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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Old Meeting the New: When Cultures Collide

An inescapable fundamental in our existence has always been change. Everything evolves, develops or turns into something else. True, there are some traditions, ideas, methods or ways of living that are "empty" or meaningless, becoming an anachronism as time goes by. These need to be discarded. Yet on the other side of the equation, when something new comes along, is it really the necessary or even welcome kind?

Case in point: the apparent rise of youth problems in Greenland -

It actually reminded me of something disturbingly familiar I had read some time ago about the small, land-locked, South Asian nation of Bhutan. It also faced similar societal challenges brought about by its opening to the world -

In my poor and shameless attempt at being an amateur anthropologist, I tried to attribute the similar geographic remoteness or isolation of both countries that made them less susceptible to the effects of the changing world. Did the remoteness of their locations afford them not to be desensitized as much as the rest of us? Maybe all this societal deprecation falls also on the rate it has influenced these peoples' consciousness. It would seem that all these effects have been felt in less than a generation. Would a gradual introduction to the outside have had a different impact?

I think its plain to see: change does not always translate into progress.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Merry Christmas From the Grove!

If you're a Christian, this season is probably the most anticipated and most celebrated of the entire year, more so to us Filipinos who unofficially start if from September!

For Christians as the story goes, GOD in his supreme compassion for us, sent his "only begotten son" down into this world and humanity to be born in a small, obscure and impoverished part of a suffering nation. His parents weren't all that lucky either. Just an ordinary couple who didn't have much going for them; his father Yosef, a middle-aged carpenter and woodworker who worked with his hands and had a simple disposition in life. His mother was Miriam, a young girl barely out of her teens. Nothing set them up to be remarkable or different from the thousands of other poor families in rural Israel at that time.

Then comes the interesting or bewildering part of HOW he was born. As Robert Fulghum imaginatively narrated in one of his books, could you just imagine yourself in Yosef's shoes after hearing for the first time about certain upcoming events from your soon-to-be wife:

Miriam: Yosef, I'm pregnant. . .


Miriam: He's going to be GOD'S son. . .


(Thinks and after a brief pause)


Miriam: An Angel named Gabriel told me this. Isn't it exciting?

ROFL!!! It's got a hint of John and Marsha comedy doesn't it? Guess what though, things turned out well in the end. The child grew-up and 2,000 years later, he is looked upon with reverence and faith by followers world-wide numbering more than a billion.

So just in case we forget, it's NOT about this guy who's being pushed by big business' commercialism and the media -

Two words: liposuction and exercise. Is he legally entering countries with a valid passport? Is he following labor policies and the rights of the elves he's employing to make all those toys? Does he have the proper permits to own flying reindeer which maybe endangered? You expect me to believe that red sack of his contains only toys?!
Hmmmm. I smell a terrorist!

It's also NOT about this -

Frankly, if we had trees like that here in our country, turning it into firewood or panggatong would be better instead. Also, we wouldn't have to feel obliged to put gifts under there to satisfy childhood greed or try to keep-up or compete with the neighbors for better-looking decorations.

We do have our own, uniquely Pinoy symbol of the season after all -

Cheap, stimulates creativity, traditional, cost-effective, environment friendly. O di ba mas OK?

Ultimately, it's about a certain birth that happened a long time ago that changed everything.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Moment in the Battlefield

Some scholars believe that in all of history, WAR or conflict has been the defining moment of man's existence upon this earth. The battles fought in the last century alone which had two (2) World Wars claimed millions of lives. I've yet to see an old veteran of these events in the twilight of his life not shed a tear or think deep in regret when remembering what he's gone thru.

Once in a while though, just once in a great while, you hear a story like this. Might've been battle fatigue, might've homesickness, or just being caught-up in the moment. It was a brief but great pause in the deluge of violence and killing. The link to the story below -

Blood Type and Personality

Closeup look at red blood cells

Apparently the Japanese, those people who practically set the trend for modern technology and electronics, take this concept seriously. Most though would relegate this into the realms of superstition or like the belief in astrology, that Zodiac signs determine personality.

I was brought-up thinking that more than anything, you're going to have an active part into what you'll turn out to be, in spite of biochemistry or circumstance. We could also think in terms of how "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" or the conceptual model for strong emergence.

