High Threat Protection Training

Ever since September 11, 2001 many civilians as well as military and government members have found themselves going through more and more unique survival training. This type of training prepares the individual to escape situations that they may find themselves in in urban and non-urban environments. These are called High Threat Protection training or HTP’s. Much of this training involves preparing for situations before they occur if possible. B they were embedded with the military many journalists went through such training in case they’re separated from their security detail. The difference is they are not armed. As often the case the quality of high stress threat environment training depends on the organization that provides the training as well as the amount of time the individual is allowed.

The scenario I’ll walk you through is a standard HTP scenario, and it will cover single individual as well as a team of two. The important thing to remember is that although this form of training is very involved, the situation that you may find yourself in can be very unpredictable, scary, and fast pace. In high threat environments your enemy knows the area and their capabilities better than you and of course this depends on the region of the world you’re in. As an example, Russia and former Eastern Block countries had security service members that follow individuals on a moment by moment basis, however other countries such as Latin America and the Middle East have organized groups that control certain areas so they already know when foreigners have arrived and what their plans are, as well as who they work for. Let’s start with a Latin American or Middle Eastern situation.

Let’s begin. For this scenario we will say that you were provided a car from the consulate or embassy. Many times this vehicle will be either a large sedan or a pick up truck similar to a Toyota Land Cruiser. These vehicles are seen all over the world and are very common among indigenous people as well as those working in these countries from NGO’s or government agencies. If for some reason you know that there is a high probability that you and your partner could be stopped at either a checkpoint or indiscriminately while traveling through a small town on your way to your extraction point, you have a few options to up-armor your vehicle that could buy you time or save your life during an escape.

Preparing Your Vehicle

Many times you will have what is called body armor issued to you in High Threat Environments. This is similar to a vest jacket that covers your vital organs as well as your spine. The Achilles’ heel to body armor, unless you specifically purchase a specialized protective vest, are the sides which are exposed as the driver his or her hands on the steering wheel. So we need to prepare the vehicle with materials we have around us.

One option if you’re able to find a place to work on your vehicle for at least 30 minutes to an hour is simple. Remove any impeding doorframe cover from the top of your door, at the base of the window. If you’re able to find some form of digging tools such as a shovel dig deep until you find moist soil. Sand will simply pour through the door and not allow much protection as you drive. However, soil has enough dampness to keep the dirt compacted together in the doorframe. Fill and pack both the driver and passenger doors as best as you can while trying to keep the bottom of the door sealed in any way to prevent the loss of the dirt. You are, in simple terms, making a sand bag in the shape of a door.

The Weapons You May Come Against

The most common assault rifle in the world is a Kalashnikov or AK-47 which fires a 7.62 caliber round. This is an accurate and very deadly munition. What you are trying to do is divert or slow the energy of the round as much as possible either away from you, to your side or below you. A 7.62 round will cut through a normal door, on a continuous path or while tumbling through to the passengers door. You need to divert its energy. Vehicle movement also helps, the forward moving vehicle also will deflect the energy of a straight shot. Another very effective form of improvised armor for your vehicle is duct tape phonebooks or any thick bound material. If you’re only able to find clothing lay it flat as though you’re packing it folded in half and then half again on itself and begin to roll it tightly and then bind it in rolls with duct tape. Perform this over and over again until you’re able to create the dimensions large enough to cover the inside of your door panel.

For each separate section tightly roll duct tape as though you were creating separate logs for a raft. Then put each row together and cover all of the rolls tightly with bound duct tape to make one semisolid mat. The better option, is to use phonebooks bound tightly in duct tape. I have seen phonebooks that are properly prepared along a door panel absorb a 9 mm round when shot through the door. The standard AR or automatic rifle fires a 5.56 round. This round can also be stopped if fired through a moving vehicle door, into the packed soil and ending in the duct taped bundle. Of course this depends on the distance from the shot to the door. The windows on both the drivers side and passenger side break instantly on impact, this is a safety measure to allow emergency responders to enter a vehicle that has been in an accident and the passengers need to be removed. The front and rear glass is non shattering glass meant to keep shards of glass from causing grave damage in case of an accident. If for some reason you are shooting from the front seat, the trajectory of the bullet will change significantly due to the curvature of the window.

If someone is directly in front of you with a weapon, let’s say 20 feet away you will need to shoot lower then a direct shot on the target. You are attempting to compensate for the angle of the glass and redirect the round upward. This inevitably will be what is called “effective fire”. This means that it is intended to make the individual in front of you move, duck or miss his shot. Trust me when I say that firing accurately form a moving vehicle is very hard without the obstruction of non-shattering glass.

Defeating and Navigating a Minimally Protected Checkpoint

If you were not being pursued and you come upon a checkpoint the best advice is to act as natural as you can muster while you slow the vehicle before the checkpoint stop. If you are in a manual vehicle the driver will shift the vehicle into a lower gear, such as 2nd or 3rd gear approximately 15 feet before the actual stop. Make sure to remain calm and do not display any form of agitation if possible. Just before you come to the check point stop, be it a another vehicle, 50 gallon drums, or an improvised gate push the brakes enough to cause your vehicle to dip down under the weight of the engine. The second you do this gun your engine which will cause the opposite effect of raising the front of the car as high as possible. This momentum will bring the front of The car high enough to engage with the rear of a blocking car causing it to spin as if on an axis far enough to allow you to pass quickly. Do not attempt this with the front of a checkpoint vehicle as the weight of the engine will negate the energy of your vehicle bring you to a stop. The breaking also gives the security at the checkpoint a sense of control as well as comfort that you are complying. This will buy you 2 to 3 seconds before they can react. These 2 to 3 seconds can save your life, but the action of defeating this checkpoint requires calm, preparation and commitment.

