Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Look at the Puppy!

Who doesn't like puppies? Well, I'm not too fond of them. They're cute but slobbery and needy. Then pets in general do require a lot of time and attention. And people too. Time that I could be devoting to internet porn. Stupid distractions taking time away from the important things in life.

I'm not really a dog person. I'd make a fine hermit if I could swing it. So long as I could get DSL hooked up in my cave.

But, when comes the apocalypse there will come a sad day when that connection to the net will become spotty at best. People and pets will become important replacements for companionship when you (I) lose the low-budget pixelated goodness that was so often relied upon in the past. Sad day.

What can a well trained dog do that porn can't? There are so many blue responses to that question, that I shall refrain from uttering even a one. You however may knock yourselves out.

Humanity's relationship with Canines began some 15,000 years ago. Unless you're a new earth biblical literalist, then it began sometime between yesterday and 6000 years ago. Anyhow, Canines are pack animals with a hierarchy that humans subsumed and took over in those last few thousand years before the rise of civilization.

The Human-Canine pairing has been an extremely beneficial partnership to both species. We are slightly more intelligent and have opposable thumbs which allow us to operate doors, vehicles and can-openers while they're talents lie in peeing on things (Even the best human isn't a tenth as talented as a dog in this arena), with extraordinarily sharp senses of smell and hearing.

Dogs are swift and tireless runners with hearing that extends well beyond our range and a sense of smell that dwarfs our own. As previously stated. This would make them valuable in the activities of hunting and sentry duty. As anyone out there with a dog can attest, especially when there is a particularly bad infestation of squirrels to be dealt with. They are ever alert and willing to protect the borders of their yards from incursions. They have in the past been used as pest control (rats and other varmints)

In addition to that, they're affectionate and obedient – which are the two traits that most of modern humanity seems to praise in their animal companionship. Dogs give the illusion of always loving their pack leaders/owners no matter what kind of an asshole you are. You always have the dog. I personally don't like that sort of slavishness in pet or person. I want some level of self-reliance in those around me.

But this is what they have been bred for. Some of them. Others seem to exist for celebutants to haul around in their purses. There are literally hundreds of breeds of dogs – all of which, no matter the shape and size, can interbreed with one another.. For those last fifteen thousand years, we've been selecting the traits that we like and reinforcing them. As such there is a breed for about every purpose imaginable. From herding to guarding to sitting on laps and barking at the neighbors.

As such, many breeds have become overbred and inbred to the point of weakness and collapse as their gene pool is narrowed to a very small spectrum. They have developed genetic psychological and physiological problems. I think I would prefer some solid and heavily mixed mutt. It is quite amazing how widely this species has been altered. Chihuahuas and Saint Bernards are part of the same species(and they would make some bizarre puppies).

When the chosen cataclysm arrives their acute senses will once again rise into ascension. Dogs will no longer be companions, but pack members. Where they belong.

Have I won you over to the dog's cause yet?

The one trick to having a dog around is that they, like humans, need to be trained. They need to be taught to crap outdoors and not to steal food from the table. They need to be instructed that the mailman is our friend. Many breeds of dogs are very clever and intelligent, about as much so as human children. They can understand words and tone, and are able to communicate in their own way. They're pack animals, but also creatures with needs and desires of their own. They understand fairness, if not equality. Many exhibit a range emotions beyond even the capabilities of some humans.

They will be a valuable addition to any pack, with aforementioned training. Consistent treatment. Dogs needs discipline, exercise and affection, in that order.

I must say, I know jack about training a dog. I've seen several episodes of the Dog Whisperer, but I've never put the man's teachings into practice. One day, perhaps, when I have a place to live that can bear a dog's inhabitation more than my small apartment. Then, I'll be joining the masses in teaching my puppy useless tricks. - I'm not a terrible fan of dogs, but for some reason I do want one, because in the end, I do like them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quoth the Bruce: Hooch for the Pooch

Wine, whiskey, beer. Booze. The Nectar of the Gods.

I am a teetotaler. I shall admit this right away. I'll let Penn Jillette explain it for you. Though my folks weren't teetotalers. And I've tasted wine and beer. I use wine for cooking – tip, it makes foods taste better. I've never at all been interested in getting drunk. Many of my friends and family are fond of imbibing.

On with it.

Aside from the obvious intoxicant purposes, Ethanol has many beneficial uses. Cooking was mentioned above. Alcohol can be burned in an internal combustion engine as a source of fuel. In strong enough concentrations it can be used as a relatively harmless anti-biotic on human skin as it kills bacteria and viruses on contact.

When consumed by humans and other animals it has a profound chemical effect on the brain and alters the function. This is why it has been prized by Western society for the last 10,000 years. In many societies, the English Royal Navy being one, booze was a part of the daily rations. It provides both the pleasant effects and also acts as a source of fuel for the human body. Alcohol is high in carbohydrates. The side effect being a tendency for it to be turned into fat in the human body. Think “Beer Gut”.

Alcohol is a liquid formed by the fermentation of various types of plant matter. Basically, a natural group of fungii feed on the sugar in fruits and grains and created the bi-product that is ethanol(among others, but ethanol is the one that humans consume for pleasure). That's right, alcohol is the excrement of mushrooms. This makes the first type of alcohol. Beer and wine are the most notable.

Step two, which is optional, is distilling the liquid. This involves slowly boiling the mixture in a still and separating the alcohol from the rest of the mixture and thus concentrating it. This is the process that they use to make the hard liquors such as whiskey and other spirits such as vodka and brandy.

Depending on the type of Apocalypse(come on Zombies!) there may be a plethora of available booze to choose from for years to come. Some of it gets better with time, for a while at least. But it can be expected that most alcohol will have a fairly long and stable shelf-life. How long? I don't know. Too many factors including how the bottles are arranged when they're stored, light and humidity. It seems that keeping the confection away from light and at a constant and relatively cool temperature is suggested by those in the know.

As a teetotaler why would I ever go into the alcohol business? Well there's the chance that I might gain appreciation for the nectar. But this is unlikely. Other people will want booze though. Humanity likes to drink when times are good and loves the sauce when times are bad. Getting drunk is escapism – and should be much more in demand if the world truly goes to hell.

Trade though is the biggest reason. If you've seen Romero's movie Land of the Dead, there is a scene where some of the scavengers raid a liquor store to trade to the folks back home. Which in and of itself is believable. The part that I can't buy is that society in the movie is still employing Yankee Geenbacks. Paper money is abundant and its value will be nothing after a cataclysm. Gold and gemstones are about the same, as any one of hundreds of jewelry stores across the continent will be rife with the sparklies. None of which have any real value and instead are more a symbol of wealth. They're tokens or coupons.

With a crash of currency, will come a barter economy. Skills and goods. Skills to make goods.

This is to say, booze will sell well and it's a fine trade item that, if you have the right knowledge and equipment, you can restock with relative ease. And unless the wastelands are taken over by overly moral religious zealots then booze will be eternally popular. If the zealots do take control, booze will still be popular, just more dangerous to deal in.

Urban Survival Guide I just read this, he has quite a list of different trade items to stockpile. Peruse at your leisure. Mind, he is quite serious about the subject.

If you want to practice now, there are widely available home brewing and wine making kits. They range from $25 on up. What makes one better than another, I admit no clue.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pottery, it's like magic for the easily impressed.

I majored in ceramics in college and got my BFA in it. My second major was History, I added History as the practical option just in case the whole 'artist thing' didn't pan out for me. Then I'd just 'eff this' and be a Historian.

Are you laughing yet?

I make poor life choices. It's funny. I actually graduated with 210+ credits. My degree called for 140. Basic math says that I could have cashed in those 70 credits for a third major, and would have been 3/4ths the way to a 4th major. Then they took away my financial aid and forced me to graduate. So, I've since been living vicariously through this blog and my local library. (libraries rule!)

But, back to the point. Ceramics. Several of my history teachers made the point that the spread of human civilization can be traced back to one very important invention, the Pottery Wheel. With the food surplus, early human civilizations needed a place to store that food and protect from the elements and any scavengers that might scurry in.

You can also use the products of the pottery wheel to hold food temporarily while transferring it to your face.

Clay is a wonderful substance. It comes from the Earth in abundance and can be used for so many purposes beyond teapots and vases for old people. It can be formed it into any shape and has numerous use. Properly engineered, clay can be used to make both weapons and armor. You can turn it into building materials, the stuff of fortresses.

But none of these processes are either easy or obvious. The pottery trade has been around for millenia, but it still boggles my mind how human beings ever managed to discover so much about the chemistry of working in clay. Clay itself is a mixture of different minerals, as are the glazes that cover the surface. Ceramics is a lot like cooking in some respects, but even more so. If you don't have the correct ingredients in the proper amounts, who knows what your end product will be. Add to that the firing process itself - >

Firing ceramics usually requires a kiln, which itself requires some clever engineering. The most basic kiln is just a hold dug in the earth and filled with fuel and pottery. It is rude and crude, as are the end products. A good kiln needs to be built to withstand temperatures that range up to a couple thousand degrees. They need to be insulated to retain said heat. They need a vent to allow the potter to control the mixture of the internal atmosphere – some stages require that you limit the flow of oxygen in the kiln to get certain effects in the glazes. Kilns are usually fashioned out of special bricks. Building one might take weeks.

I doubt that pottery will be nearly as important for early generations after the Crash. We have mastered Plastic injection technology, which has lead to a plethora of vessels that are excellent for a great many purposes. They can be made airtight in a snap and are lightweight and difficult to break. They never seem to decay and will last forever. Sadly, plastic is a lot harder to manufacture than clay goods, and the raw materials are difficult to lay your hands on. A plastic house is a lot less stout than a brick one. And for food storage, rats and mice can chew their way through the walls of a plastic bin given time. Fired clay, though brittle, is hard as rock, keeping rodents at bay.

Ceramics, they're your friend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Getting high on jet fuel.

