There are standard items that I keep in the back of whatever car I have. Among these items you will find bottled water, a knife of some kind, first aid kit, emergency blankets, and some basic tools. Many of my normal friends think I’m weird because in the trunk of the Tactical Assault Compact Sedan resides one of these:
“Why in the world do you keep a shovel in your trunk?” they ask me, in much the same way they ask, “Why on earth do you always have a knife in your pocket?” when they need something cut or “Why do you carry a flashlight with you?” when the power goes out. These seem like rhetorical questions to me. “Why” indeed…
I’m not the only one who sees these as essential gear. When we got everyone together for COGS 2013, it was cold and drizzly. On Saturday, some of our guests asked if they could start a fire behind the firing line. Not only did I endorse such actions, I pulled my trencher out of the trunk and put it to use. And, another one was produced from another trunk. With two people running these bad boys, you can have a nice sized fire pit in no time flat. When Jennifer and I go camping, we’ll often forget some piece of gear. We have left behind our air mattress or pillows, or had to run to town to grab a case of bottled water. But, the folding shovel is always in the car. There’s far more that you can do with these things than dig fire pits though. It is pretty well accepted that the U.S. G.I. E-tool makes a great weapon in hand-to-hand combat.
Indeed, with two sharpened edges on one side and two serrated edges on the other, not only will they handily cut through soil and hack through branches, they would be better than harsh words in a self-defense situation. Granted, if I was rushed by a dangerous animal in the woods, I’d rather drop the shovel and draw my .45, but failing that, I’d be glad for the shovel! A friend described to me how to use one of these as a stool to sit over a hole to poop in the woods. I couldn’t find a good diagram on how to work this, so I drew this crude* comic for an illustration:
These things are compact. They will fit in the spare tire well with your spare, or in your jack storage. In a standard cab pickup, they take up virtually no space behind or under the seat. Currently, we only have the one car, but when we add a second and then a third when Teen Bot starts driving, they’ll get their own e-tools shortly after acquisition. Now, when anyone raises an eyebrow as to why I should have one of these in the trunk, my standard response is to ask them why they don’t have one in their car!
*Pun totally intended. I used to get in trouble for drawing stuff like this in school. Please pardon my crappy artwork. I know it kind of stinks.
I have not been a fan of any of the products of the Taurus group in the past. Sorry, Gabe. I’m not hating. You’re gun is still cool. I have a dear friend who purchased a model 10 from a local pawn shop. It’s from the Bangor Punta era that we Smith fans are supposed to sneer at, but it is still a pretty sweet gun. Well… I have pined for a decent revolving carbine chambered in .357 Magnum. Or even better, .44 Magnum. And then…
What? What do we have here?
Umm… This appears to be a revolving carbine in .44 Magnum. In a bright blue. With walnut furniture.
Yeah. We may just have to get one of these babies.
Thursday, Jennifer and I got up early with the plan to pick up the rent-a-heap (as OldNFO calls it), with the intent of her taking our Compact Tactical Assault Sedan to work while I took the foster car home to load our junk, ready to drive once she got home from the office. She had a couple of loose ends to tie up before she could take off, but she was still planning to cut out early. The rental company jacked up our reservation and didn’t have our car by 7:30 as arranged. At that time, they offered excuses and said they could take a car to her office by nine. They didn’t have a compact, as we had booked, so they were going to upgrade us to a midsize. I dropped her off at work and took our CTAS home. At nine, she texted to let me know that the rental company had not yet delivered a car. She called and reamed them a new one, so they ‘upgraded’ us, once again, to a Dodge Avenger. Our original booking must have been for a two-door Speck with a three hamster engine. They got her the car at around 9:30, and we were on the road by ten. In all fairness, the rental company was extremely receptive to our multiple complaints and has made overtures to remedy the mishandling.
The drive was not terribly noteworthy, considering we drove through both Dallas and Houston. There weren’t too many situations in which I knew we were about to see some idiot cause a forty car pile-up because he was in such a hurry to rush up and tailgate the next driver in line or cut across four lanes of traffic with no signal, or both. Maybe I’m just growing patience with age. Thursday night, we met up with some of our friends for some Cajun food. Jennifer and I split a dozen oysters on ice, five pounds of crawfish, sausage, potatoes, and corn. Yum! Friday morning, we woke up at the butt crack of freaking dawn and headed down to the convention center. Parking was a veritable nightmare. If you don’t mind spending $30 to park your car for a day, it wasn’t bad at all, but that is extortion, IMHO.
The show was what I have come to expect out of a trade show. There were lots of pretties to handle and we got to meet many interesting people. Some of them are people that we have grown to know and respect online, others that we only knew by reputation prior to this weekend, and still others that were fresh introductions. Also, we had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends, if not nearly enough of them. But, that’s how these things go. It seems like no matter how much you try to pack into each day of the weekend, in the end you’re always short on time. Please do expect some pics and accounts of guns and gear, as well as more detailed stories, and it looks like we’ll have some extended test and evaluation stuff to look forward to. In the meantime, I’ll post some more updates tomorrow, and suffice it to say that it’s been an extraordinary trip so far.