Exiting a Downed the Vehicle

This portion of the scenario involves being stuck either in traffic or with a down vehicle that will not get you to your extraction point. Depending on which side of the vehicle you may come in contact with gunfire the driver or the passenger will have to return fire while declaring “contact right!” or “contact left!”. We will assume for the scenario that the gunfire is coming from the passenger side. In this situation the passenger will return fire allowing the driver to exit the vehicle and move to the rear of the vehicle. A very important point of returning gunfire while covering your partner while they are moving is to make the spread of gun shots sporadic. This allows an unpredictable stream of fire which will keep your enemy unsure of when to show themselves and return fire. After the driver comes to the rear of the vehicle he or she will begin to engage the enemy, while yelling “ready!” for the passenger to know to prepare to move, and then followed with the command “move!” This gives the passenger the chance to remove any obstacles near them unhook your safety belt or simply slide across the seat while taking cover to exit the vehicle.

Once the passenger has exited the vehicle he or she will move to the front of the vehicle keeping your body concealed as best they can with the tires at their feet. The engine, axel and wheels provide terrific protection from the enemy but the passenger will have to cover the driver using the same commands of “ready!” and “move!” to allow the driver to run, while under cover fire. The driver will take a second to assess the next best protected area to move to, this could be a building or anything that provides cover. The process of Covering and moving will continue until both you and your passenger have found shelter. Bear in mind that this could also mean “acquiring” another vehicle that could already have passengers in it.

Making It Out Alive

The purpose all of these forms of High Threat Protection and threat environment training simply to give you the tools and understandings to get out of the situation alive. Every situation is different and cannot be thoroughly prepared for, but knowing ways of understanding the situation and preparing for the worst can save your life as well as your partner. Remember, movement is key. Move, move, move! Static positions are great ways to die in the field. Also knowing what you have around you that can aid in an escape is key. Changing your appearance, changing vehicles, changing direction are all keys to survival. The point is to never stop and engage the enemy; your only plan is escape and live to die another day.

Marcos Sean

Read More


Dick had told me to clap my hands if I wanted anything. The next morning, awakened by a mild earthquake that rattled the hotel like a dice-box, I did this until I got bored with it and then padded downstairs and, in sign-language and pidgin English, extracted a promise of breakfast from the bowing and giggling maid. She was so amused and happy about everything that I was at once filled with a good humor which remained with me for the rest of my stay in Japan. I even got to like my idiotic, damnable pretty little room, and somehow learned to contort my limbs into a painful approximation to the lotus position on the many occasions when I had to eat meals off foot-high tables. All in all, I can warmly recommend the Fukudaya Inn (it means, for what that is worth, “Rich Rice-Field”), not far from the British Embassy, May its dwarf pine trees never grow smaller!

So speaks Ian Fleming of Tokyo in his book Thrilling Cities. Good day, Being James Bond listeners, this is Gorodish, Serge Gorodish. Today I’d like to talk about visiting Tokyo. I’m not out to be a human guidebook here, but rather to pass on a few tips from my personal experience.

Tokyo is an amazing, sprawling hive of activity—truly one of the world’s great cities. The most important sight to see in Tokyo is Tokyo itself. Frankly, if it’s temples and antiquities you want, go to Kyoto instead. Tokyo is also, like all Japanese cities, a very safe place to visit and welcoming to visitors. Most Japanese people are scrupulously honest and helpful.

You may have heard that Tokyo is an insanely expensive city. In my experience it need not be so, although offering plenty of opportunities to splurge. Tokyo is much more doable on a modest budget than New York, for example. It’s a matter of knowing where to look.

For example, you can get a room at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku for about 500US$ a night, and I’m sure you’ll have a terrific time.

Or you can get a double room with a private bath in a clean, safe, family-run Japanese inn for about $100 a night. This is cheaper than a hotel room in my home town. And a Japanese inn becomes part of the Japan experience. I myself would even skip the private bath because using a communal bath is very Japan. Don’t worry, you won’t be bathing with strangers unless you go down the street to a public bath. Search the Web for “Japanese Inn in Tokyo” and see what comes up.

As a rule of thumb, one yen is slightly more than one cent American. So convert Japanese prices to US dollars by knocking off two zeroes and bumping up a little. Japanese use cash much more than Americans do. You are likely to see a fair number of 10,000-yen bills floating around whereas few in the U.S. use $100 bills.

Likely you will be arriving at Narita airport. From here to the city is still over an hour’s trek. Options abound. Don’t take a taxi unless you have serious money to burn. The Narita Express is a dedicated rail line that will take you from Narita to Tokyo station, from which you can take a taxi or commuter rail. For the return trip, you might be able to catch a bus that will take you directly to the airport. Ask at your hotel.

By the way, tipping is unknown in Japan, in restaurants, taxis, etc. Attempting to tip will most likely do no more than confuse people.

On the other hand, you might luck out and fly into the older Haneda airport, which is much closer into town.

Let’s start with an overview of the city layout. One Tokyo paradox is that the emptiest part of town is the city center, which consists of over a square mile of Imperial palace grounds. I’ve never done the tour, which requires advance application for permission, but by all means walk up and take a look from the outside. You will see a wide moat with a massive rock wall on the other side, and glimpse mysterious buildings beyond.

The 20-mile Yamanote commuter rail line runs in a lumpy circle with the Imperial Palace at the center. We can use this to keep track of the city layout. Starting at the 3:00 position on the Yamanote line, we have the Tokyo rail station. Chances are good you visited here on the way in from the airport. The station is located a few blocks east of the palace grounds. Tokyo station is also where you would likely catch the bullet train if you plan on traveling elsewhere in Japan.

The Marunouchi district lying between the palace and the station consists mostly of banks and offices and offers little to the traveler.