The strange thing though is when I read what the article says about my own blood type, it was a fairly accurate description of my personality (not "personhood " though uhurmm, hrmm, ahem)!

What do you think?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does YOUR Senator Look Like This?

Who says politics don't have their share of head-turners?

Recently, the the world caught sight of Gov. Sarah Palin from Alaska in the US who was a Vice-Presidential aspirant. The late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazhir Bhutto was included in a US magazine's list of the "World's 50 Most Beautiful People" (and reputedly drove around in her sports car back in college in Harvard!).

Then from the Republic of the Philippines; Sen. Pia S. Cayetano who is described by her website as "the youngest woman elected in the history of the Philippine Senate. A lawyer, entrepreneur, triathlete and mother of two. . . "

She reminds me of another stunning triathlete and model, a wahine straight from Hawaii; Lokelani McMicahel who's also "the youngest female to finish the Hawaiian Ironman" (I wouldn't be surprised if she had Filipina roots too!) -

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UPDATE - Security Flaw Found In Internet Explorer

This is a cyber-security threat. If you're using Internet Explorer as your browser, there's news of a new threat from hackers that seems to affect all versions of the software -

Apparently, the "fixes" to remedy it don't work -

The thing is, hasn't this been already identified since years back? Attacks have even been done by "white hat hackers" in an attempt to raise flags to Microsoft and Bill Gates to fix the problem on his product. Well, they havent' been listening.

I use Mozilla's Firefox which is also more resistant to malware. Upload it now for free -


Microsoft has released a solution. See the article below on the procedure to address the flaw -

Personally though, I'd still get Firefox as a back-up browser which is more secure.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Peruvian Christmas Dinner: Guinea Pig

Awwww. . . Would you really turn me into Caldereta?

I was thinking about doing a feature on different peoples' Christmas feasts. To each his own I say. Link below -


Known as "tanglad" in the Tagalog dialect, this herb has been used as a folk remedy and as a flavor-infusing traditional ingredient in many Asian cuisines for generations. Boiling a handful makes a soothing and fragrant tea. It is also reputed to have cancer-fighting properties. Below is an article on the benefits of lemongrass -

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Man Throws Shoes at Bush

THIS IS WRONG! Security breach! It should not have happened!

Idiot's Note: Practice your aim and throw beforehand! :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Inova Microlights

A nice little and very useful light. Don't let it's small size fool you! It's very bright. I gave one to my brother-in-law and likes the fact that he doesn't have to grope for the car's ignition or when looking for something when it's dark in the car anymore.

It's just the right size, not too small unlike some other "key chain" lights out there but still not large enough for you to notice. This is because the "bulb" itself is encased and not exposed unlike on other ones, which what made me like it in the first place.

One thing though, as I've got two; a white one for general purpose lighting that's in my key chain and a red one in my pack (for preserving your eyes' night vision or trying to see in low-light conditions as when rummaging through your gear or reading up-close like notes), the red one gets finicky and malfunctions at times. I must've gotten a lemon though as the white one does OK.

Here's a good review -

In the review it says the light is "not waterproof" but actually, if you saw the movie Saw (the first one, after that I didn't want to watch the next ones anymore!), in the opening scene, a man lays submerged and hand-cuffed in a bathtub. A microlight then floats by lighting the scene attached to the key of his lock. I haven't dunked mine in water yet, but I'm sure though that it's water-resistant or "splash proof".

Also stated in the review, the clip isn't very secure and when too much stuff got tangled in my pants pocket, it actually came loose from the key chain. This happened twice. I remedied it by replacing the clip with a key ring.

Visit any Hahn Gunstore at any SM mall if you like to get one.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Advanced Dekiti Tirsia Siradas

Advanced combination strikes demo'ed GM Jerson Tortal Jr. -

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Amateur's Knife Codex

(This is a permanent reference post)

Updated: 07/26/2011
As this will be an organic post, info will continue to evolve and be revised occasionally. Check back soon!

