Archive | May 2012

Bath salts, taxes, and you: The future of the zombie apocalypse



So I don’t know how we ended up back at zombies again but seriously, I just can’t let this one slip by. The zombie apocalypse, which Kennedy and I have yet to analyze in depth, has been smattered across the media scape this week following reports out of Miami that a naked man was found (caught?) eating another man’s face.

The circumstances of the incident had people crying “zombie” almost immediately. According to press the police were called after the face-eater was spotted on the MacArthur Causeway off ramp in Miami. When he failed to back away at the officer’s request, the officer shot at him. Now this is where it get’s really hairy. While it’s one thing to engage in cannibalism it is really quite another to continue snacking on another person AFTER BEING SHOT. Witnesses claim that the officer fired half a dozen shots, eventually killing the attacker, before he stopped. The victim is currently in critical condition.

What was behind this admittedly strange attack? Original statements from police pointed to cocaine psychosis rather than zombification. Unfortunately the police were more-or-less correct. Further investigation indicates that the attacker was hopped up on “bath salts” a not-illegal-in-all-states designer drug made from several illegal-but-commonly-available compounds and often sold in tobacco shops. Side effects of the drug are varied depending on the particular vender’s batch but users can expect to  “suffer” from agitation, symptoms of psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions.

My point is this – if a relatively easy to mix designer drug can create symptoms that together are typically associated with zombification then is it unreasonable to conclude it would be possible to induce a violent cannibalistic zombie state in humans? No. Not at all. I bet there’s someone in a lab somewhere that actually knowns exactly which chemicals to drop into the water supply to get us all zombified. The only thing holding me back from being a believer? You’d have to “infect” everyone individually. I’m pretty sure that the guy in a Miami hospital is not experiencing the symptoms of his attacker just because he was bitten.

But let’s say that a zombie apocalypse is possible. What then? Do the rules as we know them still apply? What about the much heralded “death and taxes” inevitability? Zombies avoid death strictly speaking so they must also avoid taxes. An Arizona State University law professor (and my new best buddy wether he likes it or not) has the answer to one of life’s greatest questions: Would American zombies still have to pay taxes?

Adam Chodorow is publishing what is likely the only legal paper ever to address policy applications to the undead. Chodorow begins by outlining the differences between zombies – those under the influence of others vs self-motivating zombies – and then examine various tax implications for zombies including estate planning and legal marriage. According to Chodorow zombies may reasonably be considered alive despite being undead in the same way that someone who recently suffered a stroke, is in comma, or has Alzheimer’s may be.

Chodorow goes on to explain a situation in which individuals may chose to become zombies, for tax reasons of course. If a zombie is considered “alive” then, for example, the need to apply estate taxes would be deferred until the zombie is officially dispatched. This may serve as a hedge on high estate taxes for those who plan to hold their property in a single family for an extended period of time. Not content with addressing the problems faced by our country’s zombies alone, Chodorow also delves into similar concerns facing vampires and ghosts. The paper is available for free here and by god people, you must read it.

So there you have it, this week we learn that the zombie apocalypse is not only possible but could be nationally induced (at least for short periods) and if we were all to become zombies, assuming the survival of our government’s current form, we’d still have to worry about taxes. Gotta say, so not what I was expecting from the apocalypse but oh so juicy.

– Wren


Tourist Season and the Apocalypse

Photo Source:

I live in a large city that spends the summer doubling as a playground for tourists. Although the crowds have been building for a while, Memorial Day weekend is the official kick-off to full-blown, children screaming, cheesy-souvenir-hawking, tourist season.

While tourists may strike you as an irritant (unless you are one) and nothing more, their behaviors offer several good tips to incorporate into your survival plan. Here are a few of the most useful actions to follow and avoid:

1. Prepared for everything (Good)

Tourists, particularly those with small children, often look as if they have brought an entire apocalypse survival kit with them, no matter where they are.  Of even more interest, tourists provide a very good study in preparation for short-term survival. Armed with buckets of SPF 50, snacks, water bottles, toys, maps, and everything in between, well-equipped tourists are prepared for anything Mother Nature can throw at them before they manage to get back to their hotel room. Take note.

