Friday, November 18, 2016

Musing on my father

I'm not sure you ever get over the deaths of your parents.  I'm not even sure you ever get fully past them.  At odd times, something pops up and takes you back to where the missing them isn't quite the knife twisting in your gut--it's just the moment the knife is stuck in.

I had another of those tonight.  My Dad has been gone nearly 6 years now.  There are still some boxes of stuff from his house that I haven't went through, and things of his that I have went through and decided to keep, but that still bear the indelible stamp of him.  I don't think they will ever be mine, really.  They'll be his, I'm just borrowing them.

My Dad was a land surveyor, licensed to practice in several states in the Southeast.  He was, if I may say so, damn good at his job.  In my younger days, I did some surveying, acting as a rodman for a couple of local surveyors as well as my Dad.  Without going into how you determine such things, my Dad's surveys were always of much higher quality than the other guys.  Theirs were good, more than good enough, but his were better--better researched, tighter, more professionally drawn.  On the few occasions he had to defend a survey in court, his surveys always stood up.

I have a number of his old field books.  Field books are small notebooks, about 8" x 5", that use 6 rings to hold the paper.  They're a specialty item, and getting hard to find, even in the stores that cater to surveyors and engineers.  They are the best notebook in the world.  Small enough to be handy, big enough to be useful.  There are new ones, bound like an over-size exam book, but they're not as good.  The loose leaf paper in the older ones can be removed, re-ordered, replaced--whatever you need to do.  Dad left me 6 of them and probably a thousand sheets of paper--likely a lifetime's supply.

All save two are simply filled with blank paper.  It's the two that aren't that really got to me.  The first, an over-size, very thick field book, is filled from cover to cover in notes and sample problems he used to pass the various state licensures.  All in his neat, practiced draftsman's hand, the slightly yellowed paper holds data and information as undecipherable to me as my IT jargon and knowledge was to him.

The other held the gas mileage records for his pickup truck.  From when he purchased it in 1996, with 13 miles on it, until 2008 when he inexplicably stopped keeping the records (perhaps it was too much trouble, considering by then he almost never drove), I could look at it and slowly watch my father age all over again.  The early entries were in that practiced draftsman's hand, so neat and precise.  As the years went by, the neatness started to deteriorate, the bold lines of the numbers wavering, until at the end they only barely resembled the 1996 entries.

I've removed those pages and they'll be consigned to the flames the next time we have a fire.  I can't forget the memory, but I won't have to see it again.

When my Dad died, I knew there was something more bothering me than the simple fact he was gone.  It was more than the reminder of my own mortality.  It took a while, but I finally figured it out.  It meant that, for good or ill, I was now the family patriarch.  Before, if I had a problem, if I needed help, I could always call my Dad.  He was my backstop.  Now, there was no one to call.  The duty is now mine--I'm the backstop.  If my kids need help, if I need help, I'm it.  If I can't figure it out, then I get to bear the consequences.  There is no help out there, no cavalry coming over the hill at the last minute.  If I want a happy ending, then I darn well better make it.

Even at 50 years old, that was a frightening realization.

Over the last few years, I've grown into it.  It's changed the way I look at things, the way I approach decisions.  My willingness to accept almost stupidly high levels of risk in certain decisions has pretty much evaporated.  I take more time reaching decisions.  I'm a little (Mrs. Freeholder would say very little) calmer now and not as quick to anger.

But tonight, none of that matters.  The family patriarch misses his Dad all over again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The unintended consequences of gun laws, part n

We gunnies know that anti-gun laws have all sorts of unintended consequences.  Here's a new one--laws that restrict temporary gun transfers may increase suicide rates.

Yeah, that's not good.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Product Review: Datrex Emergency Rations

Time to get off the election thing and back to the real world.  Just because we have Hillary bottled up somewhere doesn't mean the rainbow farting unicorns are going to show up and make life grand.

Until recently, I spent the last 22 years working over 30 miles from home.  Being an old fart with some health problems, I knew that if an emergency occurred and something either had me stuck on the road or worse yet, on foot trying to get home, that there was no way I could make it in a day.  Once upon a time perhaps, but no way now.  I also knew that I would be limited in the amount of gear I'd be able to carry if on foot.

I carried a large "get home bag" in my vehicle.  (I thought I had done a post on that and my philosophy of it, but if I have I can't find it, so I guess there's an idea for a future post.)  Among the items in it were Datrex Emergency Rations.

Also known as lifeboat rations, the big selling points for these are their nutrient density for their size and weight and their incredible shelf stability.  Datrex quotes a shelf life of "a minimum of 5 years in even the harshest of environments."

Oh really?

Six years ago, the two packages of rations you see above went into the get home bag.  As you can see on the photo to the left, these were produced 06/10 and had a use by date of 06/15.  I rotated them out for fresh rations in September, 2015.  By that time they had spent 5 years being be-bopped around several states in the back of my vehicle, in temperatures from sub-zero to whatever amazing oven a closed car in the sun can becomes on a 105o day in North Carolina.

After that, they got to spend a year in my basement, where the temperatures ranged from 580to 78o and the humidity is held to maximum 50% by a dehumidifier.  Then one fine day recently Son and I opened them up and sampled a couple.

I thought they were quite good.  However, I'm notoriously not picky about my food.  I'd say they tasted like a coconut cookie.  These were rather crumbly in texture, and while I can't say whether that is their normal condition or a result of the storage conditions, other reviewers have noted the same, so I guess that's how they're supposed to be.

They are dry, as in bone dry.  You will have to have a good supply of drinking water if you plan on using these as your food source, because you're getting next to no moisture from them.  I suspect that eating these versus some more "normal" sort of food will increase the amount of water you'll need to drink.

A package of rations weighs 2 pounds, and contains 18 bars of 200 calories each for a total of 3600 calories.  Given the amount of energy you would be putting out walking home this would probably be 2 days worth of "food" unless you plan on being a little hungry, in which case I think you could stretch it to four.  I had planned on supplementing mine with items that I normally kept in my desk for those days I got stuck at lunch, which would have given me between 3-5 more meals of 400-600 calories.  My plan was for a 4 day trip home.  Since I'm packing some extra weight, a little calorie deficit wasn't going to hurt me for a few days.

Son did not care for the taste, and I suspect anyone who doesn't care for coconut will not.  The rations are flavored strongly of coconut and I see no way that could be hidden.  He wasn't much on the texture either.  I suspect real hunger would overcome both objections quickly enough.

While I don't suggest relying on these long term, at the current price on Datrex's web site of $139/case (or $129/case if bought by the 70 case pallet), they could be something you might add to your preps for those occasions when a fast, no time to cook, eat it on the go snack or meal was necessary.  I can see them as trail rations for scouting parties, for example.  While they are rated for a minimum of 5 years in storage, I expect my basement storage conditions could easily double that.  If you are in the mind of providing charity for neighbors or unexpected guests in a true TEOTWAWKI situation, these would be an easy, compact if expensive way to provide them with a day or two worth of food in a compact, easy to hand out package.

If this were a few months ago, I'd order a case to drop in my own preps, but the recent job loss means that we are being more careful with the money these days.  I still may, but it will have to be a more considered purchase,  Right now, other things are further up on the list things to buy.

To sum it up, these are a highly shelf stable, relatively palatable, light weight, compact way to carry or store a lot of calories.  While I don't suggest these as an entire food store, I think they do have a place, but only after you have built your food preps up the old-fashioned way.