Thursday, December 30, 2010

Prepare: World Food Prices and Shortages

China has to increase its domestic production of corn, rice and wheat to meet demand for 2011.

The US still supplies two thirds of the world's corn exports, but with oil at $84 a barrel, may be tempted to divert corn oil to biofuel.

South America and Russia have had weather problems which are leading to lower crop yields.

The dollar is weaker than it was two years ago making its purchasing power less.

Read more here and here.

What does it all mean?

In 2007, rice shortages led to riots in other countries. The rising price of food, which immediately effects one fifth of the worlds population due to poverty, leads to shortages and domestic disturbances.

Remember the shortage of rice in the markets a few years ago?

If - key word - you can, it might be a good time to  stock up on staples like rice, corn meal and flour as all may go up dramatically in price. Rice should always be purchased in 25 or 50 pound bags. Flour is good to buy in bulk, but consider a grain mill and purchasing wheat as flour begins to go rancid once it has been milled.

As always, store wheat and rice in buckets and seal them up good - they should last for years.

If is the key word. Don't go into debt or panic buy because of the news. Purchase only what you can safely afford and what you will eat.

Watch the news carefully in 2011 regarding food supplies, prices and the price of oil. These be real trends to watch next year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Prepare: START Treaty will probably pass

The latest Washington DC treaty to lower the number of nuclear weapons the US possesses, START, will probably pass the Senate today. The treaty will limit the number of nuclear warheads for both the USA and Russian Federation to 1500 (down from 2250) and the number of launchers to 800 total land, sea and air.

START will also resume inspections by both sides of each other's nuclear arsenal and launchers.

A number of characters will be doing a happy dance when this treaty gets passed.

Here is what is not covered in the START treaty.

- There is nothing in the treaty about the number of nuclear weapons and launchers that China can have, nor about any sort of inspection for their growing nuclear arsenal.

- There is nothing in the treaty about limiting new countries from obtaining nuclear weapons. Right now the list of countries who have produced crude weapons or are working dillegently on them includes North Korea, Venezuela, Myamar, and Iran.

- There is nothing in the treaty which limits the USA or Russia from assisting another country with the construction or design of nuclear weapons. Further, there is nothing in the treaty which limits either country from new military treaties which can be used to increase the potential nuclear offensive capability of a new alliance.

- There is nothing about the treaty first inspecting the working capability of either country and places limits based upon that capability. Thus, one country may only have 600 functioning launchers meaning this treaty is only window dressing.

 - There is nothing in this treaty which addresses the real potential cause for nuclear war which is a terrorist organization, backed by legitimate states, using nuclear devices against the USA or Russia.

At this point, the USA and Russia have successfully, over the past twenty years, reduced the number of functioning nuclear weapons and launchers they both have. That's great if the largest problem in the world is the potential of a nuclear war between the USA and the Russian Federation.

However, in 2010, this situation is not the problem the world faces today.

The real issue with nuclear proliferation today is not between the USA and Russia, but with dozens of other nations which are actively and agressively working on building nuclear capability. If the USA and Russia eliminate too much of their working nuclear deterrent, they may find themselves in the near future at the mercy of a collaboration between nuclear armed terror groups and rogue nations or even a growing nuclear armed nation like China.

At some point, those doing the happy dance with the signature of this START treaty had better start recognizing that the real danger comes from those not in the room on signing day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Prepare: New Nuclear War Preparedness Guide FedGov

There is a new nuclear preparedness guide from the FedGov and sponsored by a group called the National Association of Government Communicators.

Check it out here. It's in PDF format which means you will need Adobe reader which is free.

In case you don't have the time, here's a synopsis of the report.

- A nuclear detonation occuring in the USA is possible due to proliferation and terrorists.

- Such an event would be horrific and communication with the populace by the government at all levels would be important.

- Several suggestions about what to do, i.e. where to shelter, in the event of a nuclear detonation.

- How to deal with decontamination, radiation illness, food and water concerns.

- What to expect from the government at all levels.

- Sample statements for local, state and federal government spokespersons (which was interesting - I hope I never hear them).

There were some very frustrating statements in the report.

- Constant reminders for government leaders to reassure people that all would be well.