2. Snails walk faster (Avoid)

The downside of carrying around everything that you could possibly need is that it’s heavy and it slows you down. This is further exacerbated by tourists’ tendency to move at the slowest pace possible whilst still maintaining forward momentum. Being overburdened at slow-moving is an excellent way to make yourself vulnerable for attack, from either your rival survivors that are desperate to get their hands on your kit, or a large wild animal. Make sure you can move yourself, and more importantly the slowest members of your party, at a good pace if an event requires you to bug out.

3. They get lost easily…(Avoid)

As they are always found in unfamiliar territory, tourists have a well-known trait of getting lost.  This is particularly dangerous when the leader has made a wrong turn, but is positively convinced he can get the group back on track without a map or, even worse, certain that he isn’t wrong. Relying too heavily to your sense of direction alone and refusing to double-check your route are dangerous traits that can get you into lots of trouble in a post-apocalyptic world. No one wants to accidentily wander into the part of the city that was hit by a nuclear bomb. Or end up wandering for days lost in the woods. Which leads to our last tip.

4. …But they tend to ask locals for directions (Good).

At least the smart ones do. It is highly unlikely that there will be “locals” for you to ask directions from if lost in a post-apocalyptic situation, but smart tourists offer additional insights that are also useful. First off, the most alert tourists tend to plan their trip ahead of time, thus reducing the reliance on a map when they hit the streets. This speeds up the trip and reduces the chances of getting lost. Smart tourists (including myself when I travel) also employ a landmarking technique to familiarize themselves with a strange area in a short period of time. You may not have street names to memorize (or even streets to follow), but this can easily be adapted to the “large abandoned building on the left”, as well as natural landmarks.

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Have a safe holiday and don’t be an idiotic tourist.


Quiz: What kind of post-world survivor will you be?



You remember in middle school when you and your friends would sit around taking cheesy quizzes in teen magazines? You know: “Does he like you back?” or “What’s your style personality?” Come on people – you know what I’m talking about. Admit it. Ok, so that’s what we’re going to do here. Kennedy and I have devised a special apocalypse quiz for ya’ll to tackle.

You’ll need a pen and paper as well as basic addition skills. The number at the end of each answer choice is how many points you receive for that response. Add up your total and then find the corresponding result. Post your result in the comments so we can see how our wee community would score! And no cheating.

What kind of post-world survivor will you be?

1. Do you consider yourself a prepper?

a. Yes, of course. (5)

b. Moderately – I’m not intense about it. (4)

c. I’m a typical urban prepper – mostly concerned with escape plans. (3)

d. I’m concerned about TEOTWAWKI but I’m not doing anything about it. (2)

e. No. I’m not even sure why I’m taking this quiz. (1)

2. What’s your plan for when the apocalypse occurs?

a. Bugging the hell out. (5)

b. Staying in the well-outfitted bunker I’ve spent most of my adulthood preparing. (4)

c. Heading for the nearest population center – community, supplies, intrigue. (3)

e. I’ll probably stay put and try to figure things out as I go. It’s so hard to predict what the post-world will be like and even harder to plan for it. (2)

d. I haven’t given it enough thought to say. (1)

3. Imagine you’re in a team meeting at work. The topic is plans for an upcoming product launch and the team lead wants feedback on the proposed plan. You’re most likely to:

a. Respond to the team lead quickly with straightforward and clear feedback – positive and negative. (3)

b. Think for a few minutes before providing thoughtful, carefully worded feedback. (4)

c. Sit quietly and observe, storing your thoughts so that you can address them in an email to your team-lead later. (5)

d. Nod agreeably with everything that’s said without weighing in with your own opinions. (1)

e. Listen to other people’s thoughts but let’s face it, you don’t have any opinions. What will be will be. (2)

4. What was your favorite (not necessarily best) subject in school?

a. Math. (2)

b. Science. (5)

c. History. (4)

d. Art/Music/Drama. (3)

e. English/Literature. (1)

5. Have you ever caught and/or killed your own meat (or fish, poultry, etc)?

a. Yes, I do it all the time. (5)

b. I’ve done it a few time. I know how and it doesn’t bother me. (4)

c. I’ve caught my own meat at least once. (3)

d. I’ve never caught or killed anything but I’m sure that I could. (2)

e. No thank you. I’m not killing anything. (1)

6. What’s your go-to alcoholic beverage?

a. Beer. (4)

b. Wine. (3)

c. Spirit and a mixer. (2)

d. Cocktail. (1)

e. I don’t drink alcohol. (5)

