I had planned on getting something “better” than the iconic GP-5 Russian gas mask, until I started thinking a bit… What is a gas mask and what is it supposed to do?

GP-5 Russian Gas Mask

GP-5 Russian Gas Mask

The key element of a gas mask is the filter. It traps aerosols and gasses to make the air you breathe safe. You could put the filter in your mouth, pinch your nose and breathe in clean air without a mask. The mask protects your eyes, nose, mouth, and holds the filter. It needs to make a good seal with your face. A good $20 mask will do this as well as a $200 mask. It’s the fit that matters; get the wrong size and you might as well not wear one. I did pay $20 for my GP-5, shipping included, with a carry bag and a filter.

What a more expensive mask will get you is maybe a drinking tube, better field of view and a voice box. A $100 British S10 might be more modern than the GP-5 and offer more features, but it won’t be any safer. I get a very good seal with my GP-5 even with my short beard. I will just include a safety razor in the bag in case I have time to shave…

The GP-5 might not be the easiest mask to put on, especially if you have long hair, but once fitted properly it is very comfortable. The lenses do not fog up easily. The field of view isn’t great but if you need the mask on, you have other things to worry about right then… There is no drinking tube or voice box. You would have a hard time to be heard talking at a distance. The mask with a good filter will keep you alive. What other $20 item can make such a claim? Keep in mind that with modern nerve gasses you will need a full suit to be protected. I plan on getting a British CBRN suit in case the “S” really “HTF.” They sell for about $30 on Ebay plus shipping.

You may have heard about the asbestos issue with the GP-5K Russian filters… They ALL contain asbestos, especially those made in 1972 and earlier. If you get a filter dated prior to 1973, dispose of it safely and buy a modern NATO 40mm NBC filter. My filter was made in 1974 and supposedly contains a very small amount of asbestos. Still, any amount of that substance is too much. The post-72 filters should be somewhat safe if the asbestos doesn’t get dislodged, but are you willing to risk it? I decided to keep mine but only to be used in a life-or-death emergency, after running out of modern safe filters. The jury is still out on the GP-7K filters…

GP-5K Filter

GP-5K Filter

So instead of spending $100 on a more modern mask, I decided to get two or three GP-5 masks. This way I can stash them where I might need them and not worry about carrying one with me, though I think there is enough room in my get-home-bag for one, given its small size folded.

GP-5 Folded

GP-5 Folded

In this day and age, I don’t have to tell you how a gas mask could save your life… Get a couple, along with a few new filters and keep them in good shape. That means having at least one stored full of talcum powder for long term storage. Practice putting it on. Have one in your car and your home, in your luggage when you travel. Remember, we can go a month without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without air, probably less before passing out! Best thing about the GP-5, you can also use it on Halloween!

Unfortunately the GM5 has been discontinued, but they are still around… I consider three levels of camera grades: Consumer, photographer and professional. The Lumix GM5 is a consumer grade camera. I just want to make this clear beforehand. After losing my Fuji X100S and Olympus OM-D E-M5 to a boating mishap I needed to buy something quickly, discreet and cheap but good enough for street photography. The new Olympus Pen-F would have been my choice, or an APS-C sensor camera, but you don’t get much for around $600.

Panasonic Lumix GM5

Panasonic Lumix GM5

The GM5 is small, very small. It means everything on it is small as well, including the viewfinder. Its size is an advantage in street and candid photography. Nobody is going to take you seriously with something that small (that’s what she says!). The mechanical shutter up to 1/500 is very quiet, and the electronic shutter beyond is silent. So as far as being discreet, the GM5 is awesome. The battery is small as well, so do not expect to take hundreds of photos without a spare. Since I rarely take more than a dozen per outing I couldn’t care less.

Quality wise, I am still on the fence, mostly because of the 12-32 kit lens, which isn’t much better than the bottom of a coke bottle. Well, I may be a bit harsh, but at f8 and darker the lens looses a lot of sharpness. Combine that with high ISO and you get unusable images. I set the aperture to 5.6 and leave it there with auto ISO in aperture priority mode. Kit zooms suck, and this one is no exception. With good light and the correct aperture though, you can get nice images.

A couple quirks with the body have left me wondering if I am missing some settings in the menus. The first is the impossibility to take a flash photo with a software filter set. I don’t seem to be able to make make the flash fire while in Dynamic B&W mode. The camera needs to be in no-filter mode for the flash to work. Correct me if I’m wrong.. The worst thing however is not being able to lock the exposure with the focus when the shutter button is slightly depressed. I have never seen a camera not able to do so. Again, I wonder if there is some hidden function or trick to do it. Someone help!

I plan on buying the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f1.7. It should be head and shoulders above the 12-32 kit lens. Only then will I be able to decide if the Micro-4/3 sensor size is good enough for my type of photography. Should you get a GM5? If you need something small that you can carry in a vest pocket, then yes. The ability to change lenses and the viewfinder are good arguments in favor as well. Just do not expect high quality images with the kit lens. My review of the GM5 with the Leica lens will come later.