- Suggestions that the populace consider volunteering their time or donating to the Red Cross in the event of a nuclear detonation or war complete with URL of related websites.

- The most annoying line "Will shelters be available for people instructed to evacuate?"
"Yes, there will be public shelters with food, medicine, etc".

Reminder - there are no stocked public shelters in the event of a nuclear detonation. They were dismantled years ago and never replaced.

What was missing? The real responses by the government to a disaster of this magnitude...

- There will be martial law in effected areas if not completely nationwide.

- Despite the fact that the attack came from an enemy, the American people will be the ones penalized. Consider all the actions taken against Americans since 9/11 for our "safety". Been on an airplane lately?

- Civil rights will be curtailed in a post-nuclear America and probably will be off the table for awhile.

- Civilains will be on their own for most of their needs. The government has shelters however.

An interesting report none the less and worthy of review. I can only wonder why this document and related news reports have been so widely noted lately and can only believe they are due to the federal government's push for the new START treaty with Russia.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Prepare: NYT - Nuclear Strike is survivable

I woke up today in a different world. Dogs and cats were friends. People liked New Coke. Heck had frozen over.

There in the New York Times was this article about nuclear war and how people could survive it or at least increase their survivability by simply staying put and taking shelter rather than fleeing.

Since the 1970's, the mainstream media has marched the public to the drumbeat of the repeated message - "Nuclear war, no matter how large or small, will result in the complete destruction of the earth and the death of all people. The world will end and there is no point in attempting to prepare for or survive a nuclear war as the resulting world will be worse than death".

Now this.

Administration officials argue that the cold war created an unrealistic sense of fatalism about a terrorist nuclear attack. “It’s more survivable than most people think,” said an official deeply involved in the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The key is avoiding nuclear fallout.”

The only sense of fatalism came from the media. Ordinary citizens built home fallout shelters and stocked their basements. The government, especially under Kennedy, planned and stocked thousands of public shelters across the country. It was the news media who propogated the myth that all would die horrible deaths regardless of their preparations.

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”

Good gravy. They actually want us to do something about it ourselves rather than wait for Uncle Sugar and his merry band of FEMA friends to show up, hand out bottled water and debit cards and make the problems all go away?

What is sad about this is that in the 1980's, Cresson Kearney produced a book which outlined research from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory about surviving nuclear war. The media and several prominent politicians quickly dismissed it as their own conventional wisdom maintained that nobody would survive a nuclear war and that nuclear disarmament, by the USA, only of course, was the only option to avoiding nuclear destruction.

Now this.

It could be that the administration, pushing for a new START treaty with Russia, wants to frame the nuclear war thing again in the media as a way to get approval for their efforts.  Everything is politics of course.

And other than producing the pamphlet outlined in the NYT article, I doubt the federal government will revive the public shelter program, Civil Defense or shelter stocking.

However, let's not forget that there are now more nations with nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon manufacturing capability than there was as late as the 1980's and more nations will soon join them. We are in an arms race not between two nations, but between thirty or forty.

It's great the government wants to talk about nuclear war preparedness again, but remember, they only want to have a conversation. Talk is cheap. Real preparedness starts with you right now.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Prepare: Lights Out Book Published

If you are an old hand at this stuff and are a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, than you surely have read "Lights Out" by David Crawford. Originally published online in chapter format over a whopping two year period, "Lights Out" is probably one of the best survival fiction stories written in the past decade, online or traditional.

If you are new to this genre, get a copy of this book as its really that good.

"Lights Out" takes place in present day San Antonio and follows Mark Turner, an average computer fixit guy for a midsized corporation, his family and friends and the events which befall them after a supersized electro magnetic pulse (EMP) instantly vaporizes all modern electronics and electric infrastruture in the United States.

In the days that follow, Mark and company have to learn to not only live without modern day comforts, but also how to provide food and security for their suburban neighborhood all while dealing with internal divisions, external threats and the constant ordeals of being thrust into the equivalent of the 19th century.

The story is real. Most online post-apocalyptic fiction features two dimensional cardboard characters, mind numbing lists of name brand equipment, dull lectures on grinding wheat, making soap, fiat currency and grinning idiots slapping each other the back after dispatching ne'er do wells with names like Scrag and Greasey. "Lights Out" has none of that.