Swiss Army One-Hand Trekker German Army Pocket Tool by Victorinox (Switzerland)

Sterkh by Kizylyar Knives (Russia)
photo taken from

Hard 1 ("Fighter" model) by Yuna Knives (Thailand)

Holt Collier Special by Charles May (USA)

EDC by Stefano Tretini (Italy)

KM-450 Combat Skinner by Kiku Matsuda (Japan)

CQC-7 ("waved" custom version) by Ernest Emerson/Emerson Knives (USA)

Wolverine by Kellam Knives (Finland)

Model 710 - McHenry and Williams design by Benchmade Knives (USA)

La Griffe by Fred Perrin (France)

Beta Model - Allen Elishewitz and Robert Terzuola design collaboration (USA)
photo taken from

Bailey Bradshaw folding bowie (pic from "Peregrin" of, USA

Scott Sawby Combat/Utility Folder (USA)
(photo taken from

Bob Lum Encounters (Japan)

Adam DesRosiers (photo by, USA

Steels Used By Knife Makers

0-1 is perhaps the most forgiving of any knife quality steel other than the very simple alloy types, and produces a blade of excellent quality for most normal use. It can be heat treated very easily. Further references? Well, the ole' master, Cooper, used it for many years and folks do love his blades because they're tough. Awhile back, one of the best of the blade smiths said that well treated 0-1 would out cut any Damascus, and no one argued with him. Edge holding is exceptional. 0-1 is precision ground unless you're lucky enough to stumble across some mill bar. Goof up the heat treat and 0-1 will let you try again as often as you like, as long as you don't overheat the metal. Tough on grinding belts.

0-6 is the next step up from 0-1 easy heat treat but pure hell to grind. It's significantly tougher, with finer crystalline structure and hard graphitic particles that resist wear. Stock is both hot rolled and precision ground. Hot rolled prices are reasonable. Very tough to grind. Edges are incredible, lasting even longer than the best Damascus and even 0-1. Has an odd, rather orange spark.

W-1W-2, and the series of 10-- steels from 1045 through 1095 are the ultimate in simplicity and very shallow hardening so they may be used to make a selectively hardened edge as one sees on old Japanese swords. Toughness is outstanding, with these alloys being used for grader blade edges, truck springs and files. Uses up grinding belts at quite a rapid rate. Edges are acceptable with 1045, good with 1060, nice with 1084, and excellent with 1095W-1 or W-2. Those last two are often referred to as O-F, old file. It is very easy to get the higher carbon end of this series way too hard to make a good knife.

5160 is a common spring steel, basically 1060 with one per-cent of chromium added to make it deep hardening. (It may still be selectively drawn with a softer back, if desired.) An excellent steel for swords, or any other blade that will have to take some battering. The choice of Jim Hrisoulas who makes some of the finest working swords in the business. Long blades are best around the mid 50's on the Rockwell_Scale, while small, working blades can be put into service at a full 60 RC. Forged blades with a well packed edge seem to cut forever! Rough on grinding belts. Jokingly called O-C-S, old chevy spring.

52100 is a ball bearing steel, generally not found in useful grinding sizes, but terrific in edge holding and toughness. 52100 is 5160 with an attitude, more alloy and more carbon that makes it harder and tougher. Like 5160, throws a brilliant yellow spark. Ed Fowler has developed a superior heat treating technique for this steel.

L-6 is the band or circular saw blade steel used in most lumber mills and downright hard to find in any other form. Hardens in oil to about RC 57 and takes a fine edge for most cutting, particularly where the edge might be steeled back into shape. Outstanding where flexibility is needed but rusts easily, like virtually all of the simple carbon steels. L-7 is the same stuff with a little more carbon.

A-2 is an exceptional steel, with fine wear-resisting qualities plus excellent resistance to annealing and warping. Grinding is noticeably harder than 0-1 but not extremely difficult. Sawing is tougher and relates to the five percent of chrome in this steels chemical make up. Really nice to finish with the grinder and very little grain appearing in buffing. Excellent flexibility. Phil Hartsfield get incredible cutting ability out of this steel. Several other of the A series will also make fine blades.

