Friday, December 27, 2013

More slow collapse cheeriness

Continuing the slow collapse

Did Someone Say “Crash”?
Mike Whitney, Counterpoint, 17 December 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Bottom line: Net investment is down because there’s no demand. And there’s no demand because unemployment is high, wages are flat, incomes are falling, and households are still digging out from the Crash of ’08. At the same time, the US Congress and Team Obama continue to slash public spending wherever possible which is further dampening activity and perpetuating the low-growth, weak demand, perma-slump.
So,  tell me: Why would a businessman invest in an economy where people are too broke to buy his products?  He’d be better off issuing dividends to his shareholders or buying back shares in his own company to push stock prices higher.
And, guess what? That’s exactly what CEOs are doing.
Note this is an argument from the left.  But only someone more interested in polemics would argue that lots of broke people are a natural part of a healthy economy.
My argument would be that since 1974, the weakening economy has given the advantage to the business owners, so that what profit that is available is kept by them. Unfortunately that profit was usually generated by deficit spending at some level: usually the household level. If borrowed money becomes dearer, there is not going to a be a margin to distribute to anyone.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Italy 2014

Well, at least the Italian President thinks Italy is in for some problems this coming year.
Italy’s president fears violent insurrection in 2014 but offers no remedy Ambrose Evans Pritchard, The Telegraph (U.K.), 17 November 2014 (hat tip: NC)
Events in Italy are turning serious. President Giorgio Napolitano has warned of “widespread social tension and unrest” in 2014 as the Long Slump drags on.
Those living on the margins are being drawn into “indiscriminate and violent protest, a sterile lurch towards total opposition”.
I assume it is not this relatively sweet looking group that will be the cause of problems (thumbnail)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yellowstone is bigger

Well, I always thought that it was big, in an ill-defined sort of way.  But apparently it is even larger than that.

Yellowstone supervolcano 'even more colossal'
Rebecca Morrella, BBC News, 10 December 2013 (hat tip: NC)
The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report.
A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested.
A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.
I live somewhat downwind of a nuclear power plant, so I am not immune to locality based impending doom.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Argentian localized apocalypsis

Argentina is not exactly a law and order type of place, but it got interesting, almost we dare say apocalyptic, in the city of Córdoba when the police went on strike.

What the Hell Just Happened in Córdoba?
Adrian Bono, Testosterone Pit, 5 December 2013 (hat tip: NC)
In the last 24 hours, the province of Córdoba spiraled out of control, with the very fabric of society being torn apart after a sudden absence of law and order sent a portion of the population into a looting frenzy and residents and store owners boarded up windows and doors, grabbed their shotguns and climbed to their roofs, waiting for the inevitable encounter with the enemy.
Note that the Provincial Governor is a Peronist, and thus something of a left-leaning street warrior type himself.  He just happens to be at odds with the National Government, so he gets to play embattled hero here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pre-apocalyptic survival? Don't go here.

Well, in order to survive the apocalypse, it makes a certain amount of sense that you would have to survive until the appicalypse.  After all a lot of the cool survivalists of the 1970s are no longer with us, and we don't want that happening to you.
So as a service to our readers, we offer this list of avoidance areas. I have quoted the introduction, follow the link for the list.

NeighborhoodScout's Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America
Neighobrhood Scout, ~4 December 2013 (hat tip: MR)
Even the most dangerous cities in America can have relatively safe neighborhoods, as there is more variation in crime within most cities than between cities. But using exclusive data developed by NeighborhoodScout, and based on FBI data from all 17,000 local law enforcement agencies in America, we here report those specific neighborhoods in America that have the highest predicted rates of violent crime per 1,000 neighborhood residents of all. Violent crimes include murder, forcible rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. These neighborhoods are the epicenters of violence in America, where social issues are likely to ignite into violence and spread.
If they weren't of such a contained geographic area, I would probably include most urban areas with more than one gift shop, and the "Halmark-effect" has varying effects on different folks.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Apocalyptic crossbows

This almost just a link with a comment, but I thought the post on the use of crossbows in survival-fiction versus survival-reality was well done.
subtitled: Unless you're fighting zombies, skip the crossbow.
(from, 2 December 2013)
So, can a crossbow be considered a viable option as a SHTF survival weapon? It’s probably better than a rolled up newspaper, but if you’re considering the crossbow for a long-term survival situation then you should seriously look elsewhere. Under most situations during a SHTF it should be thought of as a one-shot affair, so if you choose to use it then you had better make that shot count.
The author obviously does not think much of the odds of someone with a crossbow who is dueling it out with someone who is armed with a firearm.  I would probably agree with that.
I would offer a couple of points however.
  1. Since we don't use crossbows in warfare very often, so it is likely that firearms are much more effective.
  2. You cannot compare the weight of the bolt-head with the pistol, nor is the muzzle energy particularly relevant.   The key difference between arrows/bolts and bullets, is that one is a pointed edge weapon, and the other is a blunt/trauma weapon.  Historically, the blunt/trauma firearms have won the battle when involving rather tough creatures like humans who need to be put down quickly, but the bleed out aspect of edged weapons is not to be discounted.  Since a 22LR does not have much blunt/trauma to dish out, I would be hesitant to qualify it as inherently more damaging weapon at short ranges.  A silenced weapon require a limiting speed to the projectile (`1050 fps), so they also have limitations.
  3. Crossbow projectiles, particularly practice rounds,  can often be reused as is.
  4. Finally,  the one area where crossbows are sometimes the preferred weapon over firearms is in poaching.  They are not silent, but they are cheap to use, and the noise does not carry a particularly long distance.
So while I don't agree with what the author is saying, I do feel that he has set the crossbow up as a zombie-based straw man.  Life is not about one on one dueling comparisons between different tools.  Different tools are use appropriately in different situations with availability, and experience in the use of the tool often being a critical factor in deciding what gets used.

Alternative post apocalyptic lifestyles

Back when nuclear obliteration was the survivalist meme of choice, the fictional literature had all sorts of incestuous speculations about how the last survivors would repopulate the world.

So the idea doesn't seem that far fetched that the well stocked survivalist compound might become an extended harem of sorts.

