Friday, June 26, 2009

Tropical depression forms in Gulf

This blogger, Eric Berger aka "SciGuy" of the Houston Chronicle, is my absolute best non-hype, calm and reasoned source for tropical weather knowledge. His liveblogging in the days leading to, during, and after Hurricane Ike was award-worthy.

Eric Berger reports on tropical wave forming in Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, June 25, 2009

German officials warn: swine flu may have mutated

Thanks to M.D. Creekmore over at the Survivalist Blog for the link:

German authorities warn of swine flu mutation risk

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's federal agency for infectious diseases said on Tuesday there were signs the H1N1 swine flu virus had started to mutate and warned it could spread in the coming months in a more aggressive form.

Experts were concerned about how the flu was developing in Australia and South America, said Joerg Hacker, head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

"It's possible the virus has mutated. In autumn the mutated form could spread to the northern hemisphere and back to Germany," Hacker told a news conference in Berlin.

The World Health Organization raised swine flu to pandemic status earlier this month. According to its latest figures, more than 230 people have been killed by the flu worldwide from 52,000 confirmed cases, mostly in the United States and Mexico.

Symptoms of swine flu are typically fairly mild, but doctors have said the virus could evolve into something more aggressive.

According to WHO figures, Germany has the third highest rate of swine flu infection in Europe with 275 confirmed cases.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the conference that Germany was as prepared as it could be for any surge in cases.

"We are in contact about it internationally," she said. "Now all we have to do is coordinate internationally who should be vaccinated and how we should do it, in case things get worse."

The WHO has advised governments to prepare for a long-term battle against the new pandemic it officially calls A(H1N1).

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said recently the virus is currently "pretty stable," but warned it could still change into a more deadly form, perhaps mixing with the H5N1 bird flu virus circulating widely in poultry.

I will note that the swine flu shows signs of behaving exactly as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic did: the Spanish Flu was a mild, late-appearing epidemic in the spring of that year, mutated into a more aggressive, lethal strain, and returned with a vengeance that fall.

I don't think it's cause for panic, but it does bear watching.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Unwritten System

This has only tangential applications to preparedness, if any, but it's so good, so classic, that it deserves to be better known than it is, and so I am sharing it with you.

The Inner Ring, by C. S. Lewis
". . . But you have met the phenomenon of an Inner Ring. You discovered one in your house at school before the end of the first term. And when you had climbed up to somewhere near it by the end of your second year, perhaps you discovered that within the Ring there was a Ring yet more inner, which in its turn was the fringe of the great school Ring to which the house Rings were only satellites. It is even possible that the School Ring was almost in touch with a Masters' Ring. You were beginning, in fact, to pierce through the skins of the onion. And here, too, at your university-shall I be wrong in assuming that at this very moment, invisible to me, there are several rings - independent systems or concentric rings-present in this room? And I can assure you that in whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down, you will find the Rings-what Tolstoy calls the second or unwritten systems."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Object Lesson in Preparedness

This is why everyone should have a go bag:

One Dead After Freight Train Derails Northwest of Chicago

The people living nearby had no idea when they woke up this morning that this would happen.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hannity Airs Segment on "Urban Survivalists"

This piece is interesting for the fact that it was aired at all. Seems there's a growing movement afoot...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interesting Items for EDC

Went shopping yesterday and found some really neat preparedness and EDC (every day carry) items that I thought I would share with you.

Envirosax - found at the FranklinCovey store, these polyester bags are strong and roomy enough to hold two plastic bags worth of groceries -- but roll up and button down to roughly the size of a golfball. You can get them in singles or purchase a pack of five with a pouch to hold them all -- the pouch fits comfortably at the bottom of my Tom Bihn Medium Cafe Bag. They are absolutely gorgeous and come in a range of beautiful prints.

Pocket.doc and Life.doc from Buttoned Up - the Pocket.doc from Buttoned up is the size of a tiny notebook, but unfolds like an accordion. Inside are forms for your emergency plan, emergency contacts, and medical information forms for each member of your family (up to four). It's a great item to include in your purse or EDC kit.

