Archive for the ‘research’ Category

When I first began this blog I was trying to figure out the best place to loot after Law&Order no longer plays on reruns.  My thought process was looting is not criminal when it is a matter of survival, I mean, everyone does it.   After reading the prepper blogs I have come around to way of thinking that looting is not a good plan for the apocalypse for a host of decent reasons.  First, you will be surrounded by other looters.  Looters, as a rule are a desperate and unethical bunch.  You are more likely to be stabbed with a screwdriver in a mob while stampeding out than getting enough food to survive.  Why associate yourself with these people?

So looting is out, but then a friend suggested the value of looting the dump.  This is not as bad as an idea as it sounds on first instinct.  There will be food for the chickens.  There will be things to smelt.  There will be spare parts.  The problem is that your average smuck would not know what to do with the random parts one would find at the dump.    I should take in a load for research.

Anybody been to dump recently?

Thoughts and lessons learned while reading “Bangs & Whimpers: Stories about the end of the world” edited by James Frenkel.

Warning: Spoiler Alerts!  So don’t get all nasty, I gave you a warning.  I summarize the basic premise of some of the stories to help me remember their points.  You have been warned. SPOILER ALERTS BELOW!

The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke:  Just because lone self-proclaimed wise men are on the top of a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas doesn’t mean that they actually know what they are talking about.  Even if they have done it for centuries.   Also, who would sign up for the apocalypse?  Why would one ask God to quit?  Mr. Clarke, no surprise here, gives a solid plausible explanation to these questions.

Killing the Morrow by Robert Reed :  One man trusts his gut when all around him, including himself, falls to mind control. Aliens attack my osmosis.

We Can Get Them for you Wholesale by Neil Gaiman:  I enjoyed watching Gaiman lets his sense of dark comedy flow free. In his graphic novels, I am use to him getting more burdened down with obscurity.  A vain man  unknowingly hires other-being mercenaries to kill us all.

Not with a Bang by Howard Fast:  A wonderfully comic piece of how one sensible man reacts when the sun gets dramatically snuffed out like a candle.

Lost and Found by Connie Willis :Explains why it would be bad if the Holy Grail had been in Russia during the 1950’s.

The Wind and the Rain by Robert Silverber:  I really like the narrator’s angle to a common warning.  Think Inconvinet truth with the cold amusement of a perspective millions of years later.

Expendable by Philip K Dick: What a wonderful imagination on that man.  Would the spiders and the ants and the feral cats mourn our passing?

Finis by Frank L. Pollack:  The world burns quickly and two people kiss.

A Guide to Virtual Death by J.G. Ballard: More of a warning than a record of Humanity’s willingness to create their own end.

Emissary from a Green and Yellow World by Robert Sheckley: I really liked this one.  A wonderful comedic commentary of what makes Humans so wonderful and horrible at the same time.

The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark: Once we are barely holding on, living in caves, we will lament for the  beautiful things once-made my man.  Duh.

Fermi and Frost by Frederik Pohl: How the shit would play out in Iceland.  Well thought out scenario.  Good example of how to logically think out a world.

Ultimate Construction by C.C. Shackleton: At 2 pages long, the definition of how to switch-it up at the end.  Sandcastles made of sand might not be a bad idea when we know everything is going to melt anyway.

The Manhattan Phone Book (abridged) by James Tiptee Jr:  Lame.  It turns out to be a lecture to the reader on how the apocalypse won’t really be that fun, because, you know, of all the death also you, the reader, will probably die. WHATEVVVVER!!!!

The Man who Walked Home by James Thurber: I did not understand half of what was happening, but a wonderful story of the birth of faith and ghosts in the machines of science.

Interview with a Lemming by James Thurber: Great example of how to write a short, very short, story that is meant to only set up the end.  Makes you question the role of basic assumptions and how they lead to different logics.

The Last Question by Issac Asimov:  The end is very far out indeed.   Very very very far out.  Like a billion years far out.  Who else better to pull that off but the master?

For years I have day-dreamed about getting my doctorate in Future Studies.  There are several reasons I would find this interesting and I think my past history of teaching High School Social Studies in Mexico City and Damascus Syria, combined with the MBA and eight years working in financial Services helps make me a good candidate.  But the coolest reason to do this would be I could tell people I am a Doctor, and when they asked “What kind of Doctor are you?” I could say “I am a doctor of THE FUTURE!”

There are only two Universities that offer a Doctorate in Future Studies, one in Texas and one in Hawaii.  Guess which one I would go to?  I will give you a hint, I only linked to that one.

As future studies is about the future, I wonder what it has to say about the end of the world.  So I been goggling around to see what I find.

If nothing else, the Wikipedia article on Future studies and clicking on the words one is not familiar with makes for an interesting read.  For example, eschatology is the study of the end of the world and how various religions deal with it.  Another idea, that is rife with material for Science Fiction short stories is technological singularity, a “hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid and the growth of artificial intelligence is so great that the future after the singularity becomes qualitatively different and harder to predict.”

Below:   A Mural from Romania on the subject of eschatology.

