Archive | August 2012

Katrina redux?

Photo Source: Washington Post

Millions are hunkered down along the Gulf Coast tonight, watching Hurricane Isaac’s progression towards land. With the memory of Katrina still fresh in the minds of many residents, some are wondering if Isaac will wreak similar havoc on the region.

Isaac’s progression towards land has been eerily similar to the path Katrina took. USA News provides an excellent graph illustrating this point. In addition to confounding forecasters, who expected both storms to head up Florida and along the East Coast, they have a remarkably similar progression through the Gulf of Mexico, strengthening to hurricane level over the warm waters. That’s not forgetting that Isaac’s making landfall nearly seven years to the day that Katrina hit.

The numerous similarities are raising questions about whether the damage will be as great as it was in 2005. A key point to note is that Isaac is weaker than Katrina was when she hit the Gulf states. Isaac made landfall earlier tonight as a category 1 storm; Katrina reached category 5 at her peak and made landfall as a category 3. That being said, many underestimated the damage Katrina would cause and a similar pattern could be emerging with Isaac. Let’s not forget a category 1 hurricane is still a very bad storm.

In addition, hurricanes are categorized by wind speed and the major damage from Katrina was the rain and subsequent flooding, not the wind. As a category 1, Isaac is a slower moving storm, which means its dumping rain for longer periods and has the potential to cause severe flooding.

The other key issue to consider is the levee system. Reinforced following their failure in Katrina, the levees are expected to hold through whatever Isaac throws at them. However, the system hasn’t had a significant test since Katrina, so it’s difficult to say how it will perform this time around. The National Weather Service has already noted that some levees in southeast Louisiana could be topped, leading to widespread flooding. Even if the levees hold, the service is also predicting life-threatening floods outside of the hurricane protection system and has warned all residents to head the issued evacuation orders:

“Life threatening flooding possible in areas outside hurricane protection levees…. Areas outside of hurricane protection levees will be severely inundated. People not heeding evacuation orders in single family, one or two story homes could face certain death. Many residences of average construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere. Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads will be swamped. Some may be washed away by the water…Water levels may exceed 9 feet or more behind over topped levees.” Read the full warning here.

While it’s impossible to predict Isaac’s outcome, I strongly encourage all of you to take this storm seriously. It could very well be a minipocalyse for the region if the worst happens. Head the evacuation orders, use your survival kit, and stay safe out there.



Cell phones to the rescue?

It turns out that one of the most useful survival skills may be hiding in your purse or pocket. Daily Infographic provides  a great guide (below) on how to transform pieces and parts of your smartphone into a survival kit. In addition to starting fires and signaling for help, you can also use it to create a substitute knife or primitive hunting materials. Who wouldn’t want to make an arrowhead out of their circuit board?


Daily Infographic

Signs of the apocalypse: Not technology



So let’s get one thing straight: I’m pretty sure the advances humans are making in technology are a sign of the apocalypse – whether that means that we will cause the world as we know it to implode ala nuclear war, or if it means we’ll land ourselves in horrific dystopia – I do not know. Not everyone agrees however, and it certainly behooves us to take the skeptic’s perspectives into account.

Our dear pals over at Wired featured the most charming story in the magazine’s latest edition proposing that technology, rather than being a harbinger of the apocalypse shall spare us all. The reasoning is this: Over the past several decades – millennia in fact – humans as a species have faced countless challenges and predictions of doom…and we have overcome them all. So who’s to say we won’t continue to defy all odds? As technology continues to advance we continue to overcome.

The article cites the below events as the basis for it’s argument:

“The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes. So far all of these specters have turned out to be exaggerated. True, we have encountered obstacles, public-health emergencies, and even mass tragedies. But the promised Armageddons—the thresholds that cannot be uncrossed, the tipping points that cannot be untipped, the existential threats to Life as We Know It—have consistently failed to materialize.”

While some, including the writer himself, look on this as a fairly sound argument I question the author’s inherent assumptions. First, he argues that, because something has not happened to humans it is impossible. I stress the word ‘humans’ here because mass extinction has occurred before – dinosaures and the dodo bird, for instances. While it’s certainly true that dodo bird intelligence is not analogous for human intelligence or the capacity for innovation we – knowing that we do not know everything and that there is room for improvement – cannot possibly know there will never been an event our intelligence is unable to overcome.