Rich Kazakhs Revive Polygamy as Women Seek Poverty Escape
Nariman Gizitdinov, Bloomberg, 3 Decmeber 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Given the choice between love and money, Samal, a tall, curly-haired 23-year-old woman from a village in southern Kazakhstan, would take the cash.
Struggling to pay rent and tuition on her salary as a waitress in Almaty, the Kazakh commercial capital, Samal says she’d drop her boyfriend in a heartbeat if a wealthy older man offered to make her his second wife.
“Becoming a tokal would be a fairy tale,” Samal says during a break at the cafe where she works, using the Kazakh word for the youngest of two wives, who traditionally gets her own apartment, car and monthly allowance.
Anyone who, in their dating years, ever lost the girl of their dreams to the nebbish with the fancy car, I suppose would sympathies with the waitresses poor boyfriend.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

British version of the big draw down

We were commenting on the Dutch a little while ago, and they recently lost their AAA bond rating.  So we thought we would take a quick moment to look at what to our cousins across the big pond are up to.
Steve Hawkes, The Telegraph (U.K.), 2 December 2013  (hat tip: NC)
They either spent the cash – which in many cases was earning little more than 1 per cent interest – or moved it to easy-access current accounts. The Bank’s figures suggest that record low interest rates have convinced many to give up on the prospect of meaningful returns on their nest eggs...
However, the withdrawals may also have helped to power Britain’s economic recovery, with much of the cash being spent on consumer goods.
This seems to fit in with the lackluster results of the recent Black Friday shopping events in the United States.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Renewable problems

As an electrician, I am involved in the Photovoltaic (PV) portion of the renewable enegergy industry. But the idea that we are going to be able to seamlessly change over to renewable energy sources without making large changes to the economic patterns of our economy, and general lifestyle, are highly problematic.
An example:
Lewellyne King, Oil Price, 2 December 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Good intentions have also had their impact. The European Commission has pushed renewable energy and subsidized these at the cost of others. The result is imperfect markets and, more important, imperfectly engineered systems.
Germany and other countries are dealing with what is called “loop flow” – when the renewables aren't performing, either because the wind has dropped or the sun has set, fossil fuels plants have to be activated. This means that renewable systems are often shadowed by old-fashioned gas and coal generation that has to be built, but which isn't counted toward the cost of the renewable generation.
With increasing use of wind, which is the most advanced renewable, the problem of loop flow is increased, pushing up the price of electricity. Germany is badly affected and the problem is getting worse because it heavily committed to wind after abandoning nuclear, following the Fukusima-Daiichi accident in Japan.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Symphonic collapse

The rot within popular culture has been complained about since at least the 1960s.  If the Roling Stones (who I like) are exemplars at the lower end of the spectrum, the upper end of the spectrum, the concert symphony is also under attack.

The Last Symphony
Johne Halle, Jacobin 27 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)

Doug Henwood is not the first to observe  that the American empire has entered a decadent phase.  He is, however, among the few to focus his attention on how the “social rot produced by market-regulated societies, from the macro level of investment down to the socially shaped psychology (has begun to dictate) how we think and feel.” Henwood is right to wonder “how the imperium can long survive this sort of pervasive rot” as the ideological and cultural foundations on which the bourgeoisie rest, and through which it, at least in part, claims its legitimacy begin to founder.
As if on cue, at about the same time a piece appeared in the house organ of neo-liberalism the New Republic taking aim at an admittedly tiny but nonetheless significant bourgeois institution, classical music instruction, which  middle-class parents, and those striving to move up the class ladder, have imposed on their children as a kind of secular catechism for generations...
It should be obvious that the leisure complement to this now dominant managerial class philosophy could not possibly consist of the sedate, repressed rituals of the classical concert hall. Nor is it a surprise to find the New Republic‘s meritocratic class contributors opining in favor of jettisoning instruction in Mozart sonatas in favor of the three-minute rock tune, campfire singing and ukelele strumming.
As I see the point of the piece, the author is complaining about the idea that there is no point to any discipline in behavior unless it is related to some sort of business interest.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gotham brought down: turkey day style

Well this is a new one to me. I suppose I should have posted this last Thanks Giving, but I was a bit busy.

So you aren't convinced that our modern world is reaching a point of uncontrollable complexity.

Try this one on for size.  Areas of New York City are under siege of wild animals:  turkeys to be exact.
Flock of feral turkeys causing chaos in New York
AP Press via Dailey Mail (U.K.), 21 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
'We don't want to kill them. We just want them to leave us alone,' says Barbara Laing, who watched as at least 50 turkeys converged outside her house around sundown one recent evening with a chorus of honks — of the turkeys and of drivers who were futilely trying to shoo them out of traffic.
The turkeys milled on the grass, flew up like cartoon ghosts into a large maple tree, and settled in for the night.
It's a sight that charms onlookers and sometimes residents, when the turkeys aren't fouling yards with droppings, devouring gardens, waking up residents with raucous pre-dawn mating sessions, and utterly disregarding dogs and other supposed deterrents.
I should come up with some sort of clever apocalyptic incite, but I am at a loss for the moment.

Turkeys on Staten Island (thumbnail: see link above for more)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cycles go up, and down

Peter Turchin, who I have sited in the past, has a nice piece discussing some of the elements with within his study of cyclical patterns within human society.
Peter Turchin, Bloomberg, 20 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Complex human societies, including our own, are fragile. They are held together by an invisible web of mutual trust and social cooperation. This web can fray easily, resulting in a wave of political instability, internal conflict and, sometimes, outright social collapse.
Analysis of past societies shows that these destabilizing historical trends develop slowly, last many decades, and are slow to subside. The Roman Empire, Imperial China and medieval and early-modern England and France suffered such cycles, to cite a few examples. In the U.S., the last long period of instability began in the 1850s and lasted through the Gilded Age and the “violent 1910s.”
We now see the same forces in the contemporary U.S. Of about 30 detailed indicators I developed for tracing these historical cycles (reflecting popular well-being, inequality, social cooperation and its inverse, polarization and conflict), almost all have been moving in the wrong direction in the last three decades.
I find some of his work to be to "modern" in its politics, with too much emphasis on the foibles of modern politics within these long term trends. In that sense, I am probably more "cyclical" than he is, because I am dubious as to most societies abilities to weather the vagarious of demographics, geo-politics, or unlucky "Black Swans" through anything other than lucky happenstance.  It is similar to the randomness of "Texas Holdout" or coaching in the NBA.  You can always ruin a good hand, but once you get to a certain threshold of competence, fate trumps skill.
And since I can see the argument coming, I don't see Obamacare as self-sabotage.  It is the expected overreach of an already overextended society. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Nuclear burnout

