Friday, May 27, 2011

Interesting Week - Preparedness

Between Joplin, MO suffering from tornado devastation and a long line of huge storms with tornadoes passing through on Tuesday, the local CBS TV station polled viewers asking if they were going to step up their emergency preparations. Surprisingly, since the broadcast area includes Wichita Falls, TX that was devastated in 1979, 73% of the respondents said, "No."

One couple, looking like they're past the mid-life crisis stage of life, said they always have water and other items in each of their vehicles because they've learned to be prepared. I've been thinking along that line simply so I won't have to haul stuff out to the car I might forget under the stress of having to evacuate suddenly and to have it already there when I go on road trips.

Considering the government initiated National Preparedness Month in 2003 and all the natural disasters that have hit this country since, I wonder why it's more important for so many people to have the latest electronic games and smart phones than it is to set some things aside for the proverbial rainy day, not even having a basic, inexpensive car survival kit to keep themselves from freezing to death.

Are the relatively few of us who are prepared, or at least are trying to be, living amongst a nation of hedonists or are they just stupid people who should be left subject to the law of survival of the fittest? How many of us could be that hard-hearted knowing that we might need help ourselves someday despite our preparedness?

Maybe I'm fortunate in that I've been able to draw from other peoples' experience and knowledge as well as my own. My father grew up in Idaho on a farm which necessitates self-sufficiency. My mother and I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her parents lived through the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the initial shock, panic, and subsequent war conditions. As a family, we experienced a hurricane and tropical storms along with warnings of tsunamis that, fortunately, never materialized.

As an apartment-dweller, I went back to my experience during a spring break in Honolulu living with a high school friend and her family on the 36' ketch they sailed from the state of Washington to Hawaii trying to remember what they had and how they did things in their small, compact, floating home. I'm also drawing from my experiences traveling, hiking, car camping, and camping with horses with friends who were in the Army.

Dad, who drove through all the lower 48 states plus parts of Canada and Mexico, taught me how to navigate using a road map during our Mainland road trips. I learned how to navigate using a topo map, lensatic compass, and protractor courtesy of the U.S. Army coming out #4 on the test which pretty well embarrassed many of the men. A few real men that were there near me congratulated me on doing so well; the rest were sullen. To the latter, I didn't exist.

Having been taught to put an extra gallon of water in the car trunk when crossing deserts on road trips and stocking several gallons of water in my apartment because of the Y2K bug scare, I already knew to have water on hand for emergencies. Traveling through areas flooded out by 2006's Pineapple Express prompted me to keep extra food on hand.

Also in 2006, a friend in WA advised me to have a 72-hour kit. I didn't know what one was, but found out and have been working on it basing my kit on hiking's 10 Essential Systems I adapted to cover travel and general preparedness to suit me and my lifestyle.

As a result, I've been thanked for sharing what little knowledge I've shared and someone suggested I write a book. At the time, I said "no" because I rather concentrate on writing novels, but thinking about what I know and my experiences and all the research I've done over the past 2+ years for hydration alone (there's a lot of misinformation out there and even the CDC is putting out info that isn't as accurate as it could be), I'm reconsidering.

Already having gear for hiking, camping, and traveling, I'm actually farther along with my own preparedness than this blog indicates. At this point, I'm filling in relatively small holes and organizing or reorganizing.

For the Communication category, because of the tornadoes of the past few days, I'm thinking wearing a lanyard with a whistle during storms, maybe my hiking survival lanyard since I already have it set up, would help get me found faster if I'm under debris, conscious, and able to blow my whistle.

I consider the Documentation category to be incomplete because I misplaced the key to my fireproof lock box which is way too heavy for air travel or evacuation if I have to go on foot. My passport is out because of traveling; I couldn't find the key to put it back in the lock box.

For Finances, I have a little cash on hand in case plastic can't be used due to power outage, but should have much more. A friend in Alabama who experienced April's storms that took out the electricity in her area putting stores and gas stations on a cash-basis said her residential area was without power for 5 days but power wasn't fully restored for 11 days.