Second, the reasoning in the Wired argument is circular, meaning it assumes what it sets to prove. Humans will be alive tomorrow because they are today and they have been alive in the past. This is not an argument, it’s a prediction. Quite similarly, as preppers we predict that the world may end in our lifetimes however, this prediction is made in the face of imperfect information rather than assuming, by analogy, that things will continue on as they always have. Dare I say that preppers may be the more logical party? Perhaps.

That aside, the Wired article raises and interesting point and I encourage you all to read it. Human beings are innovative, we have overcome everything ranging from the inability to hall weight long distances (animal domestication and the wheel) to public health (sewers) to long distance, real-time, non-verbal, indirect, interpersonal communications (blogs). Humans have done some truly amazing things – I just worry the next amazing thing will be the first foot into a dystopian society I’d rather not be a part of (who’s to say that just because humans continue to exist means we all want to be part of humanity?) or that it will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s (read: mother earth’s) back.


One is the loneliest prepper number

Photo source: Mother Nature Network

The responses to Wren’s post on why preppers prep raised another question in my mind. How many people know you’re a prepper?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not very open with my prepper lifestyle. Wren is one of a handful of people in my offline life that know about my prepper passions. Most of them consider it to be an eccentric hobby (at best). I’ve never told my coworkers because I don’t want it coming up in office discussions. Most of my friends don’t know, although I’m not even sure if they know what a prepper is, so that would require an entirely different type of conversation.

In my experience many preppers, especially those of us who live in urban areas, avoid revealing this side of ourselves for fear of what others will think. It’s like middle school all over again – even if you can’t the most popular, you definitely don’t want to be the weird one.

I do know a few people who have publicly embraced their prepper personas, and I respect them for that. At the end of the day they’re being honest with themselves and with others, and I think they’ll be happier for it.

All that being said, I still don’t think I’m at the point where I’m willing to go public. I’m still afraid of what others will think, of how it will affect my relationships with non-preppers, of the potential career implications. Hopefully I’ll get there one day, but that day is probably a few years down the line. So I guess it will depend on if we make it to that point.

The thing that I really struggle with in all of this is my family. They don’t know, and I’m not sure how they would react if they found out (I have a feeling it wouldn’t be 100% positive). I don’t want to tell them because I think they’re happier not knowing.

But this is where my prepper guilt kicks in. What if the apocalypse happens and I haven’t told them? What if they don’t survive? What if I could have made a difference in their survival chances by telling them?

For the moment my guilt is lessened by the knowledge that informing someone you think the apocalypse is going to happen isn’t enough. They have to prepare themselves and they have to want to survive. My family also lives on the other side of the country, so my guilt is also lessened by knowing that there would be little I could feasibly do to help them at the time of the apocalypse. But the guilt is still there.

How public are you with your identity as a prepper? What problems have you had in telling others about your lifestyle?

Nǐ zhǔnbèi hào wéi apocalypse ma? (Are you ready for the apocalypse?)

escape pod

via Ubergizmo

So even though I’m pasty-white enough to be a member of the Cullen clan (complete with the blonde hair and brown eyes) I’m not lying to you when I say I lived in China for awhile. I’ve lived many places and have been exposed to a plethora of cultures but for some reason everything is more entertaining to me when the Chinese do it.

Enter, the doomsday escape pod.

Well, Ubergizmo informs me that a Chinese business man from Yiwu, China has purchased what he’s calling  “China’s Noah’s Ark.” While the bright orange orb looks nothing like an ark it is reportedly shock-proof, water-proof, fire-proof, radiation-proof, and built for two. The escape pod – though I’m not sure what the businessman thinks he’ll be escaping to – costs $236,000.

This is where my amusement ends.

All of these expensive escape gadgets are affordable primarily to those who have no hope of surviving anyway. I seriously doubt that this Chinese businessman – or very many other billionaires who could afford a similar escape pod, for that matter – would even know what to do once he survived the apocalypse. I mean really? All that money to live for one extra week? Just enough time to die from dehydration. Or, best case scenario, you survive in once-great city that’s not been tainted by radiation, have access to a limited food supply, water, and shelter but die from starvation over time, or an accident-induced injury. Joy.

And how many of us really have a chance of surviving radiation poising or a massive fire at our premisses? Sure, we blogged about what’s needed to survive nuclear war but the subsequent devastation is rumored to be near insurmountable. Areas that have experienced nuclear bombing are not fit for human habitation for decades.

I’m just saying – if you’re hoping to survive the apocalypse and be the last hope for man kind, don’t just buy fancy toys – have the foresight to learn some survival skills and figure out what you’re up against.

