Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ham Radio, Gardening Plans and my Updated Get Home bag

I'm starting to learn about Ham Radio. On the plus side the test seems to actually have some useful stuff in it instead of just lines of federal code so that is good. It helps that some of it is interesting and I think a decent bit is educational.  Don't have a ton of time to study but I do have a few brief moments during the day and some time at night. Hopefully I'll be ready in a month or so to take the test.

We are starting to talk about gardening plans for the spring. Looking at bringing in some dirt and doing a slightly raised bed in one place and some pots. This year it will be a lot better planned than last (as I didn't think a garden would be possible till well past the ideal start time) and try to do 3 or so iterations of the same stuff to have a better staggered garden. Well that is the plan anyway.

I have also been working on making my new Tactical Tailor Removable Operator Bag into a leaner, meaner version of my level 2.5/ get home bag. Almost got it set up how I want. Right now the bag is about 17 pounds (dry) with a 1 qt water bottle and a hydration bladder. It is just a little bit too much bulk for the bag to comfortably handle. Generally it is slightly above my overall goal to move fast and have enough stuff to not die. I either need to ditch the Hill People Gear Serape, trim a fair bit of weight elsewhere or figure out a better way to load it all up. The hard part is that I've really made all the easy cuts. Part of the issue could be that a sub 20 pound day pack setup with a couple days worth of food and a solid setup of survival stuff is a pretty tall order. Add in the capacity to survive a 25 degree night, without significant shelter making and or a roaring fire andI'm not honestly certain it is possible. Might need to stick with the bigger day pack or even a small framed one during the winter and use the smaller one in the summer. Will play with it some more then let you know what cracks out.

Anyway those are some of the things I have been up to. What have you been up to?

Friday, February 13, 2015

AR-15's, Ham Radio and Life

Alexander Wolfe bought himself a fancy new Bravo Company AR-15. We talked about this before and he was fortunate to pull the trigger before they stopped the free BCM bolt carrier with every upper special which ran for a pretty long time. He went with the lightweight barrel, while I chose the standard weight on my rifle, but for most civilian applications the difference is probably academic.

On the plus side for him our mutual advertiser Lucky Gunner hooked him up with some 5.56 ammo to zero/ test fire the new toy with.

Alex doesn't buy guns often so when he does it is usually well thought out and a significant event. The topic of optics came up. It looks like Alex is planning to upgrade. He mentioned the Aimpoint micro. There are a lot of really good scopes in that general price range. I tried to throw out the topic of low power variable scopes. For a do everything rifle a low powered variable with an illuminated reticle has a lot going for it. Best of all even if you run out of batteries you still have a day optic.My Burris MTAC is pretty darn nice. However I do find the 4x max a bit lower than I would like. As Alexander noted 1-6's are great but really expensive. Burris makes a 1.5-6x MTAC which I've heard good things about. Also Vortex recently put out their 1-6x Strike Eagle with a projected street price under 4 bills.

Am helping a friend do an AR build. They got a deal on a lower now we are looking for an LPK to put it together. The goal is to get a decent to good duty type rifle at a reasonable price so while not necessarily the cheapest gun out there it should be a lot of gun for the money. This means no derp tier 'Bubba's Basement Armory's rusted thrown together 2nds LPK' is out. Any recommendations? Any smoking deals going on right now?

I've decided to finally get off my duff and get moving on the ham radio thing. There is a club that meets once a month in a bigger town not so far from here. So to get a license I need to pass a test. Any recommendations on how to study? Good websites you have used?

Tonight I'm watching the new episode of The Walking Dead. On the downside instead of a parade I think tomorrow there will be a trip to the hospital as Walker seems to have an ear infection.

Do you all have any big plans this weekend?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From Around The Web

Euro at 9 year low vs the dollar.  I wish it would have been 1.19 to a dollar when I was in Germany.
Deflation in Europe
The Greeks elected a leftist government that is anti austerity which could lead to them breaking the current agreement. The problem is once a country enters the IMF death spiral there really isn't a way out. Some smart people have argued that is intentional.

From Weapons Man
Some predictions for 2015
The Big Lie about Wanat (AKA why M4's aren't jamming and getting soldiers killed)
Wars to Study, to Study UW

From American Mercenary
Fake cell towers, IMSI grabbers, and how to secure communications through an unsecure medium

From Max Velocity
Max Velocity Riflemen training plan
1978 Nuclear Holocaust: March or Die 40 miles with 40 pounds in 24 hours is a darn good goal yet, for a healthy adult who is willing to do an extensive and deliberate train up, a reasonable goal.

From Sheriff Jim Winson
If You Can Shoot AKA why the gun famed border patrolman, shooter and writer would bury for bad times is an S&W Model 19 with a box of shells.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ham Purchase to Run By You

So I'm trying to knock out a new years resolution. Thinking about:
A pair of those Baofeng ham radios with
1x spare battery per
1x short antena and
1x 2 way speaker/ hand mike

I know they are not the best radios in the world but it is an initial purchase I am comfortable making to get into the whole thing. So please skip telling me about the gold plated radios with diamond buttons.  If I like it and need/ want to get better stuff down the road that is always an option.

Does this seem like a good setup? My plan is to get licensed and start messing with them this winter.

Thoughts based on first hand experience would be appreciated. I am very open to alternatives in the same general price range. Thanks in advance.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

World Band Log 4 Jan 2014

Lots of bootleg type (maybe legal maybe not but still uuber low rent) Christian stations in the 4-5k range. One guy pimping magnetic mattress covers.

Radio Havana Cuba is loud and clear at 5251kh @8:57 pm central standard time. The program (Music with a Message) seems to be John Lennon music and commie politics. A pretty fitting combination really.