However, from Tokyo station walk a few blocks south and a few blocks east, that is, outward from the Yamanote line, and find yourself in one of my favorite spots on earth. This is the Ginza district, shown in the first few scenes of Tokyo from You Only Live Twice.

Make sure to come here in the evening. Japanese cities are generally concrete jungles by day but become neon palaces at night.

Fortunately, since Japan doesn’t use Daylight Saving Time, it gets dark early even in the summer. Be sure to close your hotel room drapes, or be wakened by the sun at 4:30 a.m.

Even the mood of Tokyoites changes from day to night. I once heard that the speed at which urban dwellers walk is strongly predicted by city size. Tokyo certainly fits this pattern. Visit a rail station during the day, especially at rush hour, and see commuters stressed and literally almost running to make it to the office. Step out on the street at 9:00 in the evening, and it’s like a different place. People are smiling and relaxed, out for a good time.

The Ginza is a place for trendy (and pricey) shopping by day. In the evening, visit a bar or coffee shop. But my favorite activity here is just to walk down the street and take it all in. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

Either in the Ginza or elsewhere, be sure to visit a Japanese department store. These are still palaces of consumerism—up to ten floors filled with consumer products.

Department stores also offer useful options for budget eating. Make your way to the topmost floor. This generally provides a series of small restaurants. Most have a display case with plastic models of food and prices, so you can have a good idea of what to order before you walk in the door.

For an even thriftier eating option, make your way to the department store’s bottom floor, where groceries are sold, including prepared foods such as tempura and sushi. Carry some back to eat in your room. Make sure to stop in the corner bake shop, where you can get rolls, some with skinny sausages baked right in, pastries, and cakes. Japanese cakes are exquisitely fashioned and not overly sweet.

For a surreal experience, show up at a department store right when the doors open in the morning. As you walk through the store, every store clerk you pass will solemnly bow and greet you with “Irasshaimase.”

Now let’s take a ride on the Yamanote line, heading clockwise, that is, south from Tokyo station at the 3:00 position. Around at the 9:00 position, west of the palace grounds, is spacious Yoyogi Park, containing the Meiji shrine within. It’s actually more of a verdant forest than a park. Here’s your chance to escape the heat and bustle of the streets and taste the traditional side of Japan.

Also at the 9:00 position, but much closer to the center of town, is one of the all-time great Bond locations to visit: the 5-star New Otani hotel. You might even want to stay here; I see rooms are going for less than $200 a night.

In You Only Live Twice, the New Otani plays the role of Osato Chemicals headquarters. Check out the north side of the building and you’ll see the unmistakable boomerang shape. The circular structure atop the building is the rotating Sky restaurant. Although much taller buildings have gone up in Tokyo you still get a great view of the city. The hotel is huge and contains many other restaurants, both western and Asian. One of my favorites is Trader Vic’s, with a Polynesian theme. Check out the hotel garden as well.

Returning to the Yamanote line, let’s travel one station past Yoyogi. Now you’re at Shinjuku, a major city center and home to Tokyo’s skyscrapers.

The Shinjuku station itself is a marvel, a massive three-dimensional maze, melding into the Keio department store atop. I have yet to succeed in traveling the same path through the station twice.

If you plan to meet someone in Shinjuku, a good rendezvous point is the south exit to the station, which is large, open, and easy to find.

I never visit Tokyo without making a trip to the New York Grill on the 52nd floor of the Shinjuku Park Hyatt hotel. Yes, you heard me right, that’s the New York Grill. Switching films for a minute, this restaurant figures prominently in the movie Lost in Translation. Great food in a beautiful large space with the lights of Tokyo stretching out to the horizon. Now this is definitely a splurge—plan on at least 100$US per person exclusive of alcohol.

Shinjuku also has the Tokyo City Hall, a twin pair of skyscrapers.

This is my A-list of Tokyo sights, but the B-list has plenty to offer. Other city centers such as Ikebukuro, Ueno, and Shinagawa. Shibuya, site of some awesome driving in the Tokyo Drift movie. Asakusa, offering a unique faux-traditional shopping arcade leading to the Tohongan temple, and nearby Kappabashi, where you can buy some of that plastic food you’ve seen in the restaurants. The Kanda district, famed for its bookstores. Omote Sando, the so-called “Champs Elysées of Japan.” Day trips to the Ghibli museum, or to the beach town of Kamakura with its giant bronze Buddha.

Finally, let me close with a note about culture. Bond always fits in smoothly wherever he goes. In Japan, the single most useful thing you can learn is to practice bowing naturally and gracefully. A bow can say hello, good-bye, thank you, you’re welcome, etc. Well-timed bows have gotten me out of some sticky situations.

That sums it up for this brief introduction. I hope you have an awesome trip. Maybe I’ll run into you there. So, until next time, this is Serge Gorodish, reminding you to keep living like James Bond.

Read More

Prepping for Skydiving

“He didn’t even say, “Goodbye!” If you see how often James Bond gets thrown from an airplane, you might wonder if he ever considered actual skydiving training! But other films, like The Living Daylights, shows that Bond knows what he’s doing. Let’s discuss what you need to know to prep for your first time skydiving!

What is skydiving, and why do people do it?

So without any flourish, what exactly is skydiving? Skydiving is a sport where people, either solo or in groups, wear parachutes and jump out of an aircraft — usually between 3,500 and 13,500 feet above the ground (AGL). After spending a certain amount of time in free fall and hopefully accomplishing what they set out to do (about sixty seconds from 13,000 feet), they deploy their parachutes and return safely to the ground. While it’s true that your first jump will be little more than falling straight down, once you develop some basic air skills, you can literally learn to fly your body in the sky and pull off some heart pounding, amazing things on your own or in a group.