The people with the finger on the big trigger are having problems.
Not exactly comforting news.
Robert Burns, AP Press (via Yahoo News), 20 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Trouble inside the Air Force's nuclear missile force runs deeper and wider than officials have let on
An unpublished study for the Air Force, obtained by The Associated Press, cites "burnout" among launch officers with their fingers on the triggers of 450 weapons of mass destruction. Also, evidence of broader behavioral issues across the intercontinental ballistic missile force, including sexual assaults and domestic violence.
Part of the problem seems to be the surreal nature of their assignment.
"We all acknowledge their importance, but at the same time we really don't think the mission is that critical," Neal said, adding that his peers see the threat of full-scale nuclear war as "simply non-existent." So "we practice for all-out nuclear war, but we know that isn't going to happen."
To anyone who pays any attention to the concept of Black Swans (disproportionally important unanticipated outlier events) this disconnect is very worrisome.
Events that seem highly unlikely, or even impossibly remote, happen rather frequently.  That there are personal issues in such a dangerous area is not going to help matters.  Just because it doesn't seem likely to make a difference, doesn't mean it won't.  World ending outliers deserve a lot of respect.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dying of boredom

Well there are a lot of ways for our individual world to end.  But one not often discussed is dying of boredom.
Apparently there is a lot to be learned.  For in fact, there is not just one type of boredom, but five:
Karen Kaplan, McLatchy DC, 19 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
- Indifferent boredom, a relaxing and slightly positive type of boredom that "reflected a general indifference to, and withdrawal from, the external world";
- Calibrating boredom, the slightly unpleasant state of having wandering thoughts and "a general openness to behaviors aimed at changing the situation";
- Searching boredom, the kind that makes you feel restless and leaves you "actively seeking out specific ways of minimizing feelings of boredom"; and
- Reactant boredom, which is so bad that it prompts sufferers "to leave the boredom-inducing situation and avoid those responsible for this situation (e.g., teachers)."
add to these four the new category:
-"apathetic boredom" - was quite common among high school students, according to the study, published this week in the journal Motivation and Emotion.
Boredom is apparently an indirect killer:
Boredom isn't just boring. It can be dangerous, either for the person who is bored or for the people around him. For instance, people who are bored are more likely to smoke, drink or use drugs. Kids who are bored are more likely to drop out of school and become juvenile delinquents. Studies have also linked boredom with stress and other health problems.
This is an area that is only intermittently focused on by apocalyptic writers portraying the collapse of modern "high entertainment" society.  If anything, authors have a tendency to push the idea that we will all be happier once we are done with the distractions, and can all hang out at the square-dance together.
I have my doubts.  In traditional societies, drunken revelers seem to have been pretty common where the beverage was available.  What were they reveling about if there current circumstances were all that exciting.  If military life is described as long stretches of boredom, intermixed with moments of shear terror, my suspicion is that a lot of any future (survivable) apocalypse is going to have a lot of boredom.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Interesting observation on collapse journalism

There is a journalism of collapse within the mainstream media.  It is not the warnings of the survivalists waiting for the EOTWAWKI (End of the World as We know It), but the simple observations of the slowly waning prospects of the common American.  Thomas Frank has some interesting observations, in his review of The Unwinding: The Inner History of the New America, about the net results of all this writing.
Thomas Franks, Public Books, 21 November 2013 (hat tip: MR)
This is a powerful and important work, but even so, I can’t help but think that it has arrived very late in the day. Ask yourself: how many books have been published describing the destruction of the postwar middle-class economic order and the advent of the shiny, plutocratized new one? Well, since I myself started writing about the subject in the mid-1990s—and thus earned a place on every book publicist’s mailing list—there have been at least a thousand, not counting the various management texts and libertarian sermons in which the advent of that new economy is not awful but magnificent! Glorious! An ideal toward which humanity must strive with our every muscle!
[He goes on to list many examples].
Two things need to be said about this tsunami of sad. First, that the vast size of it, when compared to the effect that it has had—close to nothing—should perhaps call into question the utility of journalism and argument and maybe even prose itself. The gradual Appalachification of much of the United States has been a well-known phenomenon for 20 years now; it is not difficult to understand why and how it happened; and yet the ship of state sails serenely on in the same political direction as though nothing had changed.
I had not really thought about the extent of the not quite apocalyptic literature.
What is very telling is his paragraph in response to the optimism for trend reversals to take place at some point down the road.  Let me be blunt here: this is hollow stuff. To believe that everything will reverse itself spontaneously and yield a “new cohesion” because of some imaginary cycle of history is pure superstition. It’s a kind of middlebrow dialectic, in which the sad is eternally balanced by the happy and everything always works out in the end. Worse, it’s a species of reassurance little better than a motivational poster. Hang in there, baby—Friday’s coming!
I doubt Mr. Frank is a prepper or survivalist, He is a writer for Harper's Magazine.  But it is interesting to see such main stream denunciation of the status quo going forward.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Least survivable Star Wars figurines

Io9 has a list of 16 most useless Star War figurines ever produced.
The list is rather funny, but I decided to look at this list in a different context.  Within the hurly burly dangerous world of Star Wars, which of these action-fellows is the least survivable in a SHTF type situation.

I narrowed it down to two:

Willow Rood

This character epitomizes how insane Star Wars fans — and thus Star Wars toys — can get. Willrow Rood is a character in The Empire Strikes Back, if you can count a guy who runs across the frame after Lando Calrissian tells everyone to evacuate Cloud City to be a character. Admittedly, he did become a bit of a fan-favorite because during his triumphant scene, he's carrying what is obviously a 1979 ice cream maker, not even slightly disguised, lest it fall into the hands of the Empire. Again, what is fun for the fans would be devastatingly sad to an actual kid.
The list is full of possible failures, but the guy who grabs the ice cream maker in the bug out situation seems doomed from the start.