 5998kh loud and clear. Also Radio Havana Cuba.

6091kh loud but slightly staticky 5/3. Some gal talking about psychology or spirits or something.

7328kh weak and staticky.  3/3 BBC News. Think it's coming out of Australia. Too staticky for pleasant listening.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

World Band Radio Setup

Commander Zero asked so I will answer.  It is worth noting that I am a total newbie at this. Can only say what I have done and how it has worked.

My radio is a Grundig 350DL. They are pretty unambiguous and probably represent one of the better options within the basic radio line up. Not super fancy per se but not junk either. When I got mine the street price was around $100 though they can be found for less sometimes. There are certainly other viable radios but I went with this one. Anyway. I have talked about it a bit in the past. While not all things to all people I am pretty happy with it. 

Along with the radio I would strongly suggest purchasing a shortwave antenna and the newest copy of Passport to World Band you can find for a decent price.

Strictly speaking you do not need an external antenna. Last night I was listening to broadcasts out of Cuba, New Zealand and Lebanon with just the normal extendable antenna on the radio. However it really helps a lot and for $10 why not. Though I have not tried I think a wire can work just the same.

Once you get the antenna hooked up then get your ground set. You take a piece of wire and run it to the biggest metal thing that is convenient. My ground at our last house was the pipe to the heater.

Now if everything is hooked up right (it's really pretty easy) you are ready to use the radio.

You can either tune in to find something specific or just cruise the channels to see what is out there. If you want to listen to specific things out of specific places Passport to World Band is a good starting point. There is lots of stuff out there free online but a comprehensive list for $10ish is an easy decision to me. If you want to listen to something specific tune into the right channel at the right time and go to it.

The other option is to just spin the dial to see what is out there. I think this is a lot of fun. Not a very efficient use of time or energy but a good way to kill an hour or two. Listening to the Lebanese take on reconciliation after their civil war was pretty interesting yesterday.

I was a bit lazy and did not take any pictures to go along with this post. Please excuse me, I will be fiddling around with the Grundig.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thoughts on Insurgencies # Whatever Targeting by CARVER

CARVER is an accronym used for targeting. In this post I am going to go through it in plain language laymen will understand. If you want more formal stuff as well as the scoring matrix click here. Use this method of targeting to look at potential options from your pattern and link analysis.

CRITICALITY- Obviously the point of attacking a target is to hurt the group whose personnel or equipment (infrastructure, etc) you are targeting. No point in going to all the risk and hassle to conduct an attack that will hardly impact the enemy. Lets say you destroy the enemies resupply of underwear, so what. On the other hand if you blow up their fuel it will hurt. This is one significant problem with the 'Shoot the enemy Joey's in the face' plan. Joey is a fine upstanding young man but he is not critical to the mission. 

ACCESSIBILITY- Sure it would be nice to kill the enemy President while he has dinner with all the top military leaders and the head of their intelligence agency but that event is probably very secure. No point in planning a mission where you can't reach the target, execute the mission and successfully exfiltrate. To me this is the reality check question.

RECUPERABILITY- How quickly can the enemy recover, repair or bypass the damage? No point in damaging a city road if they can take 2nd instead of 1st. On the other hand knocking out a bridge might take them months to fix, making a 20 mile trip to mess with your safe area into an 80 mile trip and giving you freedom of maneuver for awhile. Recuperability is another reason the shoot Joey in the face plan sucks. Sure folks will get bummed, they will have a ceremony for him, etc but there is a negligible impact on the big picture. 

[If you haven't picked it up I do not think much of shooting the enemies junior soldiers as a plan for success. Insurgents cannot risk their lives for a stupid goal of killing some 20 year old kid who only matters to his family and buddies. I am not saying there isn't a reason to engage the enemy in combat, just do it towards a goal. Attack to deny the enemy freedom of movement, harass them and push them out of an area or to capture supplies, for propaganda purposes, knife them in dark allies to put fear in their hearts or whatever. Sort of like exercising if you can't clearly state the reason for doing something it's probably good to question it.]

VULNERABILITY- Can you destroy the target with skills or weapons the team possesses? Not much of a point targeting things you cannot destroy or damage enough to meet your goals. Any redneck could knock a cell phone/ radio tower offline. On the other hand a steel and concrete bridge is a bit harder and the right equipment (explosives, det cord and detonators) really help. 

EFFECT- What will the impact of this target be on the political, military, social, economy and in particular the civilian populace? This relates to criticality; how I separate them (maybe wrongly so) is that criticality is the effect on the enemy while effect is on the larger situation. Example, You knock out a bridge that limits regime movement within the AO so it is an obvious criticality win. However this also prevents farmers from getting their crops to market easily and the flow of normal goods/ services are adversely effected. The end result is the economy being seriously hurt which makes lots of otherwise sympathetic people angry with your group. 

AND RECOGNIZABILITY- In realistic combat conditions or bad weather can the folks executing the mission quickly and accurately identify the target? Grabbing a 6'3" skinny teenager with short hair and an earring wearing a baggy t shirt, shorts and sneakers at a high school basketball tournament is going to be problematic at best. 

Well I hope this gives you something to think about. Use
pattern and link analysis then CARVER and, assuming a decent foundation in small unit tactics, there is reasonable chance of success.

I hope you enjoy this post and have a wonderful Friday.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Soliciting Input- Painting Rifles and CB Radios

I would appreciate some advice.

Am looking at painting a rifle, well actually a couple rifles. Picked up some paint (tan and green) and did a bit of reading on the webz. Any advice before I get started?

Also we are looking to get into CB radio. The goal is to be able to talk to each other within a few miles during a (non EMP) disaster or emergency when cell networks might be down. This is a concern because we do not have a home phone.