Of course, if you haven’t made up your mind to actually go on a jump, you’re undoubtedly wondering why you would ever want to risk life and limb to do such a thing. You’re wondering what on Earth would ever possess someone to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

The answer to that question differs with every jumper. A lot of people simply make one jump because it’s on their bucket list. Others love the idea of being able to fly like a bird, or they just enjoy the challenge. Some use it as a method for personal growth or empowerment. Some love the adrenaline rush. The reasons go on and on. But there’s one thing that’s a constant for everyone: the sport is addicting (some call it legal crack), and it has forever changed both their lives and the way they see the world.

Isn’t skydiving dangerous?

You’ve probably had that thought multiple times, and chances are, it comes either right before or after, I can’t believe I’m even remotely considering this. The answer is, yes it’s dangerous. You’re hurling yourself at the ground at 120 mph and trusting a bunch of fabric to slow you down enough so you don’t turn into a pancake. If you don’t think that’s dangerous, then do every skydiver a favor and don’t get in the air. No one wants to be taken out by some idiot that doesn’t respect the sport.

Now before you run for the hills and scream, “I knew it! You’ll never get me to jump!” consider this: The world is dangerous. Aside from natural things like fires, floods, disease, etc. that can take anyone out without warning, we do things all the time that are downright crazy (and deadly). We zip along highways at sixty, seventy, eighty miles per hour in multi-ton vehicles without a second thought. We shoot across the country in jets without batting an eye. We swim in water that has all sorts of things that would love to take a bite out of us. And if you really want to put some hard facts to it, you’ve got a better chance of dying in a car wreck, cycling, running, or swimming than you do making a jump. Believe it or not, even tennis is only marginally safer (compiled statistics available at: http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/risk/sports.html).

So, in short, while the sport is dangerous – especially if not respected – it is actually less dangerous than things you likely already do every day without a second thought. The only reason you think skydiving is insane is because it’s a sport that’s completely alien to you. And that’s okay. It’s normal.

What should I wear?

No matter what sort of jump you are doing, be it your first or your thousandth, always wear something that you’re comfortable in and don’t mind getting dirty. On a hot day, you might want to wear shorts and a t-shirt, or if it’s cold outside, pants and a long-sleeve shirt would be fine as well. So men, leave the tailored suit at home, and ladies, even if that outfit looks really cute and does a fantastic job of slenderizing your hips, unless you’re okay with the possibility of it being torn, ripped, or soaked, leave it in the closet. While 99.99% of landings are uneventful, they aren’t always stand-ups (that is, landing on your feet as opposed to hitting the ground and falling over). Even the most seasoned pro has to butt-slide one in from time to time. Those landings don’t hurt, but as you can imagine, they aren’t friendly on what you’re wearing either.

Lastly, on what to wear, remember this rule: Wear sneakers. Always. No boots. No sandals. No flip flops. No bare feet. And no heels. Wear sneakers, or…wear sneakers.

Do I need to be super-fit?

Like most things in life, the better overall health you are in, the better. Physically speaking, if you are anywhere near being height-weight appropriate and in good health, you should have no troubles whatsoever. Drop zones (also known as DZs) usually have weight limits due to a variety of things like who their instructors are, equipment fitting, etc. and the limits usually start around 240-250 pounds. If you happen to be over the limit, don’t fret. These aren’t hard numbers, and the drop zone can often work with you.

If you have any serious physical limitations or ailments, be sure to let the drop zone know. This is for everyone’s safety, and don’t be too quick to think that anything in particular will keep you from jumping. People who are amputees, paraplegics, quadriplegics, or even blind, have all successfully made – and enjoyed – numerous jumps. As long as you’re over eighteen years old and breathing, it’s worth seeing if they’ll take you up no matter how badly out of shape you may feel you are.

What will the actual jump like?

Succinctly? It will be the best thing you’ve ever done.

In terms of a more detailed answer, this is usually how it goes for most people: The first thing you want to do is find a DZ. At this point in the game, your only real concern should be whether or not they are a member of the United States Parachute Association (the USPA is available online at: http://www.uspa.org/). They are the organization that helps regulate and govern the sport in the United States. They also happen to be the same group that issues licenses to skydivers. If you are outside the United States, find out who the equivalent is for your country.

Once you have a DZ in mind, you’ll want to decide on what type of first dive you want to do, and there are three basic types from which to choose:

Tandem Skydive – This is the most popular first dive by far. You will be strapped to an expert instructor who has at a bare minimum, 500 jumps (and in reality, probably has thousands). This type of jump is the easiest to accomplish. There are only fifteen minutes of ground school needed before you go up in the air since all you really need to do is smile for the camera. Your instructor will ensure you land safely. As an added bonus, it’s also usually the cheapest, and should run you about $200.

Accelerated Free Fall (aka AFF) – If you go this route, you’ll get to do everything. After six to eight hours of ground school where they will teach you the ins and outs of skydiving, you will be required to check and put on your own equipment, jump out of the airplane, deploy your parachute, and safely land the canopy. If you’d rather be the driver rather than the passenger of a racecar, this is the way to do it. But don’t worry; you will be supervised the entire time. Aside from ground school, you will have two instructors that will fly next to you during freefall on the off chance you need a little assistance. Because of the added training required, and the fact that two instructors are going up with you instead of one, the cost is usually more than a tandem dive, and you can expect to pay about $300 for the first jump. Subsequent AFF jumps (to work on your license) go down considerably in cost.

Static line / IAD (Instructor Assisted Deployment) – Whereas AFF jumpers start learning to jump from about 13,000 feet, if you choose the Static line method, you’ll start learning from much lower altitudes as there is no free-fall component in the beginning. What you will do is jump out of the plane with a line attached so that once you are clear of the plane, your parachute immediately opens. There’s still a hefty ground school to go through since you still have to land your own canopy, but it’s an option that some people find appealing and some instructors swear by. Cost wise, you’re probably looking at something in between the Tandem and AFF options. Though it will vary from DZ to DZ, it will probably be around $250 for your first static line jump.