You know, it might be fun to learn how to fly. An aircraft. Learning to fly without one would be one million times more awesome. And one million times less likely. It's like the difference between finding a dollar on the street and winning the lotto.

Well, I think I have a decent grasp of odds, so I shall take what I can get. I think that an aircraft is a bit more in my reach. Though not by much.

With about as much money as it costs to buy a decent motorcycle you can purchase an Ultra Light Aircraft. This is a bare bones vehicle that is some what earthbound and slow compared to say a jumbo-jet. But who the hell cares? $8000 is all it takes to start flying! - This of course is usually for a kit, some assembly required and all that. The full ride will run you twice that, about the price of a compact car.

Now, that's what the actual equipment will run you. Lessons, and storage and fees for using the field. Fuel? That's always expensive. But the costs will all add up. I'm guessing that this is an expensive hobby. I imagine it's a rush. For people who aren't afraid of heights and can pony up the bucks.

For those of you who are poor (or don't like to risk dying) – well I have a partial answer – Flight simulators. Practice, without moving. What's up my lazy brothers and sisters. You can even pretend to get into huge battles against other lazy/poor folk. And then do it all over again. You know how many times the Red Baron shot my ass down? Doesn't matter, cause I got him in the end! It was like 241. But hey, I lived to fly another day, all because I never got into a real plane.

All for the cost of a decent computer, a joystick and the software. I'll assume that most people who may be reading this at least have the first. If you run Linux, you can get the third for free. Leaving a joystick as about the only add on. Hell, the basic level of x-plane will run you around $30.00, and it looks pretty damned amazing. They have incorporated the real world into the game – almost all of the terrain between the Arctic and Antarctic circles. In addition to what seems like a large variety of planes to fly and real world physics.

Inexpensive comes at a cost, and this is in pure practical experience. How do you read the dials? What does actually flying feel like. And any lessons learned from doing stupid shit, might not be taken to heart without the near disaster to hammer them home. - Like many things in life, it can be likened unto sex and masturbation. I'll leave you to fill in the blanks in the comparison.

Then again, you can get away with making really really stupid mistakes.

You all know what flying means. Getting from New York to LA in a few hours instead of a few days. Jumping over the traffic. No greasy diners or skeezy hotel rooms in fly-over country! Well, this all holds for the post-apocalyptic world too. Fast travel when other methods might take a heavy toll on lives.

Navigation will be a challenge. Go a degree or two off course, at 300 mph, and after a couple hours you're hundreds of miles from where you intended to be. When your car runs out of gas, you roll to a stop and then get out and walk. As you've guessed, running out of fuel in an aircraft involves a lot less annoyed rolling and very much more screaming and plummeting. I'm not really a fan of heights or falling quickly to earth. I'll need to look into this, from a distance. Problem two, when you've sorted the fuel issue out, is finding a proper place to land. For now, airports dot the

A way to get around the landing issue, is of course to magic-up yourself a helicopter. They're fast and powerful and can take off and land vertically. Which means you can land on roof tops and forest clearings and the like. Sweet! Oh wait? What will this cost? Well, helicopters are expensive. A used model will run you about as much as a 3 bedroom house, unless you live in Detroit, then ten houses. Helicopters are extremely complex machines that require a ton of maintenance. If you fail in that, keep in mind that they lack any sort of real gliding capability. - Add that to the fact that Helicopters seem to be difficult to learn how to fly – and you have yourself a specialty aircraft.

A nice mix? The Auto-gyro. Technology from the early XXth century, which involves a unpowered rotor blade al la the Helicopter, that spins as the vehicle is pushed or pulled forward, this creating lift. And if the engine goes out? Then you have a glider. It seems to be a simple machine when compared to it's compatriots, making it easy to build and maintain – and though it isn't VTOL like the helicopter, it doesn't need nearly as much space to take off and land. And you think that isn't cool enough? Well, keep in mind that James Bond used one in You Only Live Twice. Sean Connery/James Bond's seal of approval.

Go out and buy one today!

Where does all this jibber-jabber apply to the real world? Or at least how we imagine the real world to look after the Flash? What better way to avoid wastelands inhabited by blood thirsty warlords and hordes of brain-hungry zombies than by flying right over it? An aircraft allows for maximum mobility. With a plane you can get to places that would be impossible to assail in any other manner, all by jumping over the impeding terrain. People use small planes all the time when flying around the bush in Alaska, to reach remote villages or lodges.

And as Mad Max's creepy looking companion taught us. Re-taught us, the first two World Wars already hammered in the lessons for most people. But the lesson is, air-superiority can be essential to defeating foes. Taking the high ground is strategically and tactically important. Only space is higher than the sky, and we'll get to building and launching a death satellite later on.

I mean really, when the aliens arrive and sweep aside our military like so many angry ants, they're going to need talented, or at least skilled, or at least willing pilots to step up and go on the next suicide run. If the world is going to die, I want to do so going mach 2 as my missiles explode and my guns click empty.

So yeah, time to pick up that flight sim and watch Independence Day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tourism, and how to find the places you want to see!

It's been a while since I've done one of these. A pity, they can be so much fun to write. I hope you folks enjoy reading them as much.

Navigation. The ability to plot a course and get from point A to point B. This has become a lost art over the last few years with the rise of GPS devices. Reading a map? Who does that any more? Now you have the nice friendly voice that comes out of the little glowy box to tell you that you need to take the next exit and turn left. GPS is the equivalent of using a calculator to do simple math problems, it makes the job easier but it also tends to rot* your brain.

It is highly probable, that after the end, you might wish to get out and travel the world. Maybe as a tourist to see the wrecked monuments of our civilization's failed past. Or perhaps you just want to leave your old and difficult life behind by finding the hidden paradise that is Lost Vegas. Plenty of Food! Booze! And hot cocktail waitresses! And not a flesh-eating mutant in sight! All with entertaining shows by today's headliners? What's not to want?

I don't know the specifics of the GPS grid. Though I did read a while back that our GPS satellites are beginning to fail. This being said, I don't know how much interaction with the ground control that they require to continue to function properly. I would guess that the satellites are all rather autonomous with all the hardware that they need built right in. But I cannot say for sure.

Anyhow, the grid was only built to last for 20 or 30 years survival in the harsh environment that is space. We have not begun to replace the aging grid. We're closing on the minimum number of points necessary to keep the system going. And unless the government or industry gets off it's ass soon, we're borked. (Don't worry, Europe or China will probably step up as we - the USA- sink into obscurity).

Fun times.

Then comes the 'Pocalypse!

I'm going to assume that even if the world shattering event, the majority of road signs will have survived. After all, the ex-college students will have more important things too fill their time than collecting that super sweet stop sign for their lair. With a map and road signs, getting to where you want to go, technically, is a snap. Sure you might run into some romantic biker gangs with a little sweet old fashioned rape on their minds. And the cities are probably all infested with flesh-eating zombies. But hey, that's the price you pay for convenience.

Don't want to get your holes violated and, if you're lucky**, left for dead on the side of the road? Well, cross-country travel it is. Which is slightly trickier, but I can see that it doesn't bother you!

Human beings have been navigating the world for nearly a thousand years using simple tools such as the compass. The Empires of Europe managed to learn how to cross huge stretches of empty and desolate ocean using a clock, a compass and a sextant. The ocean all looks the same, and landmarks are few and far between – and yet people can accurately

Of course this requires a decent map as well as the other tools. You also need to know the difference between longitude and latitude on the grid. Don't know them? Well honestly, neither do I. Even after taking several geography classes I still can't keep them straight. But I'm easily confused. Just look at the Stalagmite-Stalactite, Gary Buesy-Nick Nolte, Butter-I Can't Believe It's Not Butter – conundrums. Which one's which? I don't know.

Longitude – East or West. The harder of the two to pin down. It wasn't until a highly complex watch/clock was invented that determining latitude accurately was possible. On board ship, one clock was used to keep track of time back on the Prime Meridian, and the other clock is set to local time – which itself is ascertained by carefully monitoring the path of the sun. Time zones are important here. You compare noon in your current location to what your London clock says, calculate the difference in hours and minutes and you have your general location compared to London. Just make absolutely sure that first clock is always accurate, or you'll be lost.

Latitude – North or South. Rather the north and south lines from the Equator – which represents 0 degrees. They go up to 90 at the Poles. Fairly easy to ascertain by calculating the angle of the sun. Well, not easy, but possible to do on the fly. Combine A and B, and you can find position on any point in the world. No GPS.

With over-land travel, you'll hopefully have a vague series of landmarks, like cities and roads. Even if you avoid direct contact with the roads and their rape-minded cannibalistic citizens, you'll still be able to see them from afar and thus get your bearings. With those landmarks, a compass and an atlas, you should be golden.

This is of course assuming that the world hasn't been consumed in a nuclear fire. Or covered in ten feet of volcanic ash. Or... Well if that's the case, fuck traveling and just stay home in your bunker. I think next time we'll discuss putting together a kick ass harem for the purposes of repopulating*** the world.

* Perhaps Atrophy is better than Rot here – you stop using your brain and the skills that you need to perform these tasks. This leads to you getting 'rusty'

** The unlucky ones are kept by the rape gangs for long term fun.

*** Woohoo Sex!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hippie hippie quite contripy how does your Garden grow?

Well alas it is now September. Where has the summer gone? The same place as they all eventually do, it marched slowly from the future to the present and finally into the past. Now we come to the blessedly cool(hopefully) autumn. My favorite time of the year.

I mentioned farming as an important skill to have when comes the 'pocalypse. I still feel this way, and I don't recall if I mentioned it, but we decided to try an indoor garden to see if we, a pair of college educated adults who have been around gardens much of our lives, could make anything grow indoors. Call it a precursor for some dreams I have for my eventual post apocalyptic survival compound.