I like simple things, mechanical devices, elegant designs. So when it came time to buy a new watch, I wanted an automatic. No battery, no need to rewind it, nothing. Well, you have to wear it every day, otherwise it stops of course, but I have only one watch so that isn’t a problem. If I had the money, I would have bought an Omega. Rolexes are too gaudy for me, or rather, many people who wear them have given the brand a bad name, IMHO. Actually, if I was really rich I would have bought an obscure (to the non initiated) brand of high quality. It is hard tough to justify spending a few thousand dollars on a watch. So what’s left? There aren’t many brands that make watches still considered luxury items for less than a thousand dollars. Some might even look at them as sub-par. Tissot does however make a fine product, I certainly love mine. I bought the Seastar in April of 2014, more than a year ago, so it is time for a review.

Tissot Seastar 1000

Tissot Seastar 1000

Buying an automatic watch is somewhat of a statement, as well as the expression of appreciation for things well built. For me it isn’t a statement of wealth. After all, I bought one of the cheapest automatics on the market. It is a statement of taste.

I didn’t want the chronograph because of the added complexity and size. Add more gears and sooner than later something will go wrong. I won’t rehash the details of the mechanism or other characteristics here, many sites have done so already. I bought the watch online from Jomashop. It came quickly and was cheaper than anywhere else. I understand the warranty issues, but they have their own, and I was buying a new watch after all.

What a beauty! The size is perfect, not too wide or thick. There was no defects of any kind, no misalignments. I wound the watch and put it on immediately. It rarely leaves my wrist except at night. The watch keeps going throughout the night, and a few hours longer if i forget to put in on. I was worried at first, but you don’t have to shake your arm all day to keep it ticking. Just forget about it and go about your day.

The Tissot is pretty accurate it turns out. It was about seven seconds fast per day at the beginning, but I think is is closer now. I only reset the time about once a month, which is excellent in my book. it takes a couple minutes and really isn’t an issue. Who needs ultra precision anyway? I’m not an astronaut. Actually the watch being a few minutes fast per month kept me on time. It would have been more of an issue if it had been late, but again, I think it is pretty spot on now that it is broken in.

The saphire face is very scratch resistant. Actually, I can’t believe it doesn’t have any scratches after more than a year, and I don’t baby it. I’ve banged it many times on hard surfaces, which would have mared any of my previous watches.

I can’t comment on waterproofing yet, but I will be sailing soon and spear fishing a lot, so stay tuned.

My Tissot has become one of those items that you wouldn’t let go for anything.. Even if I was broke and hungry on the street, I don’t think I’d sell it. It joined the ranks of my favorite pocket knife, flashlight, and a handful of other items having reached that special status. For the price I don’t think you can find any better. It shows good taste and that you don’t have more money than brains. It is waterproof, EMP-proof, and if society collapses and batteries are unavailable, you’ll still know what time it is! Seriously though, and I have no association with Tissot, but the Seastar is a keeper.

No, it’s not a purse! And I thought “Coyote Brown” would be a somewhat manly color.. We all carry a number of items in our pockets or some kind of a bag. If you had a purse, what would you carry in it? Yes, I am addressing men here, but this article does apply to both genders. What essential items should everyone carry? (Scroll down for a video!)

As a pilot, I have studied how accidents happen. They don’t. An accident is almost always a succession of small incidents leading to a life-threatening situation. Stop the chain reaction early, and you won’t even know how you could have died that day.

In selecting what items you should carry on your person, you should ask yourself what could help you turn a potential major problem into a minor annoyance. Nobody wants to carry a backpack full of survival items all day. Though you should have one in the trunk of your car, as soon as you step away from it, you are left with nothing useful. Basic human needs are water, fire, food, shelter and safety. As the size of your bag diminishes to that of a small pouch or an already overloaded purse, you must select your essential items very carefully:

Water: Obviously, you are not going to carry water in a pouch. A gallon jug in the car is a must, but carrying any on you might prove difficult. You should however have a small bottle of water purification tablets. The odds that you might have to use it in your lifetime are slim (because you have a water filter in your bug-out bag, right?), but in a hot climate, exerting yourself, water can be a life saver. It only takes your car to break down on an isolated road and a few miles of walking to become dehydrated, and that can be the first step in our accident progression sequence. I remember a show on television where a couple crashed their jeep in New Mexico, away from the road. They reached a river, but the woman refused to drink for fear of contamination. Her husband did drink and got sick. He recovered nicely. She is on dialysis with permanent kidney damage. Water purification pills or a few drops of bleach would have made a world of difference in the way she lives now.