Husbands and wives fight. Good people die. Children are injured. Homes are torn apart. Popular characters are killed off while bad guys get away with murder. There is something unexpected at each turn in "Lights Out" and readers will find themselves identifying with several characters in the story; I know I did.

After reading "Lights Out", you will look at your neighborhood and life different.

While "One Second After" was a shocking book a couple of years ago and also a great read, "Lights Out" has a different take on the same genre with separate outcomes.

"Lights Out" makes a great Christmas gift for the prepper in your house or a friend who "almost gets it" but needs a realistic little push.

I happliy found "Lights Out" on Amazon, but it took some looking and you had to know the author's full name and not the one he originally posted under online (you know what I am referring to if you are familiar with the story). I pulled a handy link to the book on Amazon for new readers.

Check it out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Prepare: Washing Clothes

The day after Thanksgiving, I threw a load of bedding in the washing machine with some detergent, turned it on and left the room. Twenty minutes later, I did not hear the washer, so I went back in the laundry room and found two inches of water on the floor.

The repairs would have cost as much as a new machine, so I went out to purchase one. Bad timing, it was Black Friday and nearly all inventory was gone. Now, the prices were really low, and I really needed a machine, so I bought one and learned I would have to wait until the middle of December, at the earliest, for delivery.

So, what do you do for clean clothes when the washer is out which led me to thinking about how to wash clothes if there is no power or one is living in austere conditions.
First, in the real world, we borrowed the neighbor's washer for one day and got most of our stuff cleaned.

I could go to a laundromat too, like I did the last time the washer went out. But those public machines have a tendancy to ruin clothes and patrons throw all kinds of things in there, like crayons, markers, etc. Plus, sitting around those places for two to three hours is not a fun way to spend a morning.

Now, the prepper world. Here's what I did. I took a couple of small bins and used them to wash socks, underwear and T-Shirts for the kids. Detergent, water, soak, wring, soak, wring, rinse, dry. Time consuming and hard on the hands and arms.

Big stuff? I used the bath tub. Again, lots of soaking, wringing, etc. For sheets and jeans, I had my son take one end and I on the other and we twisted those things until most of the water was out and then tossed them in the dryer. If there was no power, I could have put them outside (during the day only - at night would have left me with a pair of Jeans-cicles), because we have had sunny weather lately.

Now, if this was full time work, I would like to have one of those James washers, but right now, the one I saw online was more expensive than a powered washer, so I won't be getting that back-up device anytime soon. Maybe I can make something like it? The wringer would be cool to have if I could mount it on a drum or something.

Which brings to mind, get a clothes line. Power or not, nothing beats fresh air drying of clothes outside. We also use a drying rack on nice days.

In the end, not having a washing machine for clothes at home is no fun. Having to do it by hand is not fun either, but it makes one think about how the task will be done if the SHTF.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Prepare: Flick your Bic

Check your pockets, purse, car, etc. Do you have a way to make fire? You know, like a camp fire, or light a candle, or some other way to make heat and light without batteries, electric this or that.

Go back 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Almost everyone carried some form of fire making capability either matches or a lighter. It was standard equipment for daily living.


Well, certainly, years ago, many more people smoked and needed a way to light their tobacco. But people used to carry fire around because it was normal and expected.

I remember growing up and my parents had a plethora of firemaking equipment about the house. A huge basket of paper matches, king sized boxes of safety matches, my father had no fewer than a half dozen Zippo type lighters with company logos and suitable for lighting the boss's cigar at a moment's notice.

My spouse carries a lighter. When they pull it out, they get the immediate comment:

"Do you smoke?" - while my better has never had a cigarette in their life. Why the lighter? Because it comes in handy so often. To light candles at a birthday party, to provide light in a pinch, etc. However, the general public has a tendancy to think a lighter or book of matches is akin to carrying around a vial of plague.

Today's family is more likely to only have one of those giant butane lighters for the outdoor grill and for lighting decorative candles around the house. You know, those foot long fire sticks. You can't carry that around in the back pocket or purse.

