aluminate crystals. The LED's act to charge the crystals, as well as acting as a  mild green-yellow flashlight. An on-board chip  allows it to pulse every 2 minutes to keep the crystals charged. 
An even smarter feature utilizes a small photo-receptor built into the side of the Orb, just beside the USB charge port.
 Holding the on-off button for a double-flash of the light letting you know you've activated the light sensor and now the Orb will only function in hybrid mode when it’s dark. It lights up for about 4 seconds, which can be a bit disconcerting if you're trying to get to sleep and it's dangling over your head but certainly enhances its 100hour battery life. .

So, UVPaqLite have come up with a new and improved version of the Orb, in the MSL, their Micro Safety Light. The MSL -Micro Safety Light - is a compact flashlight and safety device. It's the light you'll want everyone to own!

The MSL is pocket sized, being a slimline lozenge shaped, light, with a more prominent on-off button than that found on the Orb.  The LED is being in two different options, a bright white (30000-35000k) version with a 2.3 hour run-time or a UV (400-410nm) version with a 2.6 hour run-time.

It again features a pulse mode, with a 2 second / 2 minutes mode, or a 2 second /15 minute mode. These have runtimes of 140-156hour and 1037-1172hour runtimes in white/UV respectively. (It runs for almost 6 full days on the faster "pulse mode".)

The portable design makes it easy to take anywhere. Ridiculously bright flashlight. It glows in the dark so it's easy to find. The MSL also is designed to attach to a very loud emergency whistle (reported to sing at  115 decibels) which is great for survival situations, natural disasters, crime prevention, or to ward off animals. It's much louder and less exhausting than yelling for help. And the pitch of this whistle can be heard over loud rescue equipment or ambient noises.

The UV emission wavelengths of  that LED option is particularity good at exciting strontium aluminate and will be the one I hope to get once the project goes live.

Now, it's battery powered, rather than USB rechargable, which is a down-side, but the battery time is cheep, plentiful and  given the long run-times  I see this as a good investment.  get onto it. Get one for you kids, your parents and your own keychain!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: Kogalla solar bank

I love my portable batteries. mostly because I love my power-hungry iDevices and not only go to a lot of long meetings, but also occasionally camping trips and other away-from-the wall outings! Having portable power not only extends my mobile browsing and picture snapping abilities, but also makes me a hero when someone else is trying the same and didn't think to prepare.

However, even battery packs like the hefty Limefuel Limeade with its 18000mah
are only as good as their capacity. Once dry, they're done, which is why I am also really keen on alternate power sources , especially in the event of a long term power outage. My favorite power source is solar, being free, non polluting and very sustainable.

I also love it when two great flavours like this mix, such as in the Kogalla solar storage bank. The SSB2210 Solar Storage Bank is a high-energy, ultra-slim power bank matched to a high-efficiency foldable solar panel housed in rugged, waterproof fabric body.

Unfolding exposes four solar panels each roughly the size of the iPad Air 22cm (8")x 13cm (5") x 3.5cm (1 1/4") compared to (24 cm (9.4") (h) 16.5 cm (6.67") (w) 7.5 cm (0.30") (d)) and when fully unfolded it stretches out to an overall 61cm (24") when fully deployed the SSB2210 offers a huge 22 W capture capacity s worth of panels which allows for fast charging times in full sunlight.  Matching the panels to the power bank allows for energy harvesting even in low-sun conditions. 920g (2lbs) n not bad at all, considering both the panels AND battery in one.

Not unfolding the panels limits the capacity but reduces the footprint required. given that the four panels fold nicely and will constantia a bit to allow it to stand up whilst exposing more panels to the sun. This is also important when it comes to getting a good angle to the sun.

Maximum possible solar generation at your location is possible by angling the panels to the angle of the latitude at which you are located. In Melbourne, that would be 38°. You would ideally want to angle your panels at a greater tilt for maximum exposure to the low winter sun. 
The general rule of thumb is that panels angled at the latitude angle, plus 15°, is best to maximise winter sun exposure. Obviously placing the panel in the line of the sunlight is the other part of this equation. Direct sunlight is best but even dappled or overcast  sunlight will generate power, slowly trickle changing the on-board battery. 

