Saturday, November 29, 2014

VOA Radiogram, 29-30 November 2014: Dim the lights

Flmsg returns this weekend on The Mighty KBC. See details below.

This week on VOA Radiogram, the “surprise mode of the week” becomes the “bonus mode of the week.” Because many of you have problems with the RSID, I will divulge the bonus mode so that you can make manual adjustment if necessary.

Here is the lineup for VOA Radiogram, program 87, 29-30 November 2014, all in MFSK32 centered on 1500 Hz except where indicated:

  1:37  Program preview
  2:39  Dimming lights to see the night sky*
 11:27  Cambodian rice wins “world’s best” title*
19:53  Color photos of 1963 Soviet Union*
26:29  Closing announcements
27:20  Bonus mode of the week: MT63-2000L

Please send reception reports to

VOA Radiogram transmission schedule
(all days and times UTC):
Sat 0930-1000 5910 kHz
Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz
All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

The Mighty KBC will transmit a minute of MFSK64 Saturday at about 1230 UTC on 6095 kHz, and Sunday at about 0130 UTC (Saturday 8:30 pm EST) on 7375 kHz. Both frequencies are via Germany. Reports to Eric at themightykbc (at)

This weekend, the MFSK64 transmissions on The Mighty KBC will be in Flmsg format. If you do not have the Flmsg software, download it from the same source as Fldigi:

To make Flmsg work with Fldigi, in Fldigi:  Fldigi: Configure > Misc > NBEMS > Under “Reception of flmsg files” check both “Open with flmsg” and “Open in browser.” Under that indicate where your Flmsg program is located, for example C:Program Files (x86)\flmsg-2.0.5\flmsg.exe.

If all goes well, the text from The Mighty KBC will pop up on your web browser.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What can Minecraft offer education?

By Matthew Banfield

t’s likely that the majority of British school pupils play video games. From smartphones to games consoles, there are a lot of games available to them. Here, teacher-in-training and gamer Matthew Banfield explores the possibilities that the incredibly popular Minecraft presents to schools.
Working in education, you have most likely heard of Minecraft. This game has captured a generation, giving people who play the game an unlimited space to explore and express themselves. The game may well have taken over your classroom through the huge amount of merchandise available, from pencil cases to books.
The game itself rewards the player’s creativity and ambition, whilst also throwing in some curveballs along the way. The beauty of Minecraft is that there is no objective, no main mission aims and no one direction in which your gaming session must take you. It is entirely up to the player what he or she wants to do with their time in the neverending, unique world the game has created for them. One minute you can be building the dream house, the next you’re mining around lava for the most valuable treasures; it is entirely up to you.
I first came into contact with Minecraft whilst working as a TA, gaining experience ready for my PGCE course. I worked one-to-one with a child who was really passionate about a few things, one of which was Minecraft. He really appreciated me sitting there listening to him telling me everything he knew about the first-person exploration game. Eventually the gamer within me kicked in and I just had to give it a go!
So now you know a little about Minecraft, and why it has captured the attention of so many young people, but you’re probably thinking – “Why does this video game mean anything to me?” As a teacher you have discovered something about which members of your class are so passionate, why not use it to drive their learning?

Video Games in Education

There is no doubt that video games can be incredibly entertaining, and are a great technological advancement for social and recreational use, but is there any room for them in the classroom? As far as popular press goes, gaming has been bookmarked as a negative subject which is surrounded by suggestions of addiction, increased aggressiveness and various medical and psychological problems. However, in both mine and many others opinions, gaming can be delivered in such a way to have a positive impact on both the young and old.
Video games have been proven to develop social interaction and self-esteem in individuals, not to mention motor control improvements in areas such as reaction time and hand/eye co-ordination. Furthermore, the challenge that can be set by video games has been proven to aid children’s learning journeys. Understanding how to set personal goals and track progress is an important skill to learn for a child travelling through their educational life. What they do not notice is that whilst playing video games, this process is happening almost autonomously. A child can play a game, receive a high score, replay the game and track their progress without even realising they’re doing it.

ICT (oops sorry… I mean Computing)

An obvious area of the curriculum to use video games in is computing. The students can look at how video games are made, and can actually discover how easily they can create something themselves. Minecraft is a prime example to children of how simple video games can be. I am not trying to say that Minecraft is an easily-produced game by any means (I wouldn’t know where to start), but if you think about it, the idea is actually quite basic. It is essentially a huge area made up of blocks, a simple concept that has gone on to grab the enthusiasm of a generation. What’s not to say that a member of your class has that next big idea locked away somewhere?
"Understanding how to set personal goals and track progress is an important skill to learn for a child travelling through their educational life"
Video games as a learning resource can also help further in computing. They appeal to a wide range of children. Gaps can be closed between genders, which is especially needed in the ICT world. In a career path so heavily dominated by men, gaming could encourage both genders to unlock a passion for the technological world that they would otherwise have never discovered.
While I was planning a presentation for my PGCE interview, I used a couple of pieces of software to help the children recreate the meeting of Mr Tumnus and Lucy from “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”. The series of lessons were a great success with the children and teachers, but I feel that improvements could have been made. The software that was available to the children was quite basic, two dimensional and a limited. The work produced using this software was staggering, but I can’t help but look back and think, if I had known about Minecraft, how much better could that lesson have been? The possibilities would have been endless, as opposed to quite constricted.
From my experience, computing is a subject that excites and engages most children naturally, but that might not be the case with all subjects. We will now have a look at how Minecraft could be used in subjects across the curriculum.