Paper matches, once the most common advertising item, is a thing of the past. Restaurants and bars no longer hand them out as they might be miscontrued that they advocate smoking in spite of the fact that so many people collected match books as a souvenir. What do they take now?

Matches are not often found in the home as parents worry that kids may get a hold of them and burn down the house.

I pick up a three pack of butane lighters at least once a year and keep them here and there. There are three in my emergency bag, another three in the kitchen cabinet and some more about. I don't keep them anywhere my kids can get them. I also have numerous boxes of safety matches, the big ones, in plastic bags, for emergencies.

I have a drawer full of those jumbo butane sticks, but they are useless outside of the house.

So why fire? What you are going to do if the SHTF and you are on foot? No fire and cold weather means death. How are you going to light candles or see in the dark with a burned out flashlight? How will you light that Sterno can to heat food?

There are lots of uses for fire on demand. And your survival kit demands that you have mulitple ways to make fire. So don't overlook the need for matches or lighters or dismiss them in favor or more primative firemaking capability.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prepare: Civil Unrest Next?

Read the headlines...

Ireland - authorities prepare for civil unrest as new austerity budget unveiled.

EU - Authorities expect the chance of civil unrest to increase as budget cutbacks loom.

UK - Civil unrest increases including impromptu attack on Prince Charles limosine.

Haiti - Riots and civil unrest grow due to elections.

Now read this article from CNN. The author suggests that civil unrest may be around the corner in the US due to continuing high unemployment and possible entitlement cuts in the US federal budget.

How likely is this in the US?

First, unlike other countries, the U.S. has a higher respect for "law and order". Middle class, middle aged adults are not likely to grab a banner and go join a protest in the middle of downtown. And are much less likely to burn effigies or toss a trashcan through a store window. Remember all the rallies in DC over the summer and early fall? Not a single instance of violence or rioting in spite of the high rate of dissatisifaction by attendees over the state of things.

Other countries are different where protests are time honored traditions with the participation of a broad cross section of the population.

Second, people are angry at the lack of work, for instance, but their individual rights have not been trampled upon (enough) to make them want to go smash a store window or toss rocks at the cops. Rather, anger is limited to comments online and letters to the editor.

Third, we still have a representative democratic republic that for the most part, rolls and changes with the people. Sure, some of the representatives appear only to care about their own interests and avoid their constituents, but the last election and the number of deeply entrenched incumbents who received their walking papers shows that the system still works. Before the argument begins, is Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon still president? Most of the rest of the world's democracies still languish under thirty years in office career dicta-ticians.

Fourth, things are not that bad. They are not great, but we have not seen a widespread return to the 1930's with Hoovervilles and Okies traveling in Model T convoys (not yet at least). And we still have the fattest country on earth so everyone is getting plenty to eat.

Now, if any of the above does come to bear, such as politicians refusing to leave office. Unemployment above twenty percent. Widespread homelessness, espcially of families. Crackdown on Internet access and limits on free speech. Curbs on the right to assemble. Elimination of opposition organizations. Food shortages. Fuel purchase and travel restrictions. Utility blackouts.

Then, you have another thing entirely. This is the stuff that leads to dissatisfaction among the electorate. And once you get the mainstream, middle class, average American into the streets, look out.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

SHTF: Who Goes First?

This is a subject and post which will probably bug most readers. If easily offended, please turn on TV or something.

The question comes up frequently: When the SHTF, who will go first? In other words, which group of people won't make it and will fall earliest?

Generally, the response from those questioned, especially those into preparedness, is the same...

- Welfare recipients
- "Yuppies"
- Tree huggers
- Don't get its (DGI)
- Druggies

The stereotypical responses. Further, those questioned never consider where they would be. Most are self assured that they will be fine as they are in the "Get It" column.

OK. If the S really HTF, think about what will happen and who will really be effected.

- No more US mail.
- No more doctor's offices, hospitals, clinics
- No more pharmacies
- No more pensions or social security checks
- No more government offices or agencies to be called for assistance
- No more assistance, no more food banks, no more home delivered meals

Get it? If you live off any form of government assistance, then you are also at risk. That includes veteran benefits, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and so on.

Suddenly, the pool is larger.

