Buy a slide rule…. really. we’re not crazy


One like this went to the moon. That’s how useful they are.

Slide rules were IT for decades. No engineer could be without one.

Okay, this may sound odd to some, but in case you didn’t know, without the slide rule calculating device the engineers would not have been able to make the atom bomb, or go into space.  And guess what, if our power grid ever comes under stress from solar storms or just plain overuse, one of these could come in REALLY handy for engineers.  No batteries required.  These things last a really long time, too, because they were carefully crafted, precision made.    Many were made from bamboo, then later aluminum or other metal.   Some were over a foot long.

Slide rules come in a wide variety, from short and simple to big and complicated.   Some are geared toward trigonometry, with an easy way to read sine/cosine   tan/cotangent, logarithms.    There are scales for square root and square, cube and cube root, division/multiplication.  When you see the result on a slide rule, you can slide the viewer up and down the scale and immediately see proportions and ratios.

So, look around on ebay and pick up a classic by Pickett, Koeffell, Faber, Hemmi, or others.   Keep it around, in a drawer or on display.   Power out  and your iPhone calculator on the fritz ?   no problem.    The really good ones hold their value well as a small investment.. condition, condition, condition is the rule.  The more scales, and the older, the more valuable.



And, don’t ignore the extremely useful circular slide rules, calculators.   They come in a large variety, usually plastic or thin metal, with several concentric rings of scales and a sliding pointer.    For example, see Concise Circular rules.  still being made.  For many professionals in engineering, drafting, electronics, or even business math, these devices are still extremely useful, partly because of their speed.  no need to punch buttons.

Ode to Slide Rules

SLIDE RULES.. are very cool. Okay, so we have computers and iPhones.. BUT, we all must pay some honor to the fine precision devices that allowed engineers to invent the a-bomb, early electronic gadgets, and so much more that we totally depend on today.   So, if you get the urge to insult them, or laugh at them, hold it in.     They are built extremely well so they last a very long time. plus, if the power ever goes out… … and it does… you can grab a slide rule. OR a solar powered calculator, to crunch the numbers.    Oh, well, I still like slide rules.  they’re cool I have a few, maybe more than a few.     They’re like tube radios…  yeah, they’re old, but way cool.    retro.

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 But REALLY, there are some really good reasons to own a slide rule !

        Easy to use, and FAST.   Slide rules may look complicated at first glance, but they are quite easy to use.   Once you learn a few basic principles, you apply them to all the various scales on the rule.   Slide rules have been made customized to various industries, or types of calculations done, such as pipe flow, electronics, etc, to enable fast calculations.

           SO, why a slide rule, when one can use a modern scientific calculator ?    Well, for one thing, it’s very interesting to learn about how we all got our fantastic electronics gadgets.   There are people living today who remember having almost no access to a calculator.   At that time cash registers and adding machines had hundreds of moving parts, very heavy, and were used only in industry and government.    Indeed, some types of calculators were kept hidden.  It was a military or business secret advantage.    Back then you had to learn your numbers in school and know how to do mental calculations, and paper and pencil, to do math.   Once slide rules were invented, it enabled a tremendous boost in math productivity over many decades, because more people could make precise calculations.  That’s extremely important in engineering and business.  A slide rule was like Lotus 1,2,3, the first spreadsheets, in the effect it had.    So, slide rules enabled us to have all the modern gizmos that need tons of math.   They enabled engineers to design electronic circuits much faster, leading to our modern computers.

        To most people, using a slide rule seems weird.    It’s just a different way of looking at calculating.    Remember, the abacus was used for a very long time, because it worked, plain and simple.   Slide rules are like that.    A simple system, used repetitively.   Once you learn it, it’s easy.   A lot of people need to use basic math during daily activities.   Perhaps you need to calculate square feet, or know how many inches in 50 centimeters.   Or maybe calculate gas mileage.   Beyond that, many professionals need to determine rations quickly, such as artists, engineers, draftsman, and so on.   For specific tasks, a slide rule is very effective and fast.   Plus, they are cool.  Never need batteries.

       Advantages of a slide rule.    All math is just a combination of four basic relationships.   add / multiply   and subtract / divide    Multiplying is just a lot of adding at once,     and  dividing is a bunch of subtracting.     When calculating moving systems, like speed, motion, direction and for 3 dimensions such as volume, one often needs to determine roots…squares, cubes.  This can be done easily on a slide rule.    

