Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Definitions: Molded Plastic Zipper

This is the same sort of thing as the good old metal zipper of decades gone by, but with softer teeth.

Get caught in one of these and it's only a matter of being accidentally gummed, and not being actually deliberately dismembered by something desperately nippy, as happens with metal zippers, which don't play well with others, and which aren't amenable to any sort of negotiation.

A molded plastic zipper is in fact a miracle, composed of polyacetal resin, when it's not composed of polyethylene, both ever-so-popular plastics in use all over. The polyacetal stuff may be called Delrin, which is a brand name belonging to DuPont (E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company). Remember them?

Either way, whether you've got polyacetal or polyethylene, the teeth of such a device have their color built right in, and not painted on as is the case with metal zippers, when they are not either a naturally silvery color (probably aluminum) or a naturally coppery shade (brass).

As if you cared, out there in the bush, when all you want is something to eat, a bath, and a place to lie down for a month or so in front of a TV set.

But on the other hand, if you didn't want to get out there and hike around like crazy, and stink, and attract vermin, and get your hang-doodle caught a zipper twice a day (because you're crosseyed with fatigue), then why did you go?

Be glad then. You're lucky.

Be glad that you are hiking, and not back behind that desk in that cubicle, or stocking shelves at WhiffleMart, or in that workshop or whatever, dealing with morons, and slowly becoming one yourself. Be glad then that you can hike, and have zippers to play with. Zippers on your pants, your jacket, your sleeping bag and on lots of other stuff, and that you don't need to pin your clothes together with thorns like all the other animals do, though they are actually quite clever in their own ways, but hardly ever get to eat glop from a titanium pot and never have the slightest chance watch TV, even on their days off.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Definitions: Cabin Fire

This is the type of fire that uses layers of crisscrossed wood rising in a sort of stubby, flat-topped pyramid. It's good for making coals to cook over.

And funeral pyres. Almost forgot that.

Funeral pyres.

How To

(Just in case you're interested...)

Step One: Assemble wood.

Step Two: Go back to Step Zero, which is to go backpacking someplace where there is wood. You need wood to make a fire, so do that. After that then, proceed to Step One, and when you're tired of assembling wood, go to Step Three.

Because if you don't do that Step Zero thing, you'll keep hitting Step Two and getting bounced back to Step Zero and then you loop around through Step One and then Step Two and then Step Zero forever, or until someone finds you whirling in circles and swearing a lot, and decides to sit down and have lunch and watch while you amuse them, and then they'll go on their way, leaving you behind continuing to dizzy yourself like that, buzzing madly, endlessly cycling in an angry way, and who knows what could happen next? Just a word to the wise.

Step Three: I forgot what it was now.

OK, anyhow.

Subsequent Steps: Once you have the funeral pyre all stacked, and have placed the body on top, but before setting fire to the whole shebang, arrange your cooking pots and water supply in an orderly way, and get your food out and have it ready to go.

Note that this level of preparation is relatively more important if you are immolating something small, like an ant.

Better yet, a mosquito.

Mosquitoes kind of deserve it, don't you think? Anyway, small stuff incinerates fast, so you won't need such a largish fire, which means, conversely, that you gotta work fast and all that, before the fire goes out, which is why you need to have everything laid out and set to go and so on.

If you've got a water buffalo you're working on, then that's different.

Water buffaloes are bigger, doncha know? Than mosquitoes.

Technical types like to say things like orders of magnitude bigger, which to us ordinary people really just means extra bigger, but it sounds better when you have an engineering degree and frown and wave your eyebrows around while talking about concepts that are actually pretty simple, but you do have to earn your pay, so anyhow.

One way or another, try to get ready for what happens next. Which is setting fire to what you've got, so do that.

Now, if you're smart, if so, you've actually got a water buffalo up there, and lots of time on your hands, because here is how the smart guys do it, see.

You need to think ahead some, so you don't screw around toasting mice and sand fleas and crap like that, even if it's kinda satisfying to watch the little bastards go up in smoke, no, don't screw around. You don't want to starve out of spite.

What you want up there in the hot-seat is a large hunk of meat, which is your water buffalo or other beast which consists of many kilograms of nutriment, and then you roast the snot out of that, and then eat it (but none of the snot — you eat around that part).

