Engineer & Entertain

Ideas I grapple with

GORUCK Expedition 6 & 12

img_3683In the middle of July I completed GORUCK Expedition 6 & 12. The expedition events are my 8th and 9th events respectively. I have completed Jedburgh and Constellation (before the 6/12 split) with the rest of my events being Lights and Challenges. The expedition events are aimed at practicing navigation and bushcraft. I have a fair amount of outdoor experience, but found the expedition courses worthwhile as it gave me a controlled environment to practice skills before I need them.

In the 6 hour we learned to read terrain, use a map and compass, make fishing drop lines, and reviewed first aid kits, tourniquets, and moving casualties. The 12 hour added pacing/step count, UTM plotter work with the map & compass, fire making, additional wilderness medicine, rope work, field expedient weapons, and shelter making.


I never got lost. I always knew I was in a forest.

The particulars of the skills you learn and practice will vary from site to site and cadre to cadre. There’s no way we were going to practice snow shelters in middle of summer in Indiana. As a result there will be some items on the packing list that you will not use. Moreover, there will be some items that you wish you had e.g. combustion tools and containers to boil water in. I assume the inefficiencies of the packing list are intentional to get us to consider scavenging for resources. We used glass bottles to boil water in. I had a lighter saving us from rubbing two sticks together or some such.

The weather was exceptionally hot and humid as Indiana is wont to be. I found the heat and humidity most unbearable though in the evening.  The GORUCK website stated food and comfort items were not permitted at the 12 hour event. Following the the GRT philosophy of, “If you ain’t cheatin’, then you ain’t tryin'”, I decided I would sneak some food in. Turns out, the cadre allowed us to have food. We learned this fact well into the event when they had us hold position after a strenuous movement and encouraged us to eat. I wish I would have brought my typical allotment of food as I was suffering something fierce toward the end of the event. I was exceptionally hot and nauseated and did not think clearly as a result. I needed calories to help thermoregulate and provide fuel for my brain. I certainly did not like the way I felt and I did not like that I was not nearly as helpful as I could have been for my team. I became more of a liability than asset.

The team I was a part of in the 6 hour event was stellar. We clicked right away and were able to problem solve. 5 of 6 were returning for the 12 hour event. In the 12 hour I was still able to be a part of the team with three of people who were at the 6. While I feel bad for being a liability for part of the event I do know that I contributed and I hope that balances out. dsc010311When we began 12, the cadre had us running through the woods before we could get organized in any meaningful way. Upon arrival at our destination, the cadre asked if we were all accounted for. We were. I had made it a point to count every person just in case.

During large group movements we got lost or disoriented a few times. None the less, the leaders and team mates always maintained high spirits. This is really the core of Expedition: Maintain a positive mental attitude and practice your skills before you need them.  My personal takeaway from the event is that I need to make myself more resilient to the heat. I’m going to go and get fat now.


Smiles for miles!




img_3482At the end of June/beginning of July I had the pleasure to take a course with Roy Underhill and Bill Anderson at the Woodwright’s School. This my fourth course at the school and every last one of them has been worth more than I paid. The instruction received is second to none.

Over the five day course you build a toolbox which is about 16″ long x 14″ tall and 12″ wide and it’s held together with dovetails, mortise & tenons, tongue & grooves, cut nails, and hide glue. When the class is complete you will have to do some finishing at home namely outfit the box with hardware (hinges, straps, locks) and apply a finish (paint, oil, etc).img_3511

On the first day we made a practice joint. Each person was provided some scrap wood and told to make whatever type of joint we wanted. I opted for a half lap as I have not cut many (any?) half laps by hand. We reviewed what we did and why and how we could it better. Next we learned how to layout and cut dovetails and then did so in the carcass of our box.


Lapping it up

On the second day we cut our pins to match the tails and glued up the carcass at the end of the day using hide glue. I stood my carcass boards up so I could see the layout in 3-D. In the course of sawing, my bench wiggled, shimmied, and vibrated until the back panel fell off the bench. It split in half as a result of the sudden stop at the end of the fall. Thankfully it could be epoxied together, but the whole thing could have been avoided if I left the boards flat, in a stable state.