        Using the ‘slip-stick’ to great advantage.  The slide in a slide rule can position numbers in relation to another number, and you get the result on the vertical line.    One advantage of this system is in determining factors and ratios, since you can slide the vertical indicator back and forth and look for common factors and ratios.     With an electronic calculator, you may have to reenter a bunch of numbers, trying to get close to the result you are looking for.   On a slide rule you can move the slide back and forth to come to a quick conclusion, such as for estimating square feet, or cubic meters, etc.

Navigation chart plotters

Do YOU know how to navigate ?  

Without navigation, civilization could not exist.

You need to know where you are and where you want to go.

Then you can use some of these tools to help you get there.

Oh, and don’t forget to take along a map when you travel.

check out our bookstore


Best Stuff for pilots, 1 of a series, video


Best Pilot Guide

     Pilot resource site

Hi Everyone,

Pilots need really good stuff that works like it should.    I’m reviewing a bunch of products at one time and putting them into 10 minute videos.


“Aladdin Survival Kits” ( tm )

WATCH A VIDEO… light knife fire

Ingenious selection of tools, supplies, and resources in ready-to-go packs. Basic, medium, and large. Watch the videos….

You’ll be amazed at what you can do with the stuff packed into our bags. See our YouTube section


Light, knife, fire   the basics for survival, video


Be Prepared

Japan Airlines

Folks, if you travel to the far east, consider Japan Airlines. wonderful.. you’ll feel like a king or queen.    They know how to do customer service, let me tell you.

Connections to Tokyo and many other cities like Bangkok, Thailand.

Introspective journeys

Video: great stuff to take when you travel long distances


Compasses – they’re really important.

Sextants were once incredibly important. They enabled sailors to explore the world for centuries. Now they are rarely used.

Navigation article

Do you know how to navigate ? Click on article link above..

Compasses are a pilot’s best friend because they don’t use any electronics, for one thing.      If you do much hiking, boating, flying, driving, or biking, it’s a good idea to have a quality compass in your gear.

Get a GOOD compass. click to shop

 Compasses come in a wide variety, depending on the use.  

 See our reviews and discussion about navigation on YouTube.    Above is a good selection of samples, and below is some information about each of them.

A.  Airguide liquid fill auto or boat compass.   These may be affected by metals in the vehicle, so will show some deviation, especially while in motion.

B.   Airguide, large, for a boat.    The bigger the better, more accurate, doesn’t spin as much.   Liquid filled.    Great paperweight, but also useful.

C.   This is a fascinating hand bearing compass, with a radio receiver for what’s known as Non-Directional-Beacons, or ADF, long used by pilots but fading out now because of GPS.  many of these beacons are near shore, so boats can get a bearing on a beacon, move, get another bearing, and determine speed and direction.   It works, uses a small headphone, earbuds.     I would take it in a plane or boat.

Lensatic, vintage marching

D.  Lensatic sighting compass.    Many styles have been made, better ones are liquid filled and have pointers that glow in dark with a bit of flashlight for a few seconds.   You sight along a wire, line up a slot, look down and take a reading.   Great for hiking, rescue work, and going out into the boonies.

E.  A military sighting compass, unique design, declination adjustable, measured in degrees.   Kind of a marching compass.  very durable, this one’s at least 50 years old.

Brunton Eclipse, Vintage artillery/surveying,   clone, surveying

F.   Brunton Eclipse.  the prize of Brunton orienteering and sighting type compass.  very light, durable, has an inclinometer feature, nice instruction pack that’s attached.  Declination adjustable.   Long lasting.  increments of 1 degree.

G.  German artillery and surveying compass, measures in mills.  declination adjustable, tripod mount with level for doing angle and distance readings, calculations.    Aluminum     This will last another few decades I’m sure.

H.   Chinese clone of a very good surveying compass by Brunton and a military version, the M-2.   It’s not as good quality as the genuine, but the needle is accurate and fast to settle.  It works fine.   If you know what you’re doing, you could do some serious work with one of these or the M-2, like build a bridge or road.   This and a telescopic transit, and some measuring rods.   The Brunton surveying compass is very costly, but you can find them used sometimes for great prices.

walking compass, hand bearing for kayak

I.   Old walking compass.   back in the day….. really, people actually carried a compass, because if you didn’t, you could wander off somewhere, like the countryside of England.   This one is sealed, water bathed needle, very durable, probably at least 40 years old.