Scan0073

This last weekend I took the Complete Survivor Class from Ancient Pathways.  I picked up a whole series of skills to practice. Notice I said “practice” because, good lord, just cause I did these things once doesn’t mean I am actually competent at any of them.   We set traps, snares, tracked, snacked on plants, made jerky and stared at a whole lot of poop.

The class had many manly men and two lovely ladies.  I think it is fair to say that I was generally the least competent at just about everything.  Except for smoking bowls, this I was good at, and by smoking bowls, I mean making a bowl out of fire.

ancientpathways 082

One of the first things we learned that weekend was to whittle out a spoon. Which was handy as I had forgotten to bring a spoon, and only had a fork and knife. My spoon was incompetent. I routinely watched, for the rest of the weekend, as people whittled out far superior spoons and then pitch them in the fire.

I was a bit nervous at the start of the weekend.  First, I wasn’t sure if I was in the sort of shape to survive such a thing.  Second it snowed the night before in Flagstaff.  I was not expecting snow in mid-May in Arizona.

ancientpathways 001

This had me concerned.  In assessing my clothes the first cold morning of the class I realized if the cold held I would not be able to stay warm without looking perfectly ridiculous.  First rule of survival is PMA (Postive Mental Attitude) which is hard to do when one doesn’t look good while doing it.  O.K., maybe the first rule is only the PMA part and I just added the looking good part.

The warmest thing I had was a thick wool poncho that I had bought years before in Mexico.  I was planning on using it for a blanket.  I have only worn it on stage for comedic relief,  and I am sure the ex-military men would have met it with scoff.    Luckily for me, things warmed up.

The first thing after setting up our tests was a walking tour of the property.   Tony Nester, our instructor, pointed out the various rat and mice nests around.  Of course, I had set my tent up right beside a big pack-rat’s nest.   Once he pointed it out, it was bluntly obvious.  I never moved my tent.  I figured if I had gophers in Phoenix, I could share space with a pack-rat.

Below:  My tent and pack-rat nest.

ancientpathways 005

The weekend was simply packed with new knowledge and things worth mulling over.   Here are all the shots from the weekend. As I reflect on lessons learned and go over my half-filled notebook, I will be making a series of posts about this weekend.

I have completed the Phoenix branch of CERT (Community Emergency Response team) application form and mailed it in.    If I don’t hear back from them then I am going to contact the Tempe branch.

CERT is all about preparing people in their community to be ready when disaster strikes.   To volunteer with them you have to take a class.  I would imagine a whole ton of the stuff in the class would be useful when the SHF.

Below is a paraphrase how CERT’s website describes the normal training.

The CERT training for community groups is usually delivered in 2 1/2 hour sessions, one evening a week over a 7 week period. The training consists of the following:

  • Session I, DISASTER PREPAREDNESS:  hazards one can enounter and how familys should react before, during and after.
  • Session II, DISASTER FIRE SUPPRESSION:  Fire chemistry, hazardous materials, fire hazards, and fire suppression strategies.
  • Session III, DISASTER MEDICAL OPERATIONS PART I: Diagnosing and treating airway obstruction, bleeding, and shock by using simple triage and rapid treatment techniques.
  • Session IV, DISASTER MEDICAL OPERATIONS, PART II: Evaluating patients by doing a head to toe assessment, establishing a medical treatment area, performing basic first aid, and practicing in a safe and sanitary manner.
  • Session V, LIGHT SEARCH AND RESCUE OPERATIONS: Planning a rescue, including size-up, search techniques, rescue techniques, and most important, rescuer safety.
  • Session VI, DISASTER PSYCHOLOGY AND TEAM ORGANIZATION: Signs and symptoms that might be experienced by the disaster victim and worker.
  • Session VII, COURSE REVIEW AND DISASTER SIMULATION

So that seems quite useful, no?

WHile I wait to hear back from them I am going to check out the videos they have uploaded to their website.

I do find it ironic that my inital communication with the Emergency First Response to Disaster people has to be sent by snail mail.

I wonder if the 2011 Survival conference is worth going to.

Marks against it

#1 It is in Dallas.

#2 It will be people pitching me a bunch of stuff to buy.  Much of it will seem necessary at the time.  Even putting aside the obvious thoughts on how easy it is to sell fear, it is money I don’t really have to spend.

#3 While the conference and hotel is cheap, the airfare makes it debatable.

Marks for it

#1 I would learn a ton.

#2 It is fun to window shop.

#3 Dallas can’t be all bad.  Sure it might have a tangled history with guns, but so does Tucson, and I can tell you that Tucson is a wonderful town.

How to Sew a Button with Amy Jean Page and How not to Sew a Button with Kevin Patterson

Thank you NealJohnson for filming!

I have succesully turned Brittlebush and Creosote into medicine.