Cross Curricula use of Minecraft

Why stop with computing? Minecraft is a brilliant resource and could be used across many subjects:
Art and Design: Being creative is something that some children really struggle with. Even when I was a child, the thought of having to pick up a paint brush or shading pencil made me anticipate a bit of embarrassment. Minecraft’s Creative Mode could be used really well to help children understand something known as ‘Pixel art’, and also give these children the chance to express their creativity. The internet is full of websites where people have shared their incredible creations on Minecraft, and many youngsters would thrive at the opportunity to do this, even if it was only with their classmates.
English: As the children in your class will tell you, there are hundreds of YouTubers out there creating amazing videos telling stories through Minecraft. I found children telling me all about YouTubers such as Stampy, Vikkstar123 and Ali-A, and could retell episodes they had watched almost word for word. Children respond so well to the stories being told through Minecraft because they can easily relate to what is happening on the screen in front of them.
"Many schools now have interactive whiteboards, which could have the whole class working out a maths problem within a Minecraft world"
Most children would love to give this a go themselves, and a tie in with English is a great way of doing this. The children can write scripts, act out history or retell a novel they’re reading, all in their own Minecraft world! There are free pieces of software where you can create your own ‘skin’ for your Minecraft character, meaning recreating scenes from famous books or films can be done with extreme attention to detail. The accompanying materials, such as scripts, can be used as evidence of English work and they can also present their work through a video or even live in front of the class! Surely that ticks a few more of those boxes across much of the curriculum?
Maths: ‘Mods’ are being created by people across the Minecraft community every day, so it wouldn’t take long to find one (or someone who will make one) to fit your every need. An area of Maths that could be explored is problem-solving. Many schools now have interactive whiteboards, which could have the whole class working out a maths problem within a Minecraft world. Some examples of this could include finding the area of a shape, which could visually help a lot of younger children understand which a difficult process to learn initially.
Ali-A (A famous YouTuber) regularly uploads videos playing a mod called ‘Prison’. This mod consists of grinding supplies and selling them to gain enough money to move up the ranks. Whilst watching his videos, I can already see a lesson unfolding in front of my eyes, one where the class have to try and come up with the quickest way to earn money. They could investigate how quickly you can get certain ingredients such as wood or meat and which make most profit, their findings can then be presented in suitable graphs and tables.

Why stop there?

Minecraft is not the only game on the market that can be used as an educational tool. I believe, in reason, games such as the Fifa series could also be used as good tools. Within Fifa, statistics are constantly being produced mid-game, whether it be the possession each team has had or where on the pitch shots have been taken from. There is quite a big emphasis in the new Computing curriculum on data collection and algorithms; who says Fifa or other video games couldn’t help with these areas?
As you’ve probably gathered already, I haven’t just played video games for the purpose of this article. I have been playing video games for a long time, and most recently, I have been looking at video games in a different light. Ever since I decided to become a teacher I have been playing a wider range of games to see if I can find one that can help in education. One that I came across which really got me thinking was ‘Smart As…’
I came across Smart As… whilst working as a TA on a gap year, and it really opened my eyes to how much fun Maths and English lessons could be. Smart As… has many warm up activities for Maths and English lessons which could be put to good effect. I used these games myself every morning, and saw a considerable improvement in my Maths and English scores over the course of a couple of weeks. The game tracks your progress and gives very visual ways of displaying how you’re doing. I know plenty of children who would love these sorts of games as their warm up activities, and I will personally look into using them regularly when I am fully qualified.

Realistic Future:

Not all teachers will have an interest in video games, and might see them as more of a social and unprofessional activity. I’m in no place to say that these people are wrong; video games are a great recreational activity which stays with many people well into their adult lives. However, just because you’re unsure of an area, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go. As a teacher, developing your own understanding and widening your skills is almost as important as teaching the children themselves. So don’t be afraid to give something new a try - you never know what might help one child understand something they have struggled with in every other lesson you’ve taught.
Another concern for schools where technology is involved is the financial side of things. Admittedly, running video games, especially on PC, is no cheap task. Despite this, Minecraft is surprisingly easy to run and many schools I have visited already possess the technology to run it. Software itself can be expensive: I looked up some of the programs I have used in schools and they can rise to a couple of hundred pounds per license. This is an area video games can gain a real advantage in, Minecraft especially, as their prices are considerably lower than that of other educational software. Minecraft can be purchased for as little as £18 on PC and even less on console.

Why not give it a go?

So who knows what the future brings? Whether video games can make a stand in educational solely lies with the teachers. If people are willing to give new things a go, I think the benefits of games like Minecraft will shine in a Primary setting. If any teachers out there have experienced using video games in their classroom, I would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to contact me using any of the below methods and share your story.
I wish everyone who tries video games in education the best of luck, and remember, try to not get too competitive!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Proclamation - Thanksgiving Day - 1909

This is the text of the November 15, 1909 William Howard Taft national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.
[Thanksgiving- 1909.]
By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The season of the year has returned when, in accordance with the reverent custom established by our forefathers, the people of the United States are wont to meet in their usual places of worship on a day of thanksgiving appointed by the Civil Magistrate to return thanks to God for the great mercies and benefits which they have enjoyed.

During this past year we have been highly blest. No great calamities of flood or tempest or epidemic sickness have befallen us. We have lived in quietness, undisturbed by wars or the rumors of wars. Peace and the plenty of bounteous crops and of great industrial production animate a cheerful and resolute people to all the renewed energies of beneficent industry and material and moral progress. It is altogether fitting that we should humbly and gratefully acknowledge the divine source of these blessings.