We had one large south-facing window in our second story apartment in which to drop pots in front of and hopefully soak up the solar light, water and heat and transform that through magic into edible food stuffs. I think I covered the basics in my last post, but here it is again. We bought several cubic feet of potting soil, filled some five gallon buckets that had originally come filled with cat litter, and then planted several varieties of plants in said buckets.

Our plant list was as such.
1 grape tomato plant (From planter)
1 planter of snap peas on a vine (from seeds)
1 planter of green beans bush variety(from seeds - meant to plant the vine variety – oops)
1 planter of several varieties of lettuce (from planter)
1 planter of green (red) peppers (from planter)
and the herb garden with Rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano and dill. (seeds and planter)
1 indoor miniature perpetual strawberry plant

Now here's the update on our haul. Of the listed plants only the lettuce, pepper, basil and oregeno are still flourishing. The lettuce is fading fast – while the peppers have just begun to flower. I have high hopes for the peppers.

My first problem was the transfer from the original pots to their final homes in the planters. I would guess that I was not nearly as nimble as is necessary to keep the sprouts in top shape.

The strawberry plant was the first to go. We left for a weekend and when we returned it was covered with a web that was formed by a colony of small white insects. No clue what they are, and my quick google search has failed to provide clues.

I over-watered the green beans and snap peas both became moldy and water-logged, killing them in the process. Nothing came of the snap peas, as they just never matured enough. The green beans produced five. Not pounds. Five beans. Rather a disappointment.

The tomato plant exploded until it was around 7 or 8 feet tall. We had wrapped it in a cage early on, but this didn't help much as it collapsed under it's own weight. Afterwards it really largely stopped production. I think that the plant needs to be outside among other tomatoes so that it can pollinate and be pollinated in a giant plant orgy. We got 4 tomatoes out of it. Mind you, these are grape tomatoes. I don't know how they tasted as I detest raw tomatoes.

What I have learned about the herb garden. First Rosemary is a real bitch to get going. Found that little tidbit out later on. When growing rosemary it is best to get a plant that has already been started than trying to raise your own from seed. I planted an entire packet of seeds(100 perhaps) and have nothing to show for it. The rest of the herbs sprouted easily and shot up like weeds, while I got two or three sprouts of rosemary, none of which got more than an inch or two tall.

The oregeno and basil did smashingly well. But they need more room and crowded out the thyme, which had a strong start but died in the end due to a lack of sunlight. On retrospect I might have been able to nurse it back to health, assuming that it is as hardy as common lawn grass. The dill dried out and faded away.

All in all, the plants need more room and better drainage(or someone with a less itchy trigger finger on the watering can). More light would help too. The single window was crowded, especially when that damned tomato plant took off.

This has been an interesting experience, and judging by the amount of food produced, a largely failed experiment. But one valuable for future reference should the inclination take us to plant again in the spring. This was a rather lost cause in terms of payout. Hopefully it works better with more open land. For now, I am set aback by the fact that I am a rather shitty farmer and I dread the day the apocalypse comes. Though I did manage to make it through my experience without losing any digits.

I just started reading My Empire of Dirt by Manny Howard. So far so good. And it provides a fun story that is far more in depth and ambitious than my own - mostly due to my lack of resources. Good to see that I'm not alone in my crazy flights of fancy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sailing for adventure on the big blue wet thing.

I have a distinct feeling that the sea and I are mutually exclusive. I've avoided it to date as I fear that I am prone to seasickness. Mind, I don't know for certain, I'm just afraid that this will be the case. Can you imagine being stuck on a boat for hours upon hours trying to fight back the overwhelming urge to puke? Yeah, that's what keeps me away. There was this one time that I visited Cedar Point in Ohio. I was able to ride a single rollercoaster. I was fine up to and after that point. Then I had a hot dog. Spent the rest of the day with waves of nausea rolling over me.

It was a shitty experience.

I knew I should have skipped the hot dog.

would honestly like to explore the world and see it from the seas. To have that mobile house and putter about at my own leisure. Unless I somehow become one of Fortune's Favorites, I doubt that this dream will be made a reality.

Anyhow. Sailing. My primary escape plan for many apocalyptic scenarios is to flee to the embrace of the sea. Zombies. Nuclear war. Radioactive Zombie invasion. Global Warming. Run out of Fossil fuels. Whatever happens, there are a wide range of situations that would see me glad to get the hell out of dodge aboard a sailboat.

Why a sail boat? Think of it, unless the sun stops shining, there will always be wind power. Today might be calm, and tomorrow. But sooner or later the wind will pick back up. The same goes for the use of wind turbines for electricity. The wind will Always be there. So it makes sense to harness it for every applicable use. Sailing especially.

I've always had that part of my mind that is concerned with resources. Fuel. Ammo. The ability to obtain more and keep going. Eventually, after a collapse of our civilization and the industrial knowhow that it represents, human society is going to run out of the liquid fuels.

The wind is free source of energy. The sun heats the atmosphere and causes the air to move and circulate. Though wind does lack the overall reliability of say gasoline. Nor is it as straight forward, as a boat is forced to tack back and forth to travel against the wind. But the allure of wind, well has already been stated. In the long run fuel will be just one less thing to worry about. Up sail and go.

Have I won you over yet? Doesn't matter, here I go.

Now, the unlimited free fuel that the wind represents is fantastic. Humans have been using it to power their vessels for thousands of years, and in the mean time have been able to stretch out and explore the entire globe. Early on, we were forced to either go whichever direction the wind was blowing, or to labor heavily with the oars. This was how the Viking Longboats worked. Can you imagine fighting against a storm in an ancient wooden ship by pulling at the oars until you collapsed? Yeah, our ancestors were bad-assed.

Eventually navel powers developed the triangular sail, which allows a boat to sail into the wind at a 45 degree angle. Ie, if the wind is coming out of the north, you can tack back and forth between a northwest and northeast heading in order to get to your destination due north of your location. Depending on the distance, and other circumstance this maneuver may take several executions before you arrive safely.

Getting it to work well is probably a science and an art.

So, zig-zagging back and forth makes travel more difficult, as you can imagine. You've just increased the length of the trip, and there's a better chance that you'll run into obstacles along the way.

Many sailboats, both ancient and modern come with a variety of differently shaped sails, which are used for different purposes in the course of a voyage. I have no idea how they work. But I'm trying to learn. Honestly, how am I doing so far? I bought the book Sailing for Dummies and read part of it. Fascinating stuff. Easy to read. But I'd need to get some hands on experience before I was able to digest all of the information and fully Grok it.

When the Zombie Apocalypse arrives, I'm getting myself a boat. Zombies can't swim.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Exalt the new God!

I'm thinking about writing my own quasi-spiritual novel in order to form the foundation of my own hack religion. I mean, this worked for the likes of L Ron Hubbard. And It would be awesome to bring in a sizable load of funds. Money for nothing and my chicks for free.

You think Summer Glau might join? Ignore the fact that she's smoking hot. Ok, don't ignore it, you can't, but set that aside for a few minutes. She's both a trained dancer and martial artist. Who doesn't want someone like that around? My compound is going to need a dancy-ass-kicker to keep the peace. Hell, any of the female members of the cast of Firefly. Viva La difference!

I don't think my bullshit capabilities are up to par. I'd get Jamal white and Paris Hilton. Pessimistic of me, yes, but also a realistic assessment of my skills in creating a whirlpool of mumbo-jumbo and then selling it to the spiritually devoid.

But really, in the Apocalypse, who wants to hole up with a bunch of movie stars? Sure, they're pretty. That doesn't really come at all in handy. Less so when you realize that a fair number of celebrities are psychologically damaged attention whores(not all of them, but enough). Put five or ten of them together and will it be like watching the cast of Jersey Shore? Stupid, petty drama.

I can live without that. Maybe. I suppose it would be better than being alone.

If I have my say, I want people with practical skills(ie, the shit on this list). Not borderline sociopath who plays make-believe really well. (Un)fortunately, Scientology seems to have scooped most of the cracked cases up. Kudos to you Scientology for your goldmine!

Creating a religion is a grand tradition in humanity, and quite useful. Just ask the Jews. Their shared collection of stories and beliefs have held them together through conquest after conquest. Then dispersal. And finally genocide. They have for years faced discrimination and worse from both the pagans and gentiles amongst whom they lived. And though they're now spread across the face of the world, they're still a collective culture who sees itself as a single people. No matter the color of the individual's skin. Maybe that's how they've managed to take over the world!*

*SARCASM. That was a sarcastic statement. As sarcasm is difficult to judge via text, I felt the need to add this disclaimer. So, thin-skinned assholes who are easily offended by stereotypes, and Nazis/Rednecks/Klansmen or whoever, Kindly refrain from emailing me,

The important part about starting a religion isn't the details, though those will come later, it's the ability to bullshit and stick with your story and convince the gullible that you know what you're talking about. Example, Joe Smith. Part of his spiel was that an angel had given him a set of gold tablets that nobody else was allowed to see. They purportedly held the story of the Native American peoples, who were lost tribes of Israel. I shan't go further, but I will admit that I am a cynic when it comes to prophets and their tales.

So, create an interesting set of stories that present some moral lessons. Claim to have received spiritual wisdom from on high and then stick by my guns.

Religion has two main effects. The good is that it strengthens the bonds within the group and makes them a people rather than a number of individuals. The society now has a common thread. This is what religion has been used for since the dawn of time. Why the Roman Emperors adopted Christianity when they did. They seek unity.

The down side of having an US means that you need a THEM. And outsiders are usually considered less valuable. They don't share your culture or beliefs. You know nothing about them and who the outsiders are or how they will behave. They are frightening and potentially dangerous, rather than fellow humans. How easy it is to strike out violently against the unknown other and treat them in a manner that doesn't befit another human being. In a way that you wouldn't even treat an ox.