Further, a healthy 20-something former condo living, BMW driving now desparate urban resident on the run is a real threat to a 60-something, scooter riding retiree who has a pantry full of food and a running pickup truck. One is healthy and the other is taking a kitchen counter top full of medications. Who wins in a one on one fight?

The welfare recipient may be dismissed, but don't forget, they have adapted to the system. They currently know how to get free medical treatment from the emergency room, how to get food stamps and eat, how to get a free bus pass and a ride, how to get discounted housing and a place to sleep. In a nutshell, they figured out how to ride the system to get what they want and need.

That same mindset can and will help them survive in a post-SHTF world. They will adapt and figure out where the lone survivor is with the stored food because that is how they survive now. They can sniff out "stuff" and consider themselves entitled to it. Watch out for this group, they are more dangerous then you think.

Next, addicts. Addicts don't care if they are dirty, if they steal, if others die or if they offend anyone in order to get their next fix. Most of all, they personally don't care if they live or die, afterall, they are pumping their body with dangerous chemicals with little regard for their own health.

Therefore, they are the most dangerous of all to the prepper post-SHTF. They will come for you and your stuff if they think you have alcohol, cigarettes or drugs that they need. And they won't think anything of killing or hurting to get it. The addict will also adapt to the situation much faster than the "stick in the mud" who thinks his preps are enough to ride out the situation.

Next up, the obese. I don't care if you have five years worth of food and the latest Socko-Whammo M5000 rifle, if you get out of breath walking from the Laz-E-Boy to the front door, your butt is toast. In the time it takes to turn around or get up from bed, the younger, faster and much slimmer raider is going to disarm you, push you on the floor and watch you flounder around like a turtle on its back.

Don't fall for this imaginary world presented online where the "feisty, he-may-be-slow-but-is-crafty old timer" defeats innumerable hoardes of city dwelling, welfare abusing, don't get it, yuppie raiders. Those who adapt first in the post-SHTF world will win. And they will win by being prepared now in the pre-SHTF world.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

SHTF: Food Riots

The spectre of food riots comes up in everyone's minds when considering preparedness and disaster. Generally, in the fiction world, an "event" happens (nuclear war, EMP, financial crisis, etc) and the mobs decend upon the grocery store and riots break out. It's good imagination footage for the reader to enjoy.

In the real world, food riots occur after the shortage conditions have arrived and the government or private organization attempts to bring in food supplies in an unorganized and destabilized environment. The helicopters land or trucks arrive, the crowds break impromptu barriers and relief workers are overwhelmed. Food riots ensue.

For preparedness sake, the possible scenario of food riots in the US would be a combination of the two.

A few scenarios..

An event takes place that would lead to the disruption of supply chains. That could be a natural disaster but on a national level, a massive terrorist attack on our infrastructure, or a war.

Another would be a financial meltdown which would paralyze key components of the food chain - farmers refusing to take credit payments for crops, truckers refusing to deliver goods, feed lots refusing to release stock, etc.

The second "shoe" would drop when stocks drop in stores. That means all stores including grocery, big box wholesale, fast food and all restaurants and even convinience stores.

At first, people would get by on what they had, but after a certain amount of time, one or two weeks at most, people would get antsy and start going to the market daily and waiting or listening to the news for food distribution in their area.

This is America. For all the law abiding folk, and for all the ones who are willing and ready to wait in line for an agreed amount of emergency food, a limit on grocery purchases or the need to cooperate, there is a huge segment who thinks otherwise.

Look at it this way. How many times have you been to the bank or any other place where you had to wait in line, and three people in front of you is the person with "the story"? About how they lost their driver's license or how they have 14 people at home who are sick or how they meant to have the paperwork in order but they left their only pen in their cousin's car?

Or how many people in America will think that because of their position or personal opinion of their importance will think that lines and rations are for "other people"?

Finally, how many borderline criminals exist in the USA? Not just the typical gang and thug members. But how many people swipe a few things from work, fudge their taxes, allow the clerk to give them too much change and walk away feeling entitled to their windfall?

All of these folk will be in the food lines as well and when they arrive and start trouble, there will be problems. They will demand, push and force their way to the front of the line. They will want more than they are allocated. They will see a shortage as an opportunity and demean all others around them.

