I hate your stupid newspaper web page!

Perhaps the editors at USA Today are funnier than I thought.

In order to have access to most of the things I need to have my job, I need to have a browser open 90% of the time so I can access sharepoint and some other resources. When I have a few minutes between tasks or I want to recharge my batteries, I might scan the headlines or check personal email.

Today I made the mistake of clicking on a link to a USA TODAY online page (it was actually kind of work related — it involved a company that the place I work for does business with).  Something went wrong. USA opened a story about some factory worker who had stabbed his coworker to death and then committed suicide. “Well, that’s not what I wanted,” I thought to myself as I closed the tab.  The browser suddenly froze and then the tab I had just closed popped up again. Assuming it was my mistake, I attempted to close it again.  Suddenly two or three copies of the same story were popping up as fast as I could click. At the point that nine or ten were open and USA was still trying to open more copies of the same story of the knife-man homicide, I finally force-quit.

USA Today really seemed to want me to read that story — to the point that they really don’t seem to want to give me a choice in the matter. I don’t know if it’s my crappy browser or what, but instances of persistant browser tabs that pop up again and again, or tabs that ask me, “Are you sure you want to leave and not read our web page?” when I try to close them seem to be happening more and more often. I know that people who make web pages like USA today are in the business of trying to get as many eyeballs on those pages for as long as possible, but something about their methods (which may or may not involve exploiting a weakness in internet sucksplorer) makes me less likely to want to visit their web page in the future much like a really obnoxious salesman might make me want to buy from anyone but him based on his obnoxious personality.

The End of the World

The End of the World (Apocalypse Preparation #4)

A year ago, when this blog was a lot more popular, I did a “how do you think the world will end?” poll, allowing people to vote between such popular choices as “Alien Invasion,” “Zombies,” “Nuclear War,” “Asteroids,” etc.  Unfortunately, I think one of Blogger’s redesigns or my incompetence ate my poll and data — so the results are gone, but I think you can still see some of the responses. With my recent posts on apocalypse preparation, I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit the topic. After all, if one is going to prepare for the end of the world, one should consider what form this end will take.

Here are some possible ‘end of the world’ scenarios, in no particular order:

1) Zombies: I know that zombies have been done to death (hah hah, joke; previously I blogged that the living dead seem to have jumped the shark).  It seems as if everyone and his brother is writing a crappy Zombie genre novel, but zombies, as an end of the world proposal, still seem like a good bet. To start with, we have those Canadian statistical studies that suggest in a George Romero-esque zombie scenario, humanity is probably fucked.  Zombies continue to appeal to the imagination because the idea of shooting that annoying coworker because he’s turned into a zombie is something most of us would like to at least imagine doing.
I just want to make it clear that I was into zombies before everyone else thought they were cool.
However, we are also going to have to differentiate between actual living dead scenarios (like
Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’) and “rage virus” type scenarios like ’28 Days Later.’ The ’28 Days
Later’ infected are, technically, not ‘undead,’ but they may as well be because they certainly behave like zombies. They are also faster and meaner than Romero’s shuffling, bumbling undead. Romero zombies have to bite you for you to be infected, then you need to die from the diesease (which takes hours) and then, finally, you rise again.  This gives other people plenty of time to tie you up, lock you in a closet, decapitate you or take other precautions. 28 Days Later infected just have to bite you, spit in your eye or kiss you on your lips and, seconds later, you have become one of them.  I’m not as fast on my feet as Vice Presidential candidate Paul “Marathon Man” Ryan claims to be, but even I could keep up a brisk trot that would keep me out of reach of the slow “Dawn of the Dead” Romero zombies.  The 28 Days Later infected would be another story… those bastards are all adrenaline.
Other films, like Romero’s “The Crazies” (where a chemical weapon gets into the water supply and turns a whole town into homicidal maniacs — I reviewed both the 1973 original and the 2010 remake) are sort of like ‘zombie’ scenarios, but are more localized phenomena — unless you go to the town with the poisoned water and drink the water over a period of time, you are unlikely to get infected. And the question remains unanswered as to whether or not people who have been driven mad by the poison in the water supply can be cured. Sure, the ‘Crazies’ are not undead… but they are the next best thing.
Strategy: Avoid, hide, shoot-em-in-the-head. If it’s Trixie, don’t drink the water and get out of Dodge.

2) Plague: Whether flesh eating virus, bird flu or bubonic plague, what if a diesease just killed ~90% of the humans? See Carriers, a movie from a few years ago that I really enjoyed but didn’t get a lot of popular attention.  There was also a BBC TV show called Survivors; I saw a few episodes on Netflix a while back. In the wake of having 90% or more of the people die, societies collapse and a few people are left, fending for themselves in a new dark age.  Of course, there are always the little Hitlers in these stories who want to take shit over and those frequent shoot outs over food supplies, a possible cure or that last can of gasoline. Survivors or Carriers were a bit like “Mad Max” but without the S&M outfits and the crazy cars.
The biggest problem, in my opinion, is how badly all those dead bodies are going to stink. Even if you are immune to the plague that wiped out most of humanity, cities and towns are rapidly going to turn into disease infected maggot piles which will eventually produce some sort of something that WILL kill you. The fact that dead bodies stink really badly and make us want to puke is nature’s way of telling us, “Stay away — this rotting flesh is dangerous.”  If the plague doesn’t get you, maybe something caught with trying to retreive a can Vienna sausages from the corpse filled ruin of a 7-11 will.
I suppose the medieval Black Plague survivors or the South American natives in the age of the Spanish invasion experienced what seemed like apocalyptic plagues; to those living through it, it probably seemed like ‘the end of the world.’ And then there was the flu pandemic of 1918 when somewhere around 100 million people might have died — shit, this is getting just too depressing.
Strategy: Inoculate, Evacuate, Isolate. Wear lots of rubber and use lots of hand sanitizer. Move to the country and learn to like the taste of venison. Cough into your sleeve. Wave instead of shaking hands. No glove = no love.

3) Meteors / Super Nova: These seem the least interesting to me, simply because there is nothing I can conceive of doing to improve my chances of survival. Faced with zombies, I can shoot them in the head; when the reptilian overlords take over, the machines rise up or the apes attack, I can join the resistance, etc. But the entire planet disintigrated in a ball of flame?  Unless we can send Bruce Willis up in a space shuttle to destroy the asteroid, it’s game over for all of us.
Strategy: None.  U.R. phuct.