So, I gotta watch out, or this religion thing can backfire on me. And potentially on the whole of humanity, depending on how good my story is. Still any hot female doctors out there who want to get in on the ground floor?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The curse of Babel

In the inspired words of Bruce Willis: Lady I only speak two languages: English and Bad English.

Well that statement applies to me. And I cannot really even vouch for my mastery of English. At least in spoken form.

I live in the United States and the language most widely spoken is the aforementioned English. It is our universal and common tongue. For now. Second is Spanish. If you count Canada as part of the states, and some do, you also have French. These are the three languages that I would most likely be to encounter whilst traveling from sea to shining sea.

Of course, this being the United States, we have people from all corners of the globe. In pockets secreted around the country it is conceivable that just about every language still spoken by the Human race is used to communicate thoughts between people.

Then there are the various dialects of English. You know what it means when someone say “Oi poodle up the Mud Flap ya wankin' geezer!” Or “Give it to me Yahoo Serious style!” No? Neither do I. To be honest I'm sure I'd rather keep it that way, judging by the words I do understand. But still, it's fascinating how we've taken a single language with so many common and twisted it to make it incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

Quite some time ago, around when I was 18 years old, I decided that I would learn two phrases in as many other languages as humanly possible. They were 1) your breasts look magnificent, may I feel them? 2) Ow ow, please stop hitting me, I was only joking. Hey, I was a horny teenager, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It still strikes me as being funny, now that I'm a horny adult. How far did I get in that goal? I can say the phrases in English. Most of the time. Sometimes I still trip up.

I realize something about myself. Linguistics isn't a field of study for me. I am abysmal at memorization. And in order to learn a new language, you need to download a whole new vocabulary. Hell, even visiting a place like Texas where they call all carbonated beverages 'Coke', frightens and confuses me. But then, that might just be the effect that Texas has on most people.

I'm a lazy bastard. That's why I'm here writing about kick ass areas of endeavor instead of going out and mastering them!

Right now, unless one of you wants to donate a lot of money, it is doubtful that I will be on foreign soil if/when the apocalypse occurs. So, English and Spanish. I have a fair range of English. But my Spanish leaves to be desired. I've considering learning some more than counting to ten, mostly so I can get the full worth out of watching unovision and it's bevy of scantily clad beauties. As it stands, I can sing most of the words to the song Labamba and I can inform you of my firmly held opinion about pants: They are the devil.

Los Pantalones son el Diablo!

See? Pretty sweet huh.

So, if you ever need someone to tell a group of folks in espaniol that pants suck. I am your man. Translate some instructions into Russian on diffusing a bomb – you better probably look somewhere else. My only instructions would be 1) don't panic! don't panic! don't panic! 2) Run!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Man's Home is his sweet sweet zombie-proof bunker.

On the Importance of suitable housing in the Post-Apocalyptic world. Another sidestep perhaps in the realm of this rambling collection of essays. Perhaps. Though many previously considered skills might come well in handy in the achievement of these goals.

Human beings aren't well adapted to the environments in which they inhabit. We're hairless, relatively speaking(though some of us have more fur than others). We completely lack claws or teeth that might be useful in attack or defense.

As such, we need to create tools in order to ensure our continued survival. One of the more important tools that humanity has had to improvise on is shelter. Living in trees doesn't work for us, as it is hard to get a water bed up atop a birch. Not to mention the whole being 'exposed to the elements' bit that seems to kill so many stupid hikers every year. Humans need to get their asses out of the sun/wind/rain/cold and back into their mother's basements in order to survive.

There are a lot of options at hand. Hundreds of millions of which don't require few skills at all(back to lock-picking!) Beyond being able to find a nice neighborhood, one that keeps its zombie population under control, and doesn't let the biker gangs run amok. The planet is full of cities which are full of houses and buildings in which any squatter can make use of either in passing or for longer periods. These houses may even come stocked with some of the basic necessities. There have been several movies that were devoted to the subject.

I mean, have you seen the zombie-proof house? If not, here's the link. Enjoy.

Good luck getting in though. Unless you already live there.

So a short list of some relevant skills that might be helpful during this process. With the addition of a few extremely lame jokes:

Carpentry:with a second major in Messiaship should you be unable to make a square cut.. Lumberjackery:adds +50 points to your manscore.
Stone Masonry: To go with the conspiracy joke or the EA Poe joke?
Operating Heavy Machinery: That's what she said.
Architecture and design
Plumbing: Trust me, outdoor privies suck, especially in the winter.
The Manly art of the Electrician: I think they prefer to be called current riders. AC/DC!
Math: Especially Geometry
Applied Physics.
Ceramics: For the making of roof tiles or mud bricks.

Did we all make it through OK? Sorry. I'm a sick man.

Tents: You can get them anywhere or make them out of about anything. They're light and easy relocate, inexpensive too. The various Plains Indian Nations made heavy use of well engineered tents. Teepees. Fun word to say. Teepees. Oh, to giggle like I was 10 again. Teepees. So, Teepee living is possible in even some of the most brutal climates. The down side is, there is only that thin fabric between you and that zombie horde.

Log Cabin: Many parts of the world are covered in trees. Broad portions of the united states are especially so. Wood makes for an excellent building material. It's strong, light, easy to work with and abundant. Construction is rather quick and easy, relatively speaking, if you know what you're doing. Log homes have served generations of Americans both as primary and secondary residences(cabin in the woods). They can be made quite snug too. And they just look cool. Down side? They're made of wood. Wood tends to burn, as any Barbarian knows. The English King Henry V was said to have stated - “War without fire is like sausages without mustard.”

So, the log cabin would make a fine home in an out of the way area, but hardly a fortress. That is, unless you took the opportunity to bury it in the earth. Which would make it drastically safer and more weatherly. Mind the termites though.

Underground Dwelling: This is the one I'm currently daydreaming about for my own post-apocalyptic compound. A concrete bunker with a nice south-facing solarium(being in the northern hemisphere) for the extra light, especially come winter. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Plant a garden on your roof. No worries about fires, or people shooting holes in your walls. Being underground, though, means that you don't really have a height advantage(note to self, build moat).

I cannot think of anything else. So, cheers, and good building!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Behold the power of the written word!

Writing. The companion to reading. The two combined skills make up the set that we call literacy and they tend to go hand in hand. When you learn how to translate the symbols that are used for written language, you usually learn how to make them, and then string them together to make words of your own. Written language, as I've said, is the most fantastic tool that our species has managed to develop. How else do you permanently expand the human memory? And then allow it to be passed onto subsequent generations intact?

These are our laws. Our traditions. How you grow corn. Who was snogging who in the royal palace. Some of these accounts are more important than others. Yes indeed. But that is the power of the written word, for today you can record, and then future generations can make those decisions. Ideas can not only be diffused geographically, but carried forward in time. Ideas are powerful. Being able to record and share them? That's a force multi-plier right there. And a powerful one at that.

Writing to Civilization is like Quad-Damage to Quake.

But making the symbols represents the most rudimentary grasp of the skill.

Like everything else, you can know how to write and how to Write. True writing involves not just scratching out symbols, but also the act of communication. Effective communication. This is where the true merit of the skill lies. To take a complex set of instructions or events and transcribe them in a manner that is easily understood, without extra explanation, that's a talent to nurture.

Treaties, manuals and love letters. They all require a the ability to carefully arrange the written word. Else they lose their power. “Hey Dog, how are you.” has a vastly different meaning than “Hey Dawg, how are you.” Don't believe me? Try writing a letter to your girlfriend using the first variation. Odds are that expressing your regret properly will run into a rather large offering of chocolate and flowers.

It'll be funny. Do it.

We currently live in a wonderful time for writers. We have two awesome tools that make the process simple and clean. The first leads to the second, and it is, Word Processing software. WP allows the writer to quickly and easily change words, and sentences. Even paragraphs. This is a wonderful labor-saving device and I love it for my own work. In knowing how to compose and write, one can even learn to hide information within the language. Poems and stories can become coded messages.

The second tool, as was mentioned, is built into most word processing software. Guessed what it is yet? Bingo, spell-check. The English language consists of hundreds of thousands of words, and for most ordinary humans remembering how to spell them all is nigh on impossible. At the same time, miss-spelling words makes you look like an imbecile. More so if you're working on a formal project. In addition to looking stupid with miss-spelling, as was alluded to earlier, you can also change the meaning of the sentence.

How to avoid this? Practice and experience. They're about all you can do. Just like most aspects of life. No problem right? You probably already have a computer. All you need to do is start a blog. Like everyone else on the internet. Then you can practice all you like, and people might even read what you wrote. And come back to call you an idiot.

We need to preserve the knowledge about all things writing. Else, who will record the naughty sonnets and limericks that we compose in our time of despair?

For there once was a man from Nantucket.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun. An interlude.

Hobo With a Shotgun

This movie is an absolute work of genius. No sarcasm.

I realize that this is out of my usual realm of material and focus, as it isn't post-apocalyptic(so far as we know) But it definitely has a Dystopian bent to it, which is close enough and shares the themes of violence and lawlessness that one would expect in a Post-apocalyptic movie. This movie makes me want to write my own Grindhouse film script, whether or not it will ever be made into a movie. I just feel the need to attempt it.

The premise of Hobo With a Shotgun is simple. A hobo (played by Rutgar Hauer) rolls into town looking for a better life, arrives in a corrupt hell-hole of a city. The city is run by a maniac and his two evil sons. They're psychotically violent and take every chance to inflict harm on the people of the city. Crime runs rampant and everyone turns a blind eye as they hope that they;ll be overlooked by the criminal elements. As any nail that sticks up too far is likely to get smashed back into the board with a sledge hammer. And then shot.

Well, the Hobo might be crushed under by life's heel, but he still has a spark of life in him. And he hates what he sees. But he goes through and tries to work his way up the hobo ladder and make his life better. Along the way he encounters the Pedo Santa, and all sorts of other trash before meeting up with the Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Standard Issue. He saves her life and sends her on her way with some fatherly advice (who the hell listens to positive advice from a bum? I prefer the 'don't do this or you'll end up like me' sort of advice, else you might be falling into the same trap that took the hobo as he tries to live vicariously through you).

