Last Earth Distro
For novelist, writing and aging aren't in conflict
- As of Monday, March 25, 2013
Nearly every day, 66-year-old novelist Stephen Hunter does two things: He writes and he shoots. He writes about guns and then shoots them at a firing range near his Baltimore house. His knowledge of guns is encyclopedic and the details show up in his novels. Guns often give him a germ of an idea for a story.
Hunter's newest novel, "The Third Bullet," about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is the eighth in a series about a former Marine sniper, Bob Lee Swagger, who has reached the age of 66.
As a younger man, Hunter wrote and edited for the Baltimore Sun; in 1997, he became the film critic for The Washington Post. In 2003 he won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Hunter has written 19 novels and three nonfiction books. He is working on his 20th novel, about a female sniper in Russia during World War II.
He recently talked with The Post at a coffee shop near his home. This is an edited excerpt.
Q: Let's talk about aging.
A: I understand that I get tireder now, but I don't ascribe that to aging. I understand that my fine-motor coordination is all shot to hell, but I don't ascribe that to aging. I understand that my memory is a parody of what it once was, but I don't ascribe that to aging. I just sort of cultivate the fantasy that these things are unrelated. I am aware that that is an illusion, but for me it is a helpful illusion.
The other day, I was at a party talking to a few people, and I was up against the food table. Someone bent over to try to get something that I was in the way of and he bumped me. He said, "Excuse me, excuse me." He was 14. I said, 'That's all right. I'm old. You can push me around." We both laughed.
I enjoy doing that, but I don't walk around feeling old.
Q: Is being old bad?
A: In and of itself, no. Being ineffective is bad, being of a complaining mood is bad, being in chronic pain is bad, being slow to react is bad, not getting it is bad. On the other hand, I am attracted to ideas of wisdom. I am attracted to the image of the old dog. I am attracted to the image of the professional with a sensibility to certain experiences that are unique. I know what I can do. I know what I can't do.
I feel old when I have to get up to go to the bathroom for the fourth time and it's 5 in the morning. On the other hand, getting back to bed after that event is enormously satisfying.
Q: What is easier in old age?
A: I don't want to say I have mastered the craft [of writing books], but I feel a lot more confident. I am capable of doing things and seeing things and making things happen in ways that I was not even five years ago. I feel like I am smarter than I was 10 years ago. I feel like I'm a lot smarter than I was 20 years ago, and I feel like I'm a lot smarter than I was 30 years ago.
Q: What do you mean by "smarter"?
A: I mean book-smart. I mean understanding the systems of governance and culture. I mean sort of understanding those things that are worth investing anger or emotion in and those things that aren't. I mean social smarts, the ability to interact with different kinds of people and to be comfortable in different, challenging professional situations. I mean verbal quickness.
Q: Tell me about your day writing.
A: I am not one of these guys who gets up at the crack of dawn and works for five hours, then has breakfast, answers the mail and works for another five hours. That is entirely too Viking-like for me.
I am a night person. I get up at the crack of noon. I spend a couple hours drinking coffee and just browsing on the Internet. It is terrible and pointless, but I do it anyways.
I have two things I do most days. I write and shoot. It depends on what my mood is which I will do first. [With writing,] I'll work for two hours, maybe three, maybe one hour. I don't kill myself. One of the things I've learned -- I give speeches, and I use this in every speech I've ever given -- is that writing a book is baseball. It's not football. And what I mean by that is that it is a long, grinding season. You're going to have very bad games. You're going to have failures. You're going to make errors. You're going to do stupid things. You just have to trust over the long haul you will overcome all of those mistakes.
It takes more energy to get into the world of the book than it does to write the book. The more frequently you visit the book, the easier it is to get into it. That means you have to work every day. You have to make that transit from this world to that world as energy-free, as habitual, as easy as possible. Every time you skip a day, it is twice as hard the next time. If you skip two days, it's not two times, it's four times; it's exponential. The way books die is that you reach a point where the energy to get back into the book overwhelms you
I've had books die on me [like that]. It is really painful.
Q: Your protagonist, Bob Lee Swagger, is aging. He is 66. How do you write about a guy getting old?