Here’s hoping.

– Wren


Underrated food items in the post-apocalyptic pantry

Photo Source:

Ever prepper knows the staples for his or her own post-apocalyptic pantry. Depending on your strategy and taste, this many include freeze-dried meals, canned food, and dried goods amongst other things.

However, some very useful foods may be easily overlooked once you’ve set up your survival plan. Once you’ve selected your staples, it’s easy to focus on gathering the quantity required for your plan, and overlooking other options that could be useful or add variety to your meals.

A few of my favorite survival foods are discussed below. These may not be suitable for all tastes or plans, but I’d encourage you to take the opportunity to double check your pantry and see if you can expand its contents. Your taste buds will thank you.


I’ve recently discovered the brilliant strategy of substituting orzo for rice. While the textures are far from identical, I’ve found orzo to be a suitable substitute in many dishes. As this strategy was born from sheer laziness – orzo takes 9 minutes to cook, as opposed to 20 for rice – it also has the added benefit of being fuel-efficient. If your survival plan includes a lot of rice and beans, consider taking a look at orzo to prevent things from getting to repetitive.


Lentils will allow you to add a huge depth to your survival cooking repertoire. Although they take a while to cook, you can make everything from salads to grain dishes to soups by keeping these in your pantry. They also come with an added nutritional bonus of being high in protein, which could be very helpful if game is difficult to come across (or hunting makes you squeamish).


In addition to adding way more flavor to food than sugar, honey is an incredibly flexible ingredient and can be used in countless dishes. It’s great as a sweetener in baking (i.e. if you have to make your own bread), makes a nice addition to a vinagerette, and adds significant flavor to oatmeal (see oats below).

Even if you don’t plan on using honey for any of these foods, I highly recommend it for its antibacterial properties, which make it a very useful addition to any prepper’s first aid kit.


In my opinion, oats are a highly underrated grain. They cook quickly and are full of fiber, so you can go for a long time on a small amount. They are also incredibly flexible and can be flavored by anything you happen to have on hand. Finally, oats can be used to make everything from bread to muffins to pancakes, which will make your flour store go a lot further.


The apocalypse is going to be stressful enough without having to deal with a lack of my comfort food. I can also get away with claiming this under the “health” category, as dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants. Provided you keep it dry, chocolate is easy to store and should last for quite a while. If you’re not a chocoholic, substitute with your own guilty pleasure.

What’s in your survival pantry?


Why do preppers prep?


Logo via

Some of us are preppers because we genuinely believe the world is slated to end in our life times and we want to survive. Some of are trying to escape a world dying in its own puddle of creed and corporate interest. Some of us are simply terrified and don’t want to take unnecessary risks. We work to gain skills, gather supplies, make plans, and prepare for the worst so that we have the chance to outrun it. What does prepping feel like to you? Is it a form of power? Does it ebb your fears? Do you feel safe?

Let me tell you what it’s like for me. Prepping for me is an emotional release. To be honest, sometimes I really wish the world as we know it would end. Sometimes I feel at my most powerful when I’m staring into nature and I know I control nothing. Sometimes I wish the apocalypse would happen and that I wouldn’t care. I actually dream about it – sometimes I’m terrified and sometimes it feels right. I wish I wasn’t afraid of cancer or failing or debt or technology – I wish I only had time to focus on the next little milestone, making it through the season, having enough food.

Is it crazy that the end of the world almost seems pleasant? I don’t think so. That’s why I prep and write about prepping, and keep writing about prepping – I’m just exactly that anticipatory. And petrified.

So “why don’t you go off grid?” you may ask. Well…why don’t you? Because the pull of community is too strong at this age and because there are still things I want to achieve that don’t envolve gathering enough animal hides to stay warm in the winter. Maybe one day I will be that person who disappears into the woods to build a new life but right now I’m just a prepper – a hyped up enthusiastic mess.

Sort of like the country of Bolivia. Word on the street is the Bolivian government genuinely believes the apocalypse will occur on December 21, 2012 (didn’t they get the memo about the new Mayan calendar?). In anticipation for the glorious event the government has banned the consumption of Coca-Cola. Yup. Coke’s getting booted from Bolivia in anticipation for “the end of capitalism and the start of a culture of life.”

This is certainly a case where I agree with the conclusion (apocalypse = better life) but I find the premises a bit shifty (Mayan calendar yielding the date, corporations are evil). All well, to each their own.

So tell us – what’s your “own” – preppers, why do you prep?

– Wren