Depending upon the severity of authorities' response, many innocent people will get hurt. And further supplies will not be forthcoming or recipients will be required to register at their local FEMA camp for ongoing meals.

Therefore, the same conclusion applies. 

- Stock food now. Many types of food, like rice, beans, flour, yeast, generic canned vegetables and fruit are cheap and everything is available now at the store.

- Don't get caught up in the food riots. When trouble starts, get away.

- Don't make the idea of shortages force action when it's too late.

- Finally, don't let others know what you have. Join the lines, get the ration cards, buy the allowed limit (as long as personal freedom is not limited) but don't let others see you "not" taking part as you have enough food at home. Others will visit your home if they think you are "hoarding".

- Make plans to get away from urban centers when food runs low. There is no more dangerous place to be.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

SHTF: Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is December 7 and is the 69th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. On that fateful morning, Japanese aircraft attacked the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor killing more than 2400 sailors, airmen and solidiers and starting US involvement in World War II.

There are dozens of good articles online, but better, there are interviews with some of the dwindling number of survivors from that day of infamy, to paraphrase then President Roosevelt. In a few short years, most who were there will be gone so read their stories today.

The lesson from today is that an attack like Pearl Harbor can come at any time. A survivor from Indiana remarked that young people need to understand the world and global affairs. Not so they can "understand and appreciate other cultures" as the current sentiment goes, but so they can recognize those who are ready and willing to do this nation harm.

Like it or not, the world is a dangerous place. We don't live in the fictional universe where a spaceship captain can hold innumerable peace summits to find common ground between warring species.  Rather, we live in a tumultuous world where motivations for hostility can run deep and old and no amount of college public affairs coursework can alter the course of history. Wars are started by people who don't like other people. It is as old as time and it will never change, because people rarely change. They merely change the ways the go about things.

If you know a veteran of Pearl Harbor or World War II, take him or her out to breakfast or pay them a visit. If you don't, then offer a silent prayer to those who have gone ahead of you.

Most of all, never forget.

Monday, December 06, 2010

SHTF: What If Nuclear War Books

I spent part of the weekend researching Civil Defense again as well as other nuclear war subjects. It amazes me that in this day and age when we have nearly a dozen nuclear powers (up from five during the Cold War) our leaders still hope they magically make the problem go away with letters and meetings. They are not succeeding (look at the increase of members in the "club") and instead should focus some attention on dealing with the possibility somebody may get the idea of detonation one on someone else.

Along the way, I was reminded of two books which deal with the outcome of nuclear war and the effect on America and the rest of the world.

Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois was a strange book I recall seeing in the book store when it came out and which deals with America in 1972 - ten years after the Cuban Missile Crisis developed into full scale nuclear war between the USA and Soviet Union. Fortunately, the event never happened, but the author takes to possible ball and runs with it.

America, post-nuclear war, is a third world nation receiving financial aid from Great Britain and a shadow of its former self. With several cities nearest to military bases circa 1962 destroyed or heavily damaged, most of the US is limping along trying to get by under continued martial law.

The story involves a reporter's attempt to uncover what actually occured behind the scenes in October 1962 which led to war. Did President Kennedy barrel headlong into the conflaguration, or was it due to some behind the scenes manipulation by others? Along the way, the reporter, with the aid of a British agent, also uncovers a sinister, secret plot by the UK to rejoin the US to the Empire. Interesting take on the moment the US and the Soviet Union almost came to war.

The other book, WarDay by Whitney Streiber, concerns the post-nuclear US following a preemptive, late 80's attack by the Soviets. Again, the story follows a reporter a decade after the war as he and a companion travel the United States recording what has happened to the rest of the country.

With society dependent upon pre-electronic ignition vehicles (war EMP took out modern cars), letter writing instead of telephones, and a gold based currency, the main characters venture across a hazardous and varied country.

The US is divided unintentionally into different regions. Some, like Aztlan, are semi-autonomous territories operating outside of the federal government, yet recognized by foreign powers. Others, like California, are the new seat of the federal government and which exist under strict police powers to keep illegal aliens (from the rest of the USA) out.