It's too big to EDC, but the maker of the Pocket.doc also makes the Life.doc Organizer, which is a large three-ring binder with sections to record and organize all of your important information -- legal, medical, financial, home, and caregiver info for elderly parents. Best of all for us anal-retentive types, it comes with a CD so that you can type your information into your PC and then feed the forms through your printer. Each divider tab has a pocket for storing loose sheets of paper, notes, business cards, and the like. This is a perfect item for a disaster kit or bug-out bag and I would go so far as to suggest that every family needs one of these. Available from FranklinCovey, Amazon, and any number of online stores.

Ironkey USB Drive - this USB drive is made to government specifications. It's rugged enough to carry on a keychain and sports an encryption algorithm that ensures that no one will be able to access the files on it without knowing the password. Some people EDC a flash drive like this one that holds files containing scanned copies of all their important documents -- birth certificate, passport, credit cards, insurance, ID, etc. I wish I liked the idea better, but realistically I think the applications for emergency use may be limited. If you truly need to show someone a copy of these items in an emergency, they probably are not going to have a laptop just sitting around ready for you to plug in the USB drive and pull up your information. Not to mention, in the event of an EMP attack, this thing and the things it plugs into won't be working no way, no how. The truth is, paper is an amazing technology that still hasn't been surpassed by all of our electronic wizardry.

It is a very cool toy, though. EDC it if you want, just don't rely on it in an emergency.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Melbourne Mayor Advises Residents, Visitors to Carry Go Bag

My God, a governmental official is actually encouraging personal responsibility!!!

Melbourne residents are being urged to have a bag of essential items - including a torch, soup and tissues - prepared in case of evacuation.

Releasing a new CBD emergency plan today, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said carrying a Go Bag made sense for workers and visitors to the city.

The new plan, to be sent out to the CBD's 20,000 residents and available on the City of Melbourne's website, includes mass evacuation to sites such as Etihad Stadium, the MCG and Exhibition Building in times of emergency.

Emergencies could range from earthquakes and terrorist attacks to floods or the heatwave experienced in Melbourne earlier this year.

Cr Doyle said he had a Go Bag already packed. "My first priority is to make sure people in the city are safe and they are prepared for any emergency or natural disaster," he said.

Items people should consider putting in their Go Bag include a small radio, torch, soup, basic first aid, any personal medicine, bottle of water, muesli bar, pack of batteries, jellybeans and tissues, the council said.

Makes sense. I imagine Australians have a preparedness mindset from birth. They live in a country whose natural climate and wildlife are inimical to humans.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Anatomy of a Bug Out Bag

So you want to build a bug out bag. No simple pre-assembled, commercially-available kits will do for you. (And for the record, I recommend building your own. You'll have complete freedom of choice for every item in the bag, ensuring its quality, usefulness, and most importantly, that you know it's even there in the first place.)

How to proceed?

Choosing the pack
You can use an old school or camping backpack, or buy a new one. I originally co-opted my old law school backpack, a Jansport, for this new duty. (I've since acquired more than it can hold, and upgraded to a 5.11 Tactical 72 RUSH pack.) I emptied it, put it through the washer with a tiny bit of soap, and hung it to dry in the shower overnight. The next day, it was ready to use.

If you are buying a bag new instead of using one on hand, take some care in selecting it. I would not recommend a duffel bag because of the uneven weight distribution. You need to be able to carry this pack hands-free for long distances if necessary. It needs to fit well -- if you are a small person, buy a mammoth-sized pack at your own peril. Also consider internal organization, such as pockets and dividers, and external organization, such as MOLLE and PALS attachment points that are available on tactical bags. Ask yourself if you want the bag to have a pouch for a hydration bladder like a CamelBak.

My pack presently weighs in at a doable 19 pounds. (I’m such a girl.) The general guideline for the amount of weight that you should carry in your pack for a multiday trip is up to 25 percent of your body weight. Obviously this varies with your size, weight, and physical condition. If you are older, have back problems, are not in good health, or for other reasons cannot carry a heavy pack, I would recommend that you look at assembling a smaller, lighter bag using a “lumbar pack” available from many outdoor equipment retailers. This is basically a larger, more rugged fanny pack. The obvious trade-off for the lighter size is that you will have to carry only the barest essentials, so choose your gear wisely. Regardless of the size and weight of your pack I recommend that you train with it -- try walking a mile in it and see how you hold up.