A: I know a lot of these professional writers whose heroes are in an eternal 34-to-38 age bracket. I can't begin to remember how a 34-year-old mind works or body works. I know how a 66-year-old body works. I don't recall making a coherent decision that he would age with me. He is obviously a hopelessly idealized version. I couldn't begin to do one-thousandth of what he does, but many of his thought patterns, some of his family history and a lot of the physicality of aging is taken directly from my life, even if he is much stronger and braver and has far more stamina than I do.
Q: How about your hip?
A: I was never shot in the hip [as Swagger was]. My hip is profoundly uninteresting. One of the duller hips in Western civilization. Not even my wife is interested. I did have some pre-arthritic symptoms a few years ago where one of the qualities of my life was a lot of pain and a lot of stiffness. I may have inflated that grotesquely in his constant problems with his hip.
He is getting so old. I keep hearing, "How can this guy do this stuff?" I try to be wise about it. He no longer gets in fistfights. He no longer runs. He tries to use his intelligence as opposed to physical strength. [But] old men can shoot. Old men can be superb shots. I always have to get him in gunfights because they're about skill, courage and cunning, and not about strength.
Q: Have your books always begun with a gun?
A: Many of my books do. I will have an image of a gun, and it will create a world and a story. For example, the very first book I wrote was called "The Master Sniper." It was a World War II book. It did not exist until the moment I saw a picture of a German assault rifle with an infrared-mechanism night vision. I was sitting in 1978, I was sitting in the Baltimore Sun newsroom. I was the book review editor. This was in the Rand McNally encyclopedia of World War II. I saw that gun. I knew the gun, but I didn't know the Germans had infrared until that second. And the second I saw that, I knew I had a book.
Writers have their subjects. Faulkner was obsessed with grappa. Hemingway was obsessed with the code as it plays out in extreme situations. Updike with the peccadilloes and nuances of bourgeois. Believe me, I'm not comparing myself to any of these. What I'm just saying is, you get a theme. It seems almost genetic.
From the very first second I saw a firearm, I found it incredibly interesting. To me, the gun was . . . let's call it a cluster of possibilities, history. It was drama, behavior. It was engineering. It was manufacturing. It was ergonomics. It was action.
Q: So the shooting range is your muse?
A: I wouldn't say the shooting periods are particularly creative. I don't get ideas while I am shooting. This might -- and it will be seen as hideous by millions of people -- be a form of mind relaxation. What I do love about it is the totality of the engagement. Whatever issues I am facing are temporarily disconnected. I cease to be Steve Hunter. I cease to be a movie critic. I cease to be a novelist. I cease to be father. I cease to be an uncertain supervisor of a shaky financial situation. I am just a pair of eyes, hands, musculature of wrists and arms, and I find that purifying.
The act of shooting is very formal. In other words, every time I do it, I do it according to physical principles. Like any athletic thing, from shooting baskets to throwing touchdowns, it is fundamentally athletic. It is a function of hand, eye and muscle.
Given the amount of shooting that I've done, I should be a lot better than I am. I wish I were a better shot.
Q: Have you changed your stance on guns?
A: Though I am not a liberal anymore, I was for many, many years. The guns have pulled me far to the right. I will say [that] on The Washington Post, everybody was very decent to me. They understood who I was and what my beliefs were. No one ever got in my face. I'll always be grateful to them. In that newsroom, tolerance was real.
Q: Do you still care about movies, or has that changed as you've aged?
A: I don't care about modern movies. I occasionally will see a modern movie. Now and then I will go as a guilty pleasure to see some movie filled with ridiculous gunfights. One of the pleasures of my life is freedom from the America movie. In my opinion -- and this is typical old-guy rant -- the movies are just no longer speaking to me. One of the reasons I left [The Post] was that I could see myself becoming a parody: "In my time, we did it much better. It ain't no good no more, no siree. I don't know where they find these young fellas with all that hair. In my time, men had real faces." It was time to go.
Q: That's interesting.
A: Here is what I am surprised you haven't asked me, but I am going to answer it anyways because I thought about it.
If you asked me for the wisdom, here is the one thing I would say for people approaching and getting ready for retirement. Three words: Avoid the bitter.