The 10,000 mAh power bank provides long battery life between charges. The power bank can also be charged through a micro-USB power input for charging during no-sun conditions. from a wall socket tor other alternate power source like

Dual high-current USB power ports (up to 12 W) lets you power lights, accessories, or fast-charge devices. The unit folds into a compact, ultra-portable kit that includes a zippered pouch for accessories. The kit also includes a flexible-neck USB light, micro-USB cable, and lightning cable. For the charging of all kinds of devices. I especially like charging my USB chargeable flashlights and phone in a modern "make hay whilst the sun shines" situation. I also charge up my other batteries for the same reasons.

I've found that I can charge either an iPad or an iPhone but not both simultaneously, now, doing some research i find that the  An iPhone charger delivers 5 Watts (5 volts at 1000 mA) and the Retina iPad mini charger delivers 10 watts (5.1 volts at 2100 mA). so its not unreasonable to see that 5W + 10W is more than the 12 W output of the  SSB2210. Bearing that in mind, just like the Apollo 13 Mission Control team, do the math and know how much draw your gear is going to make on your batteries. Matching the panels to the power bank allows for energy harvesting even in low-sun conditions, but they can only do so much. Luckily I also have a dedicated iPhone solar charger...

Another neat feature of the SSB2210 is the fabric eyelets sewn into the middle of the unit and the four corners. These loops allow the solar panels to be lashed down into optimum position or onto something either for stability or portability. I lashed it to the side of my rain-fly one day, and also to the back of my hiking pack, such that my daylight hike would serve double duty of also charging batteries on the bounce.

I used four mounting points to fix it to my pack here, but left the bottom panels free-hanging.
 I knew I would need to be mindful of the panels when I shucked my pack, but it wasn't any drama at all on an hour long hike.

I generally keep this unit folded up and in the hydration bladder pocket of my day to day pack, ready to charge up my devices on the go, or to pull out and make myself a hero during long meetings.

 I can highly recommend it, especially as an off-grid power source in a sunny environment to keep your vital gadgets alive. I would couple it with other power generation and storage items such as the Beacon or the like. Diversify and empower yourself!

Also check out sites like Solar Calculator to optimize your solar experience!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Home Front: camp cooking staples

I took a solo camping trip a few weeks ago and in doing so got to try out some camp cooking without he worry of the fussy or more gourmet members of my household that I might have otherwise needed to cater for. Wanting to keep it simple and easy to pack I pre-packed some of my food, using the Dead Person Jar Pathopak's. My primary pre-packed meal I set up was porridge. I raided the baking shelves and made up a jar of rolled oats (for quick cooking) to which I added a handful of currants, almond slices and crystallized ginger. I also packed a jar of powdered milk and sugar for both my cups of tea and to add to my porridge. They worked out great. I used a cup of this mix, and made it up with a cup of boiling water, before adding a spoonful of my milk-sugar mix. Delicious, sustaining and warming on a cold damp morning.
My other campfire staple is chilli. This may provoke disputes among aficionados, some of whom insist that the word "chili" applies only to the basic dish, without beans and tomatoes but when i camp, I take cans of baked beans, chopped tomatoes and pre-mixed sachets of seasoning. A couple of onions in my cooler bag, and some frozen diced pork, this time. If I'd been camping longer I might have taken cured, dried sausage or salami as my meat component. Diced the onions and braised it in my cast iron pot over the coals, then the same for the pork. Seasoning went in next before adding the two cans of tomato and the three cans of baked beans. and some slow cooking with the lid on to reduce it all. I ate mine out of my Optimus-Terra solo cook set mug and shared my meal with a couple of friends who came up to join me in the evening. Five cans, one packet of frozen meat, a couple of seasoning sachets and two onions. Pretty simple. Not too heavy for a drive-in camp, and probably not that bad for a hike-in either, especially if those cans were shared around a little. We had plenty to eat with heavily seasoned leftovers I ate next next day too. After serving I added a dash of water, put he lid back on and put it back over the fire to heat up again to a low roil to kill off any germs introduced during serving up.
Porridge and beans make two excellent staples when camping, but some other items can find their way into your larder easily enough. Things that add both variety and value. Eggs. Eggs are great, self contained, long lasting and generally not requiring of refrigeration. In an austere setting, if you find yourself in an egg-glut, there are a number of traditional methods for preserving the quality of eggs. Packing in salt, wheat bran or cool clean ash. Eggs packed in box and buried in ash are reported as remaining fresh after 8 months in 80% of cases. Not only does it give the eggs shock and crush protection but having leftover wood-ash at a camping trip once you've eaten your food is no drama, just dump it into your fire pit and off you go. That said, cardboard egg cartons make good fire starters. When I pack eggs, its usually because I plan to make pancakes and then pack them in my flour mix, again, in a sealable jar. They stay safe, insulated and ready or when i'm ready to cook.