Therefore I appoint Thursday, the twenty-fifth day of November, as a day of general thanksgiving, and I call upon the people on that day, laying aside their usual vocations, to repair to their churches and unite in appropriate services of praise and thanks to Almighty God.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and nine and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and thirty-fourth.


By the President:
P.C. Knox
Secretary of State.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The anglerfish: The original approach to deep-sea fishing

Researchers in California have recorded rare images and video of a Black Seadevil — a mysterious and rather hideous female anglerfish that lives in some of the deepest corners of the ocean. The fish was observed on November 17th by scientist Bruce Robison and his team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. To capture it on film, they sent a remotely operated vehicle named Don Ricketts into the Monterey Canyon, some 19,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.
Anglerfish have been filmed fewer than six times before, but Robison believes this is the first time it's ever been recorded alive at this depth. The female's most striking feature is a long pole that sticks out of her head, which is used to lure prey with its illuminated tip. They also have huge, fanged jaws capable of devouring larger prey, though at just nine centimeters long, the fish isn't quite as terrifying as it may seem in photos.
And if the Black Seadevil looks familiar, it's probably because of Pixar. The species ambushed and almost devoured Nemo and Dory in the 2003 film Finding Nemo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Search for Exceptional Genomes

They walk among us. Natural experiments, living ordinary lives, unaware that their genes may hold the clue to the next superdrug.

By Antonio Regalado on November 19, 2014


Large DNA databases could speed the discovery of new drugs.

Ten years ago, scientists discovered that some people are naturally missing working copies of a gene known as PCSK9. The consequences of the mutation were extraordinary. These people, including a Texas fitness instructor, a woman from Zimbabwe, and a 49-year-old Frenchman, had almost no bad cholesterol in their blood. Otherwise, they were perfectly normal.

Drug companies pounced on the clue. To lower cholesterol, they would also try to block PCSK9. Now two separate drugs that disable the gene’s activity are nearing FDA approval. People taking the medications have seen their cholesterol levels plummet dramatically, by 75 percent.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the company behind one of these drugs, now says it’s building a giant database of human DNA information in what amounts to a large-scale, systematic search for the next PCSK9. At a new genetic research facility that Regeneron completed last month in Tarrytown, New York, the company says it has begun a five-year effort to sequence the genomes of as many as 100,000 volunteers recruited from East Coast hospitals and identify rare genetic outliers among them.

So far, 13,000 people’s DNA has been partly decoded, and the company is using software to search for deleted genes. By checking against the volunteers’ medical records, or by calling them in for intensive testing, the company expects to learn if these missing genes cause illness or, perhaps, also have unusual protective effects.

By and large, it’s not good to be missing a gene. Yet missing a gene can sometimes provide powerful protection against disease.

People missing a particular gene are known as “knockouts” after a kind of laboratory mouse that’s been genetically engineered to lack a gene. Knocking out a gene from mice is a widely used technique that permits scientists to judge a gene’s function by its absence. 

Rapidly expanding databases of human genomes mean researchers can now find knockout people instead. To scientists, that’s going to be a valuable shortcut to determine what human genes do. What effect does missing a gene have on a person’s body? To drug companies, these individuals promise living, breathing answers to some of the biggest questions they face, like whether their drugs will actually work, and whether blocking a given gene would be safe to do, or instead cause problems. “It’s a huge emphasis for us because these are incredibly informative natural human experiments,” says Aris Baras, director of R&D initiatives for the company.

At its Tarrytown, New York, genetics facility, Regeneron plans to sequence the genomes of 100,000 people using automated systems like this robot for preparing DNA.

By and large, it’s not good to be missing a gene. Such defects are the cause of diseases like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. Over time, scientists say, evolution has been working against these errors, which accounts for why they are relatively rare. Yet missing a gene can sometimes provide powerful protection against disease. People missing the SLC30A8 gene are half as likely to get diabetes as people with it. Those without working copies of a gene called CCR5 can’t get infected with HIV.

“This is going to be the major model of human disease research going forward,” predicts Sekar Kathiresan, a cardiovascular specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who advises Regeneron. (This month Kathiresan reported another gene that, when missing, greatly cuts a person’s risk of heart disease.) Drug companies bet millions on drugs that cure animals or work in a lab dish. But 90 percent of drugs tested in human studies show no beneficial effect, or prove toxic. It’s guesswork at a staggering scale. “Animals don’t predict people. The concept now is to leverage the successes of the human genome, and develop medicines to mimic them,” he says.

Nobody’s Perfect

Most large-scale genetic research is a search for the causes of disease, not the nature of health. But in 2008, Daniel MacArthur, a computational geneticist now at the Massachusetts General Hospital, became interested in how frequently genes are completely dysfunctional in healthy people. Along with collaborators, he scrutinized the genomes of 185 people.

MacArthur’s analysis, completed in 2012, found that each of us has, on average, one entirely defective copy of about 80 genes, and another 20 genes for which neither copy works. In other words, everyone’s genome is a little dysfunctional. (Most genes are present in matching pairs—one inherited from your mother, and one from your father.)

At Regeneron, Baras says they have confirmed MacArthur’s estimates in 8,000 people they’ve sequenced. “We are all using common algorithms, and we’re seeing the same kinds of statistics,” he says. Not all the missing genes are interesting. Many code for trivial traits, like one of hundreds of odor receptors, or crop up so frequently that they’re unlikely to be important. Baras says Regeneron is setting those aside and focusing instead on rare cases where people are missing the same genes its drugs are designed to block or interfere with. 