You can say prayers and stuff too if you want, and have some kind of service in honor of the deceased but it isn't like you're flaming Uncle Albert all over again so that part is optional.

But it is true that when you go this route you're cooking supper and disposing of the evidence both, at one and the same time, which speeds things up considerable and reduces the need for any praying-type activities. And it cuts way down on court time and lawyer fees as well.

Now since it's a huge chunk of meat you got, and will take a while, and because a fire big enough to cook it all will be huge (HUGE!) you need to go and do something else for a while to kill time, which is why you need a hobby, or a bar of soap, either one.

Go play (hobby) or wash up (bar of soap) while you're waiting, but do it at a distance, and if you put up your tent during this period, do it upwind because sparks and such. Once you lose your tent to a pile of roasting meat sparks you've learned your lesson for life, and you can do that too if you really want to, like if you have a spare tent and can let the first one flame out on you. I have learned and/or done that twice now, so I know. (Slow learner? Yeah, maybe.)

But lesson learned, hey, finally.

And then eventually, after time goes by, you'll have a pile of steaming roast beast there, smoldering among the coals of the collapsed fire and then you eat.

Invite some friends.

Nothing says "Gorge until you puke and keep doing that as often as you want, etc." like a thousand pounds (500 kg or so) of smoking herbivore.

Which brings us back once again to the fire itself.

Since this type of fire architecture is ideal for generating mounds of hot coals, you might want to have something else to cook, like dessert — maybe a few dozen apple pies or so, for example, but after you've personally eaten your own weight in mammal meat, several times over (allowing for random purge-barfing and adjusting for nausea and smoke blindness), there isn't much else your heart desires, even apple pie.

Although if you've gotten someone to bring over a few cases of beer you can piss yourself silly putting out the fire once you're all done.

Which is generally satisfying and one of the most fun things you can do with your bladder any more, and it never gets old.


Examples: A Cabin Fire is also known as a "Crisscross Fire" or a "Log Cabin Fire".

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Definitions: Cat Hole

Howdy. Care to dig one for doody?

A cat hole is a kind of outdoor safe deposit box where you can leave something you don't want to forget about, so you can forget about it.

If you carelessly leave the wrong sort of stuff lying around on top of the dirt you can find out too late that you've gone and put your foot in it, which happens sometimes, if you forget where you put it, so you dig a little hole and put it in there for safe keeping, and then forget about it, for real. And have no further need to watch where you step.

Stuff, defined, is what you DO NOT want to discover (too late) that you HAVE put your foot in. Understand?


Poo. We're talking poo here. Poo and you. Poop. About "Leaving a Fernando." "Saying goodbye to Fernando." "Giving Fernando a farewell party." "Burying Fernando." 1

Because you never want to look down at your foot and find yourself saying "Howdy, doody!" Nope. Not now, not ever, so you give it a respectable but quick sendoff via burial. In a cat hole.

The high priests of trailside excavations say that a proper cat hole should be dug six to eight inches deep (15 to 20 cm), and be at least 200 feet (60 m) from water, from your camp, and from the nearest trail.

And when you've dug it, filled it, and uh...refilled it, you should camouflage it.

Camouflaging a cat hole is easier to do if you bring along a roll of camo wiping paper, which you can buy now, but then again the use of paper is getting to be frowned on too. Most especially if any kind of paper at all is left anywhere near the surface of the ground, so even camo paper won't really work. Life, she seems to have become complicated all too quickly in our modern times.

So, actual camouflage. Hmmm....lessee?

Well, you can try gathering twigs, moss, and whatnot (fortunately, there is usually a lot of free whatnot close to hand in the woods), and building a little replica of your camp over the filled hole, in case someone does find what you deposited and wants to know more about the artist it came from. Unlikely, but there are people out there with increasingly odd hobbies. And then there's law enforcement, like park rangers, forest rangers, and other official types who wear funny hats, are employed to do certain things for money, and who ofttimes have strange or obscure duties such as Poo Patrol, which may end up pointing them in your direction.

And on occasion one or more of these people may become twitchy and go snooping around exactly who-knows-why for exactly who-knows-what, and may find something you left, so that possibly limiting one's camouflage efforts to a clever but not-too-specific sort of enterprise might be a decent idea. But then again it couldn't hurt to show how truly creative you can be, so feel free to get down there and play with it if that's your style.