Not so much cooking as snacking, I also like to take hard cheese, like a block of Parmesan and salami  or slab of salt cured meat like Prosciutto. They keep well un-refrigerated and are a very tasty addition to an al fresco snack-plate after a hike or as an addition to most meals.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Review: Ikea - Grundtal S hooks

Here is  a piece of Swedish low-speed low-drag gear that  I like to throw into my camping gear that adds a bunch of utility for very little cost or weight.

This is the Ikea Grundtal S hook from their  kitchen range.

Formed from rectangular bar stock stainless steel, these come in two sizes:  11cm(4 3/8") and 7cm (2 3/4") and comes in sets of 5.

The set of 5 11cm hooks weigh 200g or 40g each. These hooks were originally intended to hang pots and pans from a rack in a kitchen, but  I have found they can serve a lot of number of helpful purposes around camp.

Analogous to kitchen use, I hang just washed pots an pans out to dry with them, as well as hooking through bags of food to hang them off the ground, because no one likes ants and dirt in their oatmeal!

I also used them to hang my mosquito-repelling citronella burner so it doesn't fall over and start a bushfire. One of my favorite uses is to add a sturdy hanging hook or my cook-fire. I also pack  length of light chain  to set up over my tripod to make a sturdy cooking spot. Especially important when I cook with a cast-iron pot which I do a fair bit when I camp. A tin billy for hot tea and coffee doesn't tax the Grundtal S hooks one bit, but on the other side, I don't need to worry about it giving way and dousing my fire. The trick is to ensure the hook is the right size for the chain links.

By putting two tripods with draped chain and Grundtal hooks on either side of the fire  I have gotten very good as a spit-roasted leg of ham, especially good 
over Easter, to fend off the hippies.

One last thing I like to do with the Grundtal S hooks are to hang up my personal kit. You can usually get away with draping kit over a branch but sometimes the perfect branch doesn't present itself next to your selected squat. That's where an S-hook comes into play, drape it over and hook your gear up! keeping it up off he ground gives items like a battle belt time to air out but also keeps it out of the dirt mud and bugs.

Keeping gear out of the mud and dry will improve hygiene and morale as well as extended the lifespan of both the gear and you on your adventure.   The same goes for clothes. Pants off for a shower? Sling them from a hook to keep it off the dirt,  you'll get fewer spiders and bugs that way.

If you're planning to catch prep and smoke game to make your own jerky or smoked salmon or what have you,  you might want to consider the spiked butchers hooks to pierce and hang your meat. Not as good for hanging gear  directly (use belt loops and such, obviously) but the principle is mostly the same.

Happy hiking!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review: SLUGhaus - BULLET 02 Smallest EDC Flashlight

I have plenty of keychain tools including a couple of keychain lights, the Jill lite Constel lantern which is built around a CR-123 but rock solid and a lightweight Photon LED as last ditch backup. I have a couple of AA flashlights on my belt, including the Jill Lite Jenyx UV which is fun but sometimes even a little AA light is too much, like if you're trying to find the keyhole of your car without scratching paint, or finding whatever fell out of your pocket at the movies.

Enter the Bullet02 from SLUGhaus. Launched on Kickstarter as their Version 2, the sucessor to the succesful first version, designed to be waterproof, more minimal in design, more secure, smaller and brighter. And most importantly its damn near indestructible. (For a certain value of indestructible.)