If you aren’t sure which method you’d like to use, or if you have questions, call the DZ and ask what they recommend. And speaking of calling the DZ, you’ll also want to call them to make an appointment for your first dive. Like any business, drop zones can get busy, so having a reservation can mean the difference between jumping within the hour you arrive, or sitting around waiting all day as those who made reservations get to go ahead of you.

Once you have your appointment, you’ll find your nerves mounting as Jump-day draws near. Even if you’re excited about skydiving, when you actually get to the DZ, you’ll find that you’re more nervous than you had expected to be. After all, you’re about to knock on the Reaper’s door and take off running before he can answer.

You might grow quiet. Most people do. You might talk a lot. You might pace about and avoid everyone. But one thing is for certain: all the veteran jumpers will smile and know firsthand exactly what you’re going through.

At some point, you’ll need to check in with manifest, as it’s generally a good idea to do that when you first arrive. Manifest is the office where the drop zone coordinates all of the jumps for the day. There you will be required to fill out paper work, and after that, they will send you off for some basic training.

About twenty minutes before your plane takes off, you will put on your equipment. For tandem students, this is simply slipping into a harness with straps that go over the shoulders, around the chest, and around each leg. Each harness has four clips to it as well, and these clips are what keep the student attached to the instructor. They may look small, but each one can hold two and a half tons. Yes, that means all four together could hold an elephant without coming close to breaking.

Aside from the harness, you will also be given a pair of goggles, and a helmet if you so desire. If you’re not doing a tandem jump, you will also put on your rig (that’s the backpack looking thing that holds your main and reserve parachutes) as well as an altimeter (which tells you how high you are and can be handy). As a purely optional thing, you can also put on a jumpsuit which is worn over the clothes you have on.

The plane will probably be packed with other eager and excited skydivers. Generally, it will take about ten to fifteen minutes for it to climb to altitude. Unfortunately, there will be no peanuts, refreshments, or in flight movies for you to enjoy. But the view from the windows is always nice. So relax as best you can and take a gander at everything you’re flying over. A few minutes before it’s time to jump, your instructor will do one final gear check and make sure that you are both good to go.

When the plane finishes its climb, it will level off, and you will hear a noticeable drop in pitch in its engines. At this point, you will be on what’s called “jump run.” Jump run is the portion of flight where the plane flies as slow as possible over the target area, and as the name suggests, skydivers jump out.

Jump run is also when some idiot will open the door to the plane, and that, my friend, is the moment where it all comes together. Cold wind will roar past your ears, and just a few feet away, where the door used to be, you’ll see the open sky above and the dark ground far below. Life will never seem more real than what’s going on in that very moment, and you’ll be convinced Death is next to you, smiling, maybe even tapping you on the shoulder. Before you’re ready, your instructor will bring you to the door and after a brief count of, “Ready! Set! Go!” you both will jump out.

Hands down, the hardest part of any first skydive is getting out the door. Once you do that, once you conquer that fear, the rest is pure bliss. It will be like a switch in your brain flips and you go from stark terror to pure elation. You’ll only have the sensation of falling for about a second or two, after which, you’ll be completely weightless. Wind will rush past your ever smiling face. And although on some level, you know you’re falling, it won’t look like it at all. From two and a half miles up, the human eye can’t tell that the ground is approaching. As such, your brain will (mostly) be convinced that you’re floating in air. But more importantly, you’ll love every minute of it.

At around 5,000 feet above the ground, you or your instructor will deploy the main parachute. It takes about three seconds for the chute to fully inflate, and for many people, those three seconds feel like a lifetime. But once it’s open, you’ll feel an upward snatch. After that, it’s usually a three to five minute canopy ride back to the ground, depending on what you want to do. Some people want to gently float down and take in the scenery, while others would rather whip around the sky like they were on a roller coaster. It’s up to you what sort of canopy ride you’d enjoy.

When you get back to Earth, you’ll have a story to tell for the rest of your life. You’ll also be grinning from ear-to-ear because your brain will be swimming in an Olympic-sized pool of endorphins — and that’s a high you won’t come down from for a week. You’ll recount your experience to anyone and everyone that will listen with the fervor and excitement that only a madman could match. Most importantly of all, you’ll understand exactly why skydivers do what they do. From that day forth, whenever someone asks, “Why would you ever do that?” all you’ll be able to do is smile and say, “You’ve got to try it to really find out.”

Read More

Strict Rules of Golf

“Shall we make it a shilling a hole?”

It is easy to understand why so many men around the world, are in love with the game of golf! Ask those who love the game and they will tell you that golf is the finest sport in the world. The following is a summary of the most common answers given by people when asked why they love golf:

It’s Light Exercise
– The average golf game ranging over 18 holes usually lasts over a couple of hours when played outdoors. This is a great opportunity to take in some fresh air and sunshine for people who are unenthusiastic about gym-ing. While golf may not pace your heartbeat like a jog in the park, it definitely helps you enjoy light exercise in pleasant weather.

It’s Relaxing – Since golf lasts longer than most games, it helps you divert your mind from the complexities of daily life. Golf, therefore, provides the necessary refreshment that you would need when the responsibilities of work and home take their toll on you. This also includes the fact that golf can serve as an ideal picnic idea too, which means the family will be able to spend some time together.

It’s Sophisticated
– This isn’t hard to understand. Even though played by people from all walks of life, golf is usually associated with the rich and famous, especially in movies. In fact, golf is a great way to build business relations. Many a business meeting has been conducted on a golf course, where the setting is ideal to develop a rapport, away from a strict working environment.