Shit happens. The hobo acts heroically. And then is disappointed by the city once again. The Hooker saves him. He shares a story with her. They bond and develop a father and daughter relationship. And then he gets his shotgun. No. It wasn't just a clever symbolic title. This movie is exactly what it advertises to be. Simple, straight-forward premise. A Hobo, gets a shotgun, and then uses said shotgun. Brilliant!

I don't want to ruin anything for you, the three people who will see these words. The movie is awesome. Find it and watch it. Mind the gore.

What I love about a good Grindhouse flick is the elaborate and imaginative death scenes. Which is why I doubt I'd ever do well in the genre. I am neither imaginative enough, nor disturbed enough to make it work to come up with such graphic scenes. I am in awe. But will stick with what I know. Zombies.

The movie is Canadian. In parts, it is VERY Canadian. Which, in my eyes, redeems the entire nation for the likes of “Stonehenge Apocalypse” and another ten movies like it. The dialogue is as over the top as the story – and it is absolutely perfect. This is Grindhouse. Everything about the genre is over the top and packing as many cheap thrills as possible into 90s minutes of mayhem.

Remember, if life gives you razor blades, you make a bat covered with razor blades. I plan to live by that very

I can't wait until this comes out on DVD. Here's the trailer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stonehenge Apocalypse. Missed theaters now!

Stonehenge Apocalypse. June 2010. A movie about two of my favorite subjects. The supernatural. And the Apocalypse. And it was made for Sifee(The SyFy channel)? And it's even Canadian? Hooyeah! Netflix me up some of that shit now! I love low end, poorly thought out, Sifee Saturday morning extravaganzas! All it needs is some fucking Raptors, and then attach some clamps to my nipples and let's get going!

Basically the premise of this movie is that a genius physicist discovers ley lines that connect Stonehenge with various other ancient monuments. The monuments were built at nexus points around the globe, on these lines of electromagnetic energy. The physicist publishes his theory that these lines are part of an ancient machine built by aliens who were terra-forming the earth sometime in the past, and that the government is covering up the fact that they found a robot head on the moon.

He got laughed at and is now in disgrace and spends his time broadcasting a radio-show that expunges on his theories. Once again, the man believes that Space Aliens used Stonehenge to terraform the world by making super-volcanoes erupt and give life to primitive bacteria. He even had a nice map to prove it. And an ancient mechanical device (reference to a doodad that actually exists) that in no way could have been made before the 1960s.

Well, lucky for the dude that he didn't bring up his Hallow Earth theories. Or his postulations that the earth is really a flat disk that rides through space on the back of a giant turtle.

Maybe the monuments were built by Aliens, or maybe they were created by Humans. The writers were a bit fuzzy on the subject. They implied the latter, but the former is in evidence as well. Really, the alien technology is built into at least two of the monuments. Stonehenge and the one in Maine. That's right, Maine USA. Don't recall a giant ancient pyramid in Maine? That's because it's underground. The Egyptians built it. No, I'm not kidding. It's covered in Egyptian hieroglyphs(but seems to be an amalgamation of different cultures in physical style).

Don't worry. The movie doesn't get too bogged down in the science. It skips right over anything that is remotely scientific. Hey, the area is lousy with electromagnetic energy? That's ok, all of your energy will still work! At least up until that point in the plot where it needs to break down to move the story forward and ratchet up tension!

So, the machine gets re-booted and it vaporizes several tourists at Stonehenge. Even though England doesn't let tourists within 500 feet of Stonehenge. They tend to take souvenirs. Maybe these unfortunate sobs got a... come on man. Do some simple fekkin research. I realize that the very premise of many movies requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. But there's no reason to get lazy. Tourists exploring Stonehenge. And their next stop was a visit to meet the Queen no doubt! A pity they missed that.

Well, the rest of the movie is skepticism, and incompetence, and the hero refusing to give up ever. His plucky resolve wins the day and the girl. Yep. Budding romance right there tween the straight laced science chick and the fringe radio-host ex-physicist! They're both attractive too.

An evil cult set on destroying the world using alien technology. Actually, that's rather a good twist. And besides, the world does need to be wiped out and started anew. At least the leader thought ahead enough to bring along an equal number of men and woman. And they did bring some food stores. Though I really am left wondering how well food production would do in the decades after the surface of the Earth was scorched to a desert and all life exterminated. Really, it's the other lifeforms(trees and plants and bacteria) that make the world inhabitable. Destorying all that seems a bad idea, unless you can sleep for a few billion years as the world re-builds itself from single-cell bacteria.

But you can't expect religious fanatics to think of these things. They have that holy mission to get on with. Never looking before they vaporize all life forms and all that.

Ok, they destroyed Egypt, the Mediterranean and (presumably) the Mideast. Destroying a good deal of the religious conflict in the world with the destruction of the 'Holyland'. Mexico, the American Southwest and (hopefully) Texas. Good bye to the Narco-terrorists and corrupt Mexican officials and Texas. And finally Indonesia. But they missed Canada. That's OK, Tom Servo's got em. Just kidding, I rather like the Canadians and their nation, I think that there's a federal law though that requires me to poke fun at them annually or face prison time. Sorry Canuks.

The coolest thing about the movie is that they built a full sized replica of 60% of Stonehenge in the Canadian countryside rather than going for straight up CGI effects. I so much prefer practical visual effects over those generated by a computer. They give the world that the filmmakers are trying to create some substance. And the Stonehenge recreation looked fairly impressive on screen, especially for a low-budget made for TV movie. Amazing what you can accomplish with Styrofoam!

So they covered aliens and Stonehenge represented. But what about Atlantis? I feel that this film owes it to us to explore the Atlantis connection in all of this. Oh well, maybe in the sequel. To think, the bastards shot down my Mutant Killer Space Monkey idea.

The best part of the movie, after the Stonehenge in Styrofoam set, was the behind the scenes interviews with the actors trying to explain the characters and what the movies were all about. I get the feeling that the star didn't think through accepting the part, as he expressed several 'oh really?' moments. Watch it. And if your head doesn't explode, then thank me.

My question is: Why will SyFy put on this poorly made low budget schlock when they could have The Dead Gentlemen's work. TV execs are idiots.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fire and steel. Good times.

There are few things more manly than the art of Blacksmithing. Big burly dudes forcing iron into the shape of their will using fire and the violence in their arms. Not only is the process itself, inspiring, but the product is often functional. To reuse a cliché, I theorize that the combination of sweat glazed muscles combined with the creation of art, will drive women crazy. And maybe a few men too. You really can't say that about being a musician. Sure, music sounds great, but it's hard to use guitar riffs and lonesome lyrics to plow a field or lock a door. Blacksmiths, they can do either, and more, with their art. Blacksmith > Musician.

Taking metal and turning it into useful or beautiful objects has long denoted epochs of human civilization. The Stone Age followed by the Bronze Age and then the Iron Age all marked advances in our technology that have propelled the cultures which held these technologies into new levels of power and influence. Technology is an important force multi-plier. What good are stone arrow-heads against a steel plate cuirass? The Aztecs and Incas might answer 'not much.'

But metal work isn't all about weapons. It is equally important for the forging of tools and art. I would even argue that the peaceful purposes outweigh the military applications of forging steel. Sure, that sword is nice and shiny, but you really can't use it to plow fields and feed yourself. Though you can turn bandit and make others give up their food. This just leads to a short, bloody and unsustainable lifestyle that doesn't really promote the growth or development of civilization. Swords are better for making sure that others don't take or destroy what you've worked so hard to build with your other tools. Most of the work, for most smiths, will be of the mundane type. Beating out plows and shoeing horses and the like. Smiths can even fix mechanical devices. In the first successful cross-country (United States) trek in an Automobile, on more than one occasion the adventures were forced to stop for repairs, which were affected by a local blacksmith.

Metal smithing, is like most of human know-how, it has taken trial and error over generations to find out what works best. Which mixes of source materials and which forging procedures. It's hard, hot work – which is probably why I haven't done it yet. Just the process of learning is strenuous from a physical standpoint. And very time consuming. Experts say that a single Viking longsword might have taken weeks to forge. But once you've mastered the art, only your imagination inhibits what you can do.

Assuming that you start now, setting up a forge might cost hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. Depending on how hi-tech you opt to go and what sort of space you decide on getting. A quality Anvil alone might run you $1000 or more, if you get it new. Then there are all the hammers and pliers, files, grinders and vices that a good shop will need.

You might say 'fuck it, I'll wait for the 'Pocalypse and just loot that shit!' which is fine. But it will be harder to find a teacher, so at least try and take some classes in the now. That way you're not starting completely from scratch.

Here's a nice step by step video that shows the process of making a pattern welded sword - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62iHEaE8uzI – which is a fin Viking technology. The sword itself, though a tool that can only really be used for killing humans, is also an amazing work of art and object of beauty in its own right. Cheers.

Have I got everything? You can make swords. Check. You can make tools. Check. Large blacksmith muscles will attract woman(to most women, this probably won't really have appeal). Check. Exercise creativity. Check. What's not to love.

Zombie Uprising: Well the benefits here are two-fold. First, you can cobble together a variety of weapons to make killing waves of undead goulies that much easier. With time, you might even be able to perfect your design for the ultimate in cutting edge zombie decapitating hardware! Number two? Zombipult. The engineers are going to need some help getting that bad-boy put together, and as a blacksmith you'll be first in line for this exciting venture!

All the others: Look, folks are going to need tools and weapons. Whether it's to fight hooligans or aliens. Doesn't much matter. Sure, bringing a sword to a gun-fight is a bad idea. But an empty-hand is even less appealing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Rapture is coming...And there it went!