Fire: A small Bic lighter will serve you well. I don’t care if you smoke or not, that isn’t the point. I complement it with a magnesium fire starter, which can start a fire in almost any condition and will last for years.

Food:I do not carry any food. A candy bar might be a good thing to have if you need a short boost of energy, but I choose not to have one, as I would be tempted to eat it daily! I certainly don’t want to pack a reserve around my waist, so, no candy for me. If you have the self-control to pack a protein bar and only eat it in an emergency, by all means, do so.

Shelter:We limit ourselves here to staying dry. A tiny plastic emergency poncho or space blanket will protect you from the rain. Being soaked can quickly lead to hypothermia. If you need to get somewhere on foot, you probably have enough concerns as it is without added discomfort.

Safety:Physical safety also means health. If you need medication on a daily basis, make sure you have a few pills on you at all times (Don’t forget your prescription). I also highly suggest a small first-aid kit, including a good antiseptic like Betadine or equivalent. If not for yourself, you might be able to help someone else; especially when kids are around, a few band-aids are always welcome.

Other:Get some cordage. I suggest 550 paracord, at least 25ft. A few nylon tie-wraps are great too. Another must-have item is a pocket knife, which you will carry, of course, in your pocket. I like the small Spyderco folding knives with a 2-1/2″ blades. They are very handy and super-sharp right out of the box. Don’t forget a flashlight. Prefer the LED type, with at least 100 lumens. They usually require two CR123 batteries. Mine is a Streamlight, with two power settings and a strobe mode, great for self-defense.

Depending on where you live and what you do, you might want to add specific items to your pouch. Remember that if it’s too big or too heavy, you won’t take it with you, which defeats it’s purpose. I used to carry a few of the above in my pockets, or in bigger bags I might happen to carry. I almost never had them all on me. Finally, I decided to get a Maxpedition pouch and put them all together. Have a look:

Two weeks completed! Almost, I am about to do Yoga X on my day off, since I skipped it a few days ago and did Ab Ripper X instead.

To my surprise, I gained 5Lbs the first ten days! Disappointing, since I am hoping to drop 15Lbs during the twelve weeks. It turns out that this isn’t unusual at the beginning of each phase. The body reacts to soreness by storing water everywhere. I did reduce my calories intake a bit, and bingo, I am back down to 203.5Lbs. I know such small changes mean nothing, but it keeps me motivated. I hope to reach 195Lbs by mid July. That would be of course more than a 5Lbs fat loss, since I am also putting on muscle mass. I did replace Kenpo X by a systema class plus Ab Ripper X, and it easily made up for it. I was wondering about dropping Yoga this week, but I am committed to this program, and I can’t start cheating now.

Creatine: I got myself a kilo of creatine. It definitely seems to help getting a few more reps at the end, especially when doing abs. I didn’t load as much as product manufacturers suggest (20g/day for 5-7 days), but did 15g/day for five days. Now I take 5g 30 minutes before a workout.

Kenpo X: I have much to say about Kenpo X. Consider it a cardio workout, and nothing else. The P90X book calls Kenpo a “raw street fighting style.” I disagree. Do not hope to use your Kenpo X to defend yourself, or you might get in trouble. The punches are ‘stop-and-back’ classical karate style with a lot of tension. There are a couple problems associated with that. First, why hurt your joints by stopping your arm in mid air and pulling back? This sudden reversal of kinetic energy is wasteful and pulls quite a bit on your joints. Second, when you punch someone, you want the energy generated by mass and movement to transfer to your target, not bounce right back to you. Translation: You must keep a loose shoulder for your punch to be efficient. Instead of stop-and-back, I punch in a circular or elliptical motion. I do not slow down my punches at any time during this motion. If I was to hit something, most of the energy would be transfered. Same for the blocks. If you don’t have to block, don’t. Redirect attacks with circular motion. I try to keep constant motion during Kenpo X, no linear back-and-forth movements. You could do the same for kicks, but I left that part unchanged. After all, this is not a self defense workout, but a cardio one. I might post a video here later to explain those changes.

Legs and Back: Probably the easiest of the resistance series for me. Easiest doesn’t mean easy.. I think my daily bicycle rides, though short, helped me quite a bit. Not much to say here, just that it is a sound, classic workout, like most of the others.

X Stretch: I haven’t tried yet. The last day of weeks 1 through 4 is supposed to be either off or X Stretch. Since I skipped a couple days, I had to catch up during my day off.

After two weeks of training, I can’t see any difference in my body shape yet, and it is too soon for that. I am just happy to be sticking with the program. 1:15 of exercise a day actually takes much more time. Consider meal preparations (6/day), shopping, calorie counting on, more showers, more laundry… So, I estimate more like a 2:00 to 2:30 daily commitment. I still try to go to my Systema class once or twice a week.

Two more weeks and I will be posting about the recovery week four and my results at the end of phase one. And now, on to Yoga X. I hate that one… Oh well…