The conventional wisdom for a pack such as this is that it needs to supply all your needs for three days. For example, if an earthquake strikes, or there is a chemical spill near your home, this is a bag that you would grab from your closet or the trunk of your car in ten seconds while evacuating your home that would have everything you needed to get by for three days -- after which time presumably you will have been allowed to return home, or will have found refuge at a local shelter or with family and friends who are still in their homes. For myself, I carry more than this, as I anticipate that it will take at least a week if I have to hike home to my family should the major urban center where I live become uninhabitable.

Security concerns
As will quickly become apparent from perusing the list below, your pack will be a treasure trove of very valuable items, some expensive, and some inexpensive but still very sensitive. Your personal identification, any firearms, and the emergency cash are all items that any thief would be glad to have. You will have to make a personal choice about how and when to keep your bag with you. If you keep it in the trunk of your car, you will have it with or near you at nearly all times, which ensures that you will have it whenever the need arises. The trade off is that a thief who steals your car will also have the bag now and you will not only face the inconvenience of a stolen car but also identity theft.

Packing your bag
The list below looks extremely long, but in fact, most of these items are in my bag. Many of them take up very little space especially when compared to their utility or the degree of comfort they will offer in the event of an emergency.

Some simple guidelines will help you to pack your bag in an efficient manner. Try to keep the center of gravity close to your back, and not too high in the pack unless you are not going to encounter any steep or rough terrain. Frequently-accessed items, as long as they are not too large, go in outer pockets. For more detailed information on loading your pack depending upon your sex or the type of terrain, I suggest you consult The Backpacker's Field Manual by Rick Curtis.

Most items need to be sealed in plastic bags or Aloksaks to ensure they are kept dry in inclement weather; use your common sense as to what will not need to be waterproofed. Aside from the waterproofing issue, the plastic bags are useful for grouping categories of items together for organization and ease of access and for tight and efficient use of space, both inside the plastic bag and out of it.

Building in redundancy
For very critical items such as water, fire, and light, I recommend including redundant sources. This is so that if one tool breaks, you have a backup or alternate ready to go. The truly hard-core preparedness types use the acronym "PACE," which means Primary-Alternate-Contingency-Emergency, or having in mind four different ways to accomplish a task at all times. You may also see the phrase "three is two, two is one, one is none." Same idea.

Read the manual
If you carry any technically advanced or potentially hazardous items such as a camp stove, personal protection device, Leatherman tool, or any item whose operation and use is not intuitive for a five-year-old, make sure that you learn to operate the item immediately upon purchase and BEFORE putting it in your bag. An emergency is not the time to try and figure out how to use the thing.

Judgment calls
There are several items on this list that will require you to exercise your own independent moral judgment. The two major areas are, first, the issue of self-protection, where you will have to decide what type of weapon to carry and, second, for women, whether to carry a dose of Plan B to prevent pregnancy in the case of sexual assault. If you choose to do so, you should know that Plan B is available without a prescription at your local pharmacy, although you may need to ask the pharmacist for it. It is not a good idea to attempt to purchase it at the last minute because the local pharmacist may choose to exercise their right of conscience in refusing to dispense the drug, and you will have to find another source that will sell it to you.

If you choose to carry a firearm, please ensure that you obey all local and federal laws while doing so and are sufficiently trained and rehearsed in the safe and accurate operation of the gun. I do NOT recommend deciding not to carry any protection at all. You need to be able to defend yourself. How you do that is up to you.


This list is not exhaustive. Use your own sense when constructing your bag.

Emergency rations and ready-to-eat food items, 3 days
Optional: Camp stove or Jetboil personal cooking system, with fuel canister (will provide approximately 90 minutes of cooking time); for families, consider a Helios cooking system.
Optional: Fuel for campstove
Optional: long-term storage multivitamins, such as SuperSpectrim
Optional: Lifetabs or other survival/energy tabs

Emergency water packs, 3 days, plus extra if you have pets (see below)
Katadyn Ex-Stream XR personal water filter
Micropur water purification tablets

Emergency tube tent or tarp
Rain poncho
Emergency blanket

Tennis shoes or hiking boots
Socks, 3 pair
Underwear, 3 pair
crushable hat with brim, such as a boonie hat
Optional: one pair of jeans or other comfortable pants; one cotton t-shirt

LED headlamp, batteries stored separately
Small flashlight, batteries stored separately
Light sticks, 3