7. Which of the below sounds like the most fun to you?

a. Attending a professional sporting event. (3)

b. Camping or hiking or bike riding. (5)

c. Lounging in the sun with a book. (1)

d. Skiing or Snowboarding. (4)

e. Browsing your local famers market. (2)

8. Which of the below best describes you?

a. I’m very extroverted and love to be the center of attention. I have tons of friends and prefer to be out socializing than at home. (3)

b. I’m pretty social but I do best with people I already know or in smaller groups. I spend more time out with friends than I do alone. (2)

c. I have a small group of close friends with whom I do almost everything. I’m happy with my social life and not looking to meet new people. (4)

d. I have a small group of close friends but I also really value “me time.” I like to be on my own and take pride in my independence. (1)

e. I tend to be pretty standoffish. I have a couple of really close friends but I prefer to do things on my own. (5)

9. Do you have any unique health needs?

a. Yes, I have health concerns that require daily medication. (1)

b. Yes, I have allergies or some other condition that requires emergency medication. (2)

c. Yes, I have some minor health concerns that are made more comfortable by modern medications but are not life threatening. (3)

d. Yes, I have a physical condition but it’s not a big deal. (4)

e. No, I don’t have any medical conditions. (5)

10. What do you predict will cause the apocalypse?

a. A natural disaster. (3)

b. Nuclear war. (4)

c. Financial Collapse. (5)

d. A wide-spread infectious disease. (1)

e. Something unpredicted. (2)

Now add up how many points you received and find your post-world survival profile.

10-17 Points: The “accidental surviver” – Six months post-world and you’re still not sure how you ended up where you are. You got lucky, were in the right place at the right time, met the right person with a plan. You’re role in the post-world society is to get things done. You go through the motions, helping to execute tasks and plans that other people thought out. It’s not a bad life at all – you get all the benefits and feel none of the pressure. Others admire how well adjusted and calm you are and you may find that you’re often comforting others and teaching them how to keep moving forward. You’re likely living in what was once a large town or a small city, learning as you go, and hoping your luck doesn’t run out. Which it might.

18-24 Points: The “underdog” – You’ve always been the role-with-the-punches kind of person and while, pre-apocalypse, people often underestimated you because of it you’re certainly succeeding now. Live gave you lemons and you damn-well made lemonade. Wether you’re leading a small band of misfits in the near-wilderness or rising through the ranks of an urban gang – your ability to take things as they come has really panned out for you post-world. Watch out that you don’t get too comfortable though, because you may be drawn easily into unnecessary risks and your easygoing personality leaves you vulnerable to manipulation and deceit.

25-32 Points: The “urban warlord” – You knew, the second the apocalypse occurred, that the only thing you wouldn’t be able to live without is a large thriving community and so you made the calculated decision to stay. That decision was followed by another calculated decision and another and another until you found yourself on top of the urban-post-world pile. You’re the leader of a larger community, making decisions for the whole, and trying to hammer out what post-world society is going to be like. You are making the rules, setting the norms, and helping everyone survive. Unfortunately, while people admire you and fear you, they don’t trust you. Watch your back closely because others want your position.

33-41 Points: The “caretaker” – A family and community oriented person pre-apocalypse, your family and friends have hunkered down in a makeshift bunker and are working together to make it through this tough time. You’re ready and willing to take in outsiders so long as they pose no threat to the whole and you’re little rural set-up is fast becoming a small town. You’re the glue keeping your up-and-coming community together and nothing will compromise that. People admire you for your peace-keeping skills and open mind but worry that you won’t have the will to make hard decisions. Remember that your role as a leader means you can’t take care of everyone and sometimes sacrifices must be made.

42-50 Points: The “yeti” – You got the hell out of dodge as quickly as you could once you realized what was happening – just like you planned. You’re fiercely independent, single minded, and determined. You may be on your own or you may have taken off with a couple other like-minded individuals but it’s unlikely that any of you will ever go back to find out what happened to the rest of the world. You know how to survive in the wilderness and are making what remains of the planet work for you. No matter how self-sufficient you are though you’re at risk of succumbing to depression or paranoia due to the lack of inter-personal connection and it may be worth considering the occasional visit to a post-world community.