Already, two-thirds of the company’s R&D projects have human experiments to match them. “That is a very interesting and exciting statistic for us. Usually we find one or two people, but there are cases where we already have hundreds of individuals,” Baras says.

“We couldn’t scan for these mutations before for a very simple reason. Before, we did not have the data.”

As its next step, Regeneron plans to call some of these individuals in for detailed medical exams, to determine what’s different about them. In the case of PCSK9, the difference was much lower cholesterol. But that wasn’t the most important finding. Once enough examples of people missing that gene were found, researchers were able to compare them to tens of thousands of controls who did have the gene, and prove that their risk of dying from a heart attack was sharply lower. “Here you have definitive protection against cardiovascular disease, and it’s safe. This is the type of evidence that gives people a lot of confidence,” says Baras. “It’s a huge point. It tells you lifelong deficiency in this gene is good.”

Big Data

The ability to search systematically for genetic outliers among healthy people is relatively new. Previously, scientists relied on rougher gene maps that didn’t give them access to letter-by-letter DNA information as a complete genome sequence does. That is changing as DNA sequencing becomes cheaper. This year, some labs purchased a new type of sequencing machine, called the X-10, which costs $10 million to buy, but can decode 50 genomes each day, or about two per hour, for a price of between $1,000 and $2,000 each.

That means more labs are betting on the law of large numbers. They include Human Longevity Inc., a startup created by entrepreneur J. Craig Venter, which wants to decipher one million people’s genomes by 2020. Another effort, known as the Resilience Project, is looking for one million healthy volunteers over age 40 so they can be checked for any of 125 disease genes that should have caused debilitating childhood illnesses, but for some reason didn’t. Even Google, which made its own leap into genomics this year, said it would start decoding the DNA of healthy people, although its objectives aren’t known.

“We couldn’t scan for these mutations before for a very simple reason. Before, we did not have the data,” says Kari Stefansson, CEO of DeCode Genetics, an Icelandic genetics company owned by the U.S. biotechnology giant Amgen. He says his company bought an X-10 and will have sequenced the genomes of 25,000 Icelanders by the end of next year, augmenting gene maps it previously built.

In October, researchers with his company said it was well on its way toward building its own knockout catalog. They said the company would invite 8,000 people it had identified to undergo “deep phenotyping,” or a barrage of measurements involving scales, rulers, brain scans, IQ tests, and blood measurements to assess 500 traits.  

Even so, Stefansson is skeptical that human knockouts will turn out to be the easy path to blockbuster drugs that some are hoping for. “It’s not an argument without virtues, but it’s also an incredible simplification. Most of these scenarios are more complicated,” he says.

Side Effects

To MacArthur, knockouts are interesting because they’re a way to document the function of genes, good or bad. He created something he calls the “Human Knockout Project” that is helping to study populations in Finland and London and whose aim, he says, is to take every gene in the genome and find a person missing it. But that’s only a manner of speaking. He expects that for many genes, a knockout will never be found. That’s because the majority of genes are essential to life. Without them, you’d never have been born.

That turns out to be a question of urgent importance to husband and wife scientists Eric Minikel and Sonia Vallabh, who have been working alongside MacArthur at Massachusetts General Hospital. Vallabh’s mother died of fatal familial insomnia, an extraordinarily rare disease in which a misfolded protein builds up in the brain, causing dementia and early death. Vallabh has inherited the gene mutation that causes FFI,  and has a 100 percent chance of developing the illness, unless some kind of treatment is developed.

Before her diagnosis three years ago, Minikel was an urban planner and Vallabh had gone to law school. But they switched careers and became scientists in order to try to cure Vallabh before she falls ill.

Vallabh’s mutation is the opposite of a knockout—it adds an unwanted function, causing her prion protein to fold in a way that it shouldn’t. This month she switched to another Boston laboratory to explore whether an advanced form of gene therapy, called genome editing, might allow her to eliminate the prion gene from her brain cells altogether.

But would doing so be dangerous? Knockout mice that have been genetically engineered to lack the prion gene seem to be mostly normal, but that’s no guarantee that the same is true of humans. For instance, the knockout surveys carried out by MacArthur’s lab have found more than 40 healthy people with mutations known to prove fatal to mice. Vallabh says she worries that if she were to succeed in eliminating her prion gene it could cause another disease, perhaps equally grave.

In the compressed time frame Vallabh faces—she has perhaps 20 years to cure herself—finding a living person without the prion gene would be one important clue. This year, she and Minikel carried out such a search across DNA sequences of more than 60,000 people as part of MacArthur’s Knockout Project.

They turned up three individuals missing one copy of the prion gene—but, so far, no one who is missing both copies.

Minikel says it may mean that people can’t live without the gene. Or it could be that their database isn’t yet big enough. The gene is small and therefore less likely to be affected by mutations. Working quickly with a pad and paper, with Vallabh looking over his shoulder, Minikel roughly estimated it might take a database of a billion people to know for sure.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Opinion: Cell Phones Have Made Us Soft and Have Affected Our Ability to Survive

by Robert Camp

echnophilia: “a strong enthusiasm for technology, especially new technologies such as personal computers, the Internet, [and] mobile phones.”
Caution! The following story is true. Names have been changed or omitted to prevent embarrassment of the woefully ill-educated, miss-informed, and unprepared in this cautionary tale…


