*The Portable Library and the Game Box*
By: gvi
12 December 2011

It's pure conjecture on my part, but I have reason to believe that the larger portion of time spent in surviving catastrophes consists of waiting for something to happen. Idle time is of course necessary - for reflection, for refreshment and rest, for grieving the loss of a loved one perhaps - but too much "down-time" is corrosive, particularly in large groups.

I've seen this myself. There are a few things that a seasoned soldier dreads more than having absolutely nothing to do, but the list is a pretty short one. The veteran knows that discipline and morale problems develop most often, not when a unit is in the thick of the action, but when it's been waiting impossibly long and no news is forthcoming. Boredom is a powerful psychological stressor. It's part of the reason "cruel tyrant Sergeants" devise ever-more meaningless work details for the Soldiers to do - they’d much rather have the Soldiers tired and grousing about them than languishing around ready to snap at the first cross word or misperceived gesture.

In preparing to deal with boredom, I've assembled a "Portable Library" and a "Game Box" as part of my Fast Packs. I mean to pre-position both of these at my retreat site, and have yet smaller versions of the same in the Fast Packs. Time will tell.

They are both works-in-progress, their contents ever changing with the changing tastes and needs of myself and my daughter. I've spoken of the "Portable Library" before on the Book Board and it appears to have been well-received. One Rubie did it a great honor by saying of the collection, "...with that library, you could restart civilization." I'm mighty proud of the compliment he paid it.

The books I included in it are geared toward my interests and needs, as well as those of my daughter. I give the list of titles merely as an indication of the general categories, and not as suggestions of books you yourself should have, should you wish to assemble a similar collection.

Titles Currently in Library (in the order I pulled them out of the box):

Here's a picture of the "Portable Library":

The box is a bit taller than the standard .50cal ammo can. It's just big enough to hold everything yet be no heavier than my daughter can easily handle (one of my criteria for my Fast Packs).

I've considered an e-reader for the Portable Library but decided against it for now. Until I get a small solar panel rigged up so as to charge an e-reader, I don't want to rely on something that needs electricity.

My "Game Box" is an old wooden box I came into possession of so long ago that I've long since forgot just where and how. Perhaps it's better thus - some damage to my conscience and reputation likely attends the memory. I've put some brass accents and handles on it; not merely because their addition improves the appearance, but because this box was literally being beaten and abused to pieces, and the brass really does help protect it.

This box will likely undergo even more changes than the Portable Library; but for now, its contents include:

Here is a picture of the Game Box and its contents:

The Shoji board and the little chess set may get replaced - both are too small for decent play. At any rate, I may replace the Shoji board with a different game. I used to play Xiangqi - Chinese Chess - and Shoji is a bit too complicated, in the sense that there's far more to keep track of. The game feels more like work than play.

Both boxes are part of a larger project - slated for completion in the coming year - to fit up a footlocker with the library and game box, along with some outdoor games and exercise equipment. The exercise equipment takes up very little space. It consists of a hand-grip device, some exercise bands, small dumbbells (for use when running), a jump rope and a clever exercising harness put out by the TRX Company...

Photograph courtesy of the manufacturer...

To this I mean to add a croquet set I currently own, as well as badminton and volleyball equipment and maybe a Frisbee or two.

All this is to be pre-positioned at the retreat site. My car, a Cherokee, is a fine machine but its space is limited.

The ability to stave off boredom is as beneficial to good morale as a hot meal. In every backpack and survival kit I've ever assembled, no matter how small, I've reserved space for a deck of cards. This aroused some confusion at a survival course I took through the Army many moons ago. One of the instructors derisively asked why I wasted space on a deck of cards. I told him it was my "Personal Locator Beacon". The puzzled look on his and the other instructors' faces prompted the following response: "If I'm ever separated from my unit, alone and unsure where I am, I'll simply sit down and start playing a game of Solitaire. Within five minutes, someone will come along and point out that I need to play the Four of Diamonds on the Five of Clubs.".

It's not often you get grizzled old NCOs to laugh as loudly as they did.

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