Thursday 11/12/14

The number of interruptions to our power supply has drastically reduced in recent times. As a result, many people are caught off guard when the lights go out.

Everyone knows they shouldn't open the fridge or freezer during blackout (because a fridge or freezer's insulation is capable of maintaining their internal temperature for several hours if you don't open the door). But what about your creature comforts? Yes, you actually can be comfortable during a power outage, with a minimum of effort.

In my house we have six high-powered LED torches placed around the building, ensuring that if the lights go out, a light source is always close at hand. I also keep a supply of candles, matches and candleholders in the pantry. The candles present a very low fire risk because I only use them in the candleholders (yes, I even have one of those old fashioned brass candleholders), and I never leave the candle unattended. You might think candles are old fashioned, but it is a lot easier to read a book by candlelight than trying to hold a torch while you read. I keep spare batteries for the torches in the cupboard, next to the candles.

From a security perspective, it is a good idea to have several torches located throughout your house. If you hear a strange noise outside at night, you don't want to waste time searching for a torch that may or may not work when you find it.

My basic (and I do mean basic) cooking needs are taken care of by a single burner butane gas stove. It is big enough to heat a fry pan or boil a pot of water, but small enough to store in the cupboard. Again, the open flames do not present a problem because I only use the stove in the kitchen on a non-flammable surface; and I don't leave the stove unattended. I also have a hexamine stove as a backup, with a supply of fuel tablets.

I always have a battery powered radio in the house. Without power, TV and access to the internet aren't an option; but it would take a catastrophic event to knock out all of the radio stations broadcasting into my area.

These are just a few simple things I do to make my life a little more comfortable during a minor inconvenience.

Thursday 04/12/2014

People like to personalise their cars, I have advised you on several occasions of items you should have in your car. Your car, like your home, was an expensive purchase and it's only natural that you would want to make minor alterations to help match your car to your needs and your personality. You might put in some new seat covers, a DVD player in the back seat for the kids to use on long trips, or even a satellite navigation unit for the driver.

Decals on the windows are common too; famous landmarks, expensive theme parks, your favourite sports team, or your favourite band. All of these are fine (as long as they aren't blocking the driver's view). My concern is the current trend of the Stick Figure Family. Yes, those funny little cartoon families that appear on the rear windows of so many people's cars.

"How can a sticker be dangerous?" you ask. The sticker itself isn't the problem; it's the information the sticker conveys. If the assembly of Stick Figures on the back window of your car accurately portrays your family unit, you are publically broadcasting a lot of valuable, personal information to criminals and other predators. You have just told everyone who has seen the back of your car how many children are in your house and how many adults are there to keep an eye on them; and your marital/relationship status.

I'm pretty sure you wouldn't walk up to complete strangers and tell them about your family situation. These cute little stickers are doing exactly that; they're telling complete strangers about your family situation.

Your vehicle also tells other people a lot about you and your financial status. A few weeks ago I saw the vehicle that inspired this week's blog; a $120'000 luxury SUV with an innocuous Stick Figure Family on the window (this is why it caught my attention, such an expensive vehicle with window decals). The stickers on the back window were of an elderly lady and four cats. The owner of this vehicle was inadvertently telling complete strangers three facts about her home life:

  1. She was elderly,
  2. She lived alone,
  3. She had a lot of money.

These aren't details I would be sharing with the world.

You might think I'm being overly cautions, but why draw unnecessary attention to yourself? As Benjamin Franklin once said; "An ounce of precaution is worth a pound of cure".

Thursday 27/11/14

In my younger days, after I'd finished school and entered the workforce, several of the older men I worked with had an expression I didn't have the wisdom or experience to fully appreciate. After we'd said our goodbyes on a Friday afternoon, the last thing they said to me was "Nothing good happens after midnight".

I wasn't a wild party animal, but I always adhered to this rule. I was always home before midnight. As the years passed I began to realise that midnight was the "line in the sand" for normal folk to be home in bed. Anyone still out after this time was either looking for trouble, or likely to become a victim.

After midnight, you are more likely to become a victim of crime for several reasons;

  • You have had a few drinks, impairing your motor skills and reducing your situational awareness (I keep returning to this basic concept). Both of these mark you as an easy target.
  • Predators are either; bored, angry or desperate for fun. If they see you in your current condition, you'll definitely attract their attention.
  • It's night, so the visibility of potential witnesses is drastically reduced in both distance and clarity.
  • Taxis are already busy taking other people home; leaving you to sit and wait for who knows how long.
  • There are very few people around to help you if you do get into trouble, and most of them aren't going to be able to help you because they're intoxicated too.

Over the years I've heard plenty of unpleasant stories of bad choices and unfortunate results from friends, family, colleagues and training partners. The common factor of many (not all) of these stories is they were still on the street after midnight. That's not to say you won't become a victim of violent crime (or your own bad choices) before midnight, but at least you'll reduce your chances of an unpleasant incident.

My older work colleagues have long since passed away, but their advice is just as relevant today as it was in my youth.

Nothing good happens after midnight.