One morning, about a month ago, I was in the parking lot of a popular hiking area in the Colorado Front Range. The small dirt lot, surrounded by mixed forest on three sides and a meadow on the fourth, was overflowing with vehicles. This was no surprise as the fall colors were peaking. People were out in force to take in the views, and so was I.
Leaning against the bumper of my car, enjoying the morning sun, I switched my flip flops for hiking shoes and got ready to don my daypack. I looked up from my task and took in the scene around me. There were at least fifteen people milling about, readying gear and preparing to hit the trails. What I found so striking is what I have come to call the surefire hallmarks of the unprepared.
As hikers left the parking lot and headed out on various trails, I could see only three day packs, onecamelbak, and couple of water bottle holders on hips. These weren’t nearly the size of packs necessary to hold basic personal and emergency gear for a day hike compared to the number of people in the group. Notably, I also saw nine cell phones (OK, ten if you include mine). Wait a minute, ten cell phones?
You heard me correctly. Ten cell phones either in hand, up to an ear, attached to a belt, in a pocket, or secured to a pack strap. Oh, I almost forgot, and one iPad, as well as a set of earbuds in use. I later found out the iPad was for taking pictures. Really? An iPad for taking pictures on a hike and earphones to drown out the noises… of nature? But, I digress, back to the tale at hand.
In short order, I shouldered my daypack, took one last look at the trail map, put it in my shirt pocket, and started my hike. The day turned out to be beautiful. The weather was mild, the trees and shrubs were aflame with brilliant fall colors, and the vistas were breathtaking. I was so enjoying the day, but that was about to change.

The Event

Four miles out from the trail head, about a mile from the end of the hike, I was following a bend in the tree-lined path and came upon a scene of mild pandemonium.
family of four and two additional hikers were massed on the side of the trail. The dad was in obvious distress, sitting up against a tree and holding his right ankle. The mom was hovering over him with her cell phone to her ear trying to call for help as their young daughter was clinging to her leg, frightened and crying softly. Meanwhile, the couple’s twelve year old son was five yards away kneeling at a small stream filling the family’s one and only water bottle, emptied before the hike ended, so he could give his dad a drink.
To add to the mix, the two other hikers, poised near the dad, each had their cell phones out. One was dutifully attempting to read a first aid app and the other trying to make a call for help, as well. There wasno cell service on this part of the trail. The scene would have been comical if it wasn’t so potentially dangerous.
I quickly introduced myself and took control of the unfolding situation. Following a head-to-toe assessment of the dad, his ankle was padded and wrapped in an ace bandage from my pack and immobilized in amakeshift splint constructed of materials at hand. After asking about signal strength, I had everyone stop attempting to call for help so we could conserve battery power for later use if need be. Mom gathered the kids up and calmed the daughter. I asked the two hikers to go ahead together and find or call for a ranger. Dad was able to hobble out with assistance. The family and I slowly walked the last mile to the cars. Everyone made it safely off the trail.


At the parking area, the ranger, who had been on patrol nearby, asked some questions of the group. Come to find out, none of the adults had any first aid training or a first aid kit.  In addition, had weather or circumstances dictated it, the group didn’t have the basic or proper gear to spend an unplanned night out, not even a headlamp or flashlight to assist in an forced night hike. Markedly, five out of the six people in the group had cell phones so they could “call for help if they became lost or hurt.”

The Point and My Opinion

The issue is much broader than just cell phones. As our country has become urbanized and citified, and a growing portion of our population has become afflicted with technophilia (yes, this is a real state of being and word), it has become painfully obvious to me that the  meaning of preparedness, self-reliance and self-sufficiency has become bastardized and in some ways lost.
Reliance on one’s skills, knowledge and experience has been replaced with a dependence on the latest techno-tools, gadgets and gear that purport to be able to make your experience more enjoyable and help you in an emergency. But what good are the gadgets without the understanding of how to use them effectively?  And even more importantly what are their limitations, as in this case of the unusable cell phones?

Where’s the Beef?

National search and rescue statistics consistently show that day hikers are the ones most likely to need help. Additionally, in a report entitled Search and Rescue Trends Associated With Recreational Travel in US National Parks, the authors found that,
“[t]here is a general feeling among many SAR ’(Search and Rescue)’ unit managers in the United States that cell phones are being used to request…assistance in what turns out to be minor situations. They may also be used as an excuse to take extra risks because help is only a phone call away.”
I think in the event I described, both of these statements apply. With the advent and advancement of cell phone technology, many hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike have become lulled into a false sense of security and complacency instead of acquiring the basic knowledge and skills needed to safely enjoy the great outdoors.
Don’t think you are exempt just because you are a prepper, survivalist or homesteader and “don’t really do much day hiking or backpacking.” No matter what you call yourself,  it is vital to master survival basics.  I know they are not flashy, don’t have a big “wow” factor,as many of the latest gee-wiz techno-gadgets, but they are essential. Let’s face it, for most people, learning how to build a basic shelter, filter water, or start a fire is not nearly as fun or engaging as watcSurvival-Factorshing your favorite rerun of Survivor Man or NatGeo’sDoomsday Preppers.
Whether it is a world event or local emergency which causes you to use your survival training and tools, it will be your knowledge, skills and experience in the basics combined with the correct gear and resources that will count the most and make a difference for you, your family and like-minded friends to be able to survive and potentially thrive.