This litle bullet-form light features a quick 180 degree rotation that with a spring lock  for secure on/off operation. It will not unlatch even under the most vigorous conditions you might put your keys sensibly through.

Bullet02 can be submerged underwater for a total of 5 minutes without any water breaching it's seals. It will illuminate in any weather and in any situation, helping you solve any darkness problem.

Measuring in at an incredibly small 10mm x 26mm and weighing in at only 5 grams, thanks to its premium aerospace grade aluminum alloy (T6061) construction Bullet02 is the perfect sized flashlight for modern day wear. Powered by three tiny little LR41 Button Cell batteries to produce 20 lumens of light, keep it with you at all times, anywhere you go. 

20 lumens isn't a lot when you stack it against some of the big tactical lights but its plenty enough to navigate in a dark house or lighting up whats right on front of you. 

Laying side by side with this drilled out .45 Auto the form factor is clear

One of the main features SLUGhaus wanted to redesign was their previous "Twist Operation". They have improved this by creating a new mechanism altogether. This time, improving the threading by making it finer and having the threading extend all the way up through the inner casing. In addition, adding a gold plated spring inside for optimal conductivity and pressure, for keeping Bullet 02 snug and sturdy at all times. I've found the

What is an LED you ask? LED’s are the most efficient kind of light bulbs out on the market today. One small bulb can last you anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 hours. Of course you'll still have to replace the batteries periodically. However, they decided to use a premium 5mm bulb for BULLET 02 that can last up to 150,000 hours in lifespan. It casts a nice crisp blue white light, with a good direct cast as well as a reasonable spread for room-illuminating cast.

I've found that having my primary Bullet02 light (as I got several in my pledge) on my car-keys, attached to my titanium carbineer for extra go-fast. and it has become  a very useful, always at-hand (not in the bottom of a pocket) light, capable of acting as a "here I am" signaling light as well as its previously stated tasked jobs of keyhole finding and dropped treasure relocation. The form-factor is great the elegant bullet shape is nice on the hand, the twist-on-off action is smooth and easy to work.

Your flashlight says "Maglight replica"mine says ".40 S&W"

I haven't attempted to test for battery life, but i'd expect it to run good couple of days before running flat and whilst I wouldn't use them as a marker whilst caving, you could certainly mark out your tent or privy whilst camping to good effect with one. Given the size and the sturdiness of the triangle clip, you could even use them for collar-attachments for pets, or as personnel markers on kids when out at an after-dark event, on a necklace or attached to clothing. I like to do this on both Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl and whilst its no substitute for attentive and responsible parenting, it allows a certain amount of freedom and adventure for adventurous and sensible kids.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Appalling Mall-Minja wall hangers!

Originally posted as part of Breach Bang Clear's ongoing Monday Night Knife Fights series.   

I talk about good knives, swords and axes a fair bit. I'm fan of dense steel with an edge. There's a lot of it out there, some good, some amazing, and some unspeakable trash. It's the latter stuff I want to discuss for a bit.
Lets talk Mall-Ninja wall-hangers. First you might ask, what's a mall-ninja?
A mall ninja is a breed of weapons and combat enthusiast characterized by being so ungrounded in reality as to make even the most hardcore gun nuts shake their heads. Equal parts naïveté, delusion, and obnoxiousness, the mall ninja contributes to countless ill-informed online debates concerning arms, armor, and warfare, and is a common consumer of assorted paramilitary woo, broscience, and shared misconceptions about history and the world. The term "mall ninja" is pejorative; no one self-identifies as such. We hope.
If you're worried there's a simple test you can take to assess your-mall-ninja status.   Good luck.
Now, if you're an avid Master Ken of "Enter the Dojo" disciple, you've probably had all the training and experience you'd need to make your own correct choices when purchasing your own pointies.
When it comes to some real Mall-Ninja wall hanger blade there are some key aspects that seal the classification:
  1. Black. Real Ninja's need black weapons for their Tier One Wet Ops. Powder coated, painted, teflon coated, oxidised, it doesn't matter.
  2. Cord-wrapped handle. Every real street-samurai wants their blade wrapped samurai style, and that means cord-wrapped.
  3. Curves. Like every bad-lady out there it has a curves and every mall-ninja want's a bad lady of their very own.
  4. More curves. See Above, but unnecessary curves are even better.
  5. Extra cutting surfaces. Primary edges aren't very high speed-low drag. For true body-dropping power, you need blades on all faces.
  6. Unnecessary serrations.   It's not a sharks mouth, buddy, its a knife. You need a chainsaw, get a Husky!
  7. Tactical sheath. Drop-leg, back-scabbard or just "ballistic nylon".
  8. A scary name. "No one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley."Add a few "NINJA, ZOMBIE or DEATHs in there for good measure.
However; there's a lot of shiny bling out there. Here's a quick guide to some examples.