Bitter will kill you. The artists of the 20th century I most respect would be Ernest Hemingway, John Ford and John Wayne. In many ways, the same men. Alpha males.
Extremely, mythically successful with enormous sexual opportunities, enormous financial resources, able to indulge their every impulse, and yet all three of them ended up isolated, bitter and angry. That seems so tragic me.
Nobody succeeds to the degree they think they should. You have to make peace with the fact that you didn't get exactly what you wanted and what you felt you were entitled to.
Q: How do you do that?
A: It helps to have a passion. For me, it happens to be guns and the firearm world and all of that. I always have a place to go, a place where I feel at home. If it is reading or shooting or thinking, there's always a place where I can go which I find nurturing and stimulating. It helps enormously at the center of your life.
The second thing: I am a writer. That to me is a noble calling I fulfill very proudly.
Q: Do you ever see a day when you can't write?
A: (Long pause.) Yeah. I've imagined a life without it. I see this idealized life on a small ranch out West where I'm able to shoot and work on my guns every day. I have my own range and I have my own large shop. I see that as how I might finish my life. Unfortunately, I don't see my wife in that, because she is sophisticated and cosmopolitan. She and Montana does not compute. Nope. Does not compute.
The reality is, I will stay where I am and enjoy what I've got.
Thanks to Klintron over at Technoccult for cluing me into this article and book!
image by banksy
How do you make a food fad appeal to libertarians? Invoke human nature.
Every dietary preference has its corresponding political stereotype. Vegans are to Ralph Nader as meat-and-potatoes types are to Dubya. Artisanal pickle-loving hipsters gravitate towards the Obamas, and anti-soda activists have a friend in Mike Bloomberg, at least for now. Omnivores, though seemingly agnostic, are split into two camps: those who will truly eat anything, and those who will eat anything so long as it contains organic ingredients their grandmother could pronounce.
Then there are those who are concerned not with their grandmother, but their great-great-grandmother's ancestral state of nature. Where does the Paleo diet fit in the politico-foodie spectrum?
Proponents of the Paleo, or Caveman, diet believe that to achieve optimal health, we ought to subsist off of foods that were available to our Pleistocene-era forebears. The Paleo philosophy rests on the notion that humans adapted to vastly different circumstances than the ones they live under today -- that before the relatively recent shift to an agriculture, industry- and internet-based society, we lived for millennia as hunter-gatherers, and did so without the current very high levels of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. For Paleos, the primal lifestyle is our true state of nature -- our blueprint, as one advocate puts it -- and we must mimic it as best we can.
In practical terms, living like a caveman typically means shunning all sugar, save a dab of (raw) honey or an occasional piece of fruit, and banishing grains and beans in favor of vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry. White potatoes aren't recommended, but yams are fine and dietary fats, including the maligned saturated kind, are upheld as the holy grail of nutrition. Milk is high on the Paleo blacklist, but butter, on the other hand, is encouraged. Nuts are acceptable, but don't even think about peanuts -- they're actually legumes. Bacon occupies a sacred space on the plate of the Paleo dieter.
The trend is, for the most part, food-based, though the principles are sometimes applied to childbirth and parenting, exercise and fitness, and mental and emotional health. Some Paleo acolytes forgo shampoo; others complain about the "unnaturalness" of antibiotics, hormonal birth control, or monogamy. Judging from various Paleo forums online, homeschooling is fairly popular, as are hairy men, eating with one's hands, and exercise that mimics the Primal life: running barefoot (or with fancy five-fingered shoes); lifting heavy rocks; avoiding "chronic cardio," also known as distance running; and practicing sprints, even in the absence of pre-historic leopards.
, a 30-year-old hunter-gatherer, is upheld by marksdailyapple.com, a leading Paleo site, as a Paleo a role model. Grok, a caveman composite, is "simultaneously his own person/personality (incidentally male) and an inclusive, non-gendered representative of all our beloved primal ancestors." He's "a likeable fellow" who has a "strong, resourceful wife and two healthy children." By modern standards, Grok "would be the pinnacle of physiological vigor . . . a tall, strapping man: lean, ripped, agile, even big-brained (by modern comparison)" with "low/no systemic inflammation, low insulin and blood glucose readings, healthy (i.e. ideally functional) cholesterol and triglyceride levels."