Or next choice is a more subtle choice:

Star Tours Officer
Another powerful example of how insane Star Wars toy collectors are — they bought figures of the cast of Star Tours, the ride from the Disney Parks. In fact, they released a complete set of the cast, including Chewbacca, alien Ree-Yees, Kaink the Ewok, Teek the macaque-looking alien, and this guy, the Star Tours Officer who manages "the tour." He looks like an insane Chinese bootleg of an actual Imperial officer figure. But at least we know why the Emperor was forbidden the rest of his officers from wearing red.
I could be wrong, but a Star Wars action figure whose sole purpose is to give exhibit tours in Florida is going to survive about ten seconds in the Star Wars world.  His one ability will be that he will always note the appropriate exit points, and the locations of the bathrooms, of any buildings he enters.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

School anti-exercise initiatives

Somehow this just seems apocalyptic.
The father, as a pedestrian, was told he had to stand in line with the cars.
Gawker, 19 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
A Tennessee father was arrested last week after objecting to a school policy prohibiting him from picking up his children on foot ahead of parents picking their children up by car.
Footage recorded last Thursday by Jim Howe's fiancée shows the father of two trying to reason with South Cumberland Elementary's School Resource Officer Avery Aytes by explaining to him that it makes no sense for him to wait behind a mile-long line of cars just so he can walk his kids home.
What these local police foolishness stories usually seem to add up to is authorities unwillingness to brook any arguments with their decisions. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pagan survivalism

How does a pagan cult survive?
It is not a question I had thought too much about.
Pagans, as with most groups of voluntary association have the typical issue of having a small group, the inner circle if you will, who do most of the heavy lifting, and inspirational work.  Since most pagans are not independently wealthy, the obvious question is how to fund the activities of this inner circle and keep it going.
Rob has some interesting ideas.
Rob's Magic Blog, 11 February 2009
One method is the pyramid scheme. You have a short few who do the serious work, the inner circle, and this group is funded by the much larger outer circle. Everyone only has to put in a little, and that little bit is enough to fund the smaller inner circle group and keep it operating.
The problem is the inner circle will eventually get too big. Generally the allure of these groups is spiritual progressions, particularly making it into the inner-circle where the best secrets are. Now as an example, if you figure it takes five outer-circle members to fund each inner circle member, that means every time you promote a member to the inner circle your outer circle has to grow by five members. When the group’s growth peaks there’s a lot of room to hand out inner-circle promotions, but eventually it slows down. It might seem as if one could sustain the group indefinitely by sparsely handing out inner-circle promotions, but then we get into another problem. You don’t need a gross gain of five members, you need a net gain. And if you aren’t promoting them into the inner-circle fast enough, they’ll leave and go to a different group. In the end the group falls in on itself.
The CoS (Church of Satan) was not the first group to employ this method, but it was the first to effectively combine it with product branding to circumvent its worst flaw. The word Satan draws in a lot of members. And these people don’t want to be promoted or get enlightened. They come for other reasons. They want to show off to their friends, be bad-ass, be a rebel, screw with their parents, fuck with Christianity, whatever. They pay their dues, and the Church makes them a member, even gives them a card to show off to other people. And in turn these dues fund the magickal work, and in some cases even the private income, of a select few Satanists. It’s a method that could possibly be sustained indefinitely, because the outer-circle is large whereas the inner-circle can be kept small.

Rob goes on to mention a few others.  I will bullet point them to lay them out a bit more clearly
  • You could go the route of fleecing the rich. Basically you find well-to-do types and convince them to enter into your group, and then get them to make large donations to it.
  • There is the ‘some second rate things in life are free’ types. These people hold meetings and rituals in parks and at local restaurants and bookstores. The very rarely do any real work.
  • There’s also the pay to play model employed by groups like the New Agers, but this only works if, like the New Agers, the average member of the group is upper middle class with money to burn on books, tapes, seminars, vacations, etc..
I am sure there are other methods.  The simple membership method of a typical commune setup comes to mind.  But given the survival rate of your typical commune, I am not sure if that is the best route to go.
I am sure there are many pagan folks who are not within this cynical mindset.  But just as their are Christian groups who regularly give up all their worldly possessions, in the world of here and now, if you don't follow some sort of long term funding/membership retention strategy, your group will not be the one that continues through the ages.  Of course, for the truly spiritual, that may not be an issue, but it is a relevant issue of survival bias when looking at existing religious institutions.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's not just the rising waters

That global warming might bring tropical diseases north is not exactly new news.  What I find most interesting about this article is that it also includes discussions of the impact of an economic downturn.

While you were worrying about rising sea levels…
David Noriega, Remapping Debate, 25 September 2013
Milder winters may also affect the territorial range of vectors — how far north different kinds of mosquitoes are able to survive.
Currently in southern Florida, “we have about a dozen species of mosquitoes that are not found farther north than the Everglades,” said Burkett-Cadena. “Many of these species are vectors of human pathogens.”
As winters grow milder further north, more of the Florida peninsula will become hospitable to these disease-carrying mosquitoes, Burkett-Cadena added.
So far so good, but then we get into the interesting parts:
A real estate nightmare
Increased health problems are serious enough. But those problems have typically gone hand in glove with depressed real estate markets.
In 1997, the population of Churchill County in Nevada began to see an abnormal rate of pediatric leukemia. Lucas Davis, now an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley studied the county and found that the health risk led to a significant decline in housing prices.
There is no explanation for the problems noted.  It could be a statistical blip.  But as the article notes, public perception can be as important as reality. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Death of the handmade

You see, the problem with the handmade item is that you just can't make them fast enough to supply the demand out their at a reasonable price.
As an illustration of this, Etsy, the website known as a go to marketplace for handmade items, is know allowing people to have their items manufactured and shipped by third parties.

Etsy’s Industrial Revolution
Elizabeth Wayland Barber, New York Times, 11 November 2013 (hat tip: Freakonomics)
[L]ast month, Etsy announced new policies that would allow sellers to apply to peddle items they produced with manufacturing partners, as well as to hire staff and use outside companies to ship their goods — all provided that the sellers demonstrated the “authorship, responsibility and transparency” intrinsic to handmade items.
By easing the definition of “handmade,” Etsy is trying to accommodate individual vendors who are having more and more trouble keeping up with their growing volume of customers. But many Etsy users are outraged by what they see as Etsy’s abandonment of its commitment to human handicraft, with some jumping ship for purer artisan sites like Zibbet.
Yet Etsy’s latest move is entirely in line with the history of handmade goods, a history that is more complicated than the simple term “handmade” implies. The artisans have run head-on into the problem that led to the Industrial Revolution: Making things by hand is slow. Really slow.
The author of the article, an archeologist and linguist,   goes on to note that machinery (like spinning wheels and pottery wheels) are also machines, and thus machinery has had a hand in making craft items for a longtime.  This is of course splitting hairs.  I think most people understand the distinction between individually crafted items using machine assistance, and the modern assembly line manufacturing process using interchangeable parts and process broken down into specific units of production.
The very self limiting nature of individually crafted items is very much a part of their appeal.  That there is a rarity associated with them is why today they are the province of the middle and upper class consumers.  Pricing pressures would simply make this even more so the case.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Old deathly ills invited back

The pandemic plague is a favorite apocalyptic scenario for authors to spin.  It is almost always some sort of new variant of an existing disease.  It is not generally the some desease that we have already conquered.
As a secondary note, in the modern culture that we live in the general meme is that it is the tea party folks who are the anti-scientific crowd.  As one researcher found out, this is not an idea that holds up well against the data.