Digital photography is one of those things that was weird to see the consumer inception of, especially given the ubiquitousness of it now. Indeed, for the first years of our marriage, we didn’t have so much as an internet connection or computer in the household, so a digital camera would have been utterly useless. We had a couple of 35mms and a little Polaroid, and somewhere we have boxes and boxes of prints and negatives, like many other established households. Once when we upgraded our mobile phones, the neew hawtness was this nifty little flip with color screens and a built in camera of all things! For months, onlookers were shocked to see me taking pictures (however rudimentary, grainy, and low-res) with my phone, especially quaint and hilarious considering how often you can catch people mistakenly using the words ‘camera’ and ‘phone’ interchangeably at this point. I remember when my dad dropped his 35mm SLR while on vacation, and I thought he was going to be sick. When he was told that the camera couldn’t be fixed, he saved up his money and bought a new Cannon Rebel DSLR. I was fascinated. By that point in time, I believe we had an HP desktop we purchased from a Wal Mart Slaughterhouse Black Friday sale, and a couple/few Linux boxes. I’m nearly certain I was running my Hydra, a home-brewed, triple-display, ‘nix-powered affront of technology that was pieced together with the cannibalized remains of dead computers, and ran visual effects in the GUI that still wouldn’t be seen in the world of Windows for several years yet. But I digress…
Jennifer decided that she’d like to have a digital camera. On her blog, she has briefly mentioned her old Olympus Stylus 600. We had a lot of good times with that little all-weather camera and its massive, 1-GB XD card. In fact, a few weeks ago, we discovered that the card was still loaded up with a bunch of old pictures. When it came time for a replacement, we found a LNIB Nikon P80 for a fantastic price at the local pawn shop. After running that one until she outgrew it, we purchased a new Nikon D3100 for her last year after Christmas. That was around the time that I purchased my bow. Of course, phones were upgraded over the years. Now, the camera built into my Galaxy Epic 4G takes pics to compete with the old Olympus for image quality, and at a higher resolution to boot. Even so, I started to feel the need for a dedicated point and shoot, something that would take better images than my phone, and preferably something that would take good video, and that would go everywhere with me, no matter the weather or circumstances. Having spent quite a bit of time myself with Jennifer’s P80 and then D3100, I turned a biased eye towards Nikon and their AW100.
Of course, I considered several other options while shopping, not to miss out on a better fit because of said bias. I checked out Cannon’s Powershot D20 and Olympus’ TG series cameras, and I even took a look at the GoPro Hero 2 and the Contour Roam, just to broaden my scope. The latter two really weren’t in the product family that I was looking for, although I’ll probably wind up with such toys before I die. I honestly didn’t know what GoPro was before I ran into a Hero display at Target one day – that probably catalyzed me wanting a waterproof/shockproof camera. Anyway, after considering all the options, I decided that I did like the Nikon the best. The combination of controls, capabilities, size & shape, local support, and product familiarity influenced me to go home with an AW100. Nikon was running a special at the time, so I got a package that included a little carry case and a three-year extended warranty. Since that day, my AW100 goes just about everywhere with me. What came in the box (short of the camera and batter, which were employed for the picture):
The carry case (upper right) turned out to be entirely too bulky to be useful, so it now lives in the box with the other unused items. Under it, you can see a stack of paperwork and CDs. It also came with a lens filter adapter (upper left), a USB cable, a useless A/V cable, and a useless neck strap that I tried using until I replaced it with a wrist strap that I stole off another camera that was laying around, nearly forgotten in its obsolescence. Oh yeah, and the battery charger – it only takes a couple of hours for the battery to reach full charge, and that will support quite a bit of time for my purposes. I usually wind up charging it once a week or so, but it depletes at the worst possible times. On Saturday, I was trying to get some good pics of a red tail hawk that was circling low overhead when the battery tanked on me.
A word of advice – if you get a camera like this, get a couple extra batteries. You can find the Nikon-branded batteries on Amazon for around $20, and third-party replacements for a quarter of that. As you can imagine, the battery only dies when you are using the camera, which is by definition, the least convenient time for it to happen. As to the storage card, I’m running an HP-branded 32GB Class 10 SDHD. I may replace this with one of the wi-fi cards from Transcend or Eye-Fi so I can access pics and videos wirelessly from my Android or laptop. It would be nice to not break the water seal as often as I do for file transfers. Here’s a self-portrait:
I boldly chose the orange variation over blue or black. This little camera boasts a 16MP CMOS sensor, full 1080p video with stereo sound, GPS, compass, 5x optical zoom Nikor lens, and it is waterproof to 33-feet and shockproof from a 5-foot drop. I have dragged this thing through the woods, swimming pools, and like I said – about everywhere I go.
Despite my inadvertent and sometimes deliberate rough treatment of the camera, the bright orange case is not even showing any wear. At lower resolution, it will capture video at 240fps, for smooth, slow-motion playback, as seen in this video of Firehand:
Of course, the video is not going to surpass a dedicated camcorder, but I would say that the video quality more-or-less hangs with JayG’s Sony. That is to say that the disparity from the two sources is hardly noticeable in this, now world-famous video:
I flushed the camera in the toilet while recording video, but it turned out pretty boring. Washing the camera after the fact came out pretty interesting, by comarison!
At first, I found the menus to be slightly confusing, and I still haven’t figured out how to work everything it will do. Facial recognition and geotagging are nifty features that I probably wouldn’t have thought about building into a camera. I do wish that there were more manual options like on Jennifer’s D3100 or even her old P80, but this is a minor complaint in the long run. It’s not a DSLR, and can’t be expected to do the job of one – it will happily go places you wouldn’t dare drag your DSLR! Although you’ll get better video quality from a camcorder, this one stands in quite nicely for the same purpose. The GoPro and Roam cameras are far tougher and more waterproof, but they are purpose built and don’t stand in very well for a point-and-shoot. the high-speed video settings are cool, but it won’t catch bullets in the air at high resolution like a Phantom, but it doesn’t command a fraction of the price tag either. It’s more compact than a lot of its competitors and has a mind-blowing feature set crammed into the little package. What I was after was a rugged point-and-shoot that had extended features for other uses. I feel like I got that in spades. Basically, what it comes down to is if you need a camera for a specialized purpose, you can probably spend your money better. If however, you want a compact camera that can do almost anything pretty well, indoors or outdoors, in rough conditions, or even under water, I would highly recommend Nikon’s AW100.