A - Zombie ass kicker. This is a bad-assed blade, but a serious wall-hanger. Extra serrations, extra edges to catch and snag, it's styled after the Aztec war swords to look extra scary. Ribbon-wrapped rather than cord, and a pretty thin, light steel. I don't have much faith in it's utility.
B - Living dead apocalypse full tang ninja sword.  Twin blades are better than one, obviously. Extra curves and serrations along the non-striking edge of the blade, as well as holes cut into the blade to lighten it, adding weakness.
C -"Hunting Knife." Perhaps if you're the Predator tracking Dutch and the other Rescue Team members.. This no-name piece  actually performs pretty well, regardless of its extra curves, useless serrated spine and extra holes. Its "full-tang, one-piece construction" is quite sturdy and the cord wrap handle well done. It's pretty well balanced, well finished, and were not for the extra holes and the saw on the spine, it might not even qualify as a Wall-hanger for Mall-Ninja's were it not for the dual shoulder strap back-holster  and the extra holes.
D - Black legion undead machete. Scary name, and wicked post-apocalyptic hammer finish. Now just add to the list the impressive looking spiked knuckle-guard, the "zombie-green' cord wrap and the drop-leg sheath and you've a "take-em-all-out before they getcha"special to scare mom with if she ever busts in on you practicing kata in the basement. water-bottles and melons of the world beware. To be fair, the blade appears to be well made, but the fitting are a tad flimsy for my tastes.
E - Z-hunter-axe. Not really an axe. Not really a hunting knife. Unnecessary saw-back serrations, extra curves and hooked edges. Great cord-wrapping and a single piece of steel for resilience, with sick jolly roger logo for extra-scary pirate aesthetic. Maybe if you're going from to room on a beached Somali cargo ship? I have a feeling it wouldn't  serve too well dressing a water-buffalo either. But zombies? narp.
F -KA-BAR War sword On first glance, this one looks like a prime candidate for Mall-Ninja wall-hanging.   It's got some curve to it, a lurid green scale grip, for extra zombie killing power, and a fully decked out nylon thigh sheath. However, its a serious work horse of a knife, but the scary name, and green scale gives them the potential for Mall-Ninja wall hanging.
G - Ontario Black Wind. Not every Mall-ninja wants a blingtastic katana straight out of Highlander or Blade. Some might prefer a more-or-less traditional "ninja-to style" short, straight and heavy sword, which is exactly the kind of blade that the Ontario Knife Co. put into Army Disposals and into the pages of martial arts catalogues. This is a bad-ass blade, undeserving of any scorn, and is in fact one of my go-to blades in the event of Apocalypse or civil unrest.  Even with its high-speed looking kydex scabbard,  just too good to be a wall-hanger.
H -Cold Steel Gladius. Last up from my own collection is the hungry-for blood Gladius from Cold Steel. Now, even the mighty Roman armies had their own groupies and  modern-day hangers on, thanks to a steady stream of "sand and sandals" action pictures. The humble Roman ground-pounder was issued one of these Gaul-stickers and bade go forth and pacify the Empire. The modern version hanging on my wall would have been a high-tech marvel of construction but fit in nicely in the shield-wall. I don't recommend trying to take that angle when trying to explain why you have one lashed to your hip with your Company First Sergeant, but, if you wanted a big ass blade for defending the empire "outside the wire" you could do a lot worse than one of these.