D-2 offers another air hardening tool steel, but with 12% chrome and excellent, if not superb, wear resistance. The resistance also holds true in both sawing and grinding, even while the steel is fully annealed. While using belts up at a faster rate than average, D-2 is not particularly hard to grind with fresh belts. Using old belts causes enough heat to work harden the steel. D-2 anneals at somewhat higher temperature than A-2 and will not take a true, mirror polish. Definitely a steel for the advanced craftsman. It's major drawback is the orange peel appearance of the surface when finished to a high gloss. One knife maker is often quoted as saying that D-2 takes a lousy edge and holds it forever. Often found as surplus wood plainer blades. D-4 and D-7 are also good cutlery alloys, but darn hard to find in the right sizes. Air hardening steels can work harden while you're grinding them if you get the stock too hot. This doesn't mean much on the grinder, but when you try to file a guard notch, the file will just slide.

M-2 is a high temperature steel made for lath cutting tools, which has darn little to do with knives, but allows you to really cook the blade in finishing after heat treat without annealing it. M-2 is perhaps a bit better in edge holding than D-2. It is also rather brittle and not recommended for large knives.

440C was the first generally accepted knife makers' stainless and remains quite popular, particularly since the sub-zero process was developed to add toughness. On the grinder, it's gummy and gets hot fast, but it cuts a lot faster and easier than any of the carbon steels. Your belts will cut about 2 to 3 times as much 440-C than 0-1. Using hand hacksaws on it will wear out a lot of blades in a hurry. But with the proper care, good heat treating and finishing, 440C produces an excellent, serviceable and durable knife, even for the new knife maker. Anneals at very low temperature. Please note that 440A and 440B are similar alloys, often confused with 440C, but not worth a damn for knife making use. Commercial knife companies often mark blades 440 when they're one of the less desirable versions, giving the real stuff a bad name. 440C is also available in more sizes and in more places than just about any stainless alloy suitable for knives. It is also essential to remember that collectors hate to see one of their prizes turn brown in the sheath, and 440C handles corrosion resistance very well. While the variation, 440-V doesn't seem to get quite as hard, but holds an edge for much longer and is much more difficult to grind.

154 CM was considered by many to be super-steel, if you can find some of the old production stock. The new batches are not manufactured to the standards that we've come to expect for knife steel. While excellent in use, 154 CM eats up the finest hacksaw blades in one across-the-bar cut of 1-1/2". It's machining and grinding qualities are similar to 440C and won't win it any awards for ease in working. In use though, this alloy has a definite advantage in both hardness and toughness over 440C154 CM is not an accepted standard grade designation, rather a manufacturers trade name.

ATS-34 Japanese made stainless considered the equal of 154 CM. Import restrictions have been eased somewhat, although they were forced to raise the price by 50%. Cleaner than the 154 CM. (154 CM is no longer used in government specified applications and is not the vacuum melt product that we once appreciated.) ATS-34 is virtually the exact same alloy as 154 CM, minus 0.04% of one of the less essential elements. ATS-34 is double vacuum melted and very clean. It also comes with a hard, black skin that will put a shine on your grinding belt before you know it. We recommend knocking the skin off with old belts before tapering the tang or Vee grinding. One fellow tried to take the skin off with an industrial motor driven wire brush wheel. All he did was polish it. We now stock a belt the is specifically designed to remove this scale. ATS-34 is a trade name. The three, 154 CMATS-34 and 440-C, all have a small, reddish spark that has a distinct, but hard to see carbon fork. ATS-34 is also a trade name. That super hard black skin on some of these steels, as well as forging scale, can be "pickled" to remove it. Buy a gallon of inexpensive white vinegar, and leave the steel in it overnight. Works like magic. If it doesn't work, or makes the shop smell like a salad, blame Doug Brack, who gave me this hint.

AEBL seems to be about 440B. Extremely easy to grind, in fact, I think I may have set a world record with it a few years back, over a hundred blades from bar stock to 220 grit within eight hours. Heat treat like 440C. Edge holding is best when heat treating includes a freeze cycle. Very easy to polish and buff. Very nice choice for miniatures, kitchen knives, etc. AEBL has several quirky habits in grinding that make it difficult to use on thicker or larger knives. Makes nice kitchen knives. "Hoss" uses this in his beautiful stainless Damascus and reports that it holds up very well.

420 modified stainless, has been successfully used by some commercial knife producers, but availability is not practical for the hobby knife maker since darn few of us order steel in mill rolls.