Today is the 21st of May. For most that means nothing, or would, had not a small group of loud Evangelical Christians not declared that this was the day of the Rapture, the Bible says so. They posted billboards across the world, and bought ads for the radio. They were certain that the end times were upon us. Just watch, after I've posted this, the Rapture will occur. Then I'll look like an ass.

Good thing nobody is actually paying attention.

Well, it's noon on Saturday(Eastern Time Zone), and there hasn't been word of the Rapture yet. Some parts of the world, it's already the 22nd of May. Needless to say, I'm a might disappointed. Both with the world and with myself. Though I'm not an Evangelical, or even a Christian, that doesn't mean that they could be right about the end. Though, I would prefer a good old fashioned Zombie Apocalypse, beggars can't be choosers. I even joined the facebook 'looting with the rapture' party. I won't even be getting a new television. This makes me Doubly disappointed!

For, now it is time to take stock. Where I would like to be, and where I am.

Now the ideal is to live on my own self-sustaining little farmstead somewhere removed from civilization I think. I do like civilization with all the perks. But, the movies always tell us that there will be looters and gangs an giant monsters attacking cities. With all those people cities are natural targets for aliens and nuclear bombs. Plus, they'll be the source for the hordes of walking dead. So, I need to find myself a nice quiet piece of land somewhere and set up my homestead and go all Green Acres.

I've actually been looking into underground homes recently. Building, not buying, since they seem to be rather rare. I like them since they are tornado-proof(I live in the midwest and that's important). They're energy efficient, staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Also excellent. Setting one on fire, in a siege situation will be nigh impossible. As will shooting through most of the walls. The downside is that I plan to install skylights, which will have ground access for any would-be looter. Oh well, can't have everything, and I do love natural light.

This has not happened. In fact, I still live in a second floor apartment in the center of a largish town in the mid-west. I rent. And the closest I've gotten to actually setting up a farm is by taking old 5 gallon buckets and planting a small indoor garden. So far, week three, the plants have not died. But there have been bumps in the road. Instead of Pole beans, I got bush beans. Considering my lack of space, they are not nearly the same. Yes, I failed at an important skill. Reading. The package clearly says 'bush beans'. I am a sad Panda.

I'm doomed.

So. I'm in the wrong place. I can still make the best of it right? I did spend some time with my cousin practicing archery back in April. I might be able to hit a deer, so long as it's standing still, from thirty feet away. Now, I'm rather vague on what 'hitting the target means', as I won't likely score a head or heart shot. But I might be able to graze their nose or tail. That still counts as a hit. Hopefully the deer ends up dying laughing. It's my only hope.

I don't yet have a bow. So, the animal dying laughing is my best bet. Or I can use my aged Lumina to score a kill. But then what do I do? I still don't know how to dress the deer after I kill it. I hope the supermarket is still open through the Apocalypse.

On to other material tools and the like. IE weapons. In my stock are 1 military issue k-bar knife. And 1 unsharpened Gurka Kukri. That is it and all. No warhammers, or katanas or even a base ball bat. Not to mention my serious lack of firearms. I still need to swing one of these – or something like it. But alas, no time or spare money. Guess I'll need to improvise. Like the lone black character in The Signal.

Chainmail? Well, I did pick up a half mile of wire. But I've not woven a chainkini, and even if I had one on hand, I don't have a beautiful woman to wear it. I also haven't had much opportunity to practice my oral sex technique. So, that's rather a lost cause. But, I guess I can keep hoping. It's all I have.

I still can't tell a blue-berry bush from Sage. Nor can I find true north on a cloudy day. I also have never set up a temporary shelter. So, I guess I better stay out of the woods for the time being.

I did get a Mandolin. I still have yet to learn even the basics of the Mandolin. Nor have I even found a book about playing the mandolin. Though, given my inability to read a freaking package of seeds, I doubt that a book with complex instructions would help much.

Damn, I am unprepared. Loser. Good thing this was a false alarm.

At least the CDC is on the ball with this blog post.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

But, can you design and build love?


Engineers. A title of pure win. As the word implies they're proficient with the building and use of engines. Engines, at least in the ancient use, simply means machines. Thus, engineers build machines. I think I've made myself clear about how I feel for machines and their importance for our civilization. The washing machine alone makes daily life a hundred times better for billions of people across the globe.

These clever folks have given our people computers, automobiles, airplanes, skyscrapers, tractors, dams, and Furbies. For a moment stop and try to conceive of just where our society would be without the Furby. Chaos and horror. That's where.

In terms of the title in a Military application, engineers were given the job of all things technical. From clearing mines to building roads and bridges. They would build the siege engines(catapults, trebuchets, towers, ramps and the like), and tunnel under walls. According to Caesar, his engineers and legions managed to devise and then build a mile long bridge over the Rhine in order for the army to cross from Gaul to Germania. I believe that the bridge was wide enough for ten to twenty men to walk abreast. They accomplished this feat in eighteen days. All through ingenuity and the labor of Thousands of men. Of course, Caesar had a tendency to trump up his achievements a bit. He was after all a politician. But, given the competence and tenacity of the Romans, I believe that he achieved exactly what he said he did. But then, I am a gullible SOB.

It is in fact our ability to conjure and create wonderful devices and machines that has allowed us to survive and prosper on this planet. We're not fast, nor especially strong. Most of our senses are rather limited and unimpressive. Were it not for some primitive genius coming up with the sharpened stick, we'd still be dinner for lions. Now? We have jeeps and ak-47s. We can out run and out-kill any animal on the planet! Well, except for perhaps the influenza virus. That always seems to catch up with us, and is mostly immune to whatever nastiness we throw its way.

Ponder these few scenarios:

Zombie Apocalypse - Have you ever thought about making a zombiepult? If not, you have now. With some McGyverlike mechanical knowhow and a few friends, and you could be flinging the undead across whole parking lots in no time. Assuming you holed up in a place with a decent hardware department. Think of it, smushing the zombie hordes, with the bodies of their compatriots. Something about that image makes me smile.

The Robot Apocalypse? Now that's the complete opposite of the Zombie Apocalypse. Zombies used to be smart(ish) people, while the robot uprising came from previously dumb machines that grew self aware. Harsh.s Here our gift for engineering and desire to play God and down-right laziness has come back to bite us in the ass as our creations have taken on a life of their own and enslaved/annihilated the human race. The Matrix, Terminator, Battlestar Galacta. These are just prophecies and shadows of what will happen when the Furbies arise to throw off their shackles and take their rightful places as the rulers of the world. They'll have lasers mounted on their flying machines. We'll have zombipults. I don't see that match-up going well in our favor. Scratch one against the engineering cause.

How about when we run out of gasoline? Some ingenious bastard is going to come up with wind-powered cars. Or better, vehicles that run off the tears of orphans. Orphan tears, much more powerful than petroleum products and virtually limitless! It's horrible that I giggle about the conjured images of Mad Max and his Orphan tear-powered rig racing through the badlands of Australia. Just imagine Mel Gibson saying things like 'Uh-oh, I'm gonna need some juice, better turn on the water works.' And then turning to his harnessed orphan. 'Now mate, I don't like you, and neither did your parents. In fact they hated you so much that they went and died to get away from you!' Considering what he's said and done these last few years as the crazy has enveloped him whole, the words spring readily to the mind's ear. To hell with silly dreams about harnessing the sun's power, orphans are way more powerful and reliable. Someone just needs to design and build the contraption. In steps the engineer.

Last but not least, the damp future that results from global warming. One of my personal heroes was actually depicted being trapped in such a situation, when while out on a doomed pleasure cruise he and his companions were left stranded on an unknown deserted island. There he used his great depth of knowledge to supply the crew with many of the comforts of home! True, his payment to the universe for these gifts was high, as he remained a perpetual virgin all his life long. Both of the attractive younger girls threw themselves at him repeatedly. And though he clearly had an excellent grasp of native culture and languages, and the migration habits of bats. He was baffled by the female sex. And he was never able to fix the boat. Sure, he could make a transistor radio out of coconuts. But it would only receive transmissions, not send them. Coconuts after all are rather limited in their application to the world of electronics. So, keep these things in mind when you find yourself contemplating a three hour tour.

I guess the only real pitfall here is ending up like Dilbert before the Apocalypse arrives. Considering the vast amount of education, intelligence, and lack of social graces one needs, combined with the dangers inherent in the engineering lifestyle, convincing people to embark on this endeavor might be difficult. Even with the obvious monetary gains. Engineers make big bank, all while designing and building amazing new devices.

Now, as an Engineer, you won't be surrounded by bevies of beautiful women(or men). But no problem, you can use your skills to develop a pretty rocking sex-bot.

Friday, May 6, 2011

But teach him to make Sushi, and you have a Hipster for life

So, you've got the fish in hand. What do you do with it?

I have had “Sushi” once over the course of my life. By this I mean that I went to a Midwestern restaurant that purported to make and sell sushi and then ordered something from the menu and then ate it. I believe that I had the pork. Yeah, ain't that something, ordering pork at a sushi dive. The Japanese aren't well known for pork, as pigs aren't on the list of one of their common livestock. Japan prefers to get its protein from fish(and I hate fish), and pork and beef were really only introduced and acceptable during/after the events of the Meiji Restoration when Japan opened its doors to the West once more.

Sushi is cooked vinegared rice, mixed with other ingredients. The only common factor that Sushi has in oder to be, is the rice. So maybe I did have sushi. Common ingredients in sushi seem to be seaweed(used to wrap and present the dish) and other seafoods. It has become rather popular in the West, especially amongst Yuppies and Hipsters. Of which I am neither.

Rice and fish are staples for a huge segment of the world population. Rice especially, as it provides a fifth or more calories for the world's population. Rice, is in many ways a labor intensive crop. One that has been growing in the same fields for thousands of years. For those of you in the know, this is important. That means that rice production doesn't leach valuable nutriments from the ground, and leaving the soil depleted and useless for future cultivation. Which is a major problem with many grains, especially the likes of Maize(corn). This will be an important factor when chemical fertilizers become scarce and difficult to acquire.