4) The Day of the Triffids: I’m not sure where this one belongs.  “Day of the Triffids” was a sci-fi novel and then a BBC TV series and, maybe, a movie.  It applies several Apocalypses at once.  First, a night time meteor shower produces a wonderously colorful light show in the night sky.  Almost everyone stays up to watch it.  Unfortunately, the next morning they all wake up fucking BLIND! If that were not bad enough, mankind had domesticated some sort of a weird, walking plant called a ‘triffid’ that could be used to make an oil for fuel, thus solving the energy crisis once and for all (I guess it was written in the 1970s or so).  The triffids are dangerous (they have a whip with poison that can wound and (eventually) kill a human), but are easily managed through the use of electrified wire fences and other barriers.  When the humans go blind, the triffids escape and start hunting down the now blind humans who are bumbling around trying to survive.  There are a handful of humans who did not go blind (some were in prison and thus not permitted to see the lightshow, others were sleeping off a drunk, had suffered an eye injury and were wrapped in bandages, etc.) and the action revolves around these ‘sighted’ few. Triffids are sort of like zombies — they move slowly and are not very intelligent, but are dangerous in larger groups and they don’t give up. The whole ‘meteor shower causing 99% of the population to go blind” is an interesting wrinkle.
Strategy: If a ‘glorious meteor shower with astounding colors’ is predicted, draw the curtains, close your eyes, stay inside and hide.  Stockpile food and weapons. Avoid city centers where large numbers of decaying dead-and-blind people will be found.  Watch out for sighted megalomaniacs who want to lord it over the blind. Stock up on agent orange and other herbicides.

5) Rise of the Machines / Apes / C.H.U.D., etc.: The “that which was our servant has taken over” has worked very well for the Terminator franchise — we got a series of films, television shows and a robot Governor for the state of California out of the deal. And I LOVED the ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies when I was a wee sprat — especially the one with the army of mutated humans who lived under the ruins of a city fighting the apes (although the one where the other group of mutants worship a bomb was pretty cool, too). Planet of the Apes was from the 70s, a time when the ideas of social unrest were on the minds of a lot of people, so I  think those stories had a little more resonance then than they have today.
I guess ‘The Matrix’ belongs in here too, but it’s a lot more post modern so I’m gonna pretend I didn’t mention it.
C.H.U.D. doesn’t count as an ‘end of the world’ scenario (unless you are a hobo or a late night dog walker living in the early 80s NYC), but I loved the movie and the idea of mutants living in the sewers because the people who run the nuclear power plant are too cheap to truck the radioactive waste out of town and instead stash it in the sewers under Manhattan is pretty boss.
Strategy: Stockpile weapons, food, ammo. Grenades and Geiger counters would be useful in a C.H.U.D. scenario. Be nice to your pet monkey and when he wants another banana, give it to him. Knowing where the circuit breakers are, so you can shut the whole fucking system down if needed, is key, so respect the janitor and his big ring of keys. Stay out of the basement if it’s CHUD; head to the basement if it’s terminator.  If you are in the Matrix, the basement is in your mind (which I just blew, by the way).

6) War of the Worlds / Space Invaders: I’m showing my age here, but I remember when a video game where you were a little rocket that moved left or right and shot missiles out of your nose at advancing hordes of bug-like space ships was considered ‘cutting edge.’ A few months ago, I re-read H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds” and, as a both a novel and science fiction I think it really held up well, despite all the references to cravats and horse drawn carriages and other late 19th century-isms. I guess that’s because Wells could write and Space Invaders just got boring after a while.
But what are we going to go if the Martian Tripods arrive and our orbital satellite defense platforms are not ready for them? I’d suggest running, hiding and allowing the tiny bacteria to eventually do to the martians what all our military might cannot (i.e.: kick their asses).  If you are in danger of being caught by the martians, try to have a cold so the martians that drink your blood will get sick and die. If the martians have anti-biotics, we are fucked.
Strategy: Good running/hiking shoes, a canteen and food, weather gear and quick wits and a will to live will serve you well.  Weapons are more likely to help you against fellow humans who want to fuck you over for a chocolate bar than the martians; don’t waste your ammo taking potshots at the tripods (it will only let them know where you are). Avoid mentally unbalanced travel companions and do not accept a berth on a ship named HMS Thunderchild. Hopefully it will all be over in less than a week.

7) Atomic War: My, how times have changed.  When I was a kid, a war to end all wars with ICBMs between the USSR and “The Western Democracies” was considered very likely. All these years later, we are more worried about terrorists than Ivan here in the US (although some worry about underpaid soldiers or disgruntled commisars of the former USSR selling nukes to the terrorists). When I was a youngster I played GAMMA WORLD and I thought after a nuclear war I would have 1d8 hp per point of CON and I would be riding around on a cactus-horse and fighting mutant rabbits with my vibro-blade in one hand and my slug-thrower in the other.  Then I saw a movie called “The Day After” in which the inhabitants of Lawrence Kansas got the shit blasted out of them by nukes and their hair and teeth all fell out and they were vomitting all the time and I was considerably less enthusiastic.
When I was a school boy, one of our teachers was talking about how he grew up with ‘Duck and Cover’ exercises in which an alarm would sound and everyone would scuttle under a desk to protect themselves. Someone asked why we didn’t do such exercises anymore and I remember him saying he didn’t know why but that hiding under a desk wouldn’t protect you against a nuclear attack, anyway. “Gee, that’s swell Mr. Ryan! I guess if they bomb, we are all fucked! Now that you’ve traumatized us, can we go to recess?” Good thing it didn’t come to that.
I wouldn’t mind nuclear war if it was more like Fallout 3 or Gamma World. Since it will instead probably be really dusty and everyone getting either blasted to atoms or slowly sickening and dying, I’m thinking, “no, thanks.”
Strategy: Hope that it doesn’t happen? If it does, have stored food, shotguns and assault rifles, geiger counters and a fallout shelter handy. Live someplace far from anything that the Russkis (or Chinese or whomever) want to blow up and learn to grow your own food.  String up lots of barbed wire to keep the mutants out. If you live in Fallout 3 and can afford it, buy space in a vault from Vault-Tec!

8) Mutants/Food of the Gods/The Blob/Monolith Monsters/Last Man on Earth: Growing up, I used to watch monster movies on the local independant channels (KPLR-11 in Saint Louis and/or the local UHF station TV 30 back when TV sets still had knobs you had to twist). I loved these B-movies because they were always coming up with monsters from some mysterious source (usually radiation or outer space) which would have humanity pinned to the mat and be about to rip our collective throats when someone would come up with a solution and the movie would end with the equivalent of, “Whew, that was close!” (or, in the case of the Blob, it would end with the US Airforce dropping the frozen blob into the arctic wastes via parachute…. and just when you started to feel safe, an enormous question mark came surging up out of the screen— The blob isn’t dead… it is only dormant!  Who knows what will happen!?!).
I don’t remember if they ever explained where the ‘Food of the Gods’ came from in that movie — it was some sort of mysterious substance that caused chickens to grow to enormous size when mixed with their feed.  Unfortunately, rats broke intot the barn and ate the chicken feed and the heroes of the movie spent most of their time trying to escape the resultant giant rats.  They managed to kill the rats by blowing up a damn and flooding the valley, but, at the end of the film we saw broken jars labeled “Food of the Gods” lying in a stream… the stream flowed into a river… that flowed into a cow farm where the cows drank the F.O.t.Gs contaminated water… and… in the last scene… a bunch of snot nosed school kids happily slurping milk out of little paper cartons in the school lunch room…. “WHAT WILL HAPPEN!?!” Plus we had ‘THEM’ which was about giant ants attacking people in California.
Carpenter’s “The Thing!” was a direct descendant of these B-movies but with special effects that were more special and Kurt Russel. Again it ended with a “WHAT WILL HAPPEN!?!” and a sequel (or was it a prequel?).
“Monolith Monsters” deserves an honorable mention because it was perhaps the weirdest apocalypse idea that Hollywood came up with.  There are these giant crystals (I don’t remember where they come from) that keep growing out of the ground until they grow so huge that they snap off and fall over, crushing whatever they fall on. They are easy to avoid, but, like a game of Tetris, you are likely to get surrounded by them and cut off and they just DON’T STOP! I don’t remember much about this movie other than I couldn’t decide if it was cool or stupid when I saw it (I would have been about 10 or so)… which makes me think it was probably pretty cool.  I’m going to have to see if I can find it on netflix or something.
Strategy: If you are dealing with giant ants, shoot them in the antennae and they will go crazy and kill each other. Steve McQueen defeated the blob with fire extinguishers. You are gonna have to handle these things on a case by case basis, but, in most cases, stick close to the star of the movie and don’t downplay the danger — the people who wander off on their own or doubt the danger are always the ones who get killed.