Because, if you do build your little campsite replica well enough, or, for example, you build a tiny fort instead, and do it really well, it's possible that you could win an award. For it. Not likely, but ever more possible in our rapidly evolving culture.

Truly, anything is possible. You know life these days, when reality is what appears on television, and no less. If you don't know about that, or about life these days, then try an internet search for "weird news". But if you are lazy and don't want to bother, then just check out the following two items (both so precious that they have been tucked away for future generations by the prestigious Internet Archive itself):

So far the Academy Awards and the Emmys and all those other famous awards events are still the big guns, and limited to dramatic presentations (i.e., deliberately fictional news), but who knows which way the next wind will blow? Just to keep yourself in the running, try scattering a few mints in the area to catch the attention of rambling, roaming, vagabond, freelance poophole reviewers. Probably couldn't hurt. Could score you a few brownie points, as they're called.

Plan B: Use your Take Your Cat To Camp day pass.

It's about time anyway, wouldn't you think?

Cats don't get out nearly enough, and who knows more about digging a cat hole than the inventor of said facility? Learn something actually useful and take advantage of your special interspecies relationship while offering your cat a chance to earn its keep.

When not digging holes or pooping, cats sleep. Cats sleep almost all day, every day, and because of that they can't sleep at night, so they're up then, wide awake, full of energy, and doing who knows what, so try this: Put a leash on your cat and take it along when you go out to hike the Continental Divide Trail, for example. Then watch it and do what it does when it does that thing that cats do when not sleeping or eating. Dig it?

Then for those times when you're not watching your cat poop, and when the sky turns dim and dark and you lie down and close your little eyes to sleep, you can snore free of mousie fears. Because Kitty is there. Which is a good deal for you, unless Kitty decides Enough is too much already and bails, suddenly heading for provinces unknown, leaving you alone, when you'll have to fight off the evil mice all on your own, but by then your episodes of cat watching should have provided plentiful clues about how to manage your life the Kitty Way™. If you have any brains up there.

Hello? Brains? You still in there?

But if your cat does stay with you all the way from the Mexican border way way far north into Yellowstone National Park, or even beyond, closer to Canada, into Glacier National Park for example, and you do finally one day bump into one of those big grumpy toothy bears, well, what could be better to throw at it than Fluffy?

Cats — the original multi-function pets. So versatile. Too bad not all pets were so cleverly designed. (Don't try getting all fancy like that with a budgie. Hopeless, budgies. Just so you know.)

-- footnotes --

1 All this has probably maybe very little or almost no actual connection to Fernando Poo, also less imaginatively known as Fernão Pó, or sometimes as Fernando Pó, after whom the island of Fernando Poo was named.

Erstwhile inhabitants, once known as poopians now find themselves living on an island unimaginatively renamed to Bioko (and even more formerly, once upon a time in dreary ages past, called Otcho, they say). Maybe the previous demonyms were bonkos or otchons or something, but no one seems to know, or care, and somehow the people there got by all the same.

"Poopians", however, is a real attention-grabber. Yeah, grabber — maybe not the best word either, in this context, but the total number of words is actually limited by binding international conventions, and many of them are also woefully over-used, so we'll leave this one hanging for now, right where it is.

What drew Mr Poo to his magical island was wood, for that island, the island of Fernando Poo, whatever it may have been called at the time, was once widely known for its vast tracts of tropical shittah trees, the only source of shittim-wood, a product pretty much no good for anything at all except, surprisingly, making arks, back in the day when there was a desperate but brief flurry of ark manufacturing.

Animals don't like to gnaw on shittim-wood (And who would?), which is nice if you're out there in your ark in a world covered by sudden oceans and no place to go for repairs in case the critters get uppity one day, maybe out of boredom or uncontrollable peevishness due to long confinement, and decide to chew the snot out of the only floating vessel in the world.

Anyhow, the island in question is real, part of a small archipelago in the Republic of San Serriffe. Perhaps you've heard of the now more renowned neighboring isles, Upper Caise and Lower Caise. Or maybe not. Who can say? But all this information is, of course, as always, completely and satisfyingly true, and will very soon be broadcast on television for your edification, which is of course absolute proof of veracity, in case you still had a minor doubt or two.