VASCO WEAR is rather expensive but very, very good in edge holding. Resists grinding very well too! You'll swear your belts have all gone dull when you try it. Do everything you have to before heat treating, cause you sure aren't going to be able to do much afterward. Priced like lobster tails, when you can find it. Try Vasco-Pacific in the Los Angeles area. Vasco - Pacific uses their own series of names for their alloys.

DAMASCUS steel is such a widely made product that it is impossible to make too many general statements about it, other than it seems to catch collectors better than any other type. Each smith does his in a slightly different way, ranging from the fellow who toughs it out, starting with three layers, to the guy who welds a 300 layer sandwich of shim stock into a billet with one hit in a 40 ton press. They're all pretty. Reese Weiland suggests that the last etch of a Damascus blade be done with phosphoric acid, which will sort of, parkerize the metal and help protect it. He said that you have to play around with the concentration of the acid and immersion times a bit, depending on the steel you're using. This will also work on most carbon steel blades. If a Damascus blade has been hardened with a softer section at the spine or guard, you will get a much better looking etch if you use muriatic acid first, to get the depth you want, and then ferric chloride for adding color.

STELLITE 6-K fits into the same category as Vasco Wear in the wear resistance area, but doesn't need heat treating since there is no iron in it at all. The trick is exceptionally hard particles embedded in a rather soft alloy. Very flexible and easy to bend. Virtually cannot be brought to a mirror finish. Stellite blades are very much in demand by some collectors. The alloy best suited for knives now must be ordered from Canada and costs about a hundred bucks a pound. Part of Stellite's toughness comes from the rolling process used to form the bars. Cast Stellite is not nearly as tough.

TITANIUM is only a marginally acceptable metal for a knife blade. It cannot be hardened much past the mid 40's of the Rockwell C scale, and that's spring, or throwing knife territory. Aside from that, I'm sure that there will soon be collectable titanium knives on many custom makers tables, designed to catch collectors, and not for cutting.

by Bob Engnanth
Copyright ©1997 By Blades 'N' Stuff - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

An overview of Blade Shapes
photo from Jim Baker Custom Knives (click to enlarge)

Common Blade Grinds
photo from

1. Hollow
2. Full flat
3. Sabre
4. Chisel
5. Flat
6. Convexed

Tribe in Chile Facing Extinction

These people aren't the first, nor will they be the last. A lot have died-out in the past. Cultures and sub-societies that adopt to change are always the more successful as part of cultural evolution. Who knows? Maybe one day it'll be our turn. The cycle continues.

Still, it's always sobering news to hear though since a part of humanity is disappearing. Link below -

A Pinatubo Monster?!?

Ooops! Sorry, si Cookie Monster pala ito!

A cryptid is a term used to refer to an animal or creature that has been known or at least been sighted, especially by the local population, yet still remains anomalous or mysterious as science has yet to prove its existence. Researchers don't necessarily include those from traditional legends or fairy tales though, like dragons or mermaids as they try to be more scientific in their pursuit. The most famous and classic ones are the ape-like "Bigfoot" from North America and the dinosaur-shaped "Loch Ness Monster" from Scotland.

So I happen to stumble on to this article on something closer to home. Presenting: the Pinatubo Monster! The link below -

Guess what? May blog na rin pala! Eto o -

What do you think? Well, real or not, personally it's gonna be good marketing for the local tourist industry! (BTW, those pictures they posted in their blog are from other reported creatures in the internet!)

To be fair though, like the previously mentioned Loch Ness monster, there have been countless reports of sightings of large aquatic creatures from all over the world since long ago. This interesting story for example -

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Wilderness Trekker Packs

The Wilderness Tactical Products in the US is known for making quality gear for the armed professional. Their Instructor's Belts (also known as tactial belts and the specialized rescue versions as rigger's belts) are well known.

I kind of like this bag though. Very nice!

Now that's a nice looking "man bag" with more than one carry mode! More info from their website -

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Heart Sutra

A sutra in Buddhism is the equivalent of scripture in the Bible for Christians. Both function to preserve certain religious teachings and point to a greater message or truth. It comes from the Sanskrit word meaning "thread" or something to mean topics or subjects that are strung and held together for a common theme. This is usually because it is constructed to include certain background details describing elements like where it happened, what was the occasion, who was listening and such.