9) Let’s get Biblical — Noah and the Great Flood: Did you know that Russel Crowe recently starred in a yet-to-be-released movie about Noah’s ark? Ironically, he and a friend also recently got lost while kayaking and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Noah would have been able to deal with that shit on his own is all I’m saying.
Strategy: I’m tempted to say you ought to just carry an inflatable life raft around with yourself at all times, but, IMO, the God of the old testament would have just sent a swordfish to pop your raft while you were floating above the waves in order to drown your ass. He was always setting up these situations where humans would fail and then destroying them. If god didn’t want people having anal sex, why did he give people assholes and let them build a city called ‘Sodom’?  And what kind of god puts two naked people in a garden and says, “You can do anything you want… just don’t eat the apple,” and then acts surprised when they eat the apple? Of course they ate the apple.  And if he’s all knowing and all powerful, he would have known they were gonna eat the apple before he even made the garden.
You just can’t win with a god that acts like a spoiled jerk.

Home Moanership

Yesterday the section of water main under our yard exploded and water came gurgling up out of the ground.  You can see ‘old faithful’ there, under the DANGER orange stripey thing that the Water Department put over it in lieu of a repair.  To the right of it are the remains of our tomato patch.  We were told that the utility would soon bring in back hoes, ditch witches, trench wenches, dirt flirts and other earth moving gear and tear some shit up and the tomato garden was right in the way.  I tried removing the fencing and stakes carefully but is soon became apparent that the tomato plants were fucked… so I just tore it all out, apologizing to the plants as I did so.  We now have a big bucket of green tomatoes. Hopefully the deer and rabbits will eat what remains before the water company arrives and grinds.

Curiously enough, even though the water is geysering out of the ground, our water still works.  Go figure.  The one thing I am thankful for is that the break is clearly on the outside of my watermeter. I’d hate to be paying for those thousands of gallons of wasted water.

My neighbor explained how the repairs will progress since this happened in his front yard a few years before we moved in. “First they will shut off the water and tear up the ground and determine that the only part of the main that requires replacement is the part that broke.  They will replace that little bit and turn the water back on and, almost immeadiately, the rest of the pipe will disintigrate under the increased pressure.  They will then turn off the water again, tear up the rest of your yard and replace the rest of the pipe.” Sounds about right.

Luckily for us, we are slightly uphill from the neighbors and their front yard is now a muddy lake.

Update: The pipe is fixed and part of the yard looks like someone had a tractor pull in it.  The former tomato plot is 100% gone so I don’t have to feel bad about fucking up the plants. I guess the grass will go back, but I’m pretty uninterested in having a quality lawn. Really, it’s just a place for our dogs to take a piss.

Nostradamus Predicts (warning: political)

American Heroes: Captain America, Paul Revere and Tim from Accounting.

I recently told Annie (my significant other) that Obama was going to beat Romney in the upcoming election so we didn’t have to pay any more attention to the head-up-it’s-own-assery of politics and political reporting in 2012. I’m basing this prediction on the fact that the LA Times already called it for Obama (the LA Times is hardly a bastion of liberal ideology and I suspect it’s editorial board would probably prefer Romney, but they would also like to say “We told you so” on November 7th ). Plus I just don’t want to feel I need to pay any attention whatsoever to all the press releases from all of the political strategists who are out there telling us what it means when Mitt eats a corndog in Iowa or Barack shoots some hoops in Baltimore.

I don’t think the US election is really a choice between Romney and Obama; it’s more of a choice between the Democratic and the Republican parties. My own sentiments are that the Democrats are a slightly less bad choice than the Republicans for me and mine, but “I hate them slightly less than the Republicans” is about as enthusiastic as I can get for the Democrats. I also take solace in the fact that 4 more years of probable continuing political stalemate in Washington is bad, but what Mitt intends (assuming anything he has said resembles what he would do in office) would be worse for the middle and lower classes. I’m not a Marxist (unless you count being a fan of Groucho); I just think the idea that releiving billionaires and corporations of ‘burdensome’ taxes and regulations will not make the life of the people I feel loyalty towards any better, only worse.  We’ve tried it already for 12 years. If you are a member of the 1% and reading this makes you mad, well, go count your money, Scrooge McDuck.

Money issues aside, there is another reason I can’t see myself voting for a Republican, and that is the ‘culture’ issue. I think it’s fine if people want to go to their church or temple or mosque on Sunday and pray to Jesus or Vishnu or Allah or Santa Claus, but the way the party of Lincoln has lowered the bar by painting mainstream white christians as the ‘victims’ in a culture war that they started would be laughable if the gullible saps were not so eager to lap it up.  How somebody else being gay or building a mosque or not wanting to pay for a Christmas nativity scene at City Hall makes ‘christians’ victims in this fight was a genius political tactic a few years ago, but only the people who are too angry or stupid to think for themselves are still paying attention to that  schtick.  Even Dick Cheney came out in support of gay marriage after having rode to the Whitehouse 2x in a row on the “social conservative” ticket.  Way to live by your principles, Dick. Although I have to thank the ‘culture warriors’ for comic relief.  Just yesterday Rick Santorum said that social conservatives “will never have smart people on our side.”  Yeah, I know it’s not really what he meant to say, but judging by the angry word-salad that usually flies out of Santorum’s mouth, he seems to have spoken the truth by accident.