J.  Marine hand bearing compass.   You hold it up to your eye, and read off the bearing to  the point in the background.    very sturdy, for boats and canoes mainly.

Silva sightmaster, Brunton racing, simple baseplate

K.   Silva’s jewel, the  Sight Master surveying compass and inclinometer.   fine construction, site in one end to read precise degree increments, and inbetween.   Other end you sight for angle tilt.   Easy to read, for the pros.

L.  Brunton racing compass, also a good baseplate for orienteering.    very easy to read quickly.   declination adjustable, liquid filled.  has several scales with detail triangles for precisely locating oneself on a map, such as a marine offshore chart or in a forest in difficult terrain.   Take a few sightings, triangulate, place the bearings on the map, and use the small scales to precisely locate.

M.  another simple baseplate compass.  ANY compass is better than none.   but get one that is easy to read, liquid filled, declination adjustable, durable.


The Brunton brand is well known and they make good stuff.

If you buy a compass, get one that’s well made and keep it away from magnets, and electromagnets, and electric motors.

Also good..

Suunto, Silva, military compasses, and those used by surveyors.   There are many good  digital compasses including those on watches, but beware… what if the batteries go out ?

Watch video, review of types of compasses.



Best Pilot Guide…  tips, info for pilots

Aviation… join the conversation

Buy an airplane ASAP ( no we’re not crazy )

All content copyright Paul Smyres, Living Being Media, all rights reserved.

You could own and fly an airplane like this

Current aviation situation favors owning your own aircraft :

large inventory, long life of maintained aircraft, tax breaks, lower prices, crowded airports, parking, etc……

Believe it or not, NOW is a great time to buy an airplane. CLICK ON LINK TO SEE ARTICLE, PHOTOS

Okay, so maybe flying isn’t your thing, but if it IS, than take a good look at what’s going on in aviation.

In 2008 and 2009, there were some very attractive incentives to buy and maintain aircraft in the 2 stimulus bills.

But, that doesn’t mean it won’t make sense for you. Go down to a local general aviation airport, even a fairly small one, and look at all the airplanes there.   In almost every case, for each of those planes there is an owner who knows it makes economic sense, to THEM, to own an airplane.   Why not for you ?     You don’t even have to own the whole airplane because it’s common for a small group of people to own and maintain an airplane.    You can own a small airplane and lease it back to a flight school that will maintain it for you in exchange for use.

Prices on used aircraft have fallen in the last 2 years, so prices now are great.   There’s a good supply available, too, because new planes are being produced and many current owners are eager to upgrade if they can sell their other plane.

Planes last a very long time if cared for ( and they usually are ).   Overall, a well maintained aircraft holds value very well over time.   Many aircraft flying regularly today are 20 to 30 years old, sometimes much older.

Why does owning a plane make sense?

If it’s economic sense you mean, how valuable is your time ?   Is it worth hundreds of dollars per hour sometimes ?   Could you make more sales if you flew to see customers?   Could you deliver a product or service faster if you had access to a plane?

There is also savings on travel if a small group is involved.  Think about how much time is spent going to a major airport, checking in, waiting, parking expenses, etc.  Then, you travel an hour or two, and ANOTHER ride in a taxi, bus, etc.

Families can own an aircraft that gets used by multiple members, for vacations or reunions, or medical situations.

Don't you just love doing this?

If airplanes were did not make economic sense there wouldn’t be so many of them.

Here’s one simple example

I often go to Columbus Ohio for family and business.   To do that, I have to drive 90 minutes, park, go through screening  60 minutes in advance, wait, fly to Baltimore, wait again, sometimes over 2 hours, then fly another 75 minutes to Columbus, and another 30 minutes to my destination.    That takes me total of over 7 hours door to door.    Ticket price is around 250 USD plus parking.    about 300 total.

If I owned a small plane like a Cessna 172, or 182, I could drive only 30 minutes to the airport, park for free, fly directly to Columbus in 4 hours, and ride only 15 minutes to my destination.   That takes 5 hours door to door.   It would cost me about 200 dollars in fuel, plus around 160 dollars in aircraft maintenance / insurance overhead.    BUT, I could take at least one other person plus luggage AND save over 2 hours of my time, not to mention the convenience of traveling on my own schedule, weather permitting.