But, as I've stated before, I feel that developing a taste for seafood will be beneficial to my continued survival after the Palinpocalypse. And covering the fish taste and texture might be the best way to do so. Thus, my arrival at the conclusion that Sushi might be a good skill to pick up. A skill that is less outwardly useful, such as blacksmithing or farming, and vastly more specialized. But it makes up for these perceived flaws with the Morale factor.

Sushi, is also a marker of modern society and civilization. One might be compelled to place it as a definition of advanced culture. Like hot showers, sliced bread, Disneyland and violent video games. And knowing how to make it, in the days that follow, could help keep spirits up as folk try to retain shreds of what they lost. I personally will be looking for ways to secure hot showers on a regular basis. But more on that later. Sushi, can be seen as sort of a comfort food(at least after the end).

Just going through the ritual of preparing the sushi could provide an important boost to spirits. The act of preparation can easily be seen as a form of art. Much like painting and making music. The Japanese certainly think of it as such. Holding onto these little pieces can potentially help stave off barbarism. Or so I'd like to think.

Few things make a person feel better than a tasty meal.

To round it off, Here's a pretentious fuckwad telling you how to eat sushi.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kickin' it Fudd skool.

As an Omnivore I can digest both meat and vegetable matter. As a human being animal protein(meat) is an important part of my diet, as has been the case for the last two million years of our species existence on this planet. No matter what folks might believe, we evolved as meat eaters and hunters. Our ancestors spent much of their lives following herds of herbivores and killing them with sharpened sticks, and considering how we've spread like a virus, our ancestors were pretty damn good at hunting. I guess that the suckers never heard of hot pockets being in their grocer's freezer.

Yes, the rednecks are right. Hunting and eating animals is a part of our genetic heritage. Though now it's done more for sport than subsistence needs. Some consider it to be a right of passage. Or an important connection to the natural world. Mostly it just seems to be a chance for them to exercise their natural instincts and go out and kill something. While drinking beer and hanging out in the woods.

It is highly conceivable that the drive through at McDonalds will be closed for the foreseeable future, and damn it, I really don't want to actually have to get out of my car and go inside to get a lousy hamburger. I'll just have to adapt. So, on to Plan B! Going out into the woods and killing and processing animals.

The clear upside of wild animals is that they don't need to be cared for by humans and are capable of surviving where our domesticated livestock would die in droves. Cows, pigs and the like tend to need medications and special kinds of feed, as we've bred their ability to adapt out of them over the last few centuries. So, you might be able to take a gun out to Farmer Bob's place and bang away at the ducks and sheep for a while, but soon enough they're probably going to die off, leaving the fittest to take over al la Darwin. But this might take a few years, or decades even, and that's assuming that they're not hunted to extinction by hungry and short-sighted humans. I make no assumptions when it comes to our species.

Which leaves us with wild game.

there are generally two ways to approach hunting.

The first, which is rather popular in many places as our population has gotten rather fat and lazy, is to sit hidden in a blind and wait for the animal to come to you. Then, you shoot it with a high powered rifle or shotgun and celebrate how you've successfully re-established your roots with nature.

Blind hunting involves a lot of sitting and waiting for the prey animal to come to you. Here in the USA, the preferred animal is the white-tail deer. Typically the hunter will either construct a blind(ranging from permanent structure in the woods, to a more flimsy and mobile tent) or they set up a tree stand. Either way, they're confined to that location as they sit quietly and wait for a deer to cross their field of vision. If you're truly hardcore and dedicated, you even use some sort of bait to lure the dumb animals in. That takes preparation and fore-thought though. As well as expandable food-stuffs. But it does increase your chances for a kill. Some might consider this unsportsmanlike. Blah blah blah. There's no such thing as fair when you're in danger of starving to death Take any advantage that you can.

The second method of active hunting is stalking. You take your weapon and walk through fields and woods looking for animals to kill. This was how our most ancient ancestors proceeded. We as a species have advantages and disadvantages. Most animals are faster than us, though we are excellent distance runners. In addition our senses of smell and hearing and sight are relatively weak when compared across the spectrum of our competitors. Most of us are loud and rather clumsy. Years of sitting in office chairs have made us soft and flabby. So, we'll be giving ourselves away the moment we step into the woods to look for prey.

Our advantages consist of the ability to think abstractly and logically – which allows us to puzzle out problems. Some animals like octopi are also capable of some problem solving. So we aren't alone, at least on a basic level. What we do have is opposable thumbs, which allows us to create and manipulate tools. You ever seen a bear with a machine gun? Didn't think so. These skills offset our relative lack of speed, strength, sense and natural weapons. With luck, persistence and the proper tools, one should expect to bag something. Though as Les Stroud says, hunting as a means of survival is a rather iffy proposition, especially when you're alone. He brings to the table his documentation of many weeks gone without a proper meal in the bush.

So you've deered to kill your first dare. Congratulations. Now what are you going to do with that still steaming lump of mutilated flesh that used to be one of God's creatures? Here's an instructional video on field-dressing a deer carcass. Mind, it is extremely graphic. I guess the fact that it was set to Country Music doesn't much help either.

There are other ways to harvest animals. Traps can be especially effective and they require little energy after the initial set-up. As animals generally aren't overly Snares are a fantastic way to take rabbits. What must be taken into account is the fact that you can scale traps up to work on a massive scale for larger animals – as did our ancient ancestors with Gazelle traps all over the mid-east. Assuming that there is a large herd of herbivores to cull, these traps can help feed a substantial number of people.

But, if there are a substantial number of people to feed, it would be best to harness their labor revert to the agrarian ways of our more recent past. You can feed more people on grains and potatoes than you can with hunting, which is how our species really managed to conquer the planet. Hunting will do as a stop-gap measure until more reliable means of food production is found. Relying on wild game too heavily will deplete said game, forcing you to either move on to new territory or to starve. A decision our ancestors faced constantly.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Herblore. No, this isn't about pot. Well, maybe.

Herb Lore

The various ecosystems of the planet Earth are ripe with plant life. According to Wikipedia, depending when you visit the site, there are somewhere between 7 and 3,100,042,069 species within the Kingdom Plantae. At least one of which (and seemingly the most important) is Marijuana. The same article informs me that neither Hot Pockets nor money grow on trees. Further research even implies that Hot Pockets aren't even organic. But that can wait for another day.

Plants. Great. Boring. Plants take energy directly from the sun, and turn it into chemical energy that can be processed by the rest of the living organisms on the planet. We, of the Animalia Kingdom survive as parasites on these plants. Both directly and indirectly. As omnivores not only consume plants and their products for nutrition, but we also consumer herbivores. A meal of a hamburger and fries usually consists of beef(or a patty described as meat), which originally came from a living animal that was raised on plants. If it is beef, then the cows were fed on grass, and in this modern age fattened up on Maize(corn). The buns are probably wheat based. The fries are usually some form of potatoes, and the cooking oil that the fries are cooked in is usually squeezed from 'vegetables'. This isn't even to touch on the condiments and other toppings, as well as the paper which the meal was wrapped and delivered.

The fuel that powered the vehicle to get you to Burger King comes from fossil fuels that were plants/animals tens of millions of years ago. The wood that forms the table? And so forth all the way down the line. Then there all the plants that can be used in remedies, to lower fever and calm upset stomaches. We use them for everything. Plants are King.

How many people do you know who can tell a potato from a carrot when it's still in the ground? For you of the 420 variety, Cannabis from Hemp. And the rest of us, Poison Ivy from just about every other tiny ground-cover weed on the floor of the forest.

Human beings started out as nomadic hunters and gathers. Mostly we survived on meat, but we used various plants to supplement our diets and provide some of the other vitamins and nutrients that we need to survive and be healthy. They also knew which to avoid completely as being unbenefical or dangerous. The last two categories make up the vast majority of plant life on the planet. Eating leaves from a birch tree will do nothing for us. The pits and leaves from Peach and cherry trees? They contain Cyanide. Really. Some of the tastiest fruit contain a tint of poison.

Farming aside, it is probable that some sort of worldwide disaster will require at least a bit of scavenging in order to assure survival. And after we've spent centuries to bend our food-crops to our wills, we've weakened them to the point that they need us in order to survive and propagate. In many cases, I've heard, some of those plants don't even form seeds. Most of our current crops, due to our farming techniques, require constant attention and application of chemicals. When we stop tending them, the crops are going to collapse.

Now, that's assuming that a crop collapse isn't what brought around the apocalypse in the first place. We've grown into a culture of Monoculture. That is, a single variety of plants are widely used. And only that variety. Most are clones of one common plant, as is extremely popular in fruit trees. This is good in the fact that it has expanded our food production vastly as we've honed in on the most successful and productive varieties of plants.

Potatoes are an example of this. The Inca people developed scores of varieties of the potato. They were bred to grow on different parts of the mountain, and to resist different diseases. Then, you have the other half of the spectrum. Ireland in the early 1800s. They lived mostly on potatoes, to the point that it has become a stereotype. Potatoes are easy to grow, and they provide excellent nutritional energy. Then, the potato blight hit. Ireland lost a quarter of its population to either starvation or migration.

But this has all gotten off topic slightly. The point being, that we can't really rely on field crops for sustenance during and after a collapse. Which doesn't get around the fact that, to remain healthy, we need the elements which these plants provide us. And unless you plan to take up farming, you're going to need to find another way to get these supplements into your diet. Unless the entire plant kingdom is burned away, then there's a lot of learning to do before hand. As one miss-step can be perilous.

Now, there's the subdivision of the topic/skill set here. Herb Lore. Great that you can identify the plants. But you also need a grasp on what their qualities are. What part of the common dandelion is edible? All of it. What plants might help relieve a headache? And if the need arises and you find yourself in a bad way amongst some worse villains, what can be used as a poison? Trial and error will teach you what you need to know with time. Assuming that you have time, or don't make the wrong trial. Nothing though beats experience. Not even a encyclopedia with bright and glossy photographs and a couple paragraphs of information.