If the election were a really choice between Barack and Mitt (the men, not the parties), I’d still vote for Barack. Mitt tied his dog to the roof of his car, had his friends hold another kid down in high school so Mitt could cut his hair and ran a Financial Sausage shop that may have been perfectly legal but was still a predatory organization that destroyed companies and cost working people their jobs. And, call me old fashioned, but I think people without jobs tend to be bad for the economy. And, when he appears in public, Mitt is so stiff and Bryll-creamed that he makes the stumpin’ 2000 version of Al Gore seem warm and personable in contrast.  Barack, on the other hand, smoked pot in college, serves beer at the White House, sneaks an occasional cigarette and collects Conan the Barbarian comics — how could I not like the guy? Plus he’s finally copped to the idea that the government shouldn’t be in the business of regulating who you marry… better late than never.  If you are still not convinced, just look at their names.  ‘Barack’ is Hebrew for thunderbolt; that’s a kick ass name. ‘Mitt’ is what I use to take a hot caserole out of the oven. Would you rather vote for SHAZAM or a potholder?

Of course, I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.  If you think I am, bookmark this post and come back in November to gloat.

Why I prefer blogging to forum posting

Perhaps if they fling enough poo, it will create ‘MacBeth.’

The question of whether posting on online forums is better or worse than blogging seems to get raised on forums that I visit every few months or so.  At this point, I can almost predict how they will play out. Someone will post some question like, “Is posting on forums better than blogging?” and people will chime in with their different opinions — which is fine (isn’t that what the internet is for?), but at this point, if it’s the right forum, I feel like I can almost predict which regular poster will say exactly what.

What bothers me is that it is usually presented as an ‘either/or’ proposition — either you are a forum person or a blogger — and a large number of members of the loose online community of people interested in ‘old timey D&D’ seem to be of the opinion that you can’t do both.  I think that’s just stupid.

A few years ago I used to visit online forums a lot more than I do now.  At the time of my greatest level of forum participation, I was working a job where I had frequent periods of ‘nothing to do’ and a boss who was an asshole who once reamed one of my fellow employees for reading a book when he had nothing to do.  Looking at a screen and typing on a keyboard was, in comparison, pretty safe, and better than what some of my fellow coworkers did (which was to wander around and annoy one another). When I had a spare 15 minutes, I would hit Dragonsfoot or a similar site, click ‘see active posts’ and read and comment.  As I was able to do that five or six times a day (or sometimes more!), my post count really added up. I was a forum ninja!

Fortunately, I finally managed to leave that job. This meant that I had less time to visit forums and less need to distract myself from job dissatisfaction with forum visits. I still enjoyed to write little essays on topic that interested me.  At some point I had started a blog, mostly just to keep track of my ideas and write my little essays on whatever had gotten up my snoot that week, whether it be the price of lamp oil in fantasyland or who should win the next election.  A tiny number of people seemed to read my musings, which was fun, but not really the point (at least not for me).  For me, writing about something is a good way of thinking about it… I can try to put words to thoughts and therefore make judgements about whatever thought happens to whistle through my skull that day.  I often find my opinion on some matters may change as I try to write about them, which is good because I feel like I might be actually making myself smarter while I do something I enjoy.  The ‘blogger’ system is good because I don’t have to post it when I write it — I can just save it in draft form and come back to it another day — and I can work on the draft that I started the night before at home during my lunch break at work the next day. The fact that people read it and post responses is just gravy.

Forums just aren’t very good for how I want to write these days. I used to think that the forum culture had changed… and I still think that is at least partially true — years ago, when I first started posting at Dragonsfoot, my fellow forum dwellers seemed much less jaded and just totally geeked that they had found a place where they could talk about ‘umber hulks, vorpral swords and sleep spells’ without getting “WTF are you talking about?” responses from the other forumites. Four or five years ago when I began to get disenchanted with the DF culture, there seemed to be a lot more people on DF with an axe to grind.  Maybe that’s just my faulty memory or maybe that’s just the natural evolution of online communities — people who enjoy posting in forums as a bloodsport might eventually just take over.

Plus there were people who just posted in the DF forums because, well, they wanted to post a lot.  So someone might post a question like, “If werewolves are harmed by silver, are they harmed by non magical mithril?” and some people might post “yes” or “no” or “all mithril is magical” and make their arguments, but others would post what I call bullshit posts like “pants” and “cheese” and “LOLcats” and “I like boobies.” They were (or are) irritating in the same way that someone who busts into an interesting conversation to talk about themselves or tell an off topic joke is irritating — rather than participating in the existing conversation, they seem to want to use the fact that a conversation is happening online to promote their online personality like a marketing organization wants to promote a brand of perfume or a political candidate — through blunt force and repetition. When I started visiting forums less, I realized I didn’t miss the “HEY, LOOKIT ME” people at all.

The thing I like about blogging is I can write fairly long musings on a subject that I perhaps only I care about, and, since you are not compelled to read it unless you visit my blog, you are free from exposure to my brilliance (or stupidity) if you want to be. I feel that writing really long and self indulgent posts in an online forum is bad form, especially if you write it in response to someone elses’ query… but doing that on a blog is actually what ‘blogging’ is for.  Yes, it is self indulgent.  Yes, it is more one-sided than a forum.  Yes, it is a chance for me to editorialize and stand on my soap box and squeak my stupid opinions at the void. The forums are still there and I don’t think they are harmed by the fact that I participate in them less.

For more on how people suck, read this: http://en.paperblog.com/bbc-confronts-notorious-internet-rip-troll-is-humanity-really-this-bad-140281/

Another ill-advised foray into politics / social commentary

Let me tell you ’bout the birds and the bees **

Note: This was supposed to get posted ages ago — whoops.  Probably less current, but my thoughts remain the same.

Both of the people who read this blog probably already know that I sometimes write ill-advised things about politics and / or social issues on my blog.  And so it is with great joy that I write about the stupidity of Congressman Todd Aiken, from the great state of Missouri, who is running for Claire McCaskill’s seat (which isn’t my former home district, but is near to my hometown of St. Louis).  Aiken, who is gunning for the incumbent McCasskil’s seat*, was (not so) recently being interviewed on his views about reproductive freedom/abortion in the case of rape.

Then on Sunday, Mr Akin was asked by local news station KTVI-TV about his no-exceptions view on abortion.

The 65-year-old congressman said: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that is really rare.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

 I don’t know if Akin defined what differentiated a ‘legitimate’ case of rape from an ‘illegitimate’ one.  And the people of the state of Missouri wonder why some of us want sex ed in the public schools.

Later, Akin said he “had mis-spoke” and did not intend to say what he said. He also complained that ‘one word’ was accidentally used which caused people to misunderstand him and he was a victim of the “gotcha” media in action — but if we gave him a do-over in which he were allowed to change one word, which word would he change in order to change the fact that the statement he made means that he is in denial about how women get pregnant? This also causes me to wonder what, exactly, he was trying to say, because there are very few ways that what he did say could be interpreted.  And the “from what I understand from doctors” comment has me puzzled, too.  Are these medical doctors? Or people with doctorates in some other field?

The official deadline for Akin to drop out has passed, but there are apparently still other ways in which the candidate could withdraw. The Republicans want him out.  The Democrats***, who are delighted to see that they now actually might have a chance of retaining McCaskill’s seat, want him to stay on. It’s a real nailbiter.