I think 2 vehicle setups (not permanently attached to anything, like sitting in the back) would be the way to go though maybe a basecamp type setup and a vehicle setup would be better. Or if they would do the range 2 handhelds (possibly with external antennas to add range) would give a lot of versatility. Really just not sure where to go with this. Do not want to buy junk but these are not going to get a ton of use so dumping a bunch of money into it doesn't make sense. I would like to be out the door for 2 setups for $400 or maybe $500 if the extra gets me a lot more radio.

Any advice?

Thanks in advance,

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Intelligence Analysis Tools- Patterns and Links

There is so much that goes into intelligence that it is not going to be covered in a single post. Today I want to talk about managing intelligence (information really) and making sense of it.

Obviously any good organization is working hard to find out information about their surrounding area, people and of course enemies. Snipers are doing over watch and pattern of life analysis on high payoff targets as well as whomever happens to be around. Patrols are  tracking enemy movement/ operations and actively engaging key leaders (both hard and soft power*) as well as the populace at large. Aside from the standard listening shop keepers are noting when soldiers come in to buy 2 cartons of smokes instead of a pack or two and weeks worth of snacks instead of something to tide them over till dinner chow. Retirees and other folks with a decent reason to be hanging around near key choke points are counting numbers and types of vehicles that cross their path. All sorts of folks are sitting in coffee shops, restaurants and bars listening to the chatter. A few pretty girls, potentially willing to 'take one for the team' (sorry I couldn't resist) are spending time with the rank and file and well as key leaders when the opportunity arises. Tech geeks are listening to radio frequencies. They probably can't pick up the encrypted stuff but the walkie talkies used for admin stuff on base might be interesting to listen to. Some computer folks will probably be doing their thing also. The point is that any organization with a few members and a semi decent axillary plus a few basic resources will quickly get overwhelmed with information.

As we have seen in the last few years in intelligence the issue isn't so much the gathering of information but rapidly analyzing it, figuring out it's meaning and passing that info through command channels to the shooters. What we will discuss today is a framework for this analysis. A series of products that can be created to make sense of all the chatter by slicing it up in terms of time, individuals involved, events and space. It is important to note that these products are largely looking at the same information just from different angles.

First we will look at time. The two products we will talk about are the threat wheel and the event timeline.

Threat Wheel- I could not find a good picture of this. Imagine a bicycle wheel. The spokes are the hours of the day so obviously there are 24 of them. Next we are going to make concentric circles from the inner hub all the way out to the rim. These are days. The amount can vary by what you are doing but a month isn't a bad place to start. Every action goes onto the threat wheel. You place index the appropriate time to the day and mark what it is. A could be ambush, B could be bombing, c for snap checkpoint, whatever works.

The point of this tool is to see fairly short term patterns. Example Cool Guy in black helicopters conduct raids between 1 and 3 in the morning while conventional guys hit at more like 6 in the morning. Checkpoints get set up about 7 in the morning and run till 1 or 2 in the afternoon. You get the idea. It is important to realize that your insurgent forces actions can affect the threat wheel. If you run operations in the morning then they will look for you in the morning, raids will be conducted in hours of darkness when they suspect your force will be resting, etc.

It also might not be a bad idea to keep a threat wheel (maybe call it a friendly forces activity wheel or something) of all of YOUR actions. The reason is to avoid setting patterns that can be targeted. The other guy will be looking for those patterns to set up an ambush or drop some bombs so you better not set any obvious ones.

Event Timeline- This is just that a timeline. It is better for longer term stuff. Showing how two sides got to fighting or whatever. These are good for seeing big picture patterns. These typically focus on months and years while the threat wheel is more about days and weeks.

Example: A fellow I know was an intelligence officer who worked in South America in the 80's. He ended up advising a friendly Banana Republic in their fight against an insurgent communist group. When they looked at it this group had a pretty set pattern for moving into an area. They would send a few guys in to look around and ask questions. What were the local grievances, who were the power players, that type of stuff, next they would damage the roads, bridges and train tracks (isolating the objective) which inconveniences the people and made them dislike the police and army who could not stop this. After that they would conduct a few attacks hurting a few people and destroying most of the police vehicles to stop the lazy police from patrolling and they would move into the jungles outside the city in force. Some folks would then come in and talk about how the regime was corrupt and incapable of providing basic services. By the time they got to actually going into town the police were incapable of maneuvering, it was difficult for regime reinforcements to get there and the people were largely on their side. Information like this allowed the regime to much more effectively mass their forces (instead of guarding everything) and defeat the insurgents. Remember that patters will be exploited by people who find them. End example.

Next we are going to look at people.

Association Matrix- This is a pretty simple document. It is a triangle with a bunch of names going down the angled side.

The point is simply to show which players know each other. Here is an example.Typically one symbol will be used for suspected association, another for confirmed association and a third when one of the parties is dead.

Activity Template- This is a simple square divided by lines. On the left side we have the names of all our players from the association matrix and on the bottom we have a whole bunch of activities. Some will be key events like Regime puppet forces assassinating a local power broker and others will be broad like 'intimidation' or 'information operations'.
The same known, suspected, KIA code (the examples from the FM don't have it but it's smart to include so you don't get all whipped up about finding a connection to then realize one of them is dead) will be used here. The point is to link our players with activities. This can also feed back into our association matrix. If Bob and Jim are both confirmed to have participated in the death squad that offed a town council member they know each other. Be sure to adjust the association matrix accordingly.

Next we put this stuff together.