Wet wipes
Small toothbrush and toothpaste
Two large trash bags, to dispose of waste
Comb or brush
Mini rolls of toilet paper
Small microfiber towel, like Packtowl

Safety - choose at least one
Firearm with appropriate JHP (jacketed hollow point) ammunition, concealment holster, extra magazines, and small cleaning kit
Knife, fixed blade or folder with locking blade
Pepper (OC) spray
Taser C2

Survival Kit - I recommend the Doug Ritter version from Adventure Medical Kits.
Leatherman tool or utility knife (look for a blade at least 2 1/2 inches long)
100’ 550-lb paracord
Work gloves
Small waterproof notebook, such as Rite in the Rain, and pen or pencil
Detailed map of your local area
Detailed map of the route from your home to any “bug out” location, such as family in another city; with primary and alternate routes highlighted in different colors
$100 in cash, small bills only, plus roll of coins if desired
Photocopies of your ID, birth certificate, social security card, health insurance card
List of phone numbers and addresses of family, relatives, and friends (do not rely on your cell phone to provide this information; it may be dead or you may not have it with you)
Passport (or photocopy thereof)

Fire - choose two or three methods of firestarting
Waterproof matches
Kindling, such as Wetfire, cotton balls soaked in vaseline, or small bag of cotton-fiber dryer lint

First aid kit sufficient to deal with both "boo boos" and "trauma"
Supply of any critical prescription medications -- pack extra in case you are gone longer than three days
N95 or N100 respirator masks, 3 (one per day) (for dust and smoke)
Nitrile gloves
Lip balm w/SPF
Insect repellent towelettes
Optional: emergency surgical kit, CPR kit

Pets (per pet)
Food, 3 days’ worth, sealed in vacuum bags if possible
Water (see above)
Collapsible plastic food and water bowls
Copies of their most recent rabies shot and city license, if required
One dose of Advantage or other flea and worm preventative
Small toys

Nukalert personal radiation meter
Potassium iodide or potassium iodate tablets (thyroid radiation blocker) (for nuclear incidents)
N95 or N100 respirator masks, 3 (one per day) (for pandemics)
NBC-rated gas mask (for nuclear, chemical, biological attacks)

For ladies
Feminine hygiene products
Optional: Plan B, one dose, in case of sexual assault

Travel-size Bible, Torah, Qu’ran, etc.
Pack of playing cards

Hiding Your Preps: Hidden Door Bookshelf

Worried about thieves? What about jackbooted thugs confiscating your food supply? Worry no more. This gentleman shows you how to build a door hidden within a bookshelf.

Microsoft beta-testing "Vine" emergency contact service

Microsoft is in the initial beta-testing stages for a new service called "Vine." This software, described as a cross between Facebook and Twitter, allows participants to create groups of people such a family members, neighbors, or coworkers, and to broadcast updates to those people advising of emergency situations or to check in and let specific networks of people know that you are okay. Users also receive updates from others in their networks.

Additionally, the service maps out warning data and news information for the user's chosen geographic areas.

It's a neat idea, but it assumes that users (1) have access to the Internet in an emergency; (2) that the Internet is even functioning, which it won't be in the event of a cyberattack on our infrastructure or an EMP, and (3) that even if the Internet is available, people will have the time and inclination to micro-blog their status and whereabouts to their friends. This last point would be alleviated if you were able to access the service through your Blackberry or iPhone.

You can see more at

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hey, if it works for the squirrels...

This company sells kits to help you bury a cache of items to save them from confiscation, or to be planted intermittently along the route to your bug out location:

Preparedness Equipment

And they even give you instructions on how to make your own here, if you are so inclined.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WHO Raises Pandemic Alert to Level Six Over Swine Flu

From the AP (emphasis added):

GENEVA — The World Health Organization told its member nations it was declaring a swine flu pandemic Thursday — the first global flu epidemic in 41 years — as infections climbed in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere.

In a statement sent to member countries, WHO said it decided to raise the pandemic warning level from phase 5 to 6 — its highest alert — after holding an emergency meeting on swine flu with its experts.

The long-awaited pandemic decision is scientific confirmation that a new flu virus has emerged and is quickly circling the globe. It will trigger drugmakers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine and prompt governments to devote more money toward efforts to contain the virus.