The Challenge and Call to Action

So before you head out on that nice day hike you have been planning, ask yourself a few questions:
  • Is your first aid certificate up to date?
  • Are you practiced in CPR?
  • Do you have not only your personal gear, but some basic first aid and survival gear in your day pack, just in case you become involved in a survival event?
If the answer to even one of these questions is “no”, do yourself and everyone else out on the trail a favor,Stay home! Take a first aid and CPR class. Research, purchase and practice with your basic survival gear. Then practice some more. You can then take that hike with a high degree of certainty that if you become involved in a survival event, like I did, you will have the basic knowledge, skills, experience and tools to properly help yourself and others.
Are you a prepper, survivalist or homesteader? The same goes for you. If you cannot answer yes to all three of the questions above, instead of taking on that next task or purchase on your to-do list, complete a first aid and CPR course. Gather some basic survival gear and put it in a designated place such as a day pack. Add “practice survival skills” to your list of  to-do’s on a regular basis.
Practice in the environment you spend most of your time. Home, homestead, backyard, or even at the local park. Make it as realistic as possible, so that someday, if a emergency or survival event happens, you will be ready to respond. All the other preps you have put in place may be for not, if you don’t.

Back to Cell Phones

As for cell phones, frankly, I find them annoying and distracting when I am out hiking, whether it is mine or someone else’s. Lest you think I’m completely naive and an unrealistic prude, I know they are good for the occasional selfie, group picture or nature shot and yes, used appropriately and effectively, have saved lives. Still, I think cell phones are better turned off and put in your pocket or pack while you are enjoying your outing, and saved for a real emergency. That’s where mine stayed as this mini-rescue took place.

The Rest of the Story

The dad refused ambulatory medical assistance at the scene and was driven to the local ER by his wife, where he was treated for a severely sprained ankle and a slightly bruised ego.
As for the son, filling up the family water bottle at the nearby stream where the accident took place, I was able to prevent him from giving his dad any of the unfiltered and untreated liquid, but not before he gulped down some to quench his own thirst. I’m sure that story had its own ending…
All images and graphics belong to the the author.
There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Robert Camp

Robert Camp turned his love of the outdoors into over 35 years of professional guiding and outdoor leadership. He has helped develop programs, lead trips, and taught for juvenile diversion programs, the US Military, The Sierra Club and many others. If Robert is not out traveling, he and his family are home in Colorado or posting onTopClimbPublishing on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Zoe Romano — November 11th, 2014
The goal of this project was to create a small device, which detects movement in protected areas (e.g. tables) and allows you to speak usual phrases in your voice to the cat to control its behaviour when you are away. It’s called Cat Protector and prototyped on Arduino Uno  by Lucky Resistor, a creative guy who enjoys software development and electrical engineering:
I started with a prototype, using an Arduino Uno and a large breadboard. The first step was to realize an acceptable sound output. To realize this I added a shield with SD card adapter and wrote some optimized code to stream sound from the SD card in 22.1kHz using a 12bit DAC. The amplification to a speaker completed this part of the project where I have two solutions. Next I experimented with different motion sensors to detect the motion of the cat and finished the hardware part using a dual color LED for a simple status display.
Creating a compact device from the prototype was the next challenge, I could place the whole circuit I used on a small prototyping area and squeezed everything in a small casing. From outside, the device looks simple and tidy.
He documented everything in details on his website, especially the software part:
I read so many Arduino related articles and tutorials, but most of them stop when the prototype is running. I hope this documentation helps people to see how to structure Arduino software to make it extensible and keep it readable. This is especially necessary to write more complex logic than just to blink some LEDs. Also I hope to give some inspiration how to develop the prototype to a final device.
Check the full  documentation here.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Legion club to host on-air tribute to veterans

Friday, November 7, 2014

Community Emergency Response Team tests Cambria’s readiness


Cambrians in their own neighborhoods may have, on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 22, seen someone getting out of a car and making a call on something that looked like a walkie-talkie.
Jerry Wood, assistant coordinator of Cambria’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), was testing emergency communications with two local control centers, one at the Cambria Fire Department station on Burton Drive and another at Burton Drive and Ellis Avenue.   
It was part of a countywide test of emergency communications involving CERT teams in six communities and ham radio operators working out of the county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and other locations. 
CERT members involved were in Cambria, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Los Osos, Morro Bay and Cayucos.
The hourlong test, requested and set up by Sheriff Ian Parkinson, began about 2:30 p.m.
According to sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla, “This system will be used during disasters like an earthquake or tsunami and allow the different CERT teams to be dispatched to the area of greatest need for their services (for instance to coordinate volunteers who want to help out after the disaster).”
For instance, in Cambria, communications were centered at the Cambria Fire Department, where CERT coordinator Craig Ufferheide was set up with members Jim Cissna and Dave Wierenga.
Cissna operated a ham radio station, while Ufferheide and Wierenga communicated with one of the portable radios provided by the Sheriff’s Office. 
Ufferheide said the radios “operate on dedicated CERT frequencies that do not require a ham license but have additional power levels to reach throughout the rolling hills of Cambria.” 
During the test, Norm and Shirley Smyth manned a portable ham radio base station at the Burton Drive site. He said, “the portable station can be used if the equipment at the fire department fails, or for a localized incident to facilitate CERT communications,” such as when the teams are searching for a missing person.
“The portable station was able to communicate directly with the county EOC and all the CERT potential staging areas in Cambria,” Smyth said.
However, as Shirley Smyth noted with a smile, “We’re doing this test on such a beautiful day. We all know communications may be different” in a rainstorm, especially when the wind is howling. 
CERT volunteers are trained to form into effective neighborhood teams to assist others in doing such things as how and when to turn off the utilities. CERT teaches some firefighting and medical skills, awareness of hazardous materials, terrorism training, light search and rescue techniques and profound self-reliance.
CERT members also are skilled at working side-by-side with untrained volunteers, those who often turn out following a disaster because they want so much to help but don’t have the training to know where to go or what to do when they get there.