*Rumor has it that McKasskil’s staff celebrated when they heard that Akin won the Republican primary because he was thought ‘most likely to self destruct’ of all the potential competion. I’m sure they are gratified to see that their prediction has (sort of) come true. I wonder if they have bought liquor, party hats, noisemakers and a ‘pin the word LOSER on the Elephant’ game for their McCaskill re-election party in advance now that Akin has decided to stay in?

**No actual horses were harmed when this picture was taken although a wooden horse was temporarily made to look silly.  This image merely illustrates that some merry-go-round horses have detatchable tails, although there is something rather perverse about the picture that caused me to choose it over all the other images that popped up when I typed, “horse’s ass” into image search.

***People who don’t know me very well might think of me as probably being a ‘democrat,’ and that is sort of true, if by ‘democrat’ you mean I think that the democratic candidate will occassionally be the less destructive of the choices that the voter is usually presented with, but I think ‘less destructive’ is not really as an endorsement of the Democratic party — just labeling them the lesser of two evils.  Thinking Mr. Akin is an incompetent, dangerous douche has less to do with whether a D or an R follows his name and is more about the fact that he wants to legislate human reproduction without understanding how women get pregnant.

Improvised Apocalypse Survival Part 3: Accessories make the Plan

The only question is when.

I’m really enjoying writing these ‘Apocalypse Survival’ posts, wakeriding, as I am, on the success of Max Brook’s “Zombie Survival Guide” and similar books. Brooks has pretty much put all his chips on ‘zombies’ being the form the future apocalypse takes — but what if it’s mutants, killer bees, rage virus, returning retilians overlords, ancient Mayan curses, flesh eating bacteria or bondage wear wastelanders a la Mad Max? Plans must be adjusted accordingly. Relying on a single source like Brooks for 100% of your post apocalypse planning needs will mean that unless he is right (and I’m not denying that he might be), using ‘Zombie Survival Guide’ as your only contingency plan might result in you fucking your future self!

I’ve already touched on “A good defense involves a strong offense” (weapons: part1) and “A good defense involves a good defense” (armor/fortifications: part 2).  I’m sure plenty more needs to be considered on both of those subjects; I’ve only scratched the surface.  Welcome to part 3, where I talk about your ‘bug out bag.’

Nods to Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One” (excellent book; I’ll give it 5 out of 5 severed heads!) for introducing me to the concept of the ‘Bug Out Bag.’  Whitehead’s protagonist, “Mark Spitz” (post apocalypse, everyone has a nick-name; his is “Mark Spitz” because he doesn’t know how to swim) describes the ‘bug-out bag’ as a small cache of supplies that every survivor stashes somewhere known only to him/herself.  If the shit goes bad and your camp is overrun and it’s every man-woman-child for themselves against the undead, you can snag your bug-out bag when you are heading for the hills — it should contain a few important things to help you survive the next couple of days because, more than likely, when the time comes to bug out, the enemy won’t give you a chance to pack your shit and you will be on your own.

So, what belongs in YOUR bug-out bag? Here’s what’s (hopefully) going in mine without making it too big or heavy — I may have to make some hard choices once I gather all these items and find out my pile is too big to fit in my knapsack:

1) Pry bar: You don’t wanna go crazy with the tools, since they are heavy and clanky and bulky, but I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a small pry bar. It can help you open doors, windows, manhole covers, etc.  Plus, in a pinch, you can bust a skull if you have to.

2) Knife: You didn’t see this one coming?  I’d probably include a lock-blade or sheath knife AND something like a multi-tool.  I would want something with a can-opener on it in case you manage to loot some canned food. There is nothing more depressing than the idea of finding the last can of baked beans left on earth and being too weak with hunger to get it open.

2) Flashlight: OK, so I’m stating the obvious. But make sure it’s in there and has batteries and you can thank me later. I’ve got TWO in my car.  Yeah, I’m that paranoid.

3) First Aid Kit: See flashlight, above. In some cases, like apocalypse via contagion, it might not be much help, but it will at least keep a cut or a sprain from slowing you down too much. And, who knows, maybe if you douse that bite wound in hydrogen peroxide soon enough, you’ll at least get a +2 on your save versus ghoulification.  Worth a try, isn’t it?

4) Water and food: Especially water. If survival means being able to keep moving, clean water is a must.  Something to eat that’s lightweight and small, like granola bars and beef jerky, could help keep you going. Water purification tablets might not be a bad idea. I’m also gonna pack a spoon.

5) Matches/lighter: Yeah, I know that in THEORY one can ‘make fire’ by rubbing sticks together, but when I’m tired, cold and still mourning the death of civilization, I won’t be in the mood to play cave man. Maybe after a few weeks I’ll be ready to go full-on boyscout, but until then I want my instant fire source.

6) Poncho: Keeping yourself dry goes a long way towards keeping yourself warm.  Some warm clothes wouldn’t be bad either, but let’s not go crazy. I’m thinking olive drab or camo pattern instead of safety orange in case the future involves roving bands of cannibals who think I look like food.

7) mini-packs of Kleenex: OK, not a necessity, strictly speaking, but I find nothing interferes with my continued feeling of well being as much as an itchy butt.  If I’m suddenly out in the wild or unexpectedly trekking across the devastation, eventually I am going to have to go number 2. And afterwards, I will want to wipe. Clear your mind and your ass will feel better; clean your ass and your mind will be able to concentrate on more important stuff. Probably wouldn’t mind some toothpaste, floss and a toothbrush, either.

8) Cash-stash: Probably not going to help once the rest of the world figures out that ‘shit and fan have met,’ but, in those early hours, some cash-on-hand might help you bribe your way past checkpoints, convince others to part with needed supplies or make room for just one more on a boat, etc.  Besides, a few dead presidents don’t take up a lot of room and can serve as back-up TP or tinder. Paranoids and Glenn Beckeroids talk about the importance of having gold on hand for emergencies, but unless you think your end of the world scenario involves leprechauns, I wouldn’t bother. I wonder if cramming a few bags of Hanukka gelt into your bag would be worth it? They might look enough like Krugerrands to allow you to ‘pidgeon drop’ some greedy fool out of his bottled water, and, if all else fails, everyone likes chocolate.

9) Bug dope: Time was, they used to make a bug repellant lotion that came in little squeeze bottles.  I bet they still do.  I want at least one of those because I hate mosquitos that much.

10) Map and compass. Post electronic pulse and/or after the aliens have swept satellites from the sky, GPS devices and google maps will be useless… better get used to ‘grandpa’s GPS’ and start raiding the glove compartments of abandoned Monte Carlos and Galaxy 500s during your trek, looking for old fashioned paper maps that will at least let you see where the roads lead.  Of course, you may need to revise your maps as you go along (perhaps replacing some cities with big black blots that mean “crater of radioactive slag”), but that’s half the fun of the brave new world!