A product omitted from the manual but useful none the less is an Intel Analysis map overlay. Taking the people and activities and plotting them onto a map. Think of it like a threat wheel slapped onto the map. You can also incorporate a variety of other useful info like ethnicity, religion, income as needed, whether an area is pro regime, neutral, contested or pro insurgent and whatever other info you deem pertinent. I do not think this is necessarily essential but it depends on how many visual learners are in your target audience.

Link Diagram- The link diagram shows activities, players involved and the connections between them. An event will be a square, people are circles, confirmed connections are solid lines and suspected ones are dashed lines. You can use another key system but this one works fine and is easy.

The link diagram is really what all of the work we have done is building up to. It should (if you have a decent amount of info) graphically depict who is doing what and the connections between them. Also this is where this whole process really starts giving back to you.

This process is pretty helpful for managing a lot of information during a complicated situation. If you haven't figured it out yet Insurgencies are complicated situations. The Regime has conventional forces, paramilitaries, auxiliaries, folks actively and passively supporting it. Local power brokers are out doing their thing and supporting one side or both, sometimes switching back and forth as conditions change.  A variety of thugs and criminal organizations exploit the vacuum to ply their trades. The insurgent groups have a slew of loosely organized, sometimes even competing, groups, auxiliaries and supporters.

I said before that this analysis is a way to manage information. That is the most basic function for sure but it also brings up questions when you see the picture more clearly. Seeing everything put together will make connections or holes in your information become much more apparent than if they are stuck in a huge stack of reports. This will lead to new PIR (Priority Intelligence Requirements) to answer the questions that come up. Is a person who seems to be involved with every cell but not directly in any operations a courtier, some sort of specialist (explosives, commo, medical, etc) or a leader? Is the Mayor a Boss Hog style crook, a Grey Man, playing both sides or a full out regime stooge? Are the local chapter of the Masons running a pro regime death squad?

The relationship between intelligence collection and operational command is a complicated one. Way more than can be addressed in a paragraph. Simply put the Commander will give guidance on operational plans which will be supported by intelligence collection. Intelligence collection will then lead to focusing or adjusting the operational plans to suit the situation. I guess you could say that operations drive intelligence and intelligence focuses operations. Done right it is a positive feedback loop of butt kicking.

*Hard power would be established positions of authority, not necessarily of arms, such as tribal leaders, mayors, police chiefs and whatnot. Soft power folks can be just as influential but do not have a formal title parse. Think village elder, influential businessman, religious leaders and such. Their power is just as real but varies more depending on the individuals involved. If you have ever seen a Mayor make a 180 degree policy turn overnight after the town doctor and Preacher spoke against it you have seen soft power.

For further info refer to , and FM 3-07.22 particularly Appendix F where the example images came from.

I hope this is interesting to a few of you. Anyway happy day after Christmas.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Intentional Purchasing Plan

Last night I realized that my purchases in terms of stores and survivalist stuff have been all over the map for awhile now. I got motivated to build a few more IFAK's which is a great idea. Also I got to looking into longer term 'feminine hygiene' solutions. All of this is good stuff but there is no order. The point is that I need a way to manage my resources more evenly. I probably tend to gravitate towards certain areas at the detriment of others.

I have done pretty well at rank ordering stuff within a given category. I can figure out what the most important thing is, then the next, the one after that, etc. However between different categories it is a bit of a mess. Divying up money between categories and working down their respective lists makes the most sense to me.

Here is what I came up with. Dedicated survivalist funds will be spent in the following manner:
50% food, water, various cleaning and ancillary household stuff like dishwashing soap, bleach, etc.
25% Medical and communications/ alternative energy
25% Defensive stuff and gear/ wilderness survival items
(Note: precious metals, savings and investments are not addressed here as their plans are working fine)

The simplest way to do this I can see is to do it is Medical and Communications/ Energy one month, food the next, then defensive stuff and finally food again. Putting percentages into each every month really split my effort as the amounts involved would be below the threashhold for many common purchases. By going with one area a month I can cover most purchases or save up for bigger ones if need be. That food is weighted higher is because it is really important and also where it is right now in our overall priorities. Having been here for a few years I have been able to take care of a lot of stuff but food has lagged behind due to multiple long moves.

 I think these categories pretty much cover the major bases. Medical and communications/ alternative energy is not at all a cohesive category but it seemed easier to group those than having a half dozen categories. I know some stuff doesn't fit perfectly into any of these categories but using common sense and the rough groupings outlined above it should work out OK.

Personal money and gifts/Christmas/ Birthday's etc are going to stay discretionary. I regularly use 50-75% of this money towards survivalist purposes but reserve, if just to myself, the right to do this as I please or not at all. Sometimes I want a bottle of good scotch or a book or whatever. These should also be a pretty good valve for little things that come up or when I all of a sudden decide that X is super important or would just be really cool.

Anyway I am going to give this a shot. I think at least 4 months should give me a clue if it works, needs to be changed or just scrapped.