Objectives of the Game

The aim is simple; you have to put the ball in the hole on the green with the minimum number of strokes. These holes are placed at varying distances ranging from a 100 to 500 yards. Scoring is also based on the number you shots you attempt.

The score in golf is called ‘par’. This is the number of shots you must attempt to complete a course. Usually, the golf courses are at Par 72. The par is:
• 3 on short holes
• 4 on medium holes
• 5 for long shots

The ball can only be struck from the tee with a club, while woods can be used off the tee or for longer shots. The putter, on the other hand, is used when the distance between the hole and ball is considerably shorter. When playing on the fairway or out on the rough, golfers usually use irons. Woods, irons, and putters are simply different types of golf clubs.

Major Rules of Golf
The gold rulebook is jointly published every 4 years by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Gold Club of St. Andrews (R&A). You can easily read the exact documents on the respective websites of the organizations. In fact, the USGA website features easy-to-understand animations of the major golf rules. Each of these animations last for about 2 minutes and you can see a visual representation of the rules and understand them better.

Here is a brief outline of the major rules currently in effect.

The game includes playing a ball from the teeing ground into a hole by one or more strokes as defined by the rules. This means that you cannot bring in another ball while you are in the middle of playing a hole.

Stroke is simply the forward movement of the club when you strike the ball. However, a movement will not be counted as stroke until you make the full swing, even if the ball isn’t touched. On the other hand, if you stop half way during the swing, it will not be counted as stroke. In essence, a stroke includes backward and forward movement, no matter how short or long, as shown in the picture.

A player can earn penalties in specific situations during a game, and they reflect on the scorecard in the same way as if the player had taken extra swings at the ball. In addition, extra strokes will be counted if the player violates a rule or hits the ball into an unplayable situation.
While stroke penalties are incurred on most violations, such as hitting a ball out of bounds (Rule 27-1), players can also be disqualified in certain other situations, such as:

• Moving to the next hole without “holing” out (completely hitting the ball inside the hole) the previous one. (Rule 3-2)

• “Refusal to comply with a rule affecting another player’s rights during the game” (Rule 3-4)

Theme of the Rule Book
All in all, the golf rule book is based on the following principle:

Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair.

Golf Jargon Explained
The following is a list of some technical terms in golf and their meanings:

Bogey: ‘Bogey’ initially signified a perfect game but now it means a hole played one stroke over par.

Birdie: Birdie simply means a hole played in one stroke under par.

Eagle: Originating from ‘Birdie’, Eagle denotes a hole played in two strokes under par.

Mulligan: A replay of a shot (not allowed by rules)

Fore: A loud verbal warning when it is suspected that the ball may hit someone!

‘Strict Rules of Golf’
While we are talking about the Rule Book and golfing etiquette, it is good to discuss what constitutes the ‘strict rules of golf’. This phrase has been made popular by Goldfinger (1964), where Sean Connery playing Bond wins a classic match against the antagonist, Goldfinger.

Strict rules, in simple terms, would mean going by the book, even when you are playing a casual game. In particular, the movie references the ‘5 minute rule’ when the ball is lost in the rough, and Bond states that crossing this time limit will cause Goldfinger to lose both stroke and distance.

According to USG rules, a ball is considered ‘lost’ when ‘It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his caddies have begun to search for it’.

If the ball is not found within 5 minutes as a result of not being found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his caddies have begun to search for it, the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5).

Even though agreeing to play by strict rules, Goldfinger, with the help of his caddy, goes on to break a few rules, which has obvious villainous connotations. He switches the lost ball to avoid the penalty, and plays the 18th hole first without having honor. Honor refers to the order of players, but it is more etiquette than a rule and there are no penalties involved.

However, in the end, it is revealed that Bond himself allowed Goldfinger to switch the ball. Because of not playing the original ball (Slazenger 1), Goldfinger lost the match even after scoring the 18th hole!

“We are playing strict rules, so I’m afraid you lose the hole and the match.” – James Bond

The Course
As explained during the introduction, a common golf course includes 18 holes. The first shot for each hole is played from the teeing area that contains a ball placed on a peg. The rest of the hole is played on the rough (long grass) or fairway (closely-mown extension of grass) that leads to the green, i.e. the place where the hole is located.)

There are several hazards on the course as well. A hazard in golf means an obstacle in the course which makes playing a hole very difficult. Hazards can be of 3 types:

Bunkers: These are depressions near the fairway of green, usually filled with sand. Different types of bunkers are “waste bunkers”, “greenside bunkers”, and “fairway bunkers”.

Streams: Water hazards include streams and ponds located between the tee and the hole to add challenge to the game and enhance the aesthetics of the golf course.

Natural Hazards: These include factors like dense vegetation.

Etiquette of The Game
“In golf, the customs and etiquette and decorum are as important as the rules of play.” (Bobby Jones, legendary amateur golfer)

Along with the golf rules, the USGA/R&A ‘Rules of Gold’ also includes instructions on gaming etiquette. Golfers are expected to oblige by these principles to make the game safe, fair, and enjoyable for all the participants, but a violation may not necessarily lead to a penalty. Examples of golfing etiquette include:
• Not talking while another player is playing a swing
• Not walking on the line of your putt on the green
• Replacing divots
• Repairing pitch marks
• Raking bunkers

However, in a serious infraction of the etiquette, players can be disqualified under Rule 33-7. Such instances include:
• Damaging the course
• Damaging other players’ equipment
• Injuring other players
• Distracting other players
• Taking a long time to a play shot to deliberately hold up the game
• Trying to gain unfair advantage

That’s about it! This presentation was meant to serve as a guide for beginner golfers. The tip that we want you to leave with is to understand everything mentioned in this guide, and also what you have learned from experienced players personally.