11) Gat: I’ve been debating the utility of a small handgun; maybe one of those cheap .380 semi-autos or similar that you could pack in a small dry-bag with a few magazines and a box of ammo vs a 9mm or similar.  This would be a spare weapon that live in the bug-out-bag, so, should I lose everything else, I would still have at least one sidearm.  Also very tempting is the Henry AR7 rifle — a collapsible 22lr rifle that disassembles and packs inside the waterproof plastic stock that doubles as a case for a total weight of 3.5 lbs unloaded. 

12) Rubber gloves, filter mask, hand sanitizer, soap, goggles, etc.: You can’t plan for every contingency, but even if our end time scenario is not a plague, once the world goes to shit and there are bodies in the streets, avoiding infection might not be a bad idea.  Goggles might be overkill — but eye protection of some kind plus a mask might not be amiss if you are dealing with enemies that explode like handgrenades of infected pus once you kill them (and I think a future of ‘exploding pus zombies’ are a distinct possibility).  Gotta keep contagion out of your own eyes, nose and mouth!

13) Transistor radio: Do they even make these any more? Once the grid goes down, cell phones are going to be useless.  If you have a car, you probably will have a radio, but when circumstances force you to hoof it, an old fashioned pocket radio with which you can (hopefully) pick up emergency broadcasts might not be a bad thing to have. Make sure it has an earphone jack and earphone; you don’t want to advertise your location to the infected when you are listening to those emergency broadcasts.

14) Walkie-talkies: How many movies have you seen where someone is in trouble and his/her companions remain blissfully unaware? $14.95 spent at K-Mart and a couple batteries solve this problem. Just remember to switch it off at the right moment so your homies don’t call you “just to say hello” while you are trying to sneak past that wandering monster.

15) Extra batteries. Why isn’t this #1?

16) Duct tape: Emergency repairs and bandages! 

17) Rope: You can always use a small coil of nylon rope.

I suppose there are more things that COULD go in there — fishing line and hooks might not be a bad idea (although, at the rate at which we are killing the oceans, there may be no fish in our future) and a small metal pot to boil water or eat out of, but I think you get the general idea.

What’s going into YOUR bug-out bag?


I was going to write a post about the current fascination with Kickstarters but now I start wondering if arguing about Kickstarters is the new, “Can Paladins kill baby kobolds and get away with it?” question… in short, it becomes a question in which a lot of people have strong convictions but I start to doubt whether the question itself (are Kickstarters good/not goof for “the hobby?”) matters.

THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT I APPROVE OF PEOPLE USING A SERVICE LIKE KICKSARTER TO RIP OTHER PEOPLE OFF ANY MORE THAN I APPROVE OF ANY OTHER CON.  But a con perpetrated through the mail does not mean that ‘the post office is evil;’ similarly, the fact that Kickstarter could be used to bilk people doesn’t mean that we should automatically be afraid of it. 

I don’t know if Kickstarters and similar ‘crowd funding’ strategies are here to stay or not. I’ve kicked in at pretty low levels on a couple of them, mostly because I liked the ideas and thought the people proposing these projects could pull them off. If I don’t get what I was promised (or I get much less than I was promised), I guess I’ll feel disappointed… but I remember feeling pretty disappointed back in the day when I waited and waited and waited for TSR to publish ‘Temple of Elemental Evil’ and they just didn’t but somehow managed to find the time to grind out woodburning sets, trapper-keepers, Saturday Morning cartoons and needlepoint kits.  I didn’t have to wait for the internet to be invented to feel disappointed by the way in which I fit into (or failed to fit into) a game company’s market strategy. I find myself thinking that amateurs with Kickstarter backers are going to have to try pretty hard to do worse.

The complaint that I hear echoing around the blogosphere, however, is that these ‘kickstarters’ are going to be ‘bad’ for gaming.  I just don’t buy it.  First of all, I don’t know what ‘gaming’ is since it seems to cover everything from Magic the Gathering to Napoleonics. Somewhere in that broad spectrum are people like me who like playing older versions of D&D — and I don’t feel much in common with the card games people or the Princess Leia in a metal bikini impersonators. I’m not against them; I’m just not a part of them. So, if your basic proposition is that “kickstarters are going to disappoint people and drive them from the hobby,” first you are going to have prove that people will leave the hobby. I don’t think that will happen because:

a) I don’t think Kickstarters will disappoint enough people to form some sort of ‘critical mass’ of disappointment that will make people leave “the hobby” (whatever the hobby is).

b) I don’t believe that all of the people who are involved in this hobby in all these different ways have such a shallow level of personal investment that not getting value for the $25.00 or $1,000.00 or whatever is going to drive them from the hobby.  There are people out there who name their kids “Han” and “Leia,” do you think getting rooked by a Kickstarter is going to make them say, “Fuck it” and go scrape all the Trekkie and Doctor Who stickers off their Subaru and never go to GenCon again?

c) Who has been robbed via kickstarter? I know some projects are late and some kickstarters are not communicating with their backers as much as a very vocal group would like, but the level of noise from some people makes me feel like this is something on the scale of a Bernie Madoff con.  Dear internet: late does not equal fraud. KIckstarter is not a “pre-order.” If you have actually been robbed via kickstarter (i.e.: you know that you will never get what you were promised), please post below… share details.  I wanna know about it.

Some kickstarters will be in trouble because the people running them are incompetent, some will fail for lack of effort or because of dishonesty… and some will be everything that the originator promised but the backers will still be dissapointed because the backers didn’t bother to read what they were agreeing to before slapping their money down.

One suspicion I have is that the signal to noise ration has spiked because the obsessive compulsives who simply must have one of everything D&D in shrink wrap in their closet are suddenly overwhelmed by the sheer number of things coming out via Kickstarter and feel like if they don’t kick in on every project, they risk having a collection that is incomplete… yet if they do kick in on every single project, the ‘completeness’ of their collection is reliant on the good will and work ethic of strangers. Because the O.C. Collector can’t risk an incomplete collection, he has to gamble on the honesty/work ethic of strangers — no fair! Collecting is all about control and this makes me feel out of control!  It’s like the wailing and gnashing of teeth we heard when Goodman printed up only 300 of some ‘special edition’ adventure for sale at one convention, sold first come first served, and, to add insult to injury, he didn’t limit “one to a customer” so people who came by later in the day were S.O.L.. For months after that event, some of these obsessive types were cursing Goodman like he had killed their dog simply because he published something and they didn’t get a copy.

Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal Part 2: Self Defense

I’ve been musing more on the ‘Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal’ concept that I introduced on Saturday. I think I have more posts in me on the subject.  Sorry. 
Today I’d like to talk about ‘Self Defense.’  No, not ‘self defense’ as in having weapons with you — I would categorize that as ‘defense of self through self offense.’  When the shit comes down. whether it be ravenous undead, Mad Max type wastelanders armed with hand-made crossbows, feral children with tooth and nail or mutants with super powers, you are going to want something to protect yourself from harm — a barrier between you and danger that can be as big as a castle or as small as a shield improvised from a trash can lid.  Self protection becomes doubly important in an ‘infection’ scenario — when the bite of one zombie = eventual zombification, then taking pains not to get bitten seems a worthwhile investment.