Do you have some sort of intentional purchasing plan? If so what is it and how is it working for you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Letter to my sister- Communication and Bug Out Plans

I got to talk to my little sister for awhile today. Not doing a great job of keeping up with them in general, and especially since I have been here is a failure of mine. Anyway she is doing pretty well. Also making some good progress in preparedness. She has a loaner pistol, a modest on hand stash of cash, a growing stash of food and a coleman stove as well and camping gear. Her next plan is to stock up on fuel for the stove. I suggested some more staple food (pancake mix, rice, etc) because it can feed you for a long time for not a lot of money and is good to have around in general. She asked me about communication today. After talking a bit I realized what she really meant was communication and plans. Without getting into too much detail if things get hairy she is going to travel approximately 25 miles to a place with a better setup. She would have 1 child and 1 adult coming along. I told her I would think on it a bit and then write a post. So here we are. Obviously if cell phones, the internet and landlines are all functioning it is pretty easy to make a plan. If you need my help with that one I don't think there is anything I can do for you. Obviously we are talking about times when modern communications such as we know and come to rely on them are not working at optimal levels. There are numerous reasons this may be but the end results are the same so no point in discussing them. Interestingly my little sister is young enough that by the time she was self mobile and active with a part time job, friends, etc she had a cell phone and pretty much everyone else did also. Being able to call anybody, from anywhere, at any time is basically a given for probably everybody below the 35-27 year old (depending on exact location, socio economic status, etc) range. There is a reason that my sister said communications and I am focusing in on plans. Communications for if power/ cell phones/ the net are not working is pretty doable if you are willing to work at it AND THE OTHER PEOPLE YOU PLAN TO TALK TO ARE ALSO. First of all a simple land line with an old corded phone solves most problems as phone companies have batteries that will run the length of most power outages. So for the cost of keeping a land line you can typically make calls to other land lines. Personally I don't have many plans at this time that rely on being able to talk to anybody so it is not worth the expense. However that is different for everyone. The more complicated question is how to talk when you and the person you want to talk to are not both at places with a land line, and know where the other person is to call that line.

FRS (family band, the motorolla type you see families with camping, etc) radios are line of sight. I say again these radios are line of sight. I have personally used them for over 10 miles but it was ridge to ridge in the mountains with nothing but air in between. In the woods, flats or town a range measured in hundreds of meters is probably realistic. These you will have to test in your AO but they do not have the range to be useful outside of your farm or neighborhood in any case. The next options is CB radios, yes like the kind that truckers use. I do not know a ton about these other than that you can buy them at radio shack or on the internet and that everyone has a cool name called a handle. These are nice because also like FRS you do not need a license to operate them, at least IIRC correctly. These are far more powerful than FRS and have a much longer range. I'm not positive but I think several miles is quite realistic. I've heard you can boost the power and thus the range drastically but that is not legal. These are probably good for talking across town or to the next town a couple miles down the road and a good part of the county. For most families these would probably be a good solution. Modest cost and modest hassle for a pretty good range. To get further there are two viable options that I can think of ham radio and satphones. Ham radio is more of a hassle than CB but not overwhelming I don't think. It is on my list of things to do. Satelite phones are a great option but at great expense.

Sometimes I answer a question in a very different way because I know what people mean. My sister said communication but MEANT PLANS. Her, BF and whomever else could get CB's for less than the price of a one night getaway to a large regional city and be able to communicate easily if they so choose. Of course it should be noted that these radios are not secure and are in fact the equivalent of yelling in a large dark room full of people. Everyone listening might not know who is talking but they hear the message. However for this type of scenario assuming you keep conversation relatively vague and do not mention your super secret bunker or convenient to access huge stash of Krudgerrand's it is all good. Most of the desired communication is so generic it would not matter. Useful conversation like "I am near X so it is more convenient for me to pick up the kids, see you at home" would be just fine. The root issue however is plans.

Plans are a very broad topic which would be impossible to address fully in a post. IIRC another guy did a great post on this topic once but I cannot remember or find it to link to. Simply put you need a plan on how you are going to go from a variety of everyday situations (at home, at work, running errands, kids at a friends/ school/ daycare, etc) to wherever you are planning to go (home, a relatives house, a bunker in the woods, etc) with whatever stuff you think would be useful under a variety of circumstances including closed roads, downed bridges, possible riots/ security issues. Travel through dense urban areas, areas with numerous choke points such as bridges or tunnels and just plain long distances substantially complicate planning and decrease the odds of a successful trip under bad circumstances. Driving through the burbs out of town to your uncles farm 50 miles away is probably a strait forward plan, unless there are 2 sets of projects and 6 bridges along the way. The good news is that if you had to rate the complication of these trips from 1 being super easy and 10 being cross country starting in NYC the trip my sister plans would be about a 1.5 as there are a few areas which are denser than I would like and a choke point or two.

Since the route is not an issue the big thing is getting everyone consolidated and ready to go in a quick orderly fashion. Numerous questions must be thought through in advance. Do you leave work or finish the shift (what is the decision point between the two)? Who picks up the kids? What vehicle(s) are you taking? What stuff is getting packed? Where is it? If someone does not make it home right away how long do you wait or do you go without them? If you go without them what supplies do you leave behind? What stuff is most important for you to take? These questions cover a lot of ground which is why it is best that you do not decide this stuff on the fly, or even worse on the fly when you and an important family member (spouse, adult child, etc) are not together. The consequences for you zigging and them zagging could be significant ranging from unpleasant (them sitting in a cold dark house eating uncooked food) to downright disasterous. Having the ability to communicate helps a lot but radios fail when you need them most so it is better to figure this stuff out. You need to know that if there is a terrorist attack or a riot your husband is coming home but if there is a bad snowstorm he might have to finish the shift. Maybe the plan for one scenario is for the fam to wait a little while to link up at home and for another (snow storm comes to mind) they will head out separately. This is where having a plan for packing is key. Obviously every adult would need their defensive weapons (a pistol is enough for most of these scenarios and that is just because you should carry one anyway), their 72 hour bag and standard car emergency stuff. Combat loading is probably a good idea for the rest of your stuff. Simply put combat loading divides stuff into smaller groups based upon suppying a sub group, instead of all like items. That way if a boat/ plane or truck goes down it does not have all the ammo, fuel, food, etc. This would be most important if you plan to leave separately and or take multiple vehicles. One car having all the clothes and shelter stuff, another the food and a third the ammo and fuel would be a bad plan.

