Friday, April 26, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies and (Gun Control) Statistics

Anyone who has been a sports fan for any length of time knows how statistics can be used to make a false argument about a player or to find “hidden value” in a player that by appearances might seem less attractive to a team. A great example of the former would be a Pitchers Win/Loss totals or in football, the Quarterback Rating. Neither of which by itself is a reliable metric of a player’s value. There are some examples of the latter found in modern “Advanced” statistics such as WAR, BABip etc that can show a player to be of greater or lesser value than he seems to the naked eye.

In sports as in many other areas of “debate” statistics can be very useful. Provided the data set is of sufficient size to provide a representative sample, provided the statistic actually measures what is being evaluated and provided the statistic is being accurately represented. Equally, statistics can be used to distort the truth - particularly if the above provisions are ignored or not met and that is the topic of this post.

The post Sandy Hook Gun Control debate rages on in many states but has thankfully due to cooler heads prevailing, lost steam at the National level. There were two widely repeated statistics used by the Anti-Second Amendment crowd that I’d like to discuss.

40% of all gun sales are completed without a background check.

90% of Americans (including gun owners) support background checks.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

9 out of 10 Media Jerkoffs Agree, Jumping to Conclusions is Fun and Great Exercise!

After the Tucson shootings I wrote about the media’s propensity in the immediate wake of a shooting or act of terrorism to point speculative blame at specific groups as a means of politicizing that which is often simply the act of madmen.

The effort to immediately politicize these horrific acts is absolutely nauseating in and of itself. However, to politicize them as a means of using it to forward a particular political agenda borders on the misanthropic if not sociopathic. How many times do we need to have a catastrophic event co-opted to the gain of another before we collectively cry “ENOUGH”?

These absurd knee-jerk speculations offer a spectacular glimpse into their thought processes, biases and true beliefs as time and again when some wack-job goes off the deep end, members of various traditional and “New-Media” outlets have sought, openly and without apology to hang the act on those of a group they describe as “Right-Wing Extremists” or of having “Tea-Party"Affiliations. You can go to that post to read the list of recent instances of this occurring…’s long…very long...

You back? Starting to see the pattern?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Outdoor Gear Review - Kelty Coromell Sleeping Bag & Sea To Summit Dry Bag

All of my gear reviews are done through the prism of a guy who is into back country canoeing. With respect to gear this use case is similar to backpacking in that weight is of some concern, but because I'm placing my gear in portage bags in excess of 100 liters and transporting by canoe not backpack I can afford a bit more weight and a bit more bulk. This affords the luxury of a few niceties not available to the backpacker and a bit more comfort as well.

Many of the places I enjoy going on my solo trips are high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and I enjoy trips in the spring and fall when there are fewer folks around than in the middle of the Summer. As such I regularly experience night time temperatures that are beyond chilly and approaching downright cold and because the weather can change rapidly at high elevations it's always a good idea to be prepared for more weather than the bimbo on the 7-o-clock news has predicted.

I stumbled on a bag that suits my use case perfectly. The Kelty Coromell is a down bag that comes in a slightly roomier shape than the standard "mummy" type bags that are usually found for this temperature range. It's a +0deg down bag which is, quite frankly, warm enough for anything I'll be doing with a little extra warmth for unexpected weather, but the best part is the "semi-rectangular" shape. It provides the warmth and pack-ability of a down bag and a little extra wiggle room in case I want to...wiggle. The hood is removable if need be and has drawstrings to tighten the hood. There are two neck baffles with drawstrings (top/bottom), a full-length zipper and a chest pocket to stash your watch or flashlight for easy retrieval in a dark tent.

With this bag I've comfortably slept in temps as low as +28 degrees wearing nothing but my BVD's and a smile. I'm confident that it would remain comfortable down to it's +0deg rating although at that temperature I may need some polypropylene long underwear. I'm a fairly warm-blooded sleeper though and I do use a substantial inflatable pad so that may not be required. By using the adjustment drawstrings in the neck baffles and the hood I was able to easily modulate ventilation/insulation to a comfortable level. The footbox was perfectly toasty as well. Plenty of room to roll over on my side or position my arms and legs any way I liked. The bag didn't feel restrictive in the least.

The external material has, thus far, been quite durable and the inner material is comfortable on bare skin (some bags just aren't). The zippers are robust, snag-free and have generous pull tabs. I haven't experienced any "feather shedding" as can sometimes happen with down bags and because I store it uncompressed, the loft is just as good as new after two years.

The only gripe I have with the bag has nothing to do with the bag at all but with the compression sack that came with it. Throw it away. It's flippin useless.

I replaced the crap-tastic compression sack with a Sea To Summit 15 liter Compression Dry Sack (purchased at REI). It's a tight fit, but it works & compresses down to the size of a grapefruit taking up very little space in my pack and defends against a soaking wet sleeping bag should I experience the ignominy of dumping my canoe before I get to my destination.

I should add that this bag won't pack as small or be as light as a "traditional" down mummy type bag, but since this is for canoe trips, ultimate light weight and compactness is less of a priority.

Outdoor Gear Review - MSR Whisperlite Universal Stove

When Kathy and I go camping or on canoe trips we tend to bring some pretty spectacular food that requires a double burner stove and full-sized pots/pans. However, when I go out on my own I prefer the simplicity of freeze dried backpacking type meals from Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry. Both companies have a few items in their lineups that are just plain nasty, but for the most part they are pretty good, a few are downright great. When I'm by myself I'd rather spend my time exploring, fishing or taking photos as opposed to preparing complicated meals. I will occasionally fry up a fish, but that's as ambitious as I tend to get on solo trips.

I screwed around with a cheap single burner, coleman propane bottle powered stove for a while and though it worked okay for it's purpose, both it and the bottles were way too bulky, and it was fragile. I had to repair something on it after nearly every hit the bottom of a trash bin a year ago when I purchased an MSR Whisperlite Universal Stove.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Outdoor Gear Review - MSR Miniworks EX

Whether in a survival situation, a lengthy solo wilderness adventure or a simple weekend fishing or camping trip the one thing you cannot do without is water. For the weekend fishing or camping trip it's easy enough to bring sufficient water with you. However, weather changes fast in the back country and for any number of reasons people often get stranded far from help and that simple trip to your favorite trout stream could very well turn into a solo wilderness adventure and survival situation. Because of that it's always a good idea to have a means of treating water, in sufficient quantity to sustain yourself, for far longer than the scheduled duration of your trip.

There are of course a number of means of treating water and each has their benefits and drawbacks.
  • Boiling water - requires a collection and storage vessel and a stove (or fire) and a pot in which to boil the water
  • Treatment tablets or drops - Treats a limited amount of water, has a limited shelf life, often leaves a foul taste in the water
  • UV treatment pens - Will destroy bacteria, protozoa and viruses. Light weight and compact. Will not remove chemicals and toxins. Expensive and dependent on battery power