“At this early stage, the pandemic can be characterized globally as being moderate in severity,” WHO said in the statement, urging nations not to close borders or restrict travel and trade. “(We) remain in close dialogue with influenza vaccine manufacturers.”

On Wednesday, WHO said 74 countries had reported nearly 27,737 cases of swine flu, including 141 deaths.

The agency has stressed that most cases are mild and require no treatment, but the fear is that a rash of new infections could overwhelm hospitals and health authorities — especially in poorer countries.

Still, about half of the people who have died from swine flu were previously young and healthy — people who are not usually susceptible to flu.

Swine flu is also continuing to spread during the start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Normally, flu viruses disappear with warm weather, but swine flu is proving to be resilient.

The last pandemic — the Hong Kong flu of 1968 — killed about 1 million people. Ordinary flu kills about 250,000 to 500,000 people each year.

Many health experts say WHO’s pandemic declaration could have come weeks earlier but the agency became bogged down by politics. In May, several countries urged WHO not to declare a pandemic, fearing it would cause social and economic turmoil.

“This is WHO finally catching up with the facts,” said Michael Osterholm, a flu expert at the University of Minnesota who has advised the U.S. government on pandemic preparations. Despite WHO’s hopes, raising the epidemic alert to the highest level will almost certainly spark some panic about spread of swine flu.

Fear has already gripped Argentina, where thousands of people worried about swine flu flooded into hospitals this week, bringing emergency health services in the capital of Buenos Aires to the brink of collapse. Last month, a bus arriving in Argentina from Chile was stoned by people who thought a passenger on it had swine flu. Chile has the most swine flu cases in South America. In Hong Kong on Thursday, the government ordered all kindergartens and primary schools closed for two weeks after a dozen students tested positive for swine flu — a move that some flu experts would consider an overreaction.

In the United States, where there have been more than 13,000 cases and at least 27 deaths from swine flu, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the move would not change how the U.S. tackled swine flu.

“Our actions in the past month have been as if there was a pandemic in this country,” Glen Nowak, a CDC spokesman, said Thursday.

The U.S. government has already taken steps like increasing availability of flu-fighting medicines and authorizing $1 billion for the development of a new vaccine against the novel virus. In addition, new cases seem to be declining in many parts of the country, U.S. health officials say, as North America moves out of its traditional winter flu season.

Still, Osterholm said the declaration was a wake-up call for the world.

“I think a lot of people think we’re done with swine flu, but you can’t fall asleep at the wheel,” he said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 6 to 12 months.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Two foods you won't want to face the apocalypse without

.... can you guess what they are?


And butter.

No food storage program would be complete without them. ;)

Free Books Available for Download

Some very valuable resources, free of charge -- be sure to print them out. They will do you no good sitting encoded as a string of ones and zeroes on your hard drive when the power goes out.

It's worthwhile to take your printed materials to Kinko's and have them bound. I usually ask for wire/spiral binding, with a clear vinyl cover and a black vinyl backing. It looks great and costs just a few dollars.
Get the full list of available titles here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot....

Here's a startling view into the deranged mind of a man, Philip Slater, who thinks that Republicans and Talibani share the same worldview (published in the Huffington Post):

How the Republican Base Differs from the Taliban
by Philip Slater

The right-wing Republican base and the Taliban share many values. Both are fanatical, misogynistic, homophobic, intolerant, and religious. Both claim ancient volumes to be the word of God, although in fact they cherry-pick out of contradictory passages those they wish to espouse and ignore the rest. And what they choose to espouse is not the spiritual message of these books, but rather the oppressive, authoritarian, primitive cultures from which these books emerged, and against which they were sometimes directed.

Ironically, the affection that gentlemen of this persuasion hold for the written word seems to have dried up the moment they finished reading the volume of their choice, since they appear to be full of loathing for anything written since. They are fanatical censors and book-burners, and would probably have blacked out large chinks of their own religious texts had they ever read them carefully.

Both groups are implicitly anti-child as well as anti-woman. They favor beatings as the foundation of childrearing, and are profoundly mistrustful of the creativity and spontaneity of children.