It’s just a matter of time…

1) Don’t get out of the car: Is this good advice?  I don’t know.  I guess it depends. The good thing about the car is that you can lock yourself inside of it and drive away.  And maybe you’ll have some bottled water, road flares or a blanket in the trunk. But when the apocalypse comes (and come it will), the roads are going to be jammed with bumper-to-bumper vehicles, each containing a happy-meal for the undead, mutants or cannibals in the form of a commuter who is probably armed only with a smart phone and a coffee.  Easy pickings.
Also, most cars have a lot of glass, so, unless you are moving down the road at considerable speed, any determined adversary who can pick up a rock or other window smasher is going to eventually get you.  The car is also a crappy place to hide; anything taller than a schnauzer is going to see you trying to hunker down in the driver’s seat of your Corolla.  Be smart.  Know when to make a break and hoof it.  I suppose there are exceptions — if you have a helicopter instead of a car, you can thumb your nose at the proles stuck on the freeway below, but what goes up must eventually come down (and, if the apocalypse scenario is flying monkeys or fire breathing dragons, perhaps up in the air is the last place you want to be).
Max Brooks recommends vehicles like armored cars and the like, but good luck in getting your hands on one of those.  If you try to jack the dudes who work for the armored car company, they will just shoot you; end of your story, or maybe they will just smile and wave at you through the bullet proof glass as the rabid mole rats or whatever rip you apart.

Zombies: more persistent than Amway people.

2. Don’t go outside: Good advice? Again, it depends.  If you are shopping at ‘The Sunglasses Hut’ and suddenly the irradiated ghouls attack, unless you can lock down the whole mall immediately, get your ass out of there.  If the threat is outside and you are inside, that’s probably more good than bad — figure out where they are going to get in and either barricade or surrender indefensible parts of the territory.  But always leave yourself an exit! That upstairs bedroom might seem like a good place to hide, but if they are coming in the bedroom door can you go out the window?  Have an exit strategy.
 Also: how defensible and well supplied is this place you want to call home?  Shopping malls seem to be a movie favorite for zombie survival, but Hollywood has some peculiar ideas about the defensibility of a mall… too much glass and not enough moats and machine-gun nests for my taste. Most malls seem to be a good source for stylish clothing, designer purses and jewelry, but these items are going to be less useful than shotguns, iodine and canned beans, which, in my experience, are left for more prosaic shopping destinations to provide.  Some place like Wal-mart might be better, but those big box stores are also going to be ground zero for infection as panicking suburbanites pack in there, trying to grab all the toaster pastries and bottled water that they can fit into their mini-vans.
The last urban high school I taught in might have made a pretty good fortress.  The kitchen was provided with industrial sized cans of cling peaches and fruit cocktail. The pre-war building had thick walls and bars on the windows. The nurses office had at least some medical supplies. There might have even still been some dated supplies* in the fallout shelter. Best of all, it was a run-down place with an undesirable zipcode, so few people are going to contest you for it’s ownership.

3) Learn from the ancestors: Time was, our ancestors defended themselves by scampering up a tree.  And a tree still makes a good refuge… consider the dog and squirrel.  If dogs had hands instead of paws, squirrels would have been wiped out years ago.

4) Clothes make the man: We need to divide this into sub-categories:

Survival skills for post-collapse America!

4a) Hooray for the SCA: I never did the SCA thing, myself.  When I heard of it, I envisioned people in armor whacking each other with blunted weapons, which seemed to me like a very good way to train for many possible versions of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, most SCAers seem to spend most of their time wandering the Ren Faire in floppy hats, bodices and cloaks; garments that offer little or no protection from bites, claws or bullets and probably are impossible to run or climb a chain link fence in. If you an SCAer, leave the pirate costume in the closet and stick with the chain mail instead. Accessorize that battle armor with a decidedly non-period shotgun and replace the rattan sword with a machete or baseball bat. Armor will slow you down, however, so stay close to a vehicle in case you need to make a quick get away.

Dress for success

4b) Road Warrior: Leather motorcycle gear is probably a good choice – a nice compromise between protection and maintaining a decent movement rate. Stylish AND lots of zippered pockets for extra ammo, etc. Plus it makes you look like a tough guy… and, in case you dress for the apocalypse on a day when it fails to come about, you can just tell people that you are on your way to Sturgis. Accessorize with boots, leather gloves and helmet.  Leather won’t stop a bullet, but it will probably slow down the teeth and claws of the undead or offer at least some protection from the teeth of rabid doberman pinchers.

Kelley was a badass, no doubt.

4c: The Sporting Life: Football players wear shoulder pads that would make damn good protection while battling other post-apocalyptic warriors armed with chains, boards studded with nails, lead pipes, etc.  Lacrosse helmets offer great impact protection and high visibility — probably as good or better than those buckets most SCAers wear on their heads. Hockey offers shin guards, elbow protection, knee protection and gauntlets.  Baseball offers the ever important groin protection: preserve your ability to repopulate the earth! About the only thing I can’t see being that useful are those giant shin guards that Cricket players wear — maybe if the apocalypse involves low-to-the-ground attackers like prairie dogs.

4d: Full Metal Jacket: Modern body armor, made for the military and law enforcement, offers medieval style protection with less weight, easy on-easy off velcro fasteners PLUS it is the only garment that can have a chance of stopping a bullet.  Unfortunately, it is also expensive.
For those of us on a budget, I suppose there is the Ned Kelley “Hillbilly armor” option.  A few visits to the scrap yard and hardware store, a few hours with the blow torch and pop-rivet gun and maybe you, too, can walk through a hail of bullets like Kelley.

He who smelt it, dealt it.

4e: Hazmat: To be truly prepared, you gotta figure out a way of getting at least one of those Hazmat suits and masks into your life in case the future apocalypse involves contagion, chemical menace or similar. The problem is, of course, that unless you KNOW that the risk is and what form it will take (is a painter’s particle mask sufficient?  Or are you going to need the full body condom with bottled O2?) and you know exactly when to put your gear on, you are either limited to living your life like ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’ (i.e.: assume 24-7 that you are under attack from some sort of unseen chemical or biological menace and spend your life inside a giant zip-lock bag — sorry; I’d almost rather be dead than succumb to that level of paranoia) or hope for an early warning from the CDC. Perhaps a few filter masks and latex gloves in the glove compartment couldn’t hurt…

4f: Less is More: I envision that the future might belong to the fit and athletic practitioners of the art of parkour. Dressed, at most, in Adidas, jeans and a hoodie, they seem to effortlessly leap from parapet to fence to rooftop, always one step ahead and out of reach of whatever menace the apocalypse holds.  I envy them and wish them well; the future probably belongs to them.

*On a dare I once ate some “survival biscuits” that we found sealed in tin cans in an abandoned building. I think they dated back to when Nixon was in the Whitehouse. They were dry and tasteless; like Saltines without salt.

What’s in your Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal?