The Heart Sutra is said to be the most well-known and popular of Buddhist scriptures that have managed to come down to us, much like the 23rd Psalm is for Christians. Contained in it is the seemingly confounding but beautiful teaching of nothingness or emptiness. It is one of those things that are best understood or arrived at not with the brain trying to decipher its meaning. When you've achieved stillness and become more calm from absorbing it, then it gets better to understand. . . even if you still really don't!

As with many ancient writings, there have been many translations. I like the simple one below taken from this link -

The Heart Sutra

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty, and so released himself from suffering. Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:

Body is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body.
The body is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body.

The other four aspects of human existence --
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness --
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.

All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

So, in emptiness, there is no body,
no feeling, no thought,
no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.
There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.
There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.

All the Buddhas,
past, present, and future,
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and live in full enlightenment.

The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra.
It is the clearest mantra,
the highest mantra,
the mantra that removes all suffering.

This is truth that cannot be doubted.
Say it so:

Which means...
gone over,
gone fully over.
So be it!

Building Your Own IFAK

Build your personal, compact version!

This should be a fun project!

So why build your own? For the simple reason that we don't know when life may surprise us with aches, bruises, burns and wounds. Aren't there available or pre-assembled ones out in the market already? Ika nga: "At bakit naman hindi?" This ensures that you could customize it to your own needs, such as if you have certain allergies or a specific medical condition. Depending on one's background and training as well it could be as complete or complex as one could make it. Making multiple kits is good too, like one for your vehicle or for your travel/sports bag.

For our purposes now though, let's make it a basic kit for all. It doesn't need to cost much. Here's an example of a list of items to put in -

- 1 pair medical/bandage scissors (periodically sterilized or autoclaved)
- 1 - 2 pairs disposable medical gloves (Note: Latex is the usual material it's made out of but some people have an allergic reaction to this. They also tear easily. The ones made from Nitrile are preferred)
- 1 small roll medical/surgical tape, 3M or Leukoplast
- several Band-Aid strips of different sizes and shapes
- gauze, either in several pre-cut 4" x 4" pads OR 1 roll
- 1 small pack cotton balls
- 1 small bottle 70% isoprohpyl alcohol, Green Cross
- 1 micro bottle povidone - iodine solution, Betadine
- 1 small tube ketoconazole antifungal cream, Nizoral
- 2 pcs. paracetamol, Biogesic for fever
- 2 pcs. meclizine, Bonamine for nausea or motion sickness
- 2 pcs. ibuprofen + paracetamol, Alaxan for aches and pains
- 4 pcs. loperamide, Immodium for LBM
- 2 pcs. antacid, Kremil-S for hyperacidity

All are contained in a small, zippered, brightly-colored bag to make it readily noticeable. Properly labeling it as such helps too. Something similar below -

Personally though, I prefer a solid container with a locking lid as this prevents the items from getting crushed or squashed. Ideally, let's consider a few more things: the container should be fairly compact to make it EDC-able. It shouldn't feel like a chore to have to bring it regularly and able to fit into your bag, day pack, briefcase or luggage. It should be fairly rugged in composition and in design to handle the daily dings and bangs (for outdoors and travelers though, this is a requirement). It should be watertight as possible so that the items inside won't be ruined by water or moisture. Lastly, it's preferred that it be transparent so you could see the contents inside readily.

So where can you get said container? The next time you drop by Mr. Henry Sy's well-known stores, swing by the housewares section, where they keep the plastic products and containers. Look for the Lock N' Lock products. They're the latest generation store-all products, sort of like the grandkids of the Tupperware's from the 1980's. They also come come in different shapes and sizes.

Remember though: do periodic checks or once in while have a look at your IFAK to see what needs to be re-stocked or if certain medicines have reached their expiration dates. Packaging might degrade, shrink or leak so watch-out for these. The seal of the container might be damaged in the long run too so inspect it as well.

Having fun making your own!

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Remember, remember the 5th of November..."

