Saturday, January 28, 2012

So Long to Signatures: The Dying Art of Cursive

I was going through my notebook where I write blog post ideas and such and I found an old topic that I never got a chance to write about.

Apparently, cursive writing is no longer a required part of the school core curriculum as stated on the Common Core State Standards for English. The majority of the U.S. has already adopted the standard.

Public schools can still teach cursive but students are expected to be keyboard-proficient.

My question is: if those who don't already know how to write cursive aren't taught how to write it (21st century children) then what motivation would they have to learn how to read it? Can you imagine an entire generation unable to read a simple document hand-written in cursive?

What about the individuality of having your own recognizable, unique penmanship?

It saddens me that even school officials would refer to cursive as a dying art.

It's like saying "I don't have to be good at spelling, that's what auto-correct is for."

While it has been deemed inefficient and a waste of time to teach an antiquated art form, a recent study suggests that writing by hand increases brain activity and memory of concepts.


Editor's Note:
I'm not at all surprised that cursive is being phased out of the public school system.
I still remember when I was in high school, there were budget cuts that eliminated the animation and film program --- in an ART SCHOOL. So all of us who went to this specialized high school strictly for these programs were bumped into commercial art and photography instead. I've attended private schools from pre-k all the way up to junior high - and when I transitioned into a public high school, I realized then how much more advanced my level of study had been. As a freshman I was taking senior level classes because I had already covered everything else.

It's essentially what happened to 3d animation replacing the "old-school hand drawn on paper and cells" process. During art school one of the first required classes was traditional animation. Why? Because not only did it teach us the basics and foundation, it gave us a greater appreciation for it once we moved into the digital phase of the curriculum. Many of the skills learned from the traditional skills were transferrable to the digital one.

This is especialy disconcerting to me because I'm a writer as well. While I compose a lot of my stories on my laptop or tablet, I still spend a lot of time writing stories in longhand.

I take all of my notes down for school in longhand as well, as do all of my classmates. Some of us use laptops / tablets in conjunction with it but not as a primary method of jotting notes.

While I agree that students' curriculum should keep in pace with modern technology and prepare them for the future, learning cursive can only further benefit them overall in their pursuit of education and future endeavors and should not be viewed otherwise.

Mixing the old with the new would be the optimal solution to this and not just making one completely obsolete.

Speaking of obsolete, here's one of my personal favorite episode of The Twiilight Zone. The Obsolete Man.

Part 1

Part 2

               USA Today  ]

Friday, January 27, 2012

Light backpacking / everyday carry / food preps - instant coffee packet

Excellent coffee for those who are always on the go.

This is not as strong as what I'm used to as far as coffee blends go but I use it mainly as after dinner coffee and for in between my classes. It's just strong enough to get me by for another few hours.

I'd say the major thing this has going for it is that it already includes the creamer and the sugar in the packet. Just add hot water.

Those of you who like their coffee very storng might find this week tasting to start off with but it's definitely worth a shot.

Suitable for:
college students
road warriors
dayhikers / campers / light backpackers
preppers on a budget

It currently sells for $1.99 / box (each box has 10 individual packets)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My minimalist urban EDC gear (part 2) - pocket multitool

For the second installment of my urban /city EDC (everyday carry) I've decided to briefly go over my mini multitool that I carry with me everywhere. 

This one's just your standard stainless steel type of multitool - a gift given to me 2-3 years ago - it's monogrammed with my initials and everything...I know...fancy pants, =)

The 3 main tools on it that I use often are the screwdrivers (flathead & phillips), and of course the blade followed by the saw. Most useless feature - corkscrew. It's good to drill a small pilot hole manually but for actually opening up a bottle of wine - not so much. Second least favorite feature is the scissor. 

For all you newbie city preppers, I'd say a pocket sized multitool is a great starting point for your EDC. If you're not sure, I'd just get whatever you can afford at the moment and use it well. Keep tabs on which features you use frequently that way when it comes time to upgrade you'll have a better sense of what you're actually looking for.

Would I rely on this multitool for dayhikes? Absolutely. For longer camping/bushcraft type activities - no way.

And here's the vid I made about it.

So in the video, the messenger bag I have is by Nautica (see the link below). Pretty good for light loads but not great for when you have a couple of heavy textbooks to lug around. So yesterday I actually picked up a backpack which I'll be doing a review on shortly.

If you have a pocket multitool you'd like to share here, feel free to email me a photo - what you mainly use it for and a link to your website/blog if you have any. I'll put the content up in a future post.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Minimalist Urban EDC (everyday carry) Survival Tin

my minimalist edc survival tin - exterior
This is part of my EDC (everyday carry). Most people call this a survival tin and there's many different versions of it. My approach in preparedness (prepping) in general is a minimalistic one. So everything in this "survival tin" are items I use quite a bit except for the lighter (I don't smoke anymore).

It just doesn't make sense to lug around items that's not applicable to your environment / situation.

I carry this everywhere with me and as I've mentioned on the vid, I have enough textbooks and such to carry around for my classes so I don't need additional things to weigh me down.

my minimalist edc survival tin - interior
Antibiotic ointment for minor cuts
alcohol pads
ibuprofen & advil
eyeglass repair kit

I still need to add:
something for my allergies

Here's the brief vid I made of it:

This is just part of my EDC - minimalist style. I'll go over the other parts in future vids and blog posts. I keep everything interchangeable depending on where I'm headed but this kit remains a constant in all of them.

Do you have a survival tin? What do you carry in yours?

Doomsday Clock: Another Minute Closer to Midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced on January 10 that they have moved the hands of the hypothetical clock another minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007.

They cited the lack of initiatives regarding climate change and rising international tensions as one of the key reasons for the adjustment.