WarDay reminded me of a personal story at the time of publication where a co-worker, upon completing the book, went out and purchased a used, pre-electronic 1960's pickup truck and a few ounces of gold as a hedge against the suggested events of WarDay. Needless to say, both purchases were based upon his own "take aways" from the book. It was that convincing of a story.

Both books, while somewhat dated, make the reader think about plausible scenarios and how they could come to fruition again.  Both are excellent reads and are good suggestions for Christmas gifts for the "Don't Get it (Yet)" in your household as they are mainstream published works.

Pick up both at Amazon

Friday, December 03, 2010

Prepare: Fallout Shelters, Washington DC, 1961

I stumbled upon this interesting article from the Washington Post from late last month about a guy with an interesting hobby - he catalogues the locations of old fallout shelters in the Washington DC area.

The article is here.

During the early 1960's, DC had the largest number of fallout shelters by population in the United States. Knowing that the nation's capital would be target number one in a nuclear exchange, the federal government launched a Community Shelter plan which located deep basements in schools, hospitals and churches and stocked them with emergency supplies.

As we know, most of those shelters were closed off and emptied of supplies by the 1980's as FEMA took over the role of Civil Defense and the powers that be decided it was better for the population to be unprepared than not. Regardless...

This collector of fallout and civil defense information is working hard to get the old fallout signs, not the buildings, protected as historical landmarks. I think it is a neat way to remind all about the importance of being prepared and a simple and cost effective plan by the government which actually would have made a difference if ever needed.

The author has to toss in a frustrating line in the article which I will quote:

Of course, the irony is that the District's fallout shelters probably wouldn't have done much good. But they would have let us die together.

This is annoying because the Community Shelter Program was designed to limit casualties and was based upon research and knowledge at the time. The very same article above notes that the designers of the US shelter program estimated that community shelters could save millions of lives. But of course that flies in the face of the popular, but incorrect idea that "we will all die in the event of any nuclear exchange".

Many would be spared the horrors of radioactive fallout with a simple shelter. And now, with the threat of dirty bombs in the hands of terrorists, a fallout shelter plan is what is needed now more than ever in the event of such a type of attack.

The fellow researching fallout shelters and the subject of the article believes he can still find a completely stocked fallout shelter (with expired supplies of course) in pristine condition. They turn up from time to time, but in most cases the supplies are in pretty bad shape. Of course, he should take a look at the website The Civil Defense Museum and contact someone who knows something about the whole matter.

One more note. I wish I could find more about the scenario called Operation Alert 1961 mentioned in the article. Apparently, this report described a number of scenarios which led to the creation of the Community Shelter program, Conelrad and other nuclear war preparedness plans.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Back in the 1970's, science fiction was a hot entertainment trend on television. In 1976, a year before the release of the movie Star Wars, CBS TV premiered a children's television show called ARKII. ARKII told the story of a group of scientists who traveled about the devasted future world sharing knowledge with the remaining people of earth.

I recently blogged about the film Damnation Alley which featured a working all terrain vehicle called the Landmaster. ARKII featured a similar, albeit, more benign type vehicle which led me to research the program and find out more about it. The vehicles were not the same and were constructed by different people.

ARKII opened with the narrator describing a dark and ominous future Earth destroyed by waste and pollution (very early 1970's ecology movement inspired). Next, the opening showed people reduced to barbarian like existence living in rags and pushing around carts made from old car parts.

ARKII was the name of the futuristic RV/labratory crewed with three young scientists, Jonah, Ruth and Samuel. A fourth character, a talking (!) chimp named Adam rounded out the regular cast. (Adam had this funny deep dubbed voice and he seldom spoke more than a line or two per episode).

The ARK was inspired by Old Testament stories from the Bible as were the cast members' names. ARK=ARKII, Jonah, Ruth, Samuel, Adam - get it?

The series takes place in the 25th century and the scenes of the world all pretty much look the same - Southern California desert. The people all have long hair, are dirty and wear old worn out clothes. (Since this was the 1970's, they probably had no problem finding plenty of hippies to use as extras. Ha-ha).

The ARKII team ran around solving problems with people finding dangerous old things like poison and chemicals, children with ESP powers, strange settlements of people with minor mutations and an occasional bad guy who wants the ARK's technology.