I know this covered a lot of ground and I am not sure where else to take it. Any questions?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Radio Advice

Dear TOR:
I noticed on your New Year's list that you got a radio. Is it a Grundig? Can you write about them a bit on your blog, esp. how big they are (portable enough for a backpack?), expensive, etc.
We have lots of different radios, including the car radios, of course. Some are battery-optional, and all can be run using our generators.
One that I got particularly for my BOB is a Red Cross crank model with AM/FM, NOAA channels, cell-phone carger, flashlight and emergency siren, TV-VHF channels and inputs for AC adaptor and earphones. It also operates on 3 AA batteries and weighs a little over a pound. I got it at Bed, Bath and Beyond for around $50 several years ago. I'm sure that the same model is also available at other outlets. The price has probably gone up, but Christmas sales are starting.
Since we planned to keep the BOB at my husband's work location in DC, we thought the flashing light and emergency siren would be useful in case of another terrorist attack or building collapse where rescuers would use it to find him under rubble. Fortunately, he doesnt work in that building anymore (he's now at Fort Belvoir, VA) and security is much better. The radio is still in the BOB, but that BOB is now in my car trunk. His BOB is much lighter - he's disabled and cannot carry more than a small briefcase size bag. His car BOB is more substantial, but still very restricted. We live in a very accessible area (State police, cell phone towers, homes and shopping areas, etc.) and seldom roam off our routine path, so true wilderness survival materiel is not really required in our day-to-day ops. That said, we do have guns, ammo and CCPs.
Anyway, I'd like to get a really good crank or battery-operated radio for our home base use and thought the Grundig would be a good choice. I tried talking to DH about it, but got the usual "What do you need THAT for?" I do most of the prepping on my own, but could use a little help in the techno-babble dept.
Particular model you might suggest? General comments?

Say hi to Wifey and Walker.
TOR here: I own a Grundig 350DL. You can read some of my thoughts about it here 1, 2, 3. The Grundig 350DL is fairly large, about the size of a mans shoe box but a bit more square. I would say they are good for a fairly stationary situation. If you are going to live/ operate out of a car or a backpack then there are a lot more compact radios. 

I am pretty happy with the Grundig though after reading the extensive reviews in Passport to World Band Radio you might be able to get a bit more for your money with some other radios in it's nitche/ price range. I like it's easy controls and good sound. However it's dial tuner is not as precise as a true digital one (with up and down arrows) would be nice. Sometimes it is kind of hard to get to the exact frequency in the busier areas of the spectrum. However with the right antenna and a bit of practice it is easy enough to do what I want with it. I would say the Grundig 350DL is a solid choice for the preparedness type  If you want to get into World Band Radio with pretty general aims and a modest budget you could certainly do a lot worse.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Battery Semi Failure

I have been feeling kind of out of sorts when it comes to preparedness and the blog for awhile now. Just kinda in a funk if you will. I think it has shown in my writing too. I have been doing this whole blogging thing for awhile and this happens sometimes.  If it goes on for a short period I just plod forward (even hobbies aren't constantly fun in every way, they just have to even out to be a majority of fun) in the normal fashion. If it goes past that stage which I think it did a couple weeks ago I have to break out of that stagnation by getting back to concrete preparedness. Often for me somehow these stagnation's correspond with getting away from concrete preparedness and towards more conceptual type stuff.

I seem to do best all around when I do stuff and write about it or what I think about it. Of course I enjoy writing about work stuff which interests you guys and analyzing news and fun debates but those are really more of side dishes.  

Anyway I felt the need to  do something. As it is late and I wasn't feeling THAT motivated it had to be something already lying around the house. I remembered a box full of Eneloop batteries that have been doing nothing. I went and dumped it out on the bed. My intent was to discharge some of the batteries (they come already charged) and then when it gets sunny use my also untested Bruton solar charger to recharge them.

I got to thinking about what stuff I have around that would discharge batteries the fastest. I figured my big d cell Mag Light would be it. That was also a happy coincidence because I also wanted to fiddle with the AA-D spacer/ adapter things I got. In past talks people suggested I just get AA's and spacers/ adapter thingies instead of D sized rechargeable batteries. It made sense as well as being logistically simple and cheap so I went that route. Tossed some AA's into the thingies and put them into the Mag Light and got nothing.

Fiddled with it some more and still nada. The Mag Light would run with 2 normal D batteries and one of these AA's in a spacer but now 2 AA's with spacers and one normal D battery. I thought this was peculiar but not a big deal. I grabbed one of the LED lanterns we keep near the bed for when the power goes out. These things are energy sippers and last about a million hours on 3 D batteries. Put them in and NADA.

I got curious if these batteries were charged at all. Grabbed my electric electric shaver and threw a pair of AA's in. It ran fine which confirmed that they were charged.

This leaves me a bit confused and perturbed. I am confused because I don't understand what the problem is. Honestly I know essentially nothing about electricity or batteries. Am I doing something wrong or does the whole using a spacer/ adapter to have AA's in a D cell item idea just not work? Also about half of our significant battery powered stuff runs on D cells so this is not cool. 

Ideas or suggestions?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review: Passport to World Band Radio

I ordered this book to help me get going with the Grundig 350DL. However because of amazons eccentricities it got here a bit late for that goal. By the time it arrived the antenna had been here for awhile and I had the radio grounded and working well. Anyway I got to reading this book today.

I ended up buying the 2008 version because at that time it is what was available. I don't think it matters much though. It started out with an interesting discussion about radio stations in Tangier. It then went into a great Getting Started section which I wish I could have read the day I got the radio.  Then it got into a long series if reviews on seemingly every radio in existence. After the reviews it goes into a comprehensive listing of radio stations by time, country and frequency. That alone is well worth the price of the book. In any situation where I need this radio to get information it will be either going to be scanning the airwaves blindly or with grid down records already on hand.