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

- "V"
V for Vendetta
Alan Moore

Terror Attacks in India: Lessons Learned

We've all been hearing and reading what's happened in India these past weeks. Now that the events have subsided and the finger-pointing and blame game of "should have/would have/might have" as well as the usual FOI (failure of intelligence) has started, let's leave those issues to the concerned authorities. Frankly, there are far too many cultural, political, procedural and operational matters to be taken on by this humble blog and for me to play "armchair analyst".

Five years ago, while researching and trying to understand the threat dynamics of this phenomenon, I was struck by the fact that, operational and policy-wise, there was no clear and established definition for the concept of "terrorism"! In actuality, the policy and security experts haven't come to a satisfactory one yet. Part of the difficulty in defining it is that each group has it's own driving motivations and agendas for committing such acts. Broadly speaking, they fall into the following categories: Ideological, Political, Religious/Quasi-Religious/Cultist, Financial and Insane (the types of foes fought by James Bond wanting global domination do have their own equivalents in real life). I subscribe to the thoughts of noted expert Dr. Boaz Ganor

So I looked to the Israelis (whom the aforementioned Dr. Ganor happens to be). Although terrorism is a world-wide occurrence affecting all societies, if there was ever a people who had to live with this kind of threat almost on a daily basis, it would be them. They have been targets since long ago being situated only a stone's throw away from areas of radical Islamic groups that breed this kind of endeavor either by way of ideology or activity (Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah, Abu Nidal are well known. The Osama Bin Laden-linked Al Qaeda is really more of a network base for logistics and support).

In Bombay, there was a lot chaos, fear, confusion, smoke and gunfire. Lest we forget, India is also a developing country like us here in the Philippines, in which the social facilities and infrastructures are still inadequate as well as resources being stretched thin because of its exploding population. When all that happens we can not just solely rely on the government to come and get us out of a bind. We NEED to do something ourselves and not succumb to hoping for immediate aid which may not come right away. Let me be clear though: I am not saying that we should abandon the concept of government and institutional identity and support altogether. In a way we are helping it by helping ourselves.

The vast majority of us are not going to be kicking down doors in teams with H&K MP5's and flash-bang grenades at the ready. Instead, these simple steps can make surviving such events easier (Note: This is also a similar approach when dealing with catastrophes and calamities. The key is getting everyone in the family on board with the plan) -

1. Being aware and vigilant. We may never know when and where an attack like this might happen, so while we're still in the pre-incident or pre-event "yellow alert" stage, let's keep our awareness in our neighborhoods and surroundings heightened. Civic-mindedness doesn't stop there though. Don't be afraid to call the authorities for anything you suspect highly criminal or illegal. The sooner every bit of relevant info comes to alert and aid the authorities the better, to foil or diffuse whatever plot is afoot (by the term "relevant" I mean exercising prudence or good judgment in how we perceive things. Causing undue alarm for the police, first responders and local officials about something trivial won't help anybody and you end-up on their bad side!).

2. In the event of an actual attack, DON'T PANIC. It's natural to be afraid. Panicking and losing your head is a different matter altogether. Fear may help, as it puts you on your toes and makes you do something productive. Panic kills and worsens the situation.

3. Plan ahead. Heads of families are encouraged to make a family-based contingency plan. Each family member has to understand the conditions for what, how and when this plan goes active. Examining your living situation and lifestyle is a good start. Questions like how secure is your house? Where is it located? Does it have a good route to and from a major road? What limitations present themselves in the household? (i.e. - the elderly or infirmed members). Evacuation or exit plans? Of special note are little children, as the need to explain and emphasize what to do becomes apparent.

4. Keep the means and lines of communication accessible and at the ready. As cell phones are now an integral part of our lives, let's make sure they're functional and in-service (post-paid accounts paid up and extra pre-paid load cards ready and unexpired). This is critical if certain family members are away or become separated or the need to contact the authorities arises (frankly though, at this time they might responding or attending to multiple or more severe cases). Same goes for the family car or vehicle.

5. If evacuation or relocation becomes necessary, establish a "safe haven" location. A secure place other than the home such as with relatives or a location with some meager living conditions would suffice.

In summary: Have a plan beforehand. Ready the resources. Don't panic.

Ingat tayong lahat. Be safe!

(Photo from

(Terrorist gunman Ajmal Amir Kasab. Reuters)