A lot depends on which anti-scientific set of beliefs you partake of.  Here a really pissed off Julia Ioffe of the New Republic is ranting at the folks on her own side.

I've Got Whooping Cough. Thanks a Lot, Jenny McCarthy.
Julia Ioffe, New Republic, 11 November 2013 (hat tip: Gene Expression)
It would be an understatement to say that pertussis and other formerly conquered childhood diseases like measles and mumps are making a resurgence. Pertussis, specifically, has come roaring back. From 2011 to 2012, reported pertussis incidences rose more than threefold in 21 states. (And that’s just reported cases. Since we’re not primed to be on the look-out for it, many people may simply not realize they have it.) In 2012, the CDC said that the number of pertussis cases was higher than at any point in 50 years. That year, Washington state declared an epidemic; this year, Texas did, too. Washington, D.C. has also seen a dramatic increase. This fall, Cincinnati reported a 283 percent increase in pertussis. It’s even gotten to the point that pertussis has become a minor celebrity cause: NASCAR hero Jeff Gordon and Sarah Michelle Gellar are now encouraging people to get vaccinated.
How responsible are these non-vaccinating parents for my pertussis? Very. A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that outbreaks of these antediluvian diseases clustered where parents filed non-medical exemptions—that is, where parents decided not to vaccinate their kids because of their personal beliefs. The study found that areas with high concentrations of conscientious objectors were 2.5 times more likely to have an outbreak of pertussis. (To clarify: I was vaccinated against pertussis as a child, but the vaccine wears off by adulthood, which, until recently, was rarely a problem because the disease wasn't running rampant because of people not vaccinating their kids.)
So thanks a lot, anti-vaccine parents. You took an ethical stand against big pharma and the autism your baby was not going to get anyway, and, by doing so, killed some babies and gave me, an otherwise healthy 31-year-old woman, the whooping cough in the year 2013. I understand your wanting to raise your own children as you see fit, science be damned, but you're selfishly jeopardizing more than your own children. Carry your baby around in a sling, feed her organic banana mash while you drink your ethical coffee, fine, but what gives you denialists the right to put my health at risk—to cause me to catch a debilitating, humiliating, and frightening cough that, two months after I finished my last course of antibiotics (how’s that for supporting big pharma?), still makes me convulse several times a day like some kind of tragic nineteenth-century heroine?
I should note that I have run into a fair number of folks on the right who are suspicious of immunization.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Collapse of Empires: Nordic Bronze Age

The Nordic Bronze age was a time (1730-760 BC) was a time of prosperity in the far north.  It is yet another example of a group of people who were very successful in their day, being almost vanishing after their collapse.   Although some of their religion likely made it into the proto-German cultures of Jastorf and Pomerania, most of what we know of them is from archeological and linguistic investigations.

Proto Germanic
from Jean Manco, Ancestral Journeys, Thames & Hudson LTD, London , 2013, pps. 210-211.
...[T]he Nordic Bronze Age [was] the cradle of Proto-Germanic [language and colure]. It was a comfortable cradle for many a year. The Nordic Bronze Age began in a welcoming warmth. An earlier climate shift made southern Scandinavia as warm as present-day central Germany. Groups of people from the wide spread Corded Ware and Bell Beaker [pottery] cultures had moved north into Jutland and the coasts of what are now Norway and Sweden. There they melded with descendants of the Funnel Beaker and Ertebolle people into a rich Bronze Age culture. The wealth and technical excellence of its bronze objects is impressive. Trade was important to this society. So was seafaring. Voyages linked Jutland and Scandia into one communication web.
However, the climate gradually deteriorated, bringing increasingly wetter and colder times to Jutland, culminating in so steep a decline in the decades around 700BC that much agricultural land was abandoned and bog built up . Pollen history reveals a similar picture in southern Sweden. Around 500 BC forest encroached on areas that had long been farmland.  Meanwhile an influence from eastern Sweden reached the southern Baltic shores in the Late Bronze Age, providing a clue to where some of the Scandinavian farmers were going.
The advancing cold left most of their homeland lightly populated with Sami reindeer herders pushing into some of the abandoned areas.   In Scandinavia, this period is often called the Findless Age due to the lack of archeological finds (source). The cold spell, no doubt caused a lot of tensions with the iron age Celts on their southern border.  In events unrecorded in history, the two groups appear to have merged in an area just south of the previous Nordic territories and formed the group that was to give rise to the Germanic folk.  The Nordic Germans and Swedes apparently moved back into Scandinavia at some later point when the climate warmed up again.
from wikipedia

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Collapse of Empires: Early Bronze Age Europe

We have already discussed the earlier collapse of the farming communities in (what is now) Eastern Europe.  There was a second collapse that effected Europe a couple thousand years later.
What is most important about this collapse is that it was in the vacuum of this collapse that the Indo-European groups moved into Europe.  These groups would latter bring us every major European group with only the Basques, Finish, and Hungarians coming from a different language group.  Starting in an area roughly analogous to the Ukraine-Crimean these groups moved west, and also Southeast into Asia.  Earlier it was thought that they came in as conquering tribes; but it is likely that at least some of their effectiveness was due to the depleted conditions of the existing

Hard Times Followed Booms for Europe's Ancient Farmers
Dan Vergano, National Geographic, 1 October 2013
A later, smaller boom happened around 2800 B.C. Neither the busts nor the booms appear tied to climate conditions, which surprised the researchers. A March study in the journal Science, for example, had pointed to drought playing a large role in the collapse of the classic Maya civilization around 800 A.D.
"I believe their results will be the origin of numerous new studies," says population modeling expert Neus Isern of Spain's Universitat de Girona."Why did the Neolithic economy crash if there was no natural disaster behind it? Was the Neolithic economy not as sustainable as we assume?"
Downey speculates that early farmers may have hastened soil degradation through deforestation and overuse of soils, while also raising the possibility of disease triggering population declines. Another possibility is that migration may have played a role in booms and busts, says archaeologist Ron Pinhasi of University College Dublin.Link to paper (pdf)
As with many of the other societal collapses we have discussed previously, the remnants of these groups were noted, but little has been puzzled out about the details of their civilization.  They were the builders of the large monuments (Stonehenge), and did not have large cities, or possibly not even large political organizations, but there was some consistency to their lifestyle.  Until the introduction of genetic research, it was not even clear who heavily replaced this native stock was by the incoming groups.  Genetically, traces remain, but it is obvious that their culture was submerged by the newcomers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guns and revolutionary violence

I am suspicious of folks who think that an armed populous is not a check on government actions.  I would agree that it is not in of itself sufficient, but might very well be a necessary condition in such a large spread out country.
Note that the following comes from the left, the group (within the United States) that at one time was the most likely to be providers of revolutionary violence.