Read More

The Music of James Bond Revisited

James Bond Theme – Monty Norman and John Barry
“The James Bond Theme is an instrumental tune, and the main signature theme of the James Bond films, and has been featured in every one of the “official” films since Dr. No in one form or another. The debate still rages about who actually created the James Bond Theme: Monty Norman wrote a track called “Good Sign Bad Sign” from “A House for Mr. Biswas,” while John Barry was part of The John Barry Seven and wrote “The Bees Knees,” and each influences the final product. Monty Norman has been credited with writing the music, but the song was orchestrated by John Barry, who would later go on to compose the soundtrack for 11 future Bond films. What can you say about the Bond theme? It’s going strong today, never seems dated, and is as much a part of the Bond experience as a vodka martini.”

Kingston Calypso – John Barry and Monty Norman
“For the longest time, I assumed this song was called Three Blind Mice. This song is does a great job of setting up the locale of Jamaica, the getaway of Ian Fleming, but it’s pretty forgettable, and contrasts the cold-blooded villains.”

Jamaican Jump Up – Byron Lee and the Dragonaires
“Again, sets the stage for the Jamaica nightlife. Great scene with Pussfeller walking through his club while ‘Jump Up’ has the patrons jumping in a frantic Jamaican dance. Is he voodoo possessed?”

Underneath The Mango Tree – John Barry and Monty Norman
“The only theme song that James Bond actually sings. Contrasts the murder of Professor Dent, while serves as the ‘Bond Girl’ theme. You can’t hear this song without envisioning Honey Rider emerging from the sea.”

From Russia, With Love – Matt Munro
“Musty vocals by Munro, more suitable for a cigar party. Solid theme that reeks of espionage, but not very memorable. The instrumental works with more punch!”

Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey
“A song about the villain himself, and John Barry’s personal favorite. Loud brassy vocals create possibly one of the most quintessential, recognizable Bond themes ever, and certainly screams classic Bond.”

Thunderball – Tom Jones
“Is this song about James Bond, or the villain Largo? ‘He always runs, while other walk…’ Tom Jones’ inspirational lyrics sets a trend that many other Bond performers will follow.”

Mr. Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang – Dionne Warwick
“Originally recorded as the theme for Thunderball, and still heard throughout the score. Sizzles of “the scent and sweat and smoke of a casino” this song has the after-taste of a good dirty martini.”

You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra
“Recorded by the great Nancy Sinatra, who struggled to complete the theme, elevates the film to a new level. ‘This dream is for you so pay the price.’ Like Thunderball, the YOLT theme has some great inspirational lyrics.”

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – John Barry & His Orchestra
“Top notch 007! I don’t think John Barry has ever been better than he is here, and this score sets the stage for an incredible film. Great one to sneak a listen to while flying down a ski slope.”

We Have All The Time In The World – Louis Armstrong
“Magical, poignant, and soulful! Scoring one of the few, if any, genuine romances in a James Bond film. A fitting final song for Armstrong. If I ever get married you can be sure this will be played at my wedding.”

Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown – Nina
“An oddity as a James Bond song, but lovely as a Christmas song. Sets the mood of the setting, while Bond is trying to lose himself in the happy crowd.”

Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey
“While my opinion of film hasn’t changed, my feelings on the theme has greatly softened over the years. Bassey doesn’t hold back, and brings the same gusto she brought to Goldfinger!”

Live and Let Die – Wings
“A classic! Gets away from the brassy ballads of the 60s, McCartney does the impossible by incorporating a tricky title into a fantastic upbeat song! A successful new direction, and stands up over time!”

The Man With the Golden Gun – Lulu
“Great orchestration my John Barry. Trying to put Bassey-esque vocals into a Live and Let Die style orchestration, the final product is a strange mixture. Tough title to work into a theme song, and the song it certainly in your face.”

Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon
“A classic, signature song, about the entire Bond experience. Starts softly, and builds into a powerful climax. A song I’ve rediscovered over time.”

Moonraker – Shirley Bassey
“Subtle and lush! Not sinply a re-working of Goldfinger, Bassey brings classic Bond elements to Roger Moore’s James Bond. This song pulls the reigns just when the action on screen gets too carried away.”

For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton
“A classic double-entendre; one of the better titles for a spy thriller, as well as a romantic ballad. And the only time the song’s performer appeared in the title sequence. I can listen to this anytime, as it ages well.

Make It Last All Night – Bill Conti and Rage
“Odd song with tepid lyrics, almost unfair to judge as a standalone song, the song serves as background filler for a mildly suspenseful scene.”

Read More

The Rules of Champagne

What adult beverage does James Bond most often consume? If you said the vodka martini, you’d be mistaken.

“I see you are a connoisseur, Monsieur Bond.” (Achille Aubergine, ‘A View to a Kill’)

From the Dom Perignon ’53 that lost its chill in Goldfinger, to the Bollinger La Grande Année that Bond orders ‘for one’ in Casino Royale; the beverage that’s most often enjoyed by James Bond, by a substantial margin, is a certain sparkling white wine more commonly known as Champagne.

So what is Champagne? To know what Champagne is, you need to understand what wine is.

What is Wine?

At its bare essence, wine is nothing more than fermented grape juice. Wine can be made from many fruits, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries; but of course, the vast majority of wine is made from grapes.

What is ‘fermented’ grape juice?

Fermentation refers to the conversion of sugar to alcohol. When a grape is crushed, the natural sugar inside the grape reacts with the natural yeasts on the skins. The yeast consumes the sugars and produces alcohol (and carbon dioxide); thus begins the process of turning grapes to wine. We can also assume that the more sugar present in the grapes, the more alcohol there will be in the resulting wine (so long as the process is allowed to continue to completion). Yeast exists naturally on grapes and grapevines, which is why fermentation occurs with no intervention, but winemakers may also add yeasts to better control the process. ‘Fermentation’ is how wine, beer, and even vinegar are produced, and is the first step in creating alcohol.