Kintsugi, but instead of binding with gold, bind with epoxy.

The malodorous rendered smell of hide glue made me think of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Moreover it has a short work time and must be kept warm lest it set up like Jell-O. The beauty of hide glue is that it can be heated and a joint separated. Of course if you do it right the first time, then you don’t have to do it a second time and you can use PVA glue.

My dovetails were too proud so I found myself spending the third morning slicing them away with a chisel. A block plane would have taken too long and a jack plane would have left them ragged. Slice. Slice. Slice. We then used molding planes to make a skirt for the box.

The fourth day had us mitering and gluing our modeling in place. While no one cut dovetail pins facing opposite directions, someone did cut their miters backwards (the decorative molding would have to be against the box for the mitered edges to fit). It’s a common and easy mistake to make. We began cutting our tenons and chopping our mortises during the afternoon. My first tenon was perfect and then I went steadily downhill. It can always be worse. My last tenon was . . . well ugly is such an ugly word. My last tenon was not being asked to prom. Therefore I had to cut two new tenons because the last one was attached to the penultimate one.


People have a variety of ways to cope – exercise, alcohol, meditation. I prefer to use a saw.

The fifth and final day had a lot of little things for us to complete. I had to recut a tenon. We all had to finish our mortises. On the plus side, we were allowed to use a Barnes mortising machine for our last tenon. This thing is a joy to use and I am honestly surprised that it is not still in production. It is faster and quieter than chiseling out a mortise and incredibly accurate. I would put a nickel down that it would cut a mortise as fast as an electric hollow chisel mortiser.

With stiles and rails mortised and tenoned we could cut a groove into the panel so we wouldn’t be topless. The panels were razed to make them raised panels. We did not use a panel raising plane, but rather placed bevels on it with a smoothing plane or block plane.

I used cut nails for the first time as well. They were used to attach our tongue and grooved bottoms to the carcass of the box. I have no intention of using temperamental hide glue again, but cut nails may come up in my future. The wedging action joins wood securely and I have no fear they will be come loose like modern day cylindrical nails.

The final day also included us attaching the mitered drip molding to the lid of the tool box. Should I ever leave it outside, I need not fear the rain.

In between lessons we were able to go up to Ed’s shop above the school. It is like a museum with price tags. Want a Stanley number 48 tongue and groove match plane? There’s two on the shelf. Want a full set of hollows and rounds? There’s a few of ’em. Want a mattock? Take your pick. The prices are fair and the tools are in excellent condition to be used on your next project.

I’m straining to think of anything I disliked or would improve aside from my own skill set. We ate at some restaurants more than once, but that’s no fault of the school. You can only work with what you have. There was not a single lesson I would want to move or change around. There are times we could have accomplished more in the day, but we (students and instructors) would have certainly felt rushed.

My main takeaways from the week

  • I need to make five more boxes. My first one is fine to use; however, the lessons learned are perishable skills.
  • I need to be less proud in my dovetails
  • Bill taught me to saw the air first and let the saw slowly descend to touch the wood. That made a world of difference in my saw doing the work and not me.
  • I remained organized and clean through the work. This insure that I never confused a board for another, mixed up orientation, or made other simple mistakes.
  • Roy also taught us all how to twang a saw. That was worth the price of admission

During a popsicle break Bill had me share trick. The exasperated face on Roy is because the trick is a long build for a terrible pun.

Band names of 2017

Last year you said you were going to start a band, but then 2017 turned out to be, ughh, different. But this, this is the year. Here are the new band names people will be chanting at concerts, riots, and while solving the world’s problems in their parents’ basement.

  • A gun and a scalpel
  • Anonymous Narwhal
  • Whack-A-Mole Deathmatch
  • The Saddest Whale
  • Gross Maraschino Poison
  • Ceremonial Spoons
  • Pizza loving dick vessel
  • Happy little screamer
  • The Ladies
  • Awkward Unicyclist
  • Two guys, a girl, and a pizza place

Santa Ruck AAR

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of completing a family friendly GORUCK Light which raised money and supplies for Riley Children’s Hospital. The event is called SantaRuck which was created by Team Ninja. The TL;DR is that you should do this event next year because it is fun and for the kids.