For the fussy, this is sometimes spelled as "Cathole". But of course that looks more than a bit obscene, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Definitions: Dyneema

Dyneema is a material invented in 1963 and now produced by the Dutch company "DSM" (Koninklijke DSM Naamloze vennootschap. "To this day we continue to use the English translation of the company's original name, the 'Nederlandse Staatsmijnen, Dutch State Mines', signifying both our heritage and how far we've come in just over a century."). Got that?

OK, then.


Dyneema is made from ultra high molecular weight polyethylene.


Ethylene is a simple organic chemical (C2H4). Cram it together with water in the right way and you have ethanol, or drinking alcohol (unless you're an ultralighter, in which case you don't drink it but only burn it in your stove to cook noodles for lunch.)

Polyethylene is a chain of ethylene molecules, a polymer. (Poly, get it? Many, much, multi, more, poly. Plus mer, a repeated unit. Polymer: Many mers, or many, many small molecules linked together into gigantic ones.) So there we have it.

Dyneema exists as a bunch of superlong polyethylene chains. Super super super long polyethylene chains. They are very tough too. This helps to make Dyneema resistant to most chemicals, to UV radiation, and to micro-critters that might try to munch it. In other words, Dyneema is hard to kill just like ordinary old polyethylene, the stuff clear plastic bags are made of, but Dyneema is tweaked, of course.

Officially, Dyneema is known as "High Modulus Polyethylene" or "HMPE", which, if you look that up, takes you back to "ultra high molecular weight polyethylene", which is about where we started with this definition. Big help there, right?

You might also see "HDPE" instead of "HMPE". HDPE stands for "High Density Polyethylene", but you don't need to care, really. Though now you know, in case you are ever asked. Welcome to the club, kid.

OK, so back to the real world. This polyethylene stuff doesn't absorb water or even easily get wet. Likewise, it feels slippery. It's so slippery that a Dyneema cord won't hardly hold a knot even if you put one there. So what's it good for then? Well Dyneema is used in webbing, specialized rope and cordage like ship's hawsers, for body armor, and in making a ripstop fabric called Dyneema Gridstop, something that is used in packs and is loved by backpackers, who are always on the lookout for the next unicorn of fabrics, so maybe you've heard of it already.

That Gridstop, as used in packs, isn't all Dyneema though, just some of it is. You can easily see the Dyneema part — it's the reinforcing threads, which show up white. They show up white because Dyneema, like Spectra (another miracle material), is impervious to dyeing. (Dyneema and Spectra are actually just two brand names for what is almost exactly the same thing.)

Dyneema is gnarly, seriously gnarly, and currently holds the world record as the strongest synthetic fiber in existence, at eight to 15 times the strength of old-fashioned steel. It's also 40 percent stronger than aramids, also known as ye olde "aromatic polyamides" (Kevlar for example), and has twice the cut resistance of aramids.

Spectra, to get back to that for a moment, is also less strong somehow than Dyneema, at up to only 10 times the strength of steel, max, or so they say. What is more, Dyneema (in case you were wondering, and definitely unlike steel), is light enough to float, while continuing to exhibit a fierce resistance to many chemicals (such as water, a common chemical found almost everywhere in nature) that is way beyond steel's as well.

Elsewhere in the commercial world, Dyneema has been sneaked into climbing equipment, shoes, and luggage, as well as many other mostly ordinary things.

Though all of the High Modulus Polyethylenes have a lot of strength for little weight, no matter what they're called, they do have a seriously weak spot — they melt at relatively low temperatures. What's low? Somewhere between 266° to 277° F (130° to 136°C), for Dyneema, which hardly rates a woot, so we won't give it a woot. Not here, and not now, for sure.

So, what else if anything?

Well, while all these HMPE/HDPE variants could easily be made into a much wider range of fabrics because humans are clever and capable of such achievements, the chemical makeup of this stuff, with its extremely long molecules of almost inert substances, produces a slippery feel that gives people creepy feelings if it's used in clothes for example, so it isn't used in clothes, although Dyneema could make your underwear bulletproof.

Something to think about.