– Wren

The true date of the end of the world…or not…

While we’re all familiar with some proposed dates for the apocalypse – December 21st 2012, Y2K – most of us have never even heard of half of history’s failed predictions. Now don’t get me wrong, Kennedy and I are both hedging our bets that we’ll see the EOTWAWKI – otherwise we wouldn’t be writing – but we’re realistic as well. Some doomsday scenarios are just senseless, like the Mayan doomsday for instance. But some scenarios are rational (Nuclear war, anyone?) and others are scientifically plausible (Astroid hitting the earth in 2036).

A little while back I uncovered the below infographic. This beauty details some of the most widespread predictions of the apocalypse throughout history, ranging from predictions by the Assyrians to NASA. Take a gander, share, and don’t forget to consider the non-datable predictions – i.e. aliens, nuclear war, super volcanos, zombies, financial collapse. The end of the world is still alive and well and we’ll be ready.

– Wren

end of the world apocalypse infographic


Kennedy and Wren’s 4-Step Guide to Surviving a Nuclear Attack

In our last installment of the 10 Flavors of the Apocalypse, I discussed nuclear attacks and why they are the most likely apocalyptic scenario in our lifetimes. Now for the good news: you can survive a nuclear attack with a little luck and the proper preparation.

Step 1: Survive.

As previously discussed, a Cold War-style nuclear attack is unlikely (and you can bet the Department of Defense has a plan in place for that). More difficult to plan for, and more likely, is a dirty bomb attack by terrorists.  The upside of this is the weapon is likely to be smaller and a significantly smaller range.

However, this step is totally down to luck and depending on where you live can be easier said than done. For those of you in lower Manhattan and downtown DC things aren’t looking good. Anyone living outside a major city should be able to complete this step, which is quite possibly the only reason I’d consider moving to the suburbs.

Step 2: Shelter in place.

Assume an attack occurred in DC (for those interested, a preparation guide on this situation is available here). Those of you living in Baltimore and further north would have approx. two hours to prepare before the radioactive clouds reached you. While human instinct often signals “flight”, you want to undertake the opposite course of action. Why? Because everyone else in the area will be trying to get the hell out of there and the interstate will be a gridlock. More importantly, your car won’t protect you from radioactive fallout.

FEMA has put together a great map of the likely path of radioactive fallout, should a major US city be the target of a nuclear attack:

To protect yourself from the fallout, you will require a structure that fits one of the following specifications: 5 inches of steel, 16 inches of brick, 2 feet of packed earth, or 3 feet of water. Preferably you will have constructed an appropriate shelter to meet these conditions. If not, or if you are stuck away from home, you may have to get creative. While a subway tunnel (particularly under a river) would do quite nicely, keep in mind you may have to shelter for an extended period of time. I hope I won’t be stuck in a situation that involves getting cozy with the rats and other subterranean creatures.

Step 3: Don’t eat the food (or drink the water).

This is where your survival kit will come in extremely handy. Anyone remember the radioactive cows wandering around Japan after the Fukushima disaster? Be sure to have enough materials on hand to get you through a couple of days. Hopefully by that point the disaster relief system will be functioning and someone will swoop in to save you (but don’t count on in).

Step 4: Listen to the radio.

Or Internet or TV or other communication device that is still functioning. I recommend having several at your disposal – you never know whether you’ll be able to get a minute-by-minute update on a 24-hour talk radio station or be stuck relying on Twitter to find out about those outside. This will provide the best guidance on what to do should an attack occur. Please keep in mind that the points above are only guidelines and there may be situations in which the appropriate to response is to get as far away, as fast as possible.

And yes, this is probably one of those times where you should follow the government’s advice. Someone in the Department of Homeland Security has probably prepared for the situation in far more detail than you or I ever could.

10 Flavors of the Apocalypse: Nuclear War (Threat Level Rust)

After many late night discussions and several years of following current events in a rather obsessive-compulsive manner, Wren and I have concluded that a nuclear attack is the most likely form of apocalypse to occur within our lifetimes.

Threat Level: Likely

Some of you may be curious as to how we arrived at such a high ranking for nuclear warfare (“Isn’t the Cold War over?”). The simple explanation is that the definition of nuclear war is much broader than the traditional state versus state war of the 20th century. The list of potential threats in this area has grown from merely other countries with atomic weapons to include terrorists and other “non-state actors” obtaining nuclear materials for their dastardly plans.