Team Ninja ran the check in process and GRTs received a swag bag with buffs, stickers, name patch, and most importantly, hand warmers. The hand warmers went straight into my gloves and lasted the length of the event and then some. I loved the inclusion of a name patch in the swag bag. I will be using a name patch at future events because it made it easy to call out and communicate to other GRTs.


With our rucks on our fronts to look like fat snowmen, Cadre Heath and I then sumoed because we’re warrior snowmen. He won, BTW.

With four cadre, the welcome party was chaotic to say the least. Cadre had us running all over the field in front of Riley. Quick commands were yelled to do one thing only to have it changed a split second later.

On your feet! On your backs! Rucks overhead! Rucks on the front! Flutter kick! Beat your face! All children off the ground! Put those children down, you don’t know where they’ve been!

We did some log PT during the welcome party with candy canes – PVC pipes with a red stripe filled with concrete. A nice touch was that there was an empty PVC pipe for the children to lift. Cadre thought of everything.

We also played musical rucks. When the music stopped, we had to grab a ruck. The odd man out went to the loser pit where we did PT. We did PT until 80+ of us were whittled down to 2. 2 go in, 1 comes out.

After the welcome party, we took the sleigh, filled with our donations, into the hospital. We separate the donations into the appropriate bins and then heard from a physician. He stated the procedures have changed over the years, but what has not changed is how to care for and support a Riley family.

A rolling blue tooth speaker provided Christmas carols as we rucked from the hospital to a park while carrying a sleigh and sleds filled with children. The sleds were led by reindeer (sandbags with antlers).


“Santa Selfie” would be yelled and we had to take a photo and post it on the Tough Facebook page

At the park we had a circus. Children called out an animal and the adults had to do PT based on the animal. There were bear crawls, leap frogs, and duck walks. Due to my quacking and flapping, Cadre Heath complimented me on my duck walk, so now that’s on my resume.

We received gingerbread cookies in the shape of spearheads and then rucked back to the hospital. We sang some Christmas carols and then received our patches.


Of note

  • I brought spare clothing with me to change into after the event, but it went unused. I would still do this next year or for any other cold weather event.
  • I need to refine my cold weather clothing. There was no snow on the ground, but it was cold and there was a constant, biting wind. We never got wet, so I am not sure how quickly my clothing would dry out and how warm I would remain. With children, our pace was slower than usual. If we had time hacks and had to keep a faster pace I suspect I would have overheated given my clothing choices.I wore
    • Merrell Chameleon 7 Mid
    • Darn Tough Wool Socks
    • Thermals aka long underwear
    • Running pants
    • Long sleeved tough shirt
    • Outdoor Research Centrifuge jacket
    • Patagona nanopuff jacket
    • Waterproof ski gloves
    • Buff
  • I would certainly do another event with Cadre Heath. Granted this was a family friendly Light, he was delightful, energetic and kept the event fun and chaotic.
  • The relationship formed between Team Ninja and Riley Children’s Hospital is awesome.
  • Every one kept a positive mental attitude and had fun the whole time. Everyone was having fun, so the event was fun. Since the event was fun, everyone was having fun. It’s a vicious cycle, but with conviviality. It’s a convivial cycle.
  • One Take Away: “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength”. I cannot control what the Cadre will do or what circus animals the kids will call out, but I can be happy while doing bear crawls. I cannot control if a child is born prematurely, but I can be a positive, hard-working member of a team that treats the child and fights the fight.

Love me tinder, love me true

My wife went out of town three weeks ago, so guess who got a Tinder account? Our greyhound, Cesium.

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His bio 

I hope my forwardness does not give you paws, but I am into heavy petting. Life’s ruff so I am not going to hound you, but you would be barking mad to not swipe right. So, what do you say? Want to find out who is a good boy?

To date he has 24 matches and seems to be doing well for himself.

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Most of the women seem to think he is a good boy.

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He has met a lot of women, but has acquired no bitches.

Happy birthday, Flo!