Read more here:

Monday, November 3, 2014

L.T. Wright Genesis Black Handled Bushcraft Knife Review


The L.T. Wright Genesis is the new flagship knife of L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives. Coming to you from one of the two founders of “Blind Horse Knives,” the L.T. Wright Genesis has a lot to live up to. You’d think with that much lineage, it’d be difficult to make a knife that chalked up, but after testing the knife out in the field, I honestly don’t think L.T. Wright has anything to worry about concerning the future of his relatively new company.
l.t. wright genesis bushcraft knife review more than just survivingL.T. Wright Genesis Black Handled Survival Knife
The most important aspect of a bushcraft knife, in my opinion, is its ergonomics. The Genesis has a sizable handle with 100% neutral grip due to a broomstick-style profile (no hourglass shaping of any kind) that will suit pretty much any hand regardless of how big or small. The handle features a deep thumb scallop at the hilt for pinching, which I’ve gotta say is perfectly executed, along with another small scallop on the ricasso when pinching up for for detail work. I found comfort to be above average in pretty much all grips, as you would expect from a neutral handle of this size. Everything is 100% contoured with no hard lines or angles on the scales. Really good job.
survival blog l.t. wright genesis review bushcraft survival knife
You can see the primary thumb scallop for pinching in the picture below. It works extremely well, and the bead blasted Micarta scales lock my thumb in nicely. The scales are definitely not as grippy as rough g-10, though that makes sense because the texture of the Genesis’ scales is so smooth and uniform. However, the way the handles are shaped with that deep scallop means the knife isn’t going anywhere, so you get security along with the comfort of the smooth Micarta.
I am a huge fan of using synthetic materials on knives that will see rougher use. Micarta will hold up to water, dampness, and ultimately will be more durable than your average wooden scales.
more than just surviving review l.t. wright handcrafted genesis bushcraft knife
Pinching just looks and feels really natural. While the Genesis is not my first choice for a hunting blade, it would perform pretty damn well for that kind of purpose, I think. Extremely good control for a knife of this size – 22.8 cm (9 inches) overall, and with a 3 mm (1/8th inch) thick blade stock.
survival tool bushcraft knife l.t. wright genesis review fixed blade
The weight of the L.T. Wright Genesis is pretty significant, roughly coming in at just under 425 grams (15 ounces).
The balance of the knife is definitely handle biased, but in terms of field use I don’t consider the knife in any way unwieldy. When carving wood, I didn’t find that the extra weight unbalanced the knife. And although I do usually prefer a dead neutral balance, the Genesis has such great performance that I soon forgot about its weight distribution. When picking up the knife for the first time it may be surprising, but use it for a bit and any concerns will pass.
micarta scales lt wright genesis bushcraft camping knife
The construction is extremely solid with everything being tight as whistle. L.T Wright states that they epoxy everything: including the threads of the brass nuts. I’ve gotta say, it certainly feels extremely sturdy, and I don’t think I could get the scales to budge even if I wanted to. With that said, the scales are not removable, so if you have an issue you will have to send the knife back to L.T. Wright Knives. Thankfully they have a lifetime guarantee and an extremely passionate owner, so you shouldn’t find a shred of problems there. Much like ESEE knives, you probably won’t ever need to use the warranty but its nice to know its there.
more than just surviving bushcraft review genesis lanyard hole
Absolutely everything on the Genesis is contoured, including the butt of the knife. The tang does not protrude, but the contouring is aggressive enough so that if you wanted to hammer a wooden peg into the ground, you could do so with no risk to the handles.
lt wright handcrafted knives genesis bushcraft fixed blade micarta handle
The extra weight of the L.T. Wright Genesis aids greatly in chopping. Obviously, it’s not designed as a true blood chopper, but it’s no slouch either. Definitely better than all my Mora’s or even the Condor Bushlore, which I also own. The handles didn’t transfer shock, and I felt no need to put on gloves. That 3 mm (1/8th inch)  thick A2 tool steel scandi ground blade really made chips fly taking into account that it’s “only” a 10.7 cm (4.25 inch) blade.
An impressive chopper taking into account its inherent size limitations.
bushcraft review l.t. wright genesis handmade survival knife usa
survival blog review genesis bushcraft knife l.t. wright handcrafted knives
testing l.t. wright genesis review fixed blade bushcraft chopper
The wood was seasoned, but as expected, zero damage to the edge. Just as sharp as when I first got it (which is to say – extremely sharp).
usa handmade bushcraft knife l.t. wright genesis review survival
The thumb scallops on the L.T. Wright Genesis really help in terms of comfort when performing pull cuts. That mirror polished blade cuts seasoned wood like soft pine. Like all high quality tools, this knife was a pleasure to use.
l.t. wright handcrafted knives genesis fixed blade micarta scales
bushcraft fixed blade l.t. wright genesis review handcrafted survival knife
On the whole, the L.T. Wright Genesis is a fantastic wood working blade. Out of the box, it performs better than a Mora due to its superior edge, and for rougher tasks I feel extremely confident with the Genesis in hand. I don’t think you could damage the knife if you wanted to.
fixed blade handcrafted survival camping knife l.t. wright genesis review
more than just surviving l.t. wright bushcraft knife genesis review
Speaking of toughness, the tip is extremely overbuilt, perhaps even too much. Thankfully, the blade is so well ground that the tip tapers to an extremely sharp point. I do worry about it becoming perhaps a touch too obtuse, but after drilling some holes into some seasoned wood, I found my concerns assuaged. The blade tip is definitely more overbuilt than what I am used to; however, my own biases aside, its performance cannot be faulted, and I really don’t see that changing.