Grok is healthy because he has relatively low stress levels and subsists on what nature designed him to eat: "Wild seeds, grasses, and indigenous nut varieties," seasonal vegetables, roots, berries, meats and fish, small animals, and big game. Chasing animals made him a "solid, nimble sprinter"; foraging gave him "impressive physical endurance" and lifting beasts made him "tough and burly."
Given the semi-mythical position of imaginary Groks in the Paleo world, it's easy to accuse the modern cavemen of inconsistencies. How prehistoric is it to be living in condos, ordering grass-fed steaks from FreshDirect, enjoying heat and hot water, and sharing recipes online? The irony is not lost on Paleo advocates themselves -- and, to be fair, if they shed their clothes and took to the woods they'd only be mocked the more for it. Charges of hypocrisy, however amusing, are facile. Paleo is an improvement on a diet of processed, sugary junk. It's not the first diet to banish starches, and it certainly won't be the last. In fact, by any other name, the Paleo diet would be just that -- a diet.
But more substantial problems lurk in the reasoning behind Paleo principles. By assuming that all that was once natural is now good, militant Paleo leans on biological determinism to back up its theories. While it may not advocate for a complete reversion to cave-dwelling, it accepts that we evolved in a certain way to do certain things and not others, and that advances in technology, civilization, and culture can do little to change that. This logic, however seductive, is incomplete. You can't get an ought from a was.
There's evidence that the "was" is vastly oversimplified, too. Marlene Zuk, a biologist at U.C. Riverside, appraises the Paleo lifestyle in Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live (Norton, March 2013). Zuk notes that even if the good old days were, in fact, good, there was no singular primal lifestyle or even period for us to mimic. And while it's true that humans existed for hundreds of thousands of years before forming societies around agriculture, that doesn't mean we've been wholly unable to adapt to the so-called ravages of modern life. Rather, the time that has passed since the shift towards agriculture -- about 9,000 years, though estimates can vary -- has provided our bodies with ample time to adapt to diets that include grains and dairy. "What we are able to eat and thrive on depends on our more than 30 million years of history as primates," writes Zuk, "not on a single arbitrarily more recent moment in time."
A key example of this kind of adaptation can be found in our ability to consume dairy. A great many people in the world cannot digest milk, but there are nonetheless some lactose "persistent" individuals who can. Their ability to do so, writes Zuck, is a result of lactose persistence being passed along through natural selection. "People able to drink milk without gastrointestinal disturbance passed on their genes at a higher rate than did the lactose-intolerant, and the gene for lactase persistence spread quickly in Europe," Zuk writes, citing research that suggests this took place over just 7,000 years -- "the blink of an evolutionary eye." What this shows is that humans can adapt over the course of a few thousand years to better absorb whatever nutrition is readily available to them -- on a farm, for instance, or in a herding society.
Human adaptability doesn't end there, though. When the genes aren't passed on, other bodily functions step in: One example is the gut bacteria found in some Somalis that aided in their digestion of dairy, even though they lacked the gene normally associated with lactose persistence. And when all else fails, civilization comes in and ferments the milk to create yogurt or cheese -- more easily digestible forms of dairy -- that a greater number of people can consume. We even thought of Lactaid -- lactose persistence in pill form.
Illustrations like these help Zuk undermine the Paleo assumption that we are not made for these times. "Consumption of dairy exquisitely illustrates the ongoing nature of evolution, in humans as in other living things," she writes. "Our ancestors had different diets, and almost certainly different gut flora, than we have. We continue to evolve with our internal menagerie of microorganisms just as we did with our cattle, and they with us."
That isn't to say we've adapted perfectly -- but according to Zuk, the idea of being perfectly adapted to any environment is a myth unto itself: "Paleofantasies call to mind a time when everything about us -- body, mind, and behavior -- was in sync with the environment...but no such time existed. We and every other living thing have always lurched along in evolutionary time, with the inevitable trade-offs that are a hallmark of life."