With full knowledge of the responsibilities I am undertaking,

I pledge to care for my patients with all of the knowledge, skills, and understanding that I possess, without regard to race, color, creed, politics, or social status.

I will spare no effort to conserve meaningful life, to alleviate suffering, and to promote health.

I will refrain from any action which might be harmful to the quality of life or health for those I care for.

I will respect, at all times, the dignity and religious beliefs of patients under my care, and hold in professional confidence all the personal information entrusted to me.

I will endeavor to keep my professional knowledge and skills at the highest level and give my support and cooperation to all members of the healthcare team.

With full awareness of my qualifications and limitations, will do my utmost to maximize the potential of the nursing profession and to uphold and advance its standards.

NPG x82368; Florence Nightingale by Henry Hering, copied by  Elliott & Fry

Happy birthday, Ms. Nightingale and Happy Nurse’s Week!

Band Names of 2016

Last year I posted the band names I derived in 2015. If you resolution hasn’t changed and you still want to learn to play guitar, form a band, rise to fame, do coke off a hooker’s ass, trash a hotel room, fall from fame, and make a comeback, then here are the band names of 2016.

  • Part Time Varsity
  • Strippers & Cake
  • Periwinkle Jimmies
  • The Lonely Sandwich
  • Chasing babies
  • Battery Eating MoFo
  • Napoleon’s Nightcap
  • Two guys, a girl, and a pizza place

GORUCK Challenge Class 2027 Flagstaff 2016

I completed my second challenge and fifth Goruck event on 29 July 2016 in Flagstaff with Cadre Chad, an SF engineer. I plan on doing any event which appears in Flagstaff and as many events as I can which are in Arizona. If you have the opportunity to do an event with Cadre Chad, then jump on it. He is tough, but personable and shares a lot of his experiences.

For previous events I trained for the event following Goruck’s six week program. This time around I followed the Tactical Barbell Zulu program which lays out a lifting schedule. Combined with the Tactical Barbell Conditioning program, I had a general fitness program which makes me good for any event, but not great at anything in particular. Four times a week I would lift: squats & bench press two days and dead lift & dips the other two days. After lifting I would either do a high intensity conditioning workout or I would go for a ruck. I have since switched my training to the Tactical Barbell Fighter scheme because it works with my schedule. I lift twice a week, condition twice a week, and ruck twice a week.

The only change in my gear was a new headlamp; I destroyed my previous one in the Pacific Ocean during the Pearl Harbor Challenge. I now used a Black Diamond Spot 2016. The rest of my gear and its placement in my GR1 remained the same.

The 20 lbs weight plate is in the laptop compartment with a cut-down-duct-taped yoga brick above and below it. The main compartment holds my 3 liter Source water bladder, cheap cycling wind breaker, spare AAA batteries, and a Pelican 1020 case. In the Pelican 1020 case I keep my ID, $20 bill, and first aid kit. The first aid kit is nothing more than duct tape, gauze, benadryl, tylenol, and aleve. The outside slash pocket held a Source UTA and a dry bag. The dry bag had my food (4 Clif bars) and electrolyte tablets (Enduralyte Fizz Lemon Lime).

Our event began in a city park. There were only seven of us and initially it looked like we were only going to have four members. Cadre joked that if we didn’t have enough the event would go from a Challenge to a war stories and beer. I almost wish that had happened because Cadre Chad has some great stories.

Our team weight was a waste oil can filled with sand and covered in Route 66 stickers. Before any great American road trip, especially one on Route 66, you should have an oil change. Our flag also had to be freestanding and weigh 25 lbs. A team member built a base with deployable legs. There are some refinements which could be made to make it faster, but her engineering was quite impressive.

We nearly had a med drop during the Welcome Party. The individual was from Phoenix, and though physically fit, was not used to the altitude. Phoenix is at 1,000 ft elevation compared to Flagstaff’s 7,000 ft. The individual was able to recover and, spoiler alert, made it to the end.flagstaff-mt-elden-lookout-cadre-chad

During the Welcome Party we also learned the importance of having a standard operating procedure (SOP). We lined up to do flutter kicks and some of our feet were pointing to the cadre and some of heads were pointing to him. When told to roll to the right we rolled over each other. Lesson learned. It does not matter if our feet are pointing toward or away from the cadre as long as we have a standard we will end up with the same results and avoid rolling over each other.