For the Transportation category, I need to gather everything together to be able to Grab & Go quickly. Of course, my primary mode of transportation is my car, but what if I encounter a situation like in the movie, "The Happening," where people leave their vehicles to proceed on foot?

A large backpacker's backpack would be best, but since I'm travel-oriented already having a couple of carry-on travel packs, the kind of suitcase that converts to a backpack, that I can use for evacuation, do I shell out the money for one?

Because I'm geared up for hiking, camping, air travel, and road trips, I'm undecided about how to transport my stuff in the event of evacuation by foot without buying a backpacker's backpack to serve as my Grab & Go bag and duplicating stuff to store in it all the time. I have practically everything I need. However, I don't want to risk robbing Peter to pay Paul only to get caught not repaying Peter before the SHTF.

For the category of Security, I'm still figuring out what to do since a lot of stuff was stolen out of my car trunk in 2007 in San Ysidro, CA. Almost everybody knows to keep valuables out of sight, but thieves know the car trunk is where people put them. Lacking a car alarm system, securing the trunk with a cable that sounds an alarm if cut might be the answer for rental cars in addition to long road trips where I have too much stuff to immediately take everything to my room.

The matter of self-defense is a highly personal one because of the variety of state and local laws governing guns, knives, pepper sprays or Mace, and stun guns. Not to mention the TSA.

Personally, I can't see any sense in buying a gun only to have it confiscated without compensation if I'm in a situation like those being bused out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina who had to give up their guns and knives before being allowed to board a bus.

OTOH, I much rather have a gun than be raped.

On the other other hand, if I can evacuate soon enough, getting far enough away from whatever bad guys remain behind, the money spent buying a firearm would be wasted and better spent on a motel room.

For the time being, I'm relying on prayer and the Fox 40 Mini whistle on my key ring which will hurt a bad guy's ears, hopefully stunning him/them with ear pain long enough for me to get away while it signals my need for help.

Finally, the Entertainment category is covered, I'm sure, although I still intend to get a pocket-sized MP3 player to replace my portable CD player. Since it's low priority, no rush. My Kindle, pocket kite, playing cards, journal, camera, tin whistle, and watercolor paints, etc., should be plenty enough to keep me occupied if necessary in the meantime.

Writing it all up for this blog as promised is the bitch.

Interesting Week - Laptop Battery

This past weekend, my laptop started displaying a pop-up warning about my battery reaching the end of its usable life with a link to order another whenever I powered it on or took it off Stand By. You'd think I would have been getting this warning since November, but I haven't.

So, first thing Monday morning, I ordered a new battery from Dell which currently has an offer for free shipping with a minimum purchase the battery satisfies. The order process and confirmation email indicated that the battery would arrive today. It arrived Wednesday from TN. That's great order fulfillment. Plus, it was free!

After ensuring the new battery is the right one, I decided to set it aside to save it until the old one is dead. A new battery is so expensive (the old battery was 32 months old when the flashing light first appeared), I want to make it last as long as possible.

I've been working off of AC, mostly, anyway. The only reason I need a battery otherwise is so I don't lose anything if the power suddenly goes off.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: Brita Bottle

The new Brita Bottle, available since mid-February, is an on-demand, aesthetic-filtering, environmentally-friendly, reusable water bottle made of durable, easy-to-squeeze, BPA-free, recycle code #4 LDPE plastic.

It is available in translucent blue or green for MSRP US$9.99 each, including one replaceable filter, or in a Twin Pack from $18.99. Replacement filters are MSRP $7.99 per pair.

The Bottle is 9.75" tall. The circumference varies from 7-5/8" at the waist to 9" at the largest point.

The literature inside says the filtering system was tested and certified in accordance with NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for aesthetics to reduce chlorine taste and odor by at least 50%. The Brita Bottle averaged 79% with the minimum at 58%.