I have yet to actually try either of the medicines yet. I am a little scarred they might kill me.

solaerstill1fire1herb1 013

I cut a large hole in the top of two thin rectangular boxes and dried the leaves and stems in the boxes.

solaerstill1fire1herb1 008
Creosote on top and Brittlebush below.

solaerstill1fire1herb1 014
I put a paper towel between herbs and cardboard because I am not sure if cardboard would hurt the herbs. Is there some kind of weird die in cardboard?

solaerstill1fire1herb1 017

Brittlebush after dried.

after crunching

After crunching the plants up in my hands there was a lot less of each. I had not gathered nearly as much as I thought I had.

solaerstill1fire1herb1 030

Creosote is being stored in the old tuna can and Brittlebush is being stored in the clay pot.

Note: This posting was originally written as a submission for Pool Boy Magazine,  the independent adult lifestyle magazine for badass women, and clearly a NSFW site.

Hollywood loves to play with how our sexual morals will change after humanity falls. In reality, some women living in the end times will not want to get pregnant from just any man possible.  Not everyone will agree that it “will be our duty to procreate and replace the human species.”  People will most likely continue to have sex for fun. It is, after all, the world’s oldest recreation.

So let’s assume your local pharmacy has already been raided by looters, what is a woman to do?  Without a doubt the best place to start is the Hesperian Foundation’s book Where there is no Doctor.  The Hesperian Society is committed to spreading health care to developing countries.  Their book is designed to give medical advice to a community who has limited resources, which is just what like the Apocalypse will be like.

Included in Chapter 20 is a handy reference guide outlining the various birth control methods currently available, and the varying degree of success of each to protect against pregnancy as well as STD’s.

I realize a woman may not want to rely on her ability to count on a regular basis, but Chapter 20, page 291 describes in great detail how the counting method works.  Me, personally, I would trust the Hesperian Foundation’s version over the Catholic Church’s version.  I would also recommend Wikipedia’s entry on the Calendar method as a good place to start one’s research, but unfortunately the internet will not work when the grid fails.

Now obviously the calendar method is not a lady’s first choice as an absolute guarantee against pregnancy.  So what else have we got after the modern-day pharmaceutical empire has fallen into the dust bin of history?

Let’s assume that modern medicine had ways to prevent pregnancy, and let’s assume that we no longer have modern medicine.  Let’s also assume that much of modern medicine borrowed from things people knew about plants.

The only  list I have found that describes which plants are good to replace birth control, is halfway down the comments in a long online conversation about birth control without the pill.  As we all know anything anyone says on the internet has to be right, right?

Now I, nor Wikipedia are advocating for abortions, or that people start to take these chemicals arbitrarily.  However, it stands to reason that any plant that could cause an abortion could also prevent a pregnancy.  The dosage might be a little different.  Now I am no doctor, and I have never played one on TV, but Wikipedia has a list of plants and chemicals that can induce abortions.

Consulting a local medicine/plant expert  would probably be best. I know who I would recommend in Arizona, but I can’t speak for the rest of the county.  Note, a class would be best to do before society crumbles and we have to live by thunderdome rules.

Searching the internet for birth control methods came up with a couple of  less-than-practical options.  The first is condom’s made of animal intestines, used since the time of the Egyptians.  However I am guessing putting on a goat’s small intestine might spoil the mood.

Also heavily discussed is the option to continue brest feeding.  In the Eighteenth Century is was common for women to breast feed all the way until toddlerhood in order to space out the births.   According to breastfeeding basics the mother has to be “exclusively breastfeeding” meaning the poor woman is constantly going to have the kid attached.  If the goal is to not get pregnant, and one has to have a child for this method to work, then we are left with a Catch-22

So without the pill and modern medicine a woman is not left with a lot of great options,  the sexual revolution did come after the pill after all, no?  So I hate to get all religious right on you, but perhaps the woman’s best choice to avoid pregnancy after the Apocalypse is absence or if that not is possible,  have a mutated animal as a boyfriend.

I joined the American Prepper Network’s online forum.  A “prepper” is a person who spends time and money on “prepping” for the end of the world as we know it (commonly referred to in these communities as TEOTWAWKI.)   On a side note, a lot of acronyms  float around this community, orginally I figured this might be the heavy ex-military influence on this community, but now I think it is because they write a lot of stuff down and acronyms are easier.

I used the image below as my icon.

I like how this image sums up the loneliness someone will be after society crumbles.  It comes from the comic strip Garfield minus Garfield, a site “dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.”

From what I have seen so far, the community of people preparing for civilization’s curtains tend to be a conservative bunch. You know, lots of people with family values (see every Post-APO movie ever to see the importance of keeping hope alive), ex-military types, apostles, doomsayers and pro-gun lobbyists.

Not they are a bad bunch, in fact if the end of the world happens there is no one else I would better like to hang out with.  See Rule 1: Get along with your neighbors.

I suspect I might swing a little more left than most in the group of preppers.   They speak often of looking for “like-minded” people.  My guess is they have grown tired of people thinking they are “tinfoil hat wearing fanatics.”    If hanging out with the weirdos of the Phoenix arts community has taught me one thing, it is that no one, especially weirdos, likes to have someone laugh at them for being a weirdo.  And the more one thinks differently than mainstream society the more one wants to find people who think like themselves.

They tend to look for “like-minded people,” a term you hear a lot among them.  And who is to blame them? Aren’t we all in our own crazy way?