survival gear review l.t. wright genesis handcrafted usa made knife
survival blog review l.t. wright genesis handcrafted bushcraft usa knife
For a 10.7 cm (4.25 inch) blade, the L.T. Wright Genesis batons extremely well. Because the tip is so overbuilt, it can handle any amount of blows without damage, and the 1/8th inch thick scandi blade acts as an excellent wedge. I will say that the handles did not transfer much shock, which is surprising. I will always prefer a large knife when batoning (like the Ontario Marine Raider Bowie for instance), but the Genesis is a more than viable option if you wanted only one knife to take into the woods with you.
survival knife made in the usa l.t. wright genesis bushcraft gear
survival blog review l.t. wright genesis bushcraft fixed blade
batoning knife l.t. wright genesis review bushcraft fixed blade knife
handmade hand crafted usa knife l.t. wright genesis bushcraft
Throughout all of my continued testing, the edge of the blade has remained damage-free and screaming sharp. I have yet to sharpen it, nor do I think I’ll need to for a long time.
L.T. Wright did a bang up job with the heat treating of the A2 steel. The L.T. Wright website mentions that the blade has been ground to a zero edge and then been hard micro buffed – which from what I understand would cause a micro convex bevel to form, explaining the knife’s remarkable resilience. Whatever the reason for its edge toughness, its a welcome addition.
survival bushcraft blog review l.t. wright genesis fixed blade knife
One of the most important (and discussed) prerequisites for a bushcraft knife is its ability to strike a firesteel using its spine. This requires a hard 90-degree angle on the spine for optimal performance – which L.T. Wright delivered. Performance comes in spades here: I don’t own a single knife that produces anything close to the amount of sparks the L.T. Wright Genesis does. Based on the advertising, L.T. Wright mentions that they sharpen the spine of the knife like the blade on an ice skate. I quickly compared my own skates (CCM’s) to the spine, and yep, pretty comparable in terms of sharpness!
With a blade spine this sharp, you could elicit sparks from even the lowest quality firesteel, as well as scrape up some excellent tinder from bark. Really nicely done L.T. Wright!
survival knife test firesteel spine more than just surviving review lt wright genesis
lt wright genesis firesteel testing spine more than just surviving
And now on to the sheath. L.T. Wright does not make its own sheaths, and frankly that’s not a bad thing considering they’ve got the talented people behind JRE Industries making them instead! When it comes to sheaths, I can’t think of anyone more recognized in the industry than JRE.
lt wright knife sheath jre industries more than just surviving review
The sheath JRE Industries supplies for the L.T. Wright Genesis is made from a thick, high quality leather, and offers 2 large belt loops. One dangling from a D-ring for those of you who like that option. There’s also an additional loop for your firesteel.
lt wright genesis handcrafted survival knife jre industries sheath
The other belt loop is more traditionally stitched into the sheath, and it’s the one I personally use. Never been a fan of sheaths dangling from my belt. It’s nice that JRE/L.T. Wright didn’t presume on behalf of the user which way they would want to carry the knife. Great to be given options here.
genesis lt wright handcrafted usa made knives bushcraft survival
L.T. Wright didn’t mention the manufacturer of the sheath on their website. I only knew JRE Industries was the maker after receiving the knife, and even then only due to the extremely recognizable logo. For those of you who have owned a Bark River knife before, like me, you’ll probably suddenly remember where you have seen this logo!
Stitching and general construction is superb, as with all JRE sheaths I have handled in the past.
more than just surviving survival blog review lt wright handcrafted knives genesis
The L.T. Wright Genesis sheath hugs my body nicely, and the two lanyard holes on the bottom are available if you want to strap the sheath in even more securely. Personally, I don’t feel the need to, but again, options are always welcome. I did notice that the sheath did not provide a drainage hole, but to be honest, I don’t see much water getting in based on how tight the knife fits into the sheath and how snug the sheath is to your body. I will mention that JRE Industries has in the past made sheathes with drainage holes (ESEE sheathes come to mind) so it was omitted on purpose for whatever reason, perhaps a limitation based on the size and design of the sheath. In any case, I don’t find myself missing a drainage hole in the slightest.
more than just surviving review buschraft handcrafted knives usa made lt wright genesis
genesis l.t. wright handcrafted knives more than just surviving review
The L.T. Wright Genesis was not just made, but handcrafted with durability and performance in mind. This is a true heirloom quality knife, and it’s quite honestly bombproof. Comparisons between the Genesis and Bark River knives will be made based on similar materials and sheaths, but one glaring difference is L.T Wrights choice of making the handle scales completely neutral, which is unlike the standard Bark River hourglass style handles. I personally prefer the neutral grip, as it leaves your options open. Those hourglass style handles may or may not fit you, depending on your hand size. The L.T. Wright Genesis will fit absolutely any hand (within reason), and I can’t stress enough how important a feature this is to me.
If your in the market for a high end scandi bushcraft blade in a premium steel and with neutral handles, I fully recommend the L.T. Wright Genesis. It comes with superb fit and finish, and well implemented features that really make it stand out from the more inexpensive, mass produced options.
Is $175 a lot of money for a knife that was handcrafted in the U.S.A. and will outlive you and your grandkids? I don’t think so!

To be noted, L.T. Wright mentions on the product page that the Genesis is in limited quantities, so if you want one, you may want to snap it up pronto.