But there are profound tactical differences between the two groups. While both have violent tendencies (those American states with the highest rates of violent crimes, for example, also have the highest concentrations of fundamentalists), the violence among the base Republicans is restricted to a few crazed homophobes, anti-abortionists, and misogynists. The Taliban, on the other hand, view slaughter as their default weapon against any doctrinal deviation. In other words, while in fundamentalist America only a deranged few carry out what the many would like to do, among the Taliban the many carry out what the deranged few order them to do.

Of all the values shared by the two groups, for example, the most profound is their loathing for education. Yet here's where the difference between them manifests itself most clearly. The Taliban deal with their hatred in a straightforward, primitive manner: they blow up schools, and murder young girls who attend them. The Republican base is subtler, more complex. They starve the educational system by refusing to pay taxes. They ban books from libraries that might get children thinking. They get on school boards to ensure that children learn only obedience and are never exposed to anything that might engender creativity, imagination or original thought. They pressure textbook publishers not to print facts they don't like. In some parts of the U.S. they've been as successful as the Taliban in fostering ignorance and blind conformity with much less expenditure of energy.

Violence has never been an effective long-range strategy.

Now that you're angry, channel that energy into doing something productive, like writing your Congressional representatives expressing your unconditional support for Israel or adding to your food storage. When the day comes and all society has fallen apart (which with our current President seems more likely every day), you can dangle an MRE and some bottled water in the face of someone like Mr. Slater and ask him what he thinks of people like you now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

North Korea preparing to launch ICBM capable of hitting Alaska

Fox News reports the story here.

It is not currently thought, however, that North Korea has perfected the technology needed to miniaturize a nuclear bomb to the point of arming a missile with it. But who really knows?

More Online Resources and Bug Out Bag Retailers

Sometimes, you think you've tapped out all the available information about a topic, and then you hit a new breakthrough that opens up a whole new wealth of information. Last week's discovery was the post over at Ferfal's Surviving in Argentina blog about the EDC Forums (EDC = every day carry), a group of people who pay a great deal of attention to what particular items they carry with them every single day, and how they carry them.

As if that community wasn't awesome enough, it yielded a harvest of great new sites carrying preparedness gear:


Survival Resources - nice online emergency gear store.

First Aid:

Rescue Essentials - great first-aid items, with "modules" specialized for different purposes -- foot care, bandaging, wound care, airway management, trauma, pandemic, immobilizing, wound prep, etc.

Red Flare Kits - more great first-aid kits and general survival gear. - carries individually-packaged single doses of medications and other items.

Bags and Backpacks:

County Comm - reasonably priced "tactical" (or is that, "tacti-cool"?) nylon bags, featuring MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) attachments to endlessly customize your bag, and lots of internal compartments to organize your emergency gear. Don't miss the EOD Utility Bag, Bail Out Bag, and Diplomat Pocket Organizer.

Maxpedition - the great granddaddy of all tactical nylon (with prices to match), this company makes rugged, well-nigh indestructible survival packs in all shapes and sizes, some of which include concealed-carry compartments. I particularly like the FR-1 Pouch for first aid kits, Neatfreak Organizer, EDC Pocket Organizer, Multi-Purpose Bag and Tactical Attache series (small ("last resort"), medium ("operator"), and large ("aggressor"), see picture at right).

Spec Ops - more tactical nylon. I've got my eye on the Pack Rat Organizer (see picture at left).

Mil Spec Monkey - has some very nice tactical gear like the Stealth Utility/Admin Pouch, but I really love it for its morale patches. Time to dress up that bug out bag! (Not Safe for Work; some of the patches contain adult language/content.)

Bags for Professionals, Urbanites, and Girly-Girls:

Tom Bihn - great selection of preppy, colorful messenger bags and laptop bags that don't scream "Survivalist!" See especially the Cafe Bags (see picture at below left) (small, medium, and large) and the Imago laptop bag. The Cafe Bags don't have as much internal organization as the "tactical" bags, but you could customize them to suit your needs, or you could simply stick one of the pocket organizers or smaller pouches from Maxpedition, County Comm, or Spec Ops into the bag. The Imago, on the other hand, has plenty of pockets and dividers to spare.

Waterfield - the Cargo, Cozmo, and Sling Bags are definitely worth a look. Waterfield also carries a great selection of small "gear pouches" for your sensitive electronics, like iPods and digital cameras.

Some of these bags are expensive, so it's worth checking out eBay to see if there are any deals (there frequently are).