Modern Violence, Resistance and the Calculus of Revolution
Ian Welsh, 6 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Guns alone mean little.
America’s founding fathers wanted Americans to have guns and be in well regulated militias.  In this, as in many things, they were wise.  A militia, properly oriented towards the community it serves, is an organized body of citizens who have military training and are used to fighting as a group.  They have ties to the community, and there is not more than one militia per community, they also have ties to whatever local government exists.  If enough of these militias decide, as groups, to resist the government, they can do so.
The Arab Spring events indicate that you don't need violence to have a successful revolution.  The only problem with this thinking is that everywhere that the military decided to put down the revolution, they either put it down, or it collapsed into a bloody civil war.   Weapons in the hands of the revolutionaries didn't create victory, but they did allow them to stave off immediate defeat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New Mexico offers free medical services

Presumably as part of an effort to get on board with the new medical regime, New Mexico is offering free medical services.  And like the federal program, you get it whether you like it or not.

Man Seeks Millions After N.M. Police Force Colonoscopy in Drug Search 
Steven Nelson, U.S. News, 5 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Police forced New Mexico scrap metal tradesman David Eckert to undergo two digital anal probes, three enema insertions and ultimately a colonoscopy after officers incorrectly assumed he was concealing drugs, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on his behalf.
No drugs were found by police or doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, N.M. The exhaustive search began when Eckert allegedly rolled through a stop sign in Deming, N.M., on Jan. 2, 2013.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Libyan collapse

Arab Spring is starting to look even more like Arab collapse.

The autocratic governments that were overthrown were not exactly brilliantly run organizations, but they likely could have kept kicking the can of problems down the road a little longer if they hadn't been forced out of office.

Libya Is So Chaotic That It's Struggling To Buy Bread
Ulf Laessing, Reuters, 6 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Payments problems, chaos and corruption are hampering Libyan importers from making big deals to buy wheat, another setback as the country spins out of control two years after dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled by rebels and NATO warplanes.
In the latest disruption, the biggest wheat importer Mahatan Tripoli, which supplies most of the capital's bread, says it may have to put off its next major wheat purchase unless the state starts paying it nearly $100 million owed for previous imports.
For months, rogue militia members have disrupted Libya's oil exports, the main source of funding for a state that feeds its six million people with subsidized bread handed out for as little as 2 U.S. cents a loaf.
To my mind, this is the threat that the recent near-implosion of the U.S. government was leaning toward.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Duck Preps

For some reason a story about Ducks just seems very Halloween-ish to me.
I think it would be fair to say that something like 70% of your apocalypse-in-progress stories involve some sort of chaotic stockpiling at your local grocery store/big box store.
So, if you had a apocalyptic story, like Watership Down-
Evoking epic themes, the [Watership Down] is the Aeneid of the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.  
 ..but with ducks.  Where would they go?  The grain and feed store? 
Apparently to they head to the their local CVS Drugstore.

50 Ducks Walked Into A CVS… There’s No Punchline, Just 50 Ducks In A CVS
Laura Northrup, Consumerist, 28 October 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Do ducks prepare for the winter by gathering supplies from nearby retail outlets? No, they don’t, so it’s not really clear why about fifty ducks reportedly wandered into a CVS drugstore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and wouldn’t leave until an employee coaxed them out with popcorn.

This is the link to the video here:

They appear to be hanging out around the candy section.  So possibly ducks may not be the best folks to be getting your survival advice from.  On the other hand, sugar lasts a long time, and you won't nee to take out a second mortgage to kit yourself out.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sewer emergencies

Usually the big issue in apocalyptic fiction is the power going out.

But some, if only lip service, attention is given to water turning off, and then a tiny bit to the sewer backing up.

People poop a lot, and getting rid of it all safely takes a lot more effort than is generally noted:

From A Sewer Catastrophe Companion (pdf) (hat tip: No Tech Magazine)

The guide is only 24 pages.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New bugout methods for the EMP-event?

The nuclear powered EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) that was first written about in Warday, and than copied slavishly by folks with little actual information concerning its potential effects (see One Second After) is supposed to knock all your electronics, and leave you stranded in your car miles away from home.  A large solar flare, which are not supper common but have the advantage of having actually occurred, is likely to be even more dangerous.
So what we need is a new method for hiking out of the clogged city streets that does not require electronics or fuel (no electric for gas pumps).  And we have it!

Balloon jumping!

Balloon jumping was highly speculated to be the next big thing in the 1920s.
From the July 19, 1927 edition of the Joplin News Herald in Joplin, Missouri:
Matt Novak, Paleofuture, 23 October 2013 (hat tip: Root Simple)
How helpful this sort of thing would be. We could strip the spring cherry tree without endangering our legs. We could dispense with elevators and enter our offices on the third or fourth floors by merely leaping up to the window and crawling in. We could do a thousand and one things easily that we now do with difficulty.

One of the problems was that people had a hard time avoiding power lines, but of course that wouldn't be a problem if power is out. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fast climate change

There has been a fair amount of discussion that I have seen in the popular scientific press, that climate change can occur much more quickly than the tepid pace that is often sited.
What is a little alarming is that these current finding relate to an event that is often sited as being most comparable to our situation today. 
What is alarming, is that some unusually granular sedimentary deposits seem to indicate that it all happened in a very fast acting cyclical time frame.