First we will examine the traditional type of nuclear war between states, as this is still a possibility. The primary threats in this arena are North Korea and Iran, although the latest statements from Russia’s prime minister justifying nuclear attacks against the international community are cause for concern. North Korea’s latest missile launch was a rather spectacular failure, and appeared to be more of a drastic cry for attention than anything else. Iran is more worrisome, as they are closer to obtaining a functional weapon and appear to have a vindictive streak, making it far more likely they would actually use the weapon. The best chance here is for Israel (and probably the US, although they aren’t likely to admit to it), to continue their subtle and not so subtle interference with this plan.

Personally, I think Mr. Medvedev is trying to prove something after his little game of presidential musical chairs with Vladimir Putin, and there is little risk of this threat actually coming to force. So long as Russia holds its seat on the Security Council, it has no need to use its weapon. Which brings us to the primary point of nuclear weapons: having them, not using them. If a country has a nuclear weapon, it has a huge bargaining chip on the international stage. If a country uses said weapon, it loses its bargaining chip (and pisses everyone off in the meantime)

Thus, the traditional state v. state nuclear war is possibly, but not likely. Far more likely is an attack by a terrorist, using a small amount of nuclear material on a specific target. This type of attack goes hand-in-hand with states such as Iran obtaining nuclear weapons – friends with and supporter of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, it would be significantly easier (and less politically costly) for a state such as Iran to give enriched uranium to terrorist groups for the purpose of attacking the United States and its allies. A surprising amount of nuclear material has also been “lost” since the Cold War, particularly in post-Soviet States. It could be only a matter of time before we’re surprised by unpleasant results of failing to keep a closer watch on these facilities.

So in conclusion, a nuclear attack is the most likely kind of apocalypse currently facing mankind. The upside? Provided you’re not in the epicenter of the bomb, it is completely possibly to survive one of these attacks. Stay tuned for part 2 where we will cover all the essential survival skills, including minimizing radiation exposure and the places not to be during a nuclear attack.




Travel in style post-apocalypse with this hovercraft

Today has been a day  of great discoveries. For starters, I discovered that spilling chili powder on an open wound causes it to burn, that you should always consider a horse’s last 4-5 races at a particular distance before placing a bet, and that dandelion greens are great with a vinaigrette – just don’t eat the stems. More relevant to our usual topic however, is that today we got word that Hammacher Schlemmer is planning to release a hovercraft for consumer sale. OMG.

According to the website the hovercraft will glides over land and water and also soars in the air at up to 70 mph with a little help from some integrated wings. It can scale up to 30% inclines, operate over water, sand, mud, grass, ice, snow, etc and “hop” over obstacles up to 20 ft high. The hover craft can cover 160 miles on a single tank of gas and can be used in winds up to 25 mph or over waves up to 6 ft high. To make even more fun, this baby can support up to a 600 pound payload. Having spent a significant chunk of my adult life living overseas and flying back and forth to see my parents I know that 600 pounds is A LOT OF STUFF (assuming you are a relatively small person). Of course, the $190,000 price tag is a little intimidating.

This hover craft is clearly built from science fiction awesomeness and I would do quite a few unsavory things to try one out but let’s face it – even without having to shell out $190,000 to have one it’s impractical in the long term. Years of speculation suggest that the post-world is not likely to possess an abundance of oil gasoline. While this may be a fairly decent option for getting to a secure location after an apocalyptic event, the second gasoline ran out the hover craft would be most useful as a storage capsule for anything you’d like to keep particularly dry. Assuming the seems don’t leak. But for $190,000 I would hope that they don’t.

Come to think of it, I’m not even sure it would make a great option for getting to a secure location. According to the description you’d never be able to go more than 20 ft off the ground. I’m picturing two possible scenarios: 1. You live in a city and have one of these babies in the garage. Apocalypse occurs so you load ‘er up and take ‘er out. Then you get swarmed because you’re the only person in the city with a bleeding HOVERCRAFT and everyone else is in a panic. That’s no good, no good at all. You’d definitely need a small aircraft instead. Or a hovercraft that could also fly. 2. You live somewhere where it’s unlikely you’ll get swarmed or you’ve waited long enough to leave that everything has settled down so you head out…but somehow or another a giant crater got blown between you and where you want to go. You could walk it easily, the sides are steep but it’s only 40 ft down. Unfortunately the hover craft won’t make it. GAH.

So unfortunately hopes are dashed with this one – too big of an investment, not enough payout. Preppers, I recommend you spend your money elsewhere. It’s a cool idea though – maybe one day there will be a more viable solar powered version. When that day comes I’ll reconsider and get back to you.

– Wren