Lets take a moment to talk thickness. Cheap blades are often cut or pressed  from sheets of thin steel. This doesn't offer much cutting mass, strength or rigidity, all things I would want in a fighting blade. Different steels have different densities so its hard to gauge what steel is in the kick-ass zombie slayer you found at the disposal store, but the thickness of the blade can be a good indicator. I've found the thinner the blade, the less likely to be a practical tool (unless you're cutting sushi or shaving).

So. My last bit of advice to prospective blade collectors: Buy quality. It needn't be expensive, but should be from a reputable maker, be it a big company or a small smith. Be sure to give your new-found tool a run through its paces, before staking your life on it, (and get some formal training if possible). Don't be a mall-ninja.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Heads up!: Zu Bladeworx Warmonger Releaase for Pre-Order

Zu Bladeworx Warmonger Available for Pre-Order

First published on Breach Bang Clear here:

One of my favorite bladesmith companies, ZU Bladeworx in New South Wales, Australia, is accepting orders for their newest bladed weapon: The Warmonger. Note that I didn't say "tool." I might sometimes use euphemisms when it comes to blades, but this is a weapon.

Apparently styled after the Imperial Chinese dadao knife, this hungry-looking cleaver will, I have no doubt, ship to you straight-razor sharp and ready to cut things in half. I fully expect the single piece construction that typifies ZU Bladeworx blades. That style, which has scales or embellishment, lends itself perfectly to cord-wrapping and multiple attachment options with the well-made Kydex sheathes and mounting hardware they offer, as well as  a number of finishes to suit your MOS.

If the name sounds familiar, you might recall them from this FFSK review.

So are cleavers tools or weapons? I chat with people about this often. Fundamentally it is the human brain that is the ultimate weapon; a knife, gun, or axe is just an inanimate object until the human brain gives it intent.
Some tools have been designed with a primary purpose aimed at combat. Some knives are clearly tools that could be used as weapons if intent was there. I know it grates on me when I watch Forged in Fire and they call EVERY knife a weapon.
As I mentioned to a ZU Nation member the other day, I like to design functional, legal and collectable weapons. Not necessarily for carrying or self defense, but to collect, like coins or watches. I call them weapons not to be a hero, but because I like industrial, futuristic versions of medieval and martial arts weapons.
I was at the cutting-edge knives display at the Sydney Show and was eyeing off some kiku and nemoto knives, very tactical-looking and scary to non-knife people. A guy next to me said, "What would you want that for? It is useless as a tool."
I told him it would be for my collection. What is the use in collecting cheap shit? May as well collect good stuff, or why collect at all. Would I carry a Spectre? No. I don't carry any knives to be honest. Do I play with them at home? All the time. Every knife we make is a functional tool, and an efficient weapon in the right hands.
Recently released and rapidly all-sold-out Omega weapons.
Warmonger preorder opened the 15th of September. Reapers opened July 1 so that makes it mid September for shipping. Machining on the Warmongers began September 15 so that seems like a good day to open the preorder. That way the Reapers and Spectres will be almost ready to ship out. Wave 2 Reapers will ship within days of Wave 1. I am actually trying to get these out a little earlier.
ZU Nation price will be $429 plus post for knife and kydex. Attachments extra.
Installment plan as follows;
1) $200 - (plus you can add attachments if you want them)
2) $229 plus post (about $20) due four weeks later
I've done one of these pre-releases and am extremely happy with my Grunt. It's a decent system and  I trust the folks at ZU Bladeworx to deliver.
Here is a batch of their also-sold-out Reaper weapons, commissioned by the ADF. This lot destined for the soon-to-deply 1RAR.
Happy Hunting, lads!

Late update from Matt of ZU:
"So more details on the Warmonger, subject to change but pretty sure it is right.
100 piece run, I can't see us doing a second wave.
Base blade with kydex is $495 (ZU Nation members get a coupon to take off $66 to make it $429 like I promised). This includes tufftride finish and black kydex (no attachments). Coupon will only work on wave 1 (in the unlikely event we so a second wave).
2 part installment. The coupon will work on installment 1.
Postage is $20 (3kg exp bag with sign sticker)
Cerakote one colour - add $25
Apocolypse Cerakote (red or bronze) add $75
Tek Lok - add $25"
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