Climate change, 55 million years ago
Dave Ansell, Naked Scientist, 10 October 2013
Historically, Earth was much warmer. About 55 million years ago, temperatures were, on average, 8 degrees Celsius higher than they are now. There were crocodiles living off Greenland, and palm forests in Wyoming.
Suddenly, the levels of carbon-dioxide doubled and global temperatures increased by 5 degrees.
Previously, scientists had thought this warming had taken tens of thousands of years.
But now researchers Morgan Schaller and James Wright have been studying offshore clays dating from this period from Maryland and Delaware. They discovered a repeating pattern in the clay, resembling tree-rings, corresponding to a yearly cycle of rivers dropping more and less sediment into the ocean.
By looking at different isotopes of carbon present in each of the clay layers, including carbon-12, which is more easily taken up by living things, and carbon-13, which is more common in inorganic carbon sources, they found evidence for a huge injection of about 3000 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere over a period of a few months.
Over the next 13 years, this dissolved into the shallower parts of the sea causing it to become acidic, killing off more deep sea species than at the end of the cretaceous which killed off the dinosaurs. It then took 150 000 years for things to return to normal.

New Finding Shows Climate Change Can Happen in a Geological Instant
Ken Branson, Rutgers Today, 6 October 2013 (hat tip: Crazy Eddie)
Rapid” and “instantaneous” are words geologists don’t use very often. But Rutgers geologists use these exact terms to describe a climate shift that occurred 55 million years ago.
In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Morgan Schaller and James Wright contend that following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years.

The Abstract:
Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum
James Wright, Morgan Schaller, Preceedings of the National Acadamy of Science, 5 August 2013
(PETM) and associated carbon isotope excursion (CIE) are often touted as the best geologic analog for the current anthropogenic rise in pCO2. However, a causal mechanism for the PETM CIE remains unidentified because of large uncertainties in the duration of the CIE’s onset. Here, we report on a sequence of rhythmic sedimentary couplets comprising the Paleocene/Eocene Marlboro Clay (Salisbury Embayment). These couplets have corresponding δ18O cycles that imply a climatic origin. Seasonal insolation is the only regular climate cycle that can plausibly account for δ18O amplitudes and layer counts. High-resolution stable isotope records show 3.5‰ δ13C decrease over 13 couplets defining the CIE onset, which requires a large, instantaneous release of 13C-depleted carbon. During the CIE, a clear δ13C gradient developed on the shelf with the largest excursions in shallowest waters, indicating atmospheric δ13C decreased by ∼20‰. Our observations and revised release rate are consistent with an atmospheric perturbation of 3,000-gigatons of carbon (GtC).
Thirteen years (versus the previously thought ~10,000) is a really short period of time for that type of change. 
That the whole question has been so politicized means that some will jump to quickly to make the specific analogy with our current situation, while others will dismiss or ignore the entire issue.
I have generally put climate change as a secondary driver of future problems.  Human population growth toward ~10 billion seemed like it was getting to us much faster, and would be far more problematic.  Arguably climate change (or at least half of it) is a secondary effect of population growth in any case.  But it appears that it is at least possible for climate growth to overtake the primary cause on the timeline:  Oh joy!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lucifer's Hammer meet TV135

A new big meteor is in our neighborhood.

Astronomers discover a massive asteroid that could hit us in 2032
George Dvorsky, io9, 17 October 2013 (hat tip: Big Picture)
Mark August 26th, 2032 on your calendar, folks. Ukrainian astronomers have just detected a 1,350-foot-wide (410 meter) minor planet that’s headed our way. The impact risk is minimal, but it’s now the most serious near-term celestial threat to face our planet.
As one commenter noted, that even a blast 50 times larger than the largest nuclear explosion set off (2,500 megatons) it is not an extinction event.  Unless it happens to hit near you.  As to the likely hood of it actually hitting the earth:
think [of it as a] grain of powder that will be at 10 meters from a mosquito as "almost hitting it", it will pass at almost 20 times the distance from earth to the moon.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

British fuel price super spikes

The genesis is workers strike in Britain.  Although the strike is the imitator of the concern, the situation highlights the tenuous nature of a lot of the built up oil/fuel infrastructure.
Steve Hawkes, The Telegraph, 18 October 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Motoring chiefs warned that the uncertainty over the future of Grangemouth reflected the growing concerns over the rest of the refining industry in the UK following the closure of Coryton in Essex last year. 
The AA said it feared that without an urgent action plan from Ministers, the country would soon be as reliant on imported fuel as it is on imported gas and electricity to keep the lights on. This could lead to "super spikes" similar to the one at the start of 2012, when speculators were blamed for pushing unleaded to a record of more than 140p per litre.
The AA's attack came as forecourts in Scotland were urged to build up stocks in the event Grangemouth remains shutdown beyond Tuesday.
Luke Bosdet, AA public affairs spokesman, said: "Grangemouth is a symptom of a bigger threat. There is a lot of talk of European refineries needing to close because of over capacity and because they are old.
Probably because of submarine blockades curtsey of the Germans during both world wars, the British authors do seem to understand the vulnerability of modern economy to scarcity.  U.S. authors seem to require something a bit more spectacular, or they are more inclined to view the financial system as a potential culprit.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Electrical grid hacking

In this article they are talking about SCADA, the monitoring and control system that utilities use to control the electrical grid in their area.
For instance if you need to work on a certain area that interconnects with the power grid, say a solar farm, you can call them and fairly quickly have them disconnect that very specific section from the grid.
Not too terribly surprising, this system is not designed to be hacker-proof. 

Electrical Grid Is Called Vulnerable to Power Shutdown
Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, 18 October 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Adam Crain and Chris Sistrunk do not specialize in security. The engineers say they hardly qualify as security researchers. But seven months ago, Mr. Crain wrote software to look for defects in an open-source software program. The program targeted a very specific communications protocol called DNP3, which is predominantly used by electric and water companies, and plays a crucial role in so-called S.C.A.D.A. (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems. Utility companies use S.C.A.D.A. systems to monitor far-flung power stations from a control center, in part because it allows them to remotely diagnose problems rather than wait for a technician to physically drive out to a station and fix it.
Mr. Crain ran his security test on his open-source DNP3 program and didn’t find anything wrong. Frustrated, he tested a third-party vendor’s program to make sure his software was working. The first program he targeted belonged to Triangle MicroWorks, a Raleigh, North Carolina based company that sells source code to large vendors of S.C.A.D.A. systems. It broke instantly.
We did have one novel, Cyberstorm, that we reviewed that picked up on this idea.  As a practical weapon, the idea of hacking into the electrical grid and shutting it down at random points is much more viable than the depictions of a high altitude EMP-strike.  And much harder to retaliate against.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nuke em till they glow, or at least until they cash in their chips

This sounds like an odd subplot within one of those nuclear Armageddon style apocalyptic novels that focus on the "high commands" point of view. 

