Sunday, December 9, 2012

Apocalypse Kits – It’s Not Just About Zombies, Maya, and Alien Attacks

Avoid being a post-disaster casualty by being a little prepared and having some common sense.

 I follow a practical blog called The 72 Hour Kit, which was created under the concept that in the case of a natural disaster and the like, that it would take about 72 hours for emergency help to arrive and that you must be self-sufficient for that time.  He went further to create not only home kits, but car kits and personal walk-around kits for urban travel, hiking and the like.  It’s all very practical and levelheaded.  Most of these kit contents are common items available everywhere and might be necessary for immediate survival up to 72 hours.  This isn’t hard-core survivalist junk, it’s just common sense.

UPDATE August 2014 -- The blog I mentioned above, The 72 Hour Kit, hasn't posted in two years, so it's a bad sign that the zombies got him after all.  But take cheer, there are many more practical preparedness sites out there. 

 Along that line and with all the babbling about imminent zombie apocalypse, Mayan apocalypse, nature rebelling, tidal waves, Planet X striking our Earth, and the like has gotten me thinking a bit.  Mind you, I survived Hurricane Camille, Hurricane Katrina along with a number of smaller hurricanes over the years.  I have also gotten to enjoy a wild fire, sand storms, earth quakes and 20 years in the military as well as a few urban riots and the like, but at least learned a bit along the way.  Needless to say, I do have stuff set aside for expected emergencies such as hurricanes, extended power outages, Cthulhu rising from the sea, and that sort of stuff.  Anybody living along the Gulf Coast with any sense has evacuation routs set up, extra food and water during hurricane season as well as tools and repair materials for a month or two of living in difficult situations.  Been there done that.
 Now on to fun-filled fantasy.  Back in the mid 1970s we did a lot of role playing games and set up some that were vaguely reality based.  For example we started a campaign with only the items that you personally own.  Let’s say a crank professor friend from the university of ours has a time travel machine and wants us to go back for a few minutes into the past.  Well you take a few goodies for maybe a day’s lark back into time and guess what … you don’t get picked up.  Uh, oh, and all you have is the junk in your back pack.  Honesty here is important for game play to make sure that the players would actually have all the stuff that they would put in their back pack, which would be their emergency kit.  Hey, all you brought was a case of Twinkies and a stuffed bear?  

 Along with that scenario was a zombie scenario based in our own town.  To narrow it down, everybody made it to the closed mall and hope they locked out all the zombies, maybe.  In any case, we used the local mall, which we were all familiar with as the source of what might be found.  The fun part was that everybody knew exactly what was in the food court, in the Sears hardware department and the like, so there was no need to dig up a supplement.  We had lots of fun potting zombies there in the mall in the 1970s.  It was a simple game to set up and the context was one that everybody got. You guessed it, we used the paradigm of Dawn of the Dead (1978) as out lead-in.  We got started in no time and had a great few evenings role playing, while using local terrain and the local mall for a background.  Next time you need a cheap, fast, and easy scenario, just pull that one out folks!  You could narrow the scope down a bit and just do a single house in Night of the Living Dead (1968) style, but if you are going to have a zombie apocalypse, have a big one! 

Anyway, seriously folks, catastrophe can happen in an instant from a 30 car pile up, to a toxic spill from a truck or train, to a power plant going up, not to mention tsunami, ice storms, hurricanes and the like.  Try to have your self together a little at least.  In all the cases where I was in a major hurricane or earthquake, etc, everybody pulled together and strangers helped strangers.  But you just can’t sit back and expect everybody else to help you, try to do a little yourself.

For those of you interested in zombies, can view my earlier blog entry called The Logical Zombie.
Additional useful links:

UPDATE 14 DECEMBER 2012 -- Today NASA was so sure that the world wouldn't end that they released a new video on YouTube today (seven days before) called "Sciencecasts, Why the World Didn't End Yesterday", scheduled the day after the so called "Mayan Apocalypse".  NASA didn't explain why there was an early release, maybe they wanted to put in their two cents before it all ended.  Anyway, click on the link to see a rather limp video with mediocre computer generated narration voice (so bad it had to have subtitles) -- give me H.A.L. anytime. 

Just put on your tinfoil hat and hope for the best.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Christmas List of Books 2012

A mere suggestion of possible reads for those of you who want something different, stimulating, and would probably want to pass on to others to read.

Two ideas slammed into each other this morning while I was doodling around on the internet; a recent post from the blog of Propnomicon decrying the low level of immersive detective games and the same morning, turned up an old post on io9 about the Ten Science Fiction Novels You Pretend to Have Read.  Actually I had already read 7 of the 10 and might read two additional on the list.

This has lead me to make a list of books as possible Christmas presents for those who are a bit more advance than the average and while needing a bit of a challenge, don’t want to be beat over the head with an overblown pompous, “must read” book that is never finished and is laced with punishment in every page.  You know, like a Pynchon book, Finnegan’s Wake, Dhalgren, and other books that cry out for courageous souls to cry out, “Hey look, the king ain’t got no clothes”.

Instead I created an eclectic list, off the top off my head, of books that:  (1) I have read, (2) enjoyed, (3) found stimulating, (4) would want to read again and, (5) recommend to others.  I tried to keep the list short and books that should be available commonly.  These aren’t trophy books with names dropped to impress your friends, they are good reads.  Not all of them are science fiction or fantasy and one of them isn’t even fiction, but all are readable, challenging, and worth the time.  They are a group of off-the-beaten-path books and authors, that I have enjoyed over the years and think you will also.

Here are eleven authors with books that I have recommended in no particular order, with myself manfully trying to recommend only one book or per author, but failing miserably in a few cases.

Collected Fictions, (1999) Jorge Luis Borges

Foucault’s Pendulum, (1989 in English) Umberto Eco

Winter’s Tale, (1983) Mark Helprin

Dictionary of the Khazars, (1988 in English) Milorad Pavic

Little, Big, (1981) John Crowley

The King in Yellow, (1895) Robert W. Chambers

A Canticle for Leibowitz, (1950) Walter J. Miller, Jr.

Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Colciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, Citadel of the Autarch  – (written between 1980-1983) all part of the four part Book of the New Sun Series by Gene Wolfe.  I might also suggest the ghost story Peace (1976)

Breaking the Maya Code, (1992) Michael D. Coe

My Name is Red (1998) Orhan Pamuk, also recommend The Black Book (1994) and sequel The New Life (1997)

The King’s Indian: Stories and Tales (1974), John Gardner, he also wrote the better known books, Grendel and The Sunlight Dialogs, all well worth the read

A Wild Sheep Chase (1990), Haruki Murakami, also recommended are:  Dance, Dance, Dance, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995), Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World (1985), and Kafka On The Shore (2002)

So endeth my list as I am going to quit while I am still ahead.  These quirky, unusual, and insightful tales I recommend as good reads and I make no apologies for any time wasted, tired eyes or lost nights’ sleep.  As for myself, I am going to get a copy of Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson to read and maybe I’ll add it to my recommended list for next year.