School of Hard Knocks

Last night I watched about 1/2 of ‘Battle Royale,’ a circa 2000 Japanese movie/novel that some say inspired the more highbrow novel, The Hunger Games. The basic premise is that in the near future, the school kids of Japan start to behave so badly that the adults decide to pass a ‘Battle Royale’ law in which classes of kids are chosen at random and dropped on an uninhabited island where they have to battle one another to the death.  Each student is given a bag that contains food, water, a map and one weapon. The weapon is chosen at random; it might be an Uzi or it might be a spork. In addition, the students are fitted with explosive collars and certain regions of the island will randomly be chosen to become “get out of here NOW or your head will explode” zones to keep the kids moving around. I don’t know how it all turned out because I was tired and I couldn’t bring myself to keep watching it — maybe I’ll finish it when I am less tired.  It’s not as unwatchable as some Japanese popular cinema, but the acting conventions of Japanese popular cinema are something I think I just don’t get. People are always convulsing with anger, fear or sadness which usually involves screaming through clenched teeth, doubling over like they have been hit in the stomach and having their eyes bug out… in short, they behave like cartoon characters.  This Gaijin just doesn’t get it and will leave it to the bloggers who are Japan-o-philes to explain.

The genius of having the kids get random weapons, however, is hard to ignore. Which made me want to wonder, with my morning coffee, about the question, “When the shit hits the fan (be it attack of space aliens, the rising of the disenfranchised classes, zombie outbreak, etc., take your pick), how are YOU going to defend yourself?”

1) Guns are the obvious choice, especially if you live in the US where there seem to be as many guns as people.  Unfortunately, unless you are a concealed carrier of weapons or in a job that gives ready access to guns (like law enforcement or working in ‘Firearms’ at Bass Pro Shop), you are only likely to have your guns with you if you know the shit is about to come down or you are at home (or wherever you keep your gun(s) if you have them).

My sidearm of choice would be my .38 Special revolver or a shotgun (only because I am familiar with these tools), but people who are into guns will probably have Glocks with 30 round magazines and semi-auto rifles illegally modified to class 3 status with 75+ round drum magazines, so my shootin’ irons are probably woefully outclassed and I’ll be dead in the first few minutes.

The Decider.

Speaking of gun porn, if one had to choose just one gun, you might want to go for the Kel-Tec shotgun. It features twin magazines that hold 6 shells each, so you could load one with buckshot and the other with slugs and then blast away, switching back and forth with buckshot for close range and slugs for further away.  Plus it looks like it’s from the future. Kel-tec says the ejection port is underneath so southpaws won’t have it ejecting spent shells into their face. $800.00 MSRP means it’s not the most expensive option, either. 

The good news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so you can easily add a .380 to your wardrobe, a pump shotgun to your hall closet and a 9mm to your nightstand.  The bad news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so when the shit goes down we will all probably be shooting each other.  We won’t have to wait for the zombies to kill us; our neighbors will probably shoot us because we look a little off or we were about to grab the last pack of Twinkies from the floor of the looted Wal-Mart.

2) The kitchen provides a lot of potential improvised weaponry. My first impulse is to grab a “chef’s knife” with as long a blade as I could find, perhaps 8″ or more.  I like the chef’s knife because it could be used to stab or slash and has a little more reach than the paring knife or cleaver. Since it’s made for chopping, the blade has a little more heft than some of the longer knives.  AVOID the wavy bladed bread knife.  It looks like it would hurt like hell (and it probably would if your enemy just stood there and let you saw at him) but the blade is usually too thin to stand up to living sinew and bone (which is a lot tougher than cooked meat).  Let some other fool take the bread-knife. Remember, although a lot of people show up in emergency rooms with cuts from bread knives every day, those wounds are always self inflicted by bagel eaters who are too lazy to get out a cutting board (yes, I have thought about this… wait, don’t look at me like that…).

Whacking someone with an iron skillet seem like a no-brainer (get it?), but the cast iron skillet has become a relic of a bygone era in many US kitchens, probably because you can’t just stick ’em in the dishwasher, so unless you are in the kitchen of a foodie or a southerner, the likelyhood of finding a plain old iron skillet is greatly reduced.  The problem with the iron skillet is that it is damned awkward to wave around… in order to do damage with it, you are going to need a lot of wind up for your swing, and the short handle combined with the big round pan makes it just too damn top heavy. These space-age material pots and pans usually have all the disadvantages of the iron skillet (awkward shape and you need a lot of swinging room) with none of the heft; I’d leave ’em on the shelf unless you really have no better options. Rolling pins seem like a good idea, but they are usually too light to give a good whack. I’d probably grab a meat tenderizer mallet instead, although, honestly, go for the chef’s knife if you can.

People in the movies often seem to throw hot water or coffee on an attacker, but, honestly, unless you standing right beside the stove and the liquid is REALLY fucking hot, you really can’t make this your battle plan.  It’s also  a one shot weapon — afterwards, you are just a guy holding an empty carafe and facing an enraged and wet opponent.

Be nice to the groundskeeper; maybe he’ll let you live.

3) The garden shed / storage area provides some very good options.  Baseball bats, axes/hatchets or a machete might be my first choice, but a shovel shouldn’t be underestimated. Erich Maria Remarque discussed the possibilities of the shovel as an effective hand-to-hand weapon in ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (go for the throat with it!).

I’d take the hardwood ‘Louisville Slugger’ over those $100.00 aluminum bats simply because I remember seeing a kid in grade school take a whack at a phone pole with an aluminum bat and bending the thing in half… and he wasn’t that strong a kid. Remember that you can also use the bat as a baton in close quarters — a good poke in the gut with 3 feet of ash or hickory is going to slow most tough guys down, although you should swing for the head if it’s a zombie situation.

Axes or crowbars are also good for getting through doors, windows, etc., in a hurry when you don’t have a key.  Speaking of axes — why are there so many ‘fire axes’ in office buildings in movies?  I’ve been in hundreds of office buildings in real life and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fire axe just hanging on the wall, but in every movie it seems the hero is always breaking the glass and grabbing that bright red axe when he needs to do some chopping.  Fucking Hollywood bullshit is what that is.


Speaking of Hollywood, LEAVE the chainsaw in the garage for some Tobe Hooper fan-boy to take. Chainsaw injuries are horrific, but are, as far as I know, almost always self inflicted accidents.  The chainsaw is only dangerous when it is running… and while it is running it is so fucking noisy that you might as well tie bells all over yourself to tell the zombies, “Here comes dinner!”  If you switch it off, good luck in starting it when the shit hits the fan; your opponent will have chewed out your throat or stabbed you 100 times with a pointed stick before you can get it started.  I’m no Hercules but I can cut tree trunks lying on the ground all afternoon with a chainsaw, but when I have to reach out from my body to get the high branches, I’m exhausted in about ten minutes… imagine trying to hit a moving target with that thing?  And, if you are dealing with an infection situation, do you really want all that blood flying around?

I hope my little essay has helped you consider YOUR apocalypse plan.  Remember, we don’t know what form it will take or when it will come, but unless Murphy’s Law is wrong, we know it’s coming so BE PREPARED!