It touches on some interesting themes. First of all world band radio is one of the most free form of long distance communication out there. World band broadcasts travel (under the right conditions) enormous distances. This makes it popular for areas that are so massive that AM and FM stations are not a viable option. It has an interesting history of being used to get information into areas with oppressive governments most notably during the cold war. However still today Cuba, China and a few other countries try to prevent free listening. These frequencies are less susceptible to radio jamming than other bands.In a lot of ways Ham/ SW aka world band have been replaced by the internet. However there is the huge bonus that the input for your radio comes from the sky, not a bunch of cables running through the ground. It is impossible to monitor what someone listens to on the waves.

Also I stumbled into the wikipedia article on numbers stations. I stumbled onto one of these some time ago. After about 5 minutes of listening it was pretty darn obvious what it was and since it did nothing for me I moved on. Sort of cool to know a bit more background though. I will open this book again before purchasing any sort of radio gadgets.

Guess I sort of mucked up the usual good bad and ugly format. Oh well.

In any case I would suggest this book for anyone who is getting into world band radio.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interesting Turn For The Evening

We had a pretty normal day. A leisurely morning followed by doing some stuff then grabbing dinner and settling in for a quiet night. At about 10:30 our power went out, then on, then out for awhile. I went to the bedroom to grab my sweet LED lantern and of course Wifey's too.

Those lights aren't great to read by and I wasn't ready for bed yet so I grabbed a beer and went into the spare room where the shortwave radio is set up. Also grabbed a notebook to start a permenant hard copy radio log. The waves were hopping tonight. Got broadcasts (in English) from Russia, Bulgaria, China and Serbia as well as a few others that didn't say where they were from. Since radio isn't visual I took the time to go through our paperwork that resides in the cabinet the radio sits on. Separated a bunch of redundant and otherwise useless paperwork which is good. Going to check through it again tomorrow (good to check twice) before tossing it into the shred box at work.

All and all not a bad way to wrap up the night.  Now pretty obviously the power is back on. I really enjoyed the time fiddling with the radio. It is a lot more fun now that I am getting decent reception. Tomorrow I will likely find some time in the evening to mess with it more.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Radio Log 2

I have set up a little ghetto short wave station in the spare bedroom. Pulled up a filing cabinet to keep the radio on and a desk chair we don't really use. Now it is more comfortable to sit for awhile. 16, 19 and 22 meter bands seem to come in well in the evening and have lots of stations. Last time I did this I just went through and wrote down frequencies and brief descriptions. This time I am going to stick on a station for a bit longer. This will get me get a better idea what the station is broadcasting and such.

I listened to the BBC at 15402. It is clear though not loud. This is the BBC out of England.

There is some sort of a semi news/ talk show at 4965. They are talking about the internet in Afghanistan. This very helpful site says it is Christian Voice out of Zambia which is pretty cool.

This stuff is fun. Will definitely have to fiddle with the radio some more. It is a lot more satisfying now that I can hear stuff.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts On Insurgencies....

Last week I got to talking with a co worker about insurgencies. Also I prioritized watching and really enjoyed a recent episode of FRONTLINE where a reporter spent 10 days with the Taliban. Based on these two things I have some thoughts on insurgencies in Iraq (more a couple years ago than now) and Afghanistan as well as elsewhere.

-First insurgents need to blend in with the population be it in a rural or urban setting. Of course their neighbors know what is up but they will not tell the occupiers. Insurgents out in a non typical for the area heavily armed compound never have a happy ending. However just another house or farm which has the normal comings and goings (versus say 30 military aged males) is not going to get noticed.

-Secondly insurgents have the ability to choose where and when they fight. To be blunt if they are on the defensive as anything but a delaying action before retreating from superior forces they get massacred. However if they choose a time and place that suits their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses they can do some real damage with a rifle and 4 mags a piece. Considering that US Infantry are likely carrying close to half their weight in stuff it isn't suprising that they can't catch the Taliban when they retreat. (There is a very interesting article called Bring Back The Light Infantry Projecting Combat Power More Effectively that you may get something out of ) .

While I do have a stark differences with the Taliban and their Al Queda friends (I want to kill them and they want to kill me) I can honestly say that they are very effective Light Infantry. They are very physically fit, highly motivated and adept at fighting in their environment. They know how to use their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. They attack at times of their choosing with IED's and complex heavy weapons ambushes from outside of the engagement range of most of our organic platoon weapons. I hate pretty much everything they stand for but darn it I can't say they are not very good Infantrymen.

-I think a modern insurgency needs the ability to get at least a mobility kill against moving armored tracked vehicles. Without this the other side is able to move with impunity which is not a good thing for said insurgents. If the insurgents can't find an answer to this issue it is going to just massacre them. Insurgents can't win in stand up fights so if they also can't engage mobile forces they are pretty much done for. The way they are successful is by making the cost of conducting everyday operations (movement, log pacs, transport, combat ops, etc) high and eventually outlasting them.

Being able to (at least mobility) kill an armored vehicle means more than punching a hole in the side of it with a .50 cal. It requires anti tank mines, some sort of heavy IED's or genuine modern anti tank weapons. Usually manufacturing IED's is the most practical option as all it takes is some decent explosives and a bit of ingenuity. A reasonably motivated fellow with a bit of initiative and access to some sort of explosives could make an IED but making a home made Javaline missile is at best a difficult prospect.