The Paleo preoccupation with what's "natural" has even more troubling implications. Incomplete or flawed interpretations of our biology have long been used to marginalize women, racial groups, even entire civilizations, and nutrition may well become the next variant in this pattern of discrimination. If rice isn't "natural," does that make those entire continents with highly developed cultures who eat it "un-natural"? Doesn't agriculture, however flawed it may be in certain societies, support billions of people? Let's not forget that for centuries women were considered ineligible to participate in most professions, sports, and diversions on the basis of their supposed female "nature." Are modern bread-eaters somehow less human than those carrying out "primal" urges by sprinting, lifting, and eating meat?
These troubling questions are probably not the point of an apparently well-meaning lifestyle program. Many adopters of the Paleo diet do so for no reason other than weight loss, or vanity, or ailments caused by certain foods; others are simply curious about how so-called "ancestral" nutrition will affect them, or how certain types of foods affect their bodies. If their giddy testimonials are to be believed, the Paleo diet can cure everything from diabetes to anxiety attacks, which sounds wonderful. Still, the social and political implications of Paleo reasoning ought to be more closely examined, especially as the lifestyle gains adherents.
Paleo's main proponents aren't particularly partisan. Mark Sisson, who keeps the Paleo blog MarksDailyApple.com, says on his page that "people's health and personal enjoyment of life matter more to me than politics and the hot air from the latest pundits." But Libertarians have embraced the caveman set as kindred spirits, and it would appear that the caveman lifestyle and anti-state, laissez-faire tendencies often come hand in hand. Paleo-Libertarian logic maintains that the U.S. government is to blame for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and dozens of other ills by virtue of telling us to eat the state-subsidized fruits of Big Agriculture's labor. It says the USDA's nutrition guidelines were created with the food lobby, not the human body, in mind.
These are by no means implausible or even particularly radical claims. Some socialists and environmentalists have come to the same conclusions, at least nutritionally speaking. Still, this admittedly healthy distrust of government -- not to mention the adoption of a diet that is the complete antithesis of the USDA's recommendations -- is innately libertarian. Gary Taubes, a science writer best known for his anti-sugar crusades, is widely cited in Paleo circles. When Reason
magazine asked him why so many libertarians are drawn towards Paleo, Taubes responded
that perhaps they simply "like the idea that government agencies and federal agencies can be just dead wrong."
Some true believers take the "natural" argument even further by asserting that the centralized state, and all of its freedom-thwarting attributes, are a consequence of a grain-based agricultural society. The low-fi libertarian website LewRockwell.com features pages upon pages of articles about the Paleo lifestyle written in a rugged, conspiratorial tone. "It came to me like a revelation on my morning commute: Bread is a tool of the state," writes
one commentator. "The 'staff of life,' the very symbol of food itself, has become to me a symbol of the domestication of humankind. It has also suggested one more way I can work to strengthen the individual and weaken the state."
Another article, written by a young man named TobanWiebe
for "Paleo-Libertarian integration," bore the rallying cry, "No grains, no government." "Paleo and libertarianism share a common bond in individualism," Wiebe writes. "Both value personal responsibility and oppose government paternalism, wanting nothing from the government except to be left alone. Both recognize that nothing good can come from using the political means to further their cause." Wiebe goes on to argue for the importance of "Misean longevity" for the Libertarian cause and to mourn the grain-fed demise of his idols: "It saddens paleo-libertarians that Murray Rothbard was struck down by a disease of civilization at the young age of 68. It is important that libertarians do their best to avoid such a fate -- the libertarian cause is too important."
In October, the site's founder Lew Rockwell himself observed
the growing popularity of Paleo among younger Libertarians on the campaign trail. "When I spoke at the two Ron Paul events in Tampa, a young man kind enough to pick me up at the airport told me a fascinating story. The vast majority of young Ron volunteers in offices he visited all over the country were paleo. If a kid ordered pizza -- which was always the primary or perhaps only campaign food -- he was practically booed," reads his blog.
The Libertarian-Paleo link makes a lot of sense. As Mr. Wiebe points out, changing one's diet is in almost every case an act of personal responsibility. Although some evidence suggests that non-food factors like BPA, high fructose corn syrup, and other chemicals contribute to cancer, diabetes and other "diseases of civilization," it's easy to frame many fat-related ailments as a failure of the will. An individual's failure to act rationally, argue Paleo-Libertarians, is exacerbated by the government's tendency to thwart free enterprise in the health and agricultural sectors, and limit the boundaries of our knowledge when it comes to diet and nutrition.
