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.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Women love a man who can handle a stick.

Recently (September of 2010) I learned how to operate an automobile equipped with a manual transmission. This was possible only with the help of Google and Youtube. Youtube actually became useful, rather than being a repository for the stupidity of our species(both in video format, and the comments of the idiots who view the videos. Whence comes the revolution, youtube flame-warriors will be the second against the wall. Right after the religious zealotry).

As a side note. I detest people who make idiotic and often irrelevant comments “about” youtube videos. I detest them. All it takes to get me to offer a prayer to the coming of Gozer the Destructor is a brief foray into the jungle of stupid. I hate it, and yet sometimes I cannot help a glance, as I find myself scrolling down to see what sorts of opinions the video of a cat playing a keyboard has generated. It's like Heroine, the shit is killing my soul, I can feel it wither away with each half-thought spatter of , and yet I keep going back. My foresight in creating this blog aside, I am clearly not bright enough to long survive the apocalypse. For I will be the schmuck who keeps visiting Barter Town even after being stabbed the first two times.

Anyways, I too lessons from Youtube. Some were actually fairly helpful and well presented. Check out the bandanned Hippy! But since this is youtube we're talking about, most of what I found was incompetent drivel.

In the states at least, so it appears, most cars made and sold these days are Automatics. Somewhere back in the past someone said 'manually switching gears in an automobile is quite tricky. Surely we can make this simpler for the masses.' and they are correct, driving a manual is tricky, it takes practice to acquire the timing necessary not to stall out. And there's always the worry, especially when you're stopped on a hill, that you won't move fast enough (see Bill Cosby talking about driving a manual in San Francisco). This is the same set of logic that gave us Operating Systems with the Graphical User Interface and mechanical machines to wash our clothing. The Automatic is a wonderful labor-saving device.

It's just not as fun to play with, as it removes some of the skill aspect from driving a car.

Driving a Manual is a dying art, sad to say, at least in the States. I have formed the opinion that Manuals should be made mandatory on all vehicles. Not out of any pretentious douchery on my part relating to the purity of the art of driving. No, this is more practical. I have observed that driving a manual makes it impossible to operate a telephone while driving. You can't put on makeup. One hand is busy with the stick while the other is glued to the wheel. Operating a manual forces you to pay attention to the act of driving, which is what you should be doing. That way, nobody gets hurt because you're acting like a dumbass.

Ok. There are a couple of definite benefits of a manual transmission in a post-apocalyptic setting. Fuel efficiency is the first. Manuals are usually more fuel efficient, by on average a couple miles to the gallon, than automatics. Though that margin seems to be slimming with the arrival of new technology. A couple miles per gallon can mean quite a distance over the course of months or years, especially in a wasteland where fuel is scarce. Even on a small vehicle, that's 20 miles of extra distance over the course of a tank. 20 miles makes for a long ass walk through zombie infested nuclear wastelands.

Reason two. You can push start a manual. In some cases of mechanical failure with the starter, the engine can be ignited by getting it up over a certain speed. Which is really easy to do if you're lucky enough to be parked on top of a hill, or have friends to help you. A moot point if you're alone on the plains. Time to get your bike out. Hope you brought it.

Three. Mechanically, a manual trans. is relatively simple device compared to its counterpart. It is smaller, more compact and lighter. And thus will be easier to replace if that part were to fail on you. Assuming you just couldn't find another vehicle (and were able to locate parts, etc.).

Four. In my experience, a manual can get up to top speed a lot faster than an automatic. Though this burns fuel quickly, it may come in handy during one of those tense scenes where you and your pursuers are stuck at a stop light, waiting for it to turn green so that you can renew the chase sequence. It really ramps up the excitement!