- Insurgents have a hard time with communication. Particularly when facing a major modern military their attempts at any form of discrete radio or electric or electronic communication are futile. A modern highly skilled force that has almost limitless (at least relative to the insurgents) resources can break any form of electronic or radio communication insurgents are capable of fielding widely enough to be tactically useful. A few authors and bloggers talk about how various forms of COMSEC (namely digital encryption) which can be downloaded for free and used by anyone with half a brain can easily defeat group of dozens of PHD holding geniuses who have nothing but time and the most powerful computers in the world. If you didn't pick it up from the last sentence; to be very blunt I do not think the kind of COMSEC available to average normal citizens is good for much but keeping Barney Fife from the local PD from knowing what you are doing.

One technique which has been used with moderate success is pre paid anonymous cell phones. In some places they are really the only kind available anyway. The theory is that if someone on one anonymous cell phone calls someone on another one it is totally discrete. Easy wireless secure communications for prices any insurgent can afford.

Here is reality. People are lazy and stupid and modern methods of tracking/ snooping on cell phones are very good. This is how laziness and modern snooping collide. Lets say a dozen insurgents all have anonymous pre paid cell phones. Someones gets lazy and uses theirs to call their Moms house or their buddy at the local Mosque to ask what time the potluck is. Being as the people who are looking for them have done a good job in targeting they were snooping on Momma and the Mosques phone lines. They electronically snoop on the pre paid cell  phone now, really recording and searching for key words (bomb, Allah, US, soldier, rifle, Israel, whatever). Pretty darn quickly they realize this phone is of interest. Lazy Insurgent calls one of his co conspirators to talk about the big soccer game or planting some IED's. Now they got Co Conspirators number from Lazy Insurgent. Of course being smart they wait awhile and Co Conspirator calls a couple more Insurgent buddies and so does Lazy Insurgent. More likely than not the whole network gets taken down.

Insurgents have realized this to a certain degree. They realize that if nothing else due to sheer dumb luck (it is hard to track all the cell phone conversations in a decent sized town but they will sure listen to some)  that sooner or later their network is going to get infiltrated. Their answer to this is that it is easy enough to just toss a cheap anonymous cell phone and get another one. Seriously for $20 or so even your average small farmer/ insurgent can afford a new one, particularly with some help from their Saudi friend at the Mosque. However they can never seem to all ditch them at the same time. As we noted above with the way that these phones are tracked it does no good for one person to ditch theirs unless everyone they call and everyone who calls them does also, at the exact same time. Insurgents have a real hard time with this one for some reason.

The answer that Al Qaeda and the Taliban eventually came to is based on admitting that they will never be able to reliably use modern communication (radio, the internet, phones, etc all) securely. They went stone age simple and primarily rely on runners. The most sophisticated surveillance can't tell you what a scrap of paper in some guys pocket says or what the message he memorized means. This stone age method of communication combined with a a structure of cells which means the capture of any one person doesn't take everyone down is pretty effective.

Insurgents by and large just can't come up with a way to cancel out the problem of their enemy controlling the air. Not even Hamas has an air force. Without lots of money and great (from this perspective) connections getting your hands on decent man portable surface to air weapons is not realistic. The large occupying force controls the skies. Insurgents can mitigate this by blending into the population and doing things to not obviously look like insurgents. Having someone who watches the airfield the helicopters operate out of that tells them when they take off and in which direction would help a lot also. Drone aircraft are an interesting development but they don't fundamentally change the situation. Large well funded forces always controlled the skies.

Finally to close the biggest thing that benefits insurgents is taking a long view. As the Taliban say "you've got the watches but we have the time." Sort of like George Washington (a real old school insurgent;) and the Continental Army they do not have to win any battles, they just have to not get totally wiped out. Most insurgencies do not develop into full scale conflict where insurgents openly battle occupiers. If insurgents were capable of openly battling the occupiers and winning they would not be insurgents, it would be a conventional fight. It is more realistic that insurgents annoy the heck out of (yeah it is far more than annoying if it is your patrol/ convoy that gets shot to pieces but we are looking at the big strategic picture here) the occupiers until they decide the cost isn't worth it and leave. Insurgents want to make the cost of occupying their area higher than the occupiers are willing to bear.

I hope you found this somewhat informative and maybe even interesting as I spent a ridiculous amount of time writing it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Radio Log 2

Got to fiddling with the radio today. The antenna came in recently which is cool. However apparently the darn thing doesn't actually hook to the radio. This makes me rather unhappy. It does have an adapter thingy which it looks like I stuff a wire into and then stuff that wire into the radio. I have some wire lying around and can make it work. Instead of having a turn key solution I am fiddling which is disappointing.

To salvage the experience I did pick up the BBC @ 648 on medium wave which makes me happy. The goal of finding a decent station in English has been met. It should only be downhill from here. Still waiting for that radio book to show up.

Setting the goal to mess with the radio at least once a week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Got My Radio

Yesterday my Grundig 350dl came in the mail. I was initially impressed that it seems well designed and sturdy in construction. That it can run on batteries OR get plugged in is nice. That it will run on EITHER D or AA batteries is just neat. Once I got to fiddling with it a bit it seems to have some nice features. I do not have enough experience with this product to really review it but my initial impression is that it is darn nice. Also it came highly recommended.  I did a very unmanly thing and actually read the instruction book. Got some basic info on how it worked and then started fiddling. I fiddled around for awhile. Lots of people broadcasting in German, Spanish and Russian. Some of what I am almost positive was Arabic too. Finally picked up one English station somewhere in the 41 meter band.

Thinking that I need an external antenna and a book on like who typically broadcasts where and that sort of stuff in order to really get some mileage out of this great new tool. Had a done a bit more research I would have just ordered these both initially. For people looking to go short wave I would suggest that course of action.

Any suggestions?
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