There were only 14 episodes of ARKII produced. Apparently, children on Saturday morning were not up for post-apocalyptic tales yet and the stories were fairly watered down simple stuff where a problem arose and was solved in thirty minutes with three commercial breaks.

Having not seen the show in over thirty years, here are some highlights I remember.

- They had a jet pack which Jonah, the leader, used in several episodes. This was the same type of jet pack made famous by 1960's James Bond and Lost in Space. 

- They had a dune buggy which popped out of the back of the ARKII for jaunts around town.

- All of the crew members carried these mirrors which looked like makeup compacts. When they held them up to bad guys, it made this flashing and caused the bad guys to pass out.

- Jonah also had this laser gun which looked like a picture frame with six LED light bulbs. Since it was a children's show, he never used it on people but used it to blow up things like rocks and whatnot.

- Jim Bacchus, Mr. Howell of Gilligan's Island fame, appeared in one episode as a cryogenically frozen  businessman from our time. Needless to say, he played a greedy guy only concerned with rebuilding his financial empire. Blah blah blah.

I read a lot of science fiction at the time and I was facinated with the show. My sister of course, wanted to watch Josie and the Pussycats or Sigmund the Seamonster, so I often only got to see an episode every other week. Fortunately, the show ran in reruns for years so eventually, I got to see all of the series.

ARKII is out there on DVD, I think. It was a hug-a-tree post-apocalypse story, but still a fun view for kids and adults alike.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

SHTF: Damnation Alley

Damnation Alley is a survivalist story from the 1970's. It was first a book and then a movie. Let's review both.

Damnation Alley the book was authored by Roger Zelazny and features the main character, Hell Tanner. A cross between Mad Max Rokatonski and Escape From New York's Snake Pliskin, Tanner is a member of the motorcycle gang, Hell's Angels. With a criminal record a mile long, a captured Tanner is given a job delivering precious medicine to Boston from Los Angeles in exchange for a full pardon.

No problem, right? Wrong. Damnation Alley takes place in a post-apocalyptic American after a massive nuclear war. LA and Boston (and a few other cities like Albany and Salt Lake City) are all that remain of the USA. The Midwest is one big radioactive, dust filled, electric storm raining rocks and dead animals wasteland home to freak mutated oversized creatures and desparate outlaw gangs.

Tanner won't be travelling on his hog, though. He is assigned a "Car" which we later read to be over 30 feet long, armored and armed with rockets, .50 caliber machine guns and flamethrowers. What's more, is Tanner is assigned a partner to help with the driving.

Early on, two other Cars which are also part of the convoy to Beantown both buy the farm leaving Tanner in charge and the only hope for getting the serum to Boston, now if full pandemic mode.

Tanner faces off against giant Gila monsters, a hunormous spider, a crazy scientist and attacks by two gigantic motorcycle gangs. Does he make it to Boston? Read the book and find out.

Damnation Alley the book precedes The Road Warrior and other like genre films by at least fifteen years and clearly sets the theme in motion.

Damnation Alley the movie is a whole other matter. Filmed and released in low budget glory in 1977, DA stars Jan Michael Vincent and George Preppard as two Air Force officers at a desert ICBM base.

After launching their missiles, the base and dicipline slowly fall apart and problems are compounded after an accident kills most of the surviving crewmen and officers.

Here' a snippet from YouTube

Preppard and Vincent (and two other airmen) take off in a pair of Landmaster survival vehicles loosely based upon the Cars of Zelazny's book. Along the way, one Landmaster is destroyed and a few more survivors, notably a woman who looks like she just walked out of the shopping mall, are found and added to the team.

The Landmaster was a real vehicle designed by Dean Jeffries and still in one piece in California. I doubt it has those mortars or rocket launchers any more though.

Flesh and metal eating cockroaches, a giant scorpion, some lame shootouts and a brief motorcycle chase (the only nod to the original book) and our wayward service members arrive in some green valley full of happy survivors who can't wait to meet them.

The book is worth the read and hardly dated at all. The movie is worth finding in the one buck DVD rack at Wallyworld and good for a laugh.

Either way, Damnation Alley is one of the original survival books/movies available to complete your collection.

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