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by  the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago using the imagery of apocalypse -- a countdown to midnight -- to convey the level of threats to humanity and the planet. The original time was set at 11:53pm, seven minutes to midnight.

The Bulletin is a periodical founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project. The clock was initially focused on nuclear war but has since broadened to reflect other risks that could have a serious impact on human life.



Related link:
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Prepper Gear Addition: Coffee Percolator

Since I've been getting more into prepping I've been very selective about what I choose to add to our gear.

I'm very careful about keeping the balance between stuff vs. skills. Being in a very urban setting, we're prone to rolling blackouts during the summer and also during very extreme winter conditions. The type of stuff I like to add to our bugging-in arsenal are items that can be used in multiple situations and not just for emergencies.

The coffee percolator is an excellent example of this. I like to use this at least a few times a week since it brews stronger coffee than our regular coffee maker. It can also be used for camping/hiking trips. As long as you have a heat source to boil water, you're good to go. In case of a power outage, we can even use this with a sterno stove indoors (I would imagine the boil time is a lot longer but it should get the job done - I'll have to test this in the near future).

There's different types of percolators available out there at various price points but they all pretty much have the same components - you have the pot, the stem, a basket, basket cover, and a glass knob.

The only thing about the model I have is that it has a plastic handle (susceptible to melting). So far it hasn't been an issue, it's just a matter of adjusting the placement of the pot over the heat source.

Here's a quickie video I made about it:

If you want to pick one up, this looks like a good model.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Interesting Numbers on Gun Purchases During Holidays 2011

Guns were a hot item during the 2011 Holidays.

The FBI recorded 1.5 million background checks requested by gun dealers regarding their customers this past December alone.

On December 23 there were 102,222 firearm-related background checks.

These figures may actually be significanty higher since an individual can purchase multiple guns.

Close to 500,00 of the background checks were done six days before Christmas.

 NY Daily News
 USA Today

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Occupying Permaculture

This post is by contributor Noel G.

Permaculture is less a system of rules and more a mindset. It consists of tried and tested environmental principles as well as taking an open, objective and critical mind to the problem at hand and seeking inclusive solutions; inclusive of all members of the relevant ecosystem as well as those that might be gainfully introduced. For the Occupy movement, this means finding new solutions to old problems.
     The Occupy movement has sprung up in defiance to and of everything. Everything that they, the members of the movement, see as being wrong with the economy and our culture. The corrupt nature of our politics and politicians, how they are inextricably linked to the powers that be within the banks, GMO's and other monolithic corporations, how this entire system is supported by a web of lawyers and lobbyists and how everyone else, the vast majority of the American people, the 99%, gets shafted by this system.
     Out of this mindset and the need for localized solutions to problems long handled by centralized ministries has been born the sustainability committees and their various projects. Glenn Hurrowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a member of the Occupy DC’s sustainability committee, was bothered by the fact that the Wall Street occupation was using gasoline powered generators for their power needs. It struck him that a movement such as theirs should not be propping up the oil barons, but should be seeking to find solutions to more than the current financial woes. He took this idea to the General Assembly, which is the daily occupation meeting to which every occupier is invited. Solar Panels were agreed on, the money was raised and within a week they were installed beside the camp's media tent.    
     The Occupy Wall Street movement, in association with Time's Up!, a NY based not-for-profit 'direct-action environmental group', did away with their gas generators and now fill their energy needs with a pedal powered, deep cycle battery. More on this below.

They have also started serious recycling efforts, making a symbolic sustainability table entirely out of recycled materials.

They make their own pots and pans. They also have, in association with Mobile Design Labs created a system for recycling Greywater. Greywater is water that has been used for some purpose, such as doing dishes or bathing, and then discarded. It is not to be confused with Blackwater, which is sewage. Greywater makes up anywhere from 70% upwards of the water discarded by households, and can easily be captured and recycled, preventing contamination when it is mixed with Blackwater. The water is caught, filtered to remove chemicals and other contaminants and then used for various purposes, including watering the plants in and around the Occupations.
     This concept of sustainable living, not only as a necessity but as a further protest and an example of the world they, the occupiers, are seeking to build, has since spread to all the other movements. Solar panels and pedal bikes are being used to for various power purposes. Other sustainable initiatives such as community gardens, which this blog will have more on in other posts, are being adopted for food provision and as examples of true organic food production.  
     The Occupy movement has grown from its roots as a reaction to the financial malaise into an ongoing example of the kind of world its members would like to see created, complete with the kinds of democracy, sustainable technology and food production that they would like to see be at the center of this new world economy. They are a working example of how to not just protest what is wrong, but also how to suggest and implement measures encapsulating what they see as being right.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Deconstructing a Safe Room (infographic)

Hello again ApocalypseHub-bers - hope your holidays and New Year's celebrations went well, Happy 2012 by the way. Back to the swing of things up here.

Here's a cool infographic on deconstructing safe rooms created by the good folks at Allstate. (Thanks for the tip Brittney!)

This has some really good general tips on location and supplies. If you already have a binder where you keep your checklists and additional resources, this image might be a good one to print out and keep especially if you have younger children in the home - visuals work best when teaching them about emergency preparedness.

Very important safety issue: There is one thing I want to point out - it says that you should have a generator in your safe room. We don't have a generator (yet) but you really shouldn't be running that indoors (carbon monoxide poisoning, fire hazard, among other things).
Storage in safe room: yes. Usage of generator in safe room: NO
So please don't take this as the ultimate guide, do educate yourselves of proper usage and maintenance of equipment and such.

Created by Allstate Extreme Conditions

We have a fully finished basement that would serve this purpose. We don't walk around calling it a "safe room" but it can certainly function as one. There are additional areas in the building that can be used in this manner as well depending on the type of emergency.

If you already have a safe room/s set up or in the process of getting one together, I'd love to hear from you.