The Paleo-Libertarian alliance saw these arguments play out in a legal context last May when the Board of Dietetics/Nutrition of North Carolina told an advice blogger and life coach with diabetes that he could not dispense pro-Paleo diet advice online without the proper certifications, even though bloggers with diet advice are a dime a dozen on the Internet. The blogger, Steve Cooksey, alleged that this was a violation of free speech
. His case was thrown out in August; Libertarians and Paleos alike were very upset.
With all of its contested conclusions and shaky methodologies, nutrition is a controversial science. It's also convenient outlet for those who believe in self-reliance to shun the government's prescriptions, blame the less healthy for their predicament, and offer unsolicited advice on bootstrapping oneself into a smaller dress size. What could be better, from a Libertarian perspective, than to alter one's lifestyle from a government-sanctioned
model to one guided by enlightened, evolutionary, natural
the primal, anarchic state of man?
Primal human impulses are a convenient and, on the surface, logical way to explain our most mysterious attributes. (Why do we like crunchy things? Is it because we used to snack on insects? Are Cheetos a surrogate for crickets?) And it's no surprise that the rise of Paleo coincides with the popularization of evolutionary psychology, and also "natural" birth, parenting, education, and so on. The world today is as baffling as ever, and a quick look at today's headlines -- cannibal cops, urban chicken warfare, CIA love triangles -- strongly suggests that we're closer to our caveman ancestors, at least intellectually, than we'd like to admit.
Is it worth exploring our how our ancestors lived to inform further research about what best suits us? Certainly. But, much like our environmental adaptability, our knowledge of our distant ancestors is constantly changing -- and at an increasingly rapid pace. Consider the research into gender roles in caveman societies: Rather than having what we today would consider stereotypically stone-aged divisions of labor, Paleolithic humans actually seemed to live in a relatively equal society. The men did not, as a matter of course, go out to hunt game, and women did not stay home foraging and lactating.
"Saying you want to maintain your wife and children on [big-game hunting] is the ancestral equivalent of claiming that you will be able to fulfill your familial responsibility on the proceeds of playing lead guitar in a band," Zuk points out, adding that when meat did come in, it was often shared among non-kin -- an early form of distributive justice. According to one anthropologist that Zuk cites, there's evidence that across all cultures, women did everything that men did, with the exception of metalwork. "The paleofantasy of the cavewoman staying home with the kids while the caveman went out for meat," Zuk concludes, "would have ended up with no one getting enough to eat."
The jury is still out on what exactly Paleo-era humans even ate. The variety of foods seems to be broadening -- lots of Paleo eaters see tubers as kosher, and a subset of Paleos called lacto-paleos even accept dairy as a compatible source of nutrition. There are some Paleo-curious bloggers, such asMelissa McEwen
, who take into account the many variety of foods that our ancestors could have consumed, and also acknowledge that humans have adapted since. "I refuse to take any dietary advice from people who clearly do not enjoy life," writes McEwen on her blog.
McEwen makes an important point: What use is civilization, at least in it current form, if it doesn't provide us with beauty and pleasure in the form of culture, art, music, literature, and, yes, food the way we've created it? To deny ourselves the chance to experience what's available to us in the fullest way -- especially if we're in a privileged enough position to do so -- is its own form of inadaptability. It may not have evolutionary consequences, but in the moment, depriving oneself of small pleasures can make that moment, not to mention passing along our genes, seem like it just isn't worth it.
Many of the basic Paleo principles, as Zuk observes, are intuitive. She approves of "a simpler life with more exercise, fewer processed foods, and closer contact with our children" on common sense grounds. But we shouldn't try to live that way just because our ancestors did. Evolution, Zuk points out, is continuous -- not goal-oriented. Agriculture did not thwart a predetermined path towards enlightenment, and chances are, bread and rice aren't stopping us from evolving, either. For better or for worse, there's no undoing what's been done -- only coping as