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 - – 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.