3-star admiral fired as No. 2 nuclear commander
Robert Burns, AP News, 9 October 2013 (hat tip: NC)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, was notified Wednesday that he has been relieved of duty amid a military investigation of allegations that he used counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino, the Navy said.
So it looks like we moved a few seconds further away from midnight.  I do so much like to bring cheerful news.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Western Springtime

On the gloom and doom front, the causes of failure are usually thought to be drastic.  A banking collapse that has people fighting over baby formula in a matter of minutes, a pandemic that magically works its ways to the farthest corners of the globe with a killing force never seen in such a diverse population, or a bunch of zombies that can somehow manage to bite enough people quick enough to have rampaging hordes spawning in no time. You also have the dreaded EMP, which seems to be mostly based on some quick talking and some burglar alarms in Hawaii going off. The (fortunately) very rare mega-volcano, mega-solar storm, and mega-meteors are more dramatic, but peak oil and global warming also have their fans.
But only rarely do you get collapse by demographics.  Albert Brooks and David Brin both had books about older Americans impoverishing youthful Americans through electoral might, but both also brought in global warming as a factor as well.
The sad reality is that even if none of these factors plays out, we still are likely to be having problems"

Why Growth is Getting Harder
Brink Lindsey, Cato Institute, 8 October 2013 (hat tip: MR)
Consider the four constituent elements of economic growth tracked by conventional growth accounting: (1) growth in labor participation, or annual hours worked per capita; (2) growth in labor quality, or the skill level of the workforce; (3) growth in capital deepening, or the amount of physical capital invested per worker; and (4) growth in so-called total factor productivity, or output per unit of quality-adjusted labor and capital. Over the course of the 20th century, these various components fluctuated in their contributions to overall growth. The fluctuations, however, tended to offset each other, so that weakness in one element was compensated for by strength in another. In the 21st century, this pattern of offsetting fluctuations has come to a halt as all growth components have fallen off simultaneously.
The simultaneous weakening of all the components of economic growth does not mean that slow growth is inevitable from here on out. The trends for one or more of them could reverse direction tomorrow. Nevertheless, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the conditions for growth are less favorable than they used to be. In other words, growth is getting harder.
Interestingly enough, Stephen D. King, (the economist, not the horror writer) has a new book out that also covers the coming  decline in the Western economies.

When the Money Runs Out: The End of Affluence in the Western Economies
Stephen D. King, Yale University Press, 2013, p 151
Quoting Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) in his comments on the comparison of the young United States and the French Old Regime and French Revolution public prosperity began to develop with unexampled strides. This is shown by all sorts of evidence. Population increased rapidly; wealth more rapidly still. The American war [of Independence] did not check the movement: it complemented the embarrassment of the state, but did not impede private enterprise: individuals grew more industrious, more inventive, richer than ever.  
...measurably, with the increase in prosperity in France, men's minds grow more restless and uneasy; public discontent is embittered; the hatred of the old institutions increases, the nation visibly tends toward revolution.
Note, that the "wealth" was at the upper end of the spectrum.  It is fairly normal in population driven inflationary times to have some at the upper end of the spectrum do well as the cost of labor collapses.
Disappointment drove the Arab Spring.  That "Springtime" doesn't seem to be doing well.  The two arguments above, combined together, argue for the possibility of the West having its own Springtime soon.

Friday, October 18, 2013

An aside

I have been dealing with some very long working hours combined with an always hectic Fall schedule that includes my sons birthday.  Thus the less frequent posts.
Since my work is requiring a fair amount of driving at the moment, I am "reading" some audio books.  I decided to sample some zombie fair, you have seen some of them, and will see a few more, but I will eventually move on.  Although the writing quality of the published zombie fair is usually pretty good, the derivative nature of the plotting is almost stunning at times.
Since audio books require less set aside time, and thus less opportunity cost, I will probably be a little more adventurous with those selections.  Although, I like the straight up apocalyptic novel, I haven't seemed to latch onto reliable batch of them outside of a few real famous ones (Parable of the Sower for instance).  Once I get through my current purchases, I will start looking a little harder.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Court certified walkng dead

It's not a zombie horde. But the walking dead are with us.

Ohio man remains legally dead despite his recent court plea 9 October 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Consider northwest Ohio man Donald Eugene Miller Jr. the walking dead - as he has been since 1994.
Miller was ruled legally dead by a court in 1994, eight years after he disappeared from his home in Arcadia. His appeal Monday in Hancock County Probate Court to rescind his “death” didn’t earn a change of status in the view of the law.
Of course, the reason he is wanting to come back to life is so that he can start collecting on social security.

And the reason there is resistance is that the ex-wife and two children had been able to collect on his social security death benefits after he ran out on his child support payments. So the zombie here is not an innocent victim as it were.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Post-apocalyptic breakfast

When doing book reviews, I always make note at the end with regards to the "realism" of the book.  I used to refer to it as grittiness, but realized that some novels that were otherwise pretty unbelievable, certainly could be called "gritty".

The general point is to take into account how much the novel actual worries about day-to-day survival or life patterns in a world that is greatly changed.

Well obviously, in a lot of post-apocalyptic settings, people are going to be starving.  But not in all, some folks are better prepared, and other stories take place long enough after the initial collapse, that there has been a bit of a recovery.

One item, I never gave much thought to was people's eating patterns.  For instance, will people eat breakfast?  I would have thought so, but apparently they didn't use to:

Ian Mortimer on Life in the Tudor Era
Five Books Interviews, 21 March 2013
Did people not have breakfast in Tudor times?
Before about 1600 people tended not to eat breakfast. It’s in the last decades of the 16th century that breakfast became habitual. In the Middle Ages you would eat breakfast if you were going on a long journey and therefore getting up early, or if you were a worker working in a field, on a harvest day, which might be a 16 or 18 hour long working day. But on the whole most people didn’t eat breakfast. They had dinner in the late morning and then supper in the mid-to late afternoon. Those were the two meals of the day. There were a few exceptions – aristocratic families who started having ceremonial breakfasts in the 16th century and if you were ill you might have breakfast as well.
But in the 16th century all the times started to get shifted around, because people increasingly worked for other people, rather than sorting out their own times of working during the day. Therefore they have to stay at work till much later, so they can’t have supper till much later, so they start eating lunch instead of dinner in the late morning and they have to have breakfast before they start. So there is a shift to a three meal pattern.
So presuming there has been a major break with today's lifestyle, it is very possible we won't be eating breakfast.