How the Wine is Made?

Winemaking is a lengthy procedure, and different processes are used for different grapes and blends. Observing the different processes in creating red and white wine reveals a significant feature about the wine itself.

White wine is made by picking the grapes, crushing and pressing them to extract the clear juice, and then removing the skins from the batch before fermentation. The process for making red wine is slightly different. While the juice of red grapes is also clear, the skins remain mixed in during the fermentation process, and left to macerate, which means to ferment while still in contact with the skins. This is done so the juice can adopt more of the color and tannins from the grape skins. Therefore, the juice from both red and white grapes is clear (or light in color), and it’s the color of the skins that makes the difference in the appearance of wine, specifically red wines.

Yeast is added to the mix during fermentation. Natural yeast was once used, but now most vineyards use manufactured yeasts to ensure a more predictable end result. Fermentation is generally executed in large stainless steel or even concrete vats, as oak barrels tend to be much more expensive.

Fermentation is a very precise business; the liquid must be brought up to the correct temperature, which is usually around 56 degrees or above. Too hot a temperature results in loss of flavor, whereas too cold and the fermentation process could come to a complete halt. Fermentation time can vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on which type of wine is being made. After fermentation is complete, the wines are filtered and refined, also known as clarification and stabilization, to remove any debris, and finally bottled.

Grapes have become the standard for wines for two reasons. First, there is an acid found in grapes but not other fruits, which preserves the juice for decades or even centuries. Second, there is much more sugar in grapes than in other fruits, which helps to produce stronger wines because almost all the sugar is transformed into alcohol.

What is Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation. Some use the term champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, but many countries reserve the term exclusively for sparkling wines that come from Champagne and are produced under the rules of the appellation.

Sparkling wine can be made from almost any grape, but true Champagne must be made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier in the Champagne region of France. Grapes are harvested earlier than usual (about 3-4 weeks) so that the balance of sugar (low) and acidity (high) are at their optimum levels.

What makes it bubble?
At the very bottom of the ‘barrel’ and the cheapest possible method is by simple carbonation, where literally a tank full of wine is pumped with bubbles. This final solution results in a cheap and cheerful but coarser sparkling wine. So enjoy Champagnes with the subtle tiny bubbles, and avoid sparkling wines with large bubbles that look more like ginger ale.

The traditional, and also more costly, method is by adding more yeast to the wine in a bottle, sealing it and putting it through a second. Carbon Dioxide is created in the bottle in the form of small bubbles that cannot escape as the wine is sealed. Made with this method, dead yeast cells or ‘lees’ must be removed before the bottle is sold, and this can only be executed by slowly moving the bottles either by hand or by machine, so that the lees collect at the top of the bottle. This process is known as ‘riddling’. The tops of the bottles are then frozen and the resulting ice collection is popped out, and a correct amount of sugar or ‘dosage’ is put into the bottle and then resealed. A cheaper mode is to use the ‘tank’ method, where a second fermentation takes place and then the wine is bottled under pressure to create the bubbles. This method is used particularly for lower grade champagnes and sparkling wines, and in such wines, the bubbles are much softer.

Deciphering Labels

Like most wines, Champagne has its own set of terms, which can make choosing the correct one a little confusing. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

We already said that sparkling wines had to be from the Champagne region of France to be called Champagne, but other countries have their own version of ‘sparkling’ wines, such as ‘cava’ from Spain, or ‘frizzante or spumante’ in Italy.

Sparkling wines can tend to be sweeter than traditional Champagne, and can be made from more or less any grape variety in their specific region. Here’s how to detect the level of sweetness in a sparkling wine:

• Extra Brut: (less than 6 grams of residual sugar per liter)

• Brut: The most common style of Champagne and sparkling wines, and also the driest, although some with terms such as “Extra Brut” can be even drier. (less than 12 grams)

• Extra Dry:
In the twisted lexicon of wine terms, these actually mean the wine is slightly sweeter than Brut. Go figure. (between 12 and 17 grams)

• Sec: (between 17 and 32 grams)

• Demi-sec: (between 32 and 50 grams)

• Doux: Sweeter styles of Champagne. (about 50 grams)

Other categories of sparking wine include:

• Blanc de Blancs:
A sparkler made exclusively from white grapes, usually chardonnay. Usually lighter in body.

• Blanc de Noirs:
Made from red-wine grapes such as pinot noir and pinot meunier, though the skins are removed quickly so the wine remains white. Tend to be richer and more full-bodied.

• Rosé Champagne: The rosé wines of Champagne (also known as Pink Champagne) are produced either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time (known as the saignée method) or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still Pinot noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée. Champagne is typically light in color even if it is produced with red grapes, because the juice is extracted from the grapes using a gentle process that minimizes the amount of time the juice spends in contact with the skins, which is what gives red wine its color. Rosé Champagne is one of the few wines that allows the production of Rosé by the addition of a small amount of red wine during blending. This ensures a predictable and reproducible color, allowing a constant Rosé color from year-to-year.

Ideal Serving Temperature

It’s no secret that Ian Fleming’s James Bond preferred his cocktails to be served “very strong and very cold and very well made.” But you may find that 38 degrees is much to cold to unlock the flavors and aromas of Champagne.

“My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” (James Bond, ‘Goldfinger’)

Experience shows that ideal serving temperature is 45-50°F. Below that temperature the wine is too cold making aromas harder to detect. Above 50°F the wines appear “heavier” and less bright.

Read More

Podcast: Head of Section Returns!

At long last, our beloved Head of Section has returned from his secret mission! Jamie and Sandy interview Joseph Darlington about where he’s been, what’s next for Being James Bond, and of course theorize and discuss the James Bond series and the upcoming film, SPECTRE!

Read More