The NSF requirement for the reduction of particulates is 85% to be a Class VI filter which is 50 to <80 microns. The Brita Bottle averaged more than 99.9% that was also the minimum.

Not finding the Brita Bottle at Wal-Mart and not wanting to drive out-of-town to Target or shop online, I located my blue Bottle at Walgreens. The enclosed directions say to first hand-wash it with mild soap, but knowing soap can leave a residue even when well-rinsed, I used regular liquid dishwashing detergent, instead. The directions also say that everything except the filter is top-rack dishwasher-safe.

After flushing out the loose carbon dust as directed by squeezing a full bottle of water through the filter, I was ready to begin my evaluation. Since I work at home, my interest in the Bottle is for when I'm out-and-about longer than water in another convenient-to-carry bottle filled from my Brita pitcher would last like for festivals, day trips, and travel to areas with safe water.

For road trips, the Bottle will save my having to pack my Brita Space Saver pitcher which is much too large for air travel. Although I haven't flown anywhere since I bought the Bottle, I expect it to be acceptable by the TSA just as my Brita Fill & Go filtering bottle was as long as it's empty when I go through inspection.

The capacity according to Brita is 20 oz. Filling the Bottle to the ledge below the screw thread for the cap, I measured the capacity as 21 oz.

The cap consists of several pieces. First, there is a base cap that screws onto the 49 mm opening large enough to add ice cubes and for easy washing. The filter slides into a hole in the center of the base cap and is held in place by a screw-on, push-pull sport cap. The sport cap is covered by a snap-on hygiene cap.

According to the label and enclosed literature, the filter, Model No. BB02 which also fits Brita's older Fill & Go bottle, needs to be replaced every 128 (20 oz.) servings/20 gallons/75 liters or every two months for proper performance.

Knowing that 128 (20 oz.) servings equals 20 gallons, I was curious how it correlated to two months and did some calculating. By using the Bottle for all of the standard hydration recommendation of 64 oz. per day, it would take only 40 days to consume 20 gallons.

However, after keeping track for a week and learning I average two fillings (42 oz.) per day, I calculated the filter would last 61 days (128 servings x 20 oz. per serving / 42 oz. per day = 60.95 days).

Of course, YMMV, but if you drink an average of two Bottles per day, getting the rest of your hydration needs from other beverages and food, marking your calendar to replace the filter in two months will be both close enough and a whole lot easier than counting refills or calculating the number of gallons consumed.

The Bottle is very comfortable to hold, but once leaked a drop or two because the push-pull sport cap wasn't closed all the way although it looked like it was.

It leaks a lot more if I don't put the large base cap on carefully. I discovered I have to press the carrying loop down while screwing on the cap or it won't go on level. With the loop removed, it still leaks a little unless I unscrew the cap until the threads click before screwing the cap on. It's best to set the Bottle on the counter or other support to avoid squeezing it as the cap is screwed on.

After figuring out these little tricks, the Bottle is dripless no matter how vigorously shaken.

The leaking isn't due to the cap because I can put it on my Fill & Go without having to be careful about it and it doesn't leak, so it must be something about the Bottle.

I suspect it's because the thread goes around only once plus about a third where the ends overlap while the thread on the Fill & Go goes around twice. Wrapping the Bottle's thread with plumber's tape might resolve this minor issue; I plan to buy some, try it, and report back, but it really would be better for Brita to fix this issue for us rather than our having to be so much more careful than with the Fill & Go or trying to fix it ourselves.

[Update 6/2/11 - Too lazy to buy plumber's tape, I tried different tape only to get a small flood when I squeezed to drink. Since I figured out the little tricks required to make my Bottle dripless (other people haven't had these issues, so it just depends on the Bottle or maybe I'm squeezing more vigorously than they are), and I'm very happy with it preferring the new Bottle over Brita's older Fill & Go bottle, I decided against trying the plumber's tape.]