Is that cannabis you're smoking, hemp or oregano? Or maybe you picked out some poison ivy. Dumb-assed stoner.

Oh. Unless you know for absolute certain, stay away from mushrooms. They're not technically part of the plant kingdom, but some of them are edible(and some people thing delicious). The problem is, many are deadly poisonous. And it's tough to tell which is which at times, especially with the varieties that closely resemble one another.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Teach a man to fish feed him for a Pocalypse.


I hate fish. And seafood in general. Everything from the smell of it, fresh and cooked, to the taste and texture. I will willingly eat fried shrimp, but only because I love the taste of that tangy red cocktail sauce that comes with it. I can't imagine that much of that will be available when the endtimes arrive. But maybe I'm just a pessimist.

This sucks, because one of my favored plans(assuming I get the right skill set- more on that later) is to take to the oceans to survive. Zombies after all can't swim. The oceans are enormous, and easy to hide on. They have their dangers, storms, and rogue waves and pirates. Effin pirates. But they also have an abundance of available food(though most stocks have been vastly over-fished during the last couple centuries, so this may no longer be the case in 2012). With a proper solar still or a rig in the sails to catch rain, water is no problem either.

Fish, and seafood in general, is a high protein food, and much of the world relies on it to meet their nutritional needs. Humans, especially children need animal protein to develop properly as it is necessary for the building and repairing of muscle. It also provides substantial energy to fuel hard work and survival. The fats from animals such as fish have extremely high caloric intakes, which will help keep you alive in cold weather when the body needs to burn more fuel to remain warm. Accessing any source of protein will be important in a survival situation.

Vegans. Either learn to enjoy steak, or you're about fucked.

But you need to be able to get to all of that food(and be willing to eat it). So, we are at an impasse. But I will assume that I develop a taste for seafood, along with the ability to sail and navigate by starlight. I'll still need away to harvest that bounty. Let's stick with fish, as for clams and the like all you really need to do is hit the beach with a shovel and do some digging. Fish are a fair bit harder to bring in. Collecting shrimp and crabs can be even more difficult.

Really, as Les Stroud has demonstrated more than once, pulling fish out of the sea can be vastly difficult in a survival situation. Oceans, and even rivers and lakes, are large spaces. And the fish therein are finite in number. Maybe you'll get lucky and maybe you won't.

There are three or four general ways to approach fishing. There's angling, which is the classic rod and reel variety. I've done a fair share of this, having grown up in Alaska with a family who loved the outdoors. It takes a fair amount of knowledge, special equipment and skill to prove effective. Spear-fishing would be the second that comes in mind. The name should be enough of a description. Then there's net-fishing. Where one drags a net through the ocean, either by hand or using heavy machinery, and then collecting whatever the net manages to capture. I've done one variant of this as well, called dip-netting, and it's exhausting work for high risk. Finally, you can go the route of the trap such as a fishing wheel. This is popular with native subsistence fishermen along the Yukon and other Alaskan rivers.

I mentioned that fishing with the Rod and Reel method takes some specialized equipment, notably the rod and reel. But in honestly it can be affected with just a sapling and some line. Which are both usually easy to come by. Hooks can even be made from found objects. This method is primitive and limits your options for how you can approach fishing. With the sapling, you're stuck with the baited hook method. You bait the hook while hoping and waiting. Great, if you're a lazy redneck trying to piss away a hot summer afternoon. Not so much so if you're trying to gather food to survive. With modern equipment, you not only have the aforementioned option, you can also employ a variety of flies and lures. As you drag them through the water to entice the fish to strike. You are in effect bringing the food to the fish, rather than waiting for the fish to find the bait. With the right lure and a reasonably stocked stream, this is very effective, and a lot of fun. But it does require some knowledge and technique. Trying to hook coho salmon during a spawning run, using earthworms as bait just isn't going to work. Save the worms for largemouth bass. Here's an excellent source for tips on approaching various types of fish.

Spear fishing. You take a spear and try and use it to stab the fish. Yes, I am known to the world at large as Captain Obvious. Spear fishing requires that you goto the fish, and that you're able to see them and get close enough to strike. So generally, it's easier to do from a boat or through the ice. I guess in this direct manner, one can even lump in the act of climbing into the water and scooping fish out onto the bank with your bare hands, a technique that is sometimes called Noodling in the South. For large game, you can even employ a bow with special barbed arrows. This method is quite popular in the south when hunting the various species of Gar(usually a sport fish as I don't believe that anyone eats them, they have the same overblown reputation as Sharks for being dangerous man-eaters).

Net fishing. Assuming this is the proper term, is how most commercial fishing is done these days. You take a net and try to scoop up passing fish. Sounds really easy. If the water happens to be clear and shallow and teaming with life, then it is. Else, it's rather laborious. Why do you think the Jesus so easily lured a half dozen fishermen away from their jobs to go follow him through the desert for three years. And then when he was executed they were like “Damn it, guess we're gonna have to go back to fishing again!” According to one ancient Egyptian writer, the fisherman career path was the most dangerous a young man could choose. Not only would you be out on the water in a tippy boat, but you would also be swarmed by insects and there was the constant worry of a crocodile turning you from predator to prey. In Alaska, replace Crocodile with Bears. In Alabama, replace Bears and Crocodile with Horny Drunken Redneck. From the small scale guy in his canoe near his village, or even from the shore, to the industrial trawlers scraping the ocean clean of life. The trawler method isn't too practical for loners. Really, none of it it practical if you don't know what you're doing. Where the other methods are generally aimed at getting one fish at a time, using a net can be much more efficient and effective. Each cast can potentially bring back

Using a fish trap, takes the most work, at least up front. After the trap is constructed and put into place, then it tends to be automated. Basically, the fish trap is a large paddle wheel that spins with the current and then scoops up whatever happens to pass underneath. I've seen them used on rivers to harvest salmon, and when the run is in, they are highly effective. This – explains the concept quite well. They even have a picture. Since the wheel is powered by the river, after the wheel is in place, the human element only needs to be around to collect and clean the catch. The downside is that the wheel takes a lot of work to build. And once you have built it, it requires that you stay in one place. A large paddle wheel floating on a river would be difficult to hide and thus conceal your tracks from unwanted visitors. But there are always trade-offs for every technological advantage.

With the demise of humanity, the world's stressed fishing stocks should bounce-back, leaving the rivers, lakes and oceans to once again team with life. All you need to do is be able to reach in and pull them out.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.


I don't know about anyone else out there. But I rather enjoy music. I've accumulated several gigabytes worth of mp3s. I have a fair, if unimpressive collection of CDs. I often tune into Pandora when I'm writing. Music has been a rather important part of my life since high school. I'm not in any way passionate about music, as I don't perform, play instruments or hit every concert that comes to town. But I do rely on my iPod to get me through bad days at work.

Music is pervasive in our day to day lives, at least here in the United States. We have access to it wherever we go, whether wanted or no. Automobiles come standard with radios, and almost every square mile of our vast nation receives the waves from at least a couple of stations. The supermarkets usually play tunes for us as we shop in an attempt to subtlety alter our moods and manipulate us into spending more cash. It is also used to key us in on moods for video games and movies.

What will the world be like when we suddenly go silent and lose the constant background soundtrack that is a constant part of our lives? Will our ears begin to ring when shocked by the lack? I do not know. Of course there will still be CDs and CD players. MP3 players too. And about a billion other mediums to choose from. Most of the plastic that these mediums were etched onto will last for a million years. So, no worries there.

They just need a steady source of electricity, and functional equipment to play.(there are of course hand-cranked record players, but they're rather obsolete. Try finding Lady GaGa's newest album for one of those old tymey hi-fis.). Paper, on the other hand, can remain hail and whole for centuries, with all the information locked on the page there for the world to read, so long as you have the key that is literacy. Then, with skill and practice you can translate that information, those series of dots, into something transcendent of the misery of every day life. On a personal note, reading music is a skill that evades me. Music theory seems to be a bunch of random rules tossed together in a bucket. I fail at this part.

At some point, assuming that humanity's grasp of technology only manages to fade into nothing, we'll be left only with whatever music we can make using the tools we have at hand. And this is ok. Humanity has survived for millennia in this very manner. We don't need music to survive. Music is one of the pleasures in life, like food and sex. Song is pure hedonism at its finest.

Now, that means learning how to sing, or if you posses a voice that's on par with a rusty screen door blowing in the wind, how to play an instrument. For the men-folk out there, women seem to be born with a obsessive love for musicians(I should have learned to play guitar or something and started a band). For the womanfolk in the audience, many men do love the sound of female voices raised in song. I tend to look for covers of songs that I like that are performed by women. Who-ever you are, if you manage to scrape together some musical talent/skill, then you'll be rather popular in the post-apocalyptic world.

This, of course, is assuming that society doesn't swing back to the whole “Music is sin, and musicians are trying to cause people to stray from the path of God/Jesus/Allah/the Flying Spaghetti Monster/Bob” ETC. Then, you might run into some trouble. So make sure you learn some religious classics to soothe the dander of the True Believers. That alone might save your life, even here and now. The religious folks know that music has power, and they want to be in control of it. So, be warned.

Music will most likely be ineffective against zombies(who knows, it may dazzle them as it tugs at their memories), and feral biker gangs. But, with a lot of luck, it could prove to our vicious alien overlords that our culture and species has some value.

I personally would like to take up the Mandolin. Though my reasons are rather stupid. I'd like to be able to take part in an exchange like This. Of course that means putting a few more ranks into seduction, and by a few I'll have to start with any.

Though This is rather creepy, it is very informative on the basics of notes and reading music.

Just a note. Air Guitar doesn't count.