So you see, at some point, it’s cheaper and much more convenient to own a plane, if you plan it out carefully.  Plus, there is a category of plane called LSA, or Light Sport Aircraft, that is growing rapidly with strong, lightweight engines and materials, able to carry two people quite far.   You can earn a recreational pilot license quite easily these days.   Recreational pilots can’t fly at night.

There are some other good reasons to learn to fly and own a plane.

Here in the United States, slowly infrastructure is decaying, especially roads and bridges, and with the state of the current economy and political situation, it’s very likely that traditional ways of going places will shift.     Large airports are getting so congested, full of chaos, ticket prices are rising, and security is getting more and more bizarre.

Time to take another look at private aviation.

Before we had our national highway system, and as trains started to fade, small planes were very important.    In many countries today, they are extremely important, and in places like Alaska, a necessity.

OKAY, so how much does it cost?

Good question.   Plane ownership comes down to a number per hour of operation.  You have fixed costs that occur if the plane is used or not.  And, you have the variable costs like fuel, maintenance, inspections, etc.

You can keep a small plane like a Cessna 172 running and legal for around 5,000 or so a year ( BIG variables, age of plane, time used, where used, etc ).   But let’s say 750 dollars per month, for example.   How many business owners could justify $ 750  to 1,000 a month if it saved them 20 to 30 hours per month of time  ?    Remember, you could share ownership of a plane like this with several people, so your share would be less.  Flying clubs usually let you have a number of days during the year where you can park it overnight in a distant location ( vacation spot ).      You can fly small planes into places that are much more time consuming to get to by car, such as wilderness, lakes, and islands.

Learning to fly is a very rewarding process

You learn to navigate, communicate, watch the weather, and be very careful.   You must use checklists and follow procedures.  It’s a great mental discipline.   Start young, if you can.    There are many young pilots.   check out www.bestpilotguide.com for more info.

It's amazing what you can learn in a modern flight simulator

Flight Simulator FSX – very amazing

It's not easy to land a fast jet, even in a good flight simulator

Microsoft came out with FSX quite a few years ago, and has now unfortunately abandoned it. However, if you get this program installed on a nice computer, with your pedals, yoke, throttle, and maybe a second monitor, well…

You can fly anywhere in the world, in any weather, and hundreds of different kinds of aircraft.   Plus, you can get out real charts like I do, learn all the instruments, ILS system ( Instrument landing ), antique airplanes, big jets, fighters, sea planes, and so much more.

Check out this site www.livingpictures.org/flightsimulator.htm

And, that’s not all..

You can join an online airline, fly schedules, and fly online with other seasoned (real) pilots and aircraft controllers who like flight simming as a hobby.

Many flight simulator aircraft are modeled by professional engineers and pilots, and for that reason many of them are very accurate.    If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll crash for sure.    In modern aviation simulators are used extensively, especially for large or fast aircraft.    Sure, it’s “just” a simulator, but this one’s very good if you use all its features and set up the highest realism settings.

Check it out.

Price:  Software is very cheap, like 30 bucks or so on Ebay or eslewhere.    But get the pedals and yoke, or at the least a very good joystick.   Most modern computers can run it just fine.   I use the iMac 24 inch in windows mode.   Get a good video card and at least 2GB of Ram.

Yokes and pedals vary.   Buy used if you can ( you know, “junior” just had to have it for Christmas, but it sat in the closet for 3 years)    If you have lots of bucks, you can go h0g-wild and set up your whole garage with a full motion simulator based on FSX.

see:   www.redbirdflight.com I tried one of these… Now, THAT’s fun.  Holy cow.   180 degree, 7 screen visual, full size professional controls and seats, and it MOVES !!

*I want one now.

Flight Simulator accessories

Get a yoke, bloke !   you can’t fly with a mouse and keyboards.  Both CH Products and Saitek make excellent stuff like yokes, pedals, instrument panels, and joystics.

Pedals –   a must.   airplanes have rudders, and there’s a reason for that.

Get some Sectional charts.  Old ones are fine for sim flying, just get as recent as you can find.   Try Ebay for all of this stuff.    prices are great but do some research.