Cadre asked for a team leader and I quickly volunteered as I did not want to be penalized for lollygagging or hesitating. I led the remainder of PT during the Welcome Party and then was instructed to move us to a nearby high school.

At the high school, I was fired from being team leader and a new one was selected. We then had some bear crawl races and bear crawl wrestling at the high school. The races were straight forward. Bear crawl to a point and return the fastest. The fights involved being in the bear crawl position and causing your opponent to put their knee on the ground or otherwise drop out of position. Initially we did one and one and then expanded to melees. Our finally battle was every man for himself. Honestly this was one of the most fun things I have done.

With our new team leader we rucked to a church. We also received a coupon before we headed out. It was a one handed rock. The rock could only be carried with one hand. If I passed the rock to another teammate, then I had to do it with one hand and my teammate had to receive it with one hand. The purpose of this was to make us consider our veterans who are returning without all of their limbs or without function in their limbs. The point was definitely made.

We did not make our time hack in part because we did not listen to our TL or our bodies. TL would tell us to run and those up front did not set a pace because of their own inexperience and physical inabilities. We could have done it had we set a decent pace.

After paying our debt for not making the time hack to the church, Cadre provided Get-To-Know-Your-Cadre-Time. During this time we were allowed to sit, take care of our feet, eat, and ask Cadre Chris anything. He said he would answer anything that was asked, but cautioned us to consider what we were asking because he would give an honest answer. Not everyone will want to hear the answers of a combat veteran. That said, his stories were amazing and what he shared was truly appreciated. Get-To-Know-Your-Cadre-Time should be mandatory for Goruck events.


I am pretty sure this quote comes from Richard Grenier, but the point remains. 


Switching TLs, our next movement was to the trail head of Mount Elden. Once there our next time hack was to make it to the peak of Mt. Elden before sunrise. Our American flag had to be flying with all of us posed around it as the sun was rising. We took breaks frequently and checked for altitude sickness. Thankfully no one succumbed to the altitude. Our team just barely made it to the top in time. We could have made it with time to spare, but our team broke down. We were doing so well until this moment; in our exhaustion our personalities clashed.


After a team photo, we hiked down the mountain and earned our patches. I would not hesitate to do another event with Cadre Chad. He definitely gave more than any other cadre I have experienced. This event, though a “typical” challenge and not a special event, was definitely more enjoyable than any other GORUCK event I have done.


Vonnegut Was Right!

Research from the Computational Story Lab at University of Vermont found there are six main plots in story telling.

  • Fall-rise-fall
  • Rise and then a fall
  • Fall and then a rise
  • Steady fall
  • Steady rise
  • Rise-fall-rise

I am glad to see we finally have research to confirm Kurt Vonnegut’s hypothesis decades later.

Burning Rubber

Rangers light the way

I used a section of old 700×23 cc bicycle tube to create a waterproof sleeve for a mini Bic lighter. The design was completely stolen copied peer reviewed from Gearward’s Ranger Bic.


  • Old 700×23 cc bicycle tube
  • E6000 glue
  • 1/4″ Grommet


  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Spring clamp
  • Hammer

Rangers light the way

The tube was cut a little longer than the length of a Bic mini lighter.

Rangers light the way

The lighter was placed in the tube to provide some structure. Clear E6000 glue was squirted into the tube and a spring clamp was applied. Wax paper was placed between the jaws of the clamp to prevent glue squeeze out from sticking to the clamp.

The next day a hole was punched and 1/4″ grommet was installed. The grommets used were incredibly cheap from Walmart. One of the grommets came loose after installation. It may be worth it to get better grommets or to use a flaring tool. I used a deadblow hammer and an anvil. I also tried replacing the anvil with a piece of scrap wood. Results were the same. Your mileage may vary.

Flimsy grommets aside, I am pleased with the result. Put the lighter in flint first and it is waterproof. The grommet provides an attachment point which is always convenient when camping.


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