Disliking the plastic taste of my first Bottle of water as sometimes happens with LDPE water bottles I've tried, I put in a couple of tablespoons of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), filled it with hot tap water, capped it without the filter, shook it, and let it sit overnight.

Since my second Bottle of water still tasted of plastic, I dumped in enough baking soda to cover the bottom over 1/4 inch, filled it with hot tap water, capped it without the filter, and let it sit over 24 hours, shaking it occasionally. That fixed it. Subsequent servings of water have all tasted absolutely great.

If I couldn't have gotten rid of the plastic flavor or should I ever want a bottle with a different capacity, I could substitute a recycle code #1 PET/PETE bottle with a 28 mm opening such as is found on standard .5 L, 1 L, and 2 L water and soft drink bottles, Coke products excluded, since the filter and push-pull sport cap fit without leakage on the bottles I tried. A 1-liter bottle would be especially good for foreign travel and preparedness because it's the capacity recommended for most chemical treatments for unsafe water. I'm thinking the Brita Bottle filter will remove any lingering chlorine odor and taste, but don't care to speculate about iodine treatments.

By aligning the filter's arrow-shaped openings with the Bottle's seams for easy tactile detection and keeping a seam underneath the Bottle as it gets empty, I can squeeze out all of the water but a tablespoon enabling me to get a maximum quantity before needing to refill it.

[Edited 6/2/11 - If the seam that is aligned with the top end of the screw thread is downward, the Bottle leaks a drop when I upend and squeeze to drink if I set it on the counter while screwing on the cap although it still doesn't leak when shaken while the sport top is closed. It leaks a lot if I grip it around its middle while screwing on the cap, but less if it's supported on my palm. As a result, I marked the opposite seam with a Sharpie to ensure I have it downwards when I drink so there is no leakage as I squeeze.]

Aligning the filter with the Brita logo on the cap is another option for a visual indicator. Aligning my collapsible koozie seams with the Bottle's seams provides both easy visual and tactile indicators.

The koozie also serves its original purpose as an insulator helping keep the water cool and as a sweat band to collect condensation when ice is added.

[Update 7/30/11 - The Outdoor Products insulated water bottle sleeve, reviewed here, is better than a collapsible can koozie.]

Not only does the Bottle fit into my collapsible koozie and car cup holder, it also fits into the water bottle pockets of my travel purse and other carriers such as my water bottle parka with shoulder strap.

Like other sport caps with snap-on dust covers, the Brita Bottle's hygiene cap is likely to be easily lost. Since this is an on-going problem of mine that isn't likely to change, I attached a 4" cable tie to the carrying loop and Krazy-glued the loose end to the hygiene cap to leash it to the Bottle. Unfortunately, the Krazy Glue did not hold, perhaps because the cable tie was too short and/or too stiff to withstand the stress of movement as I removed and replaced the hygiene cap.

Losing the hygiene cap is no big deal since I don't put the cap in my mouth and figure I can easily use the water's outward flow to rinse it off. Besides, I don't wash my hands every time before pulling the top open and only God knows what germs I pick up from the surfaces I touch between drinks.

However, since I do like having a cover to prevent a fly from landing on the center of the sport cap behind my back, I'm trying another way to make a leash and will post a report on it, later.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Brita Bottle and prefer it to the older Fill & Go except for needing to be careful about closing the cap to prevent leakage. It's easy to use, comfortable to hold, conveniently-sized, and produces great-tasting water.

[Update 9/19/2012 - In March, I bought a two-pack and have had no problems whatsoever. The new bottles are lavender and a pretty blue. The older bottle is a wussy-looking light blue. I don't know if the leakage was peculiar to the light blue bottles or if Brita changed something in the new bottles since they look the same to me. Either way, I'm totally thrilled with my newer bottles!]

I recommend it to everyone wanting an on-demand, aesthetic-filtering, environmentally-friendly, reusable water bottle that can be refilled from any source of potable water.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Brita Bottle vs. Fill & Go

Last week, I bought a new Brita Bottle. Wanting more time to evaluate it before posting a review, this post compares it to Brita's older Fill & Go model that I've had since 2001.

First, the similarities:

1. Both are made of easy-to-squeeze, recycle code #4 LDPE. I've found this to be an inconsistent plastic in that sometimes it smells and/or imparts a plasticky flavor and sometimes it doesn't, even with the same product from the same manufacturer. Usually, the problem can be resolved by soaking the item in a solution of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and hot tap water overnight or longer, but sometimes, it can't which is why I generally prefer a stainless steel water bottle. I got tired of dealing with the inconsistency in my search for the perfect water bottle after the Fill & Go and Lexan (polycarbonate) products were discontinued.

2. Except for color and translucency, the caps for both bottles are exactly the same and all parts interchange. For those of you who are hoping the new Bottle filter fits the old Fill & Go bottle, yes, it most certainly does fit. In fact, right now I'm using my old Fill & Go cap with the new filter on the new Bottle, only because I like the color combination. My now all-white Fill & Go bottle looks pretty sharp, too.

3. Both bottles are leakproof although the new Bottle is somewhat persnickety about it, requiring me to be careful about getting the cap on exactly right.

4. The openings for both bottles are wide enough to allow the addition of ice cubes.

5. Both bottles fit into the water bottle pocket of my Pacsafe travel purse, but not at the same time.

Now, the differences:

1. Capacity - filling each bottle to the ledge below the screw-on threads for the cap, I measured 24 oz for the Fill & Go and 21 oz. for the new Bottle.

2. The new Bottle is slightly shorter with a smaller circumference than the Fill & Go enabling it to fit into standard car cup holders and snugly, but easily, into a collapsible koozie I have but too tightly for ease into another koozie that isn't collapsible. The Fill & Go doesn't fit into my car's cup holder or either koozie.

3. Color - the Fill & Go was available only in opaque white with a blue cap. The new Bottle is available in translucent blue or green with a translucent white cap. From my research, opaque, light colors are the safest for plastic water bottles. This makes the Fill & Go's opaque white perfect. However, the translucency of the new Bottle makes it a whole lot easier to know exactly how much water remains so one may decide whether to fill up now, at this faucet or water fountain, or if there's enough to last until the next one is encountered. Considering the size of the bottles, I don't think opacity matters as much as it would for large capacity bottles because, since we should be drinking much more than 21 oz per day, the water shouldn't remain in the bottle as long.

4. Comfort - the new Bottle is much more comfortable to hold anywhere from the widest to the narrowest point whereas the Fill & Go has uncomfortable sharp turns going from the broadest part to the waist of the bottle.

5. Carrying loop - the new Bottle comes with a flexible, removable carrying loop. The Fill & Go didn't.

6. Filter - the new Bottle filter has openings near the top instead of near the bottom as the Fill & Go filter did. This makes it easier to consume more of the contents before having to refill. The Fill & Go filters came with stickers that fit into a depressed area on the bottle as a reminder of when to replace the filter and the new Bottle does not. Not having the stickers anymore doesn't bother me, but others may wish they were still available.

Overall, I'm more pleased with the new Brita Bottle than with the Fill & Go because the new Bottle is more comfortable to hold, makes it easy to see how much water remains, fits into my koozie and car cup holders, and has a convenient carrying loop. Brita also did very well with the redesign of the filter.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Day of Prayer

This year's theme is Psalms 91:2 "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust."

What keeps going through my mind is:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Fortunately, we can pray whatever our hearts desire and if it is His will, He will grant it:

1 John 5:
14. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Because of the disasters all over the world as well as in the U.S., my prayer this year is for the healing of our land, air, and waters. I pray also for liberty and justice for all people, everywhere.

And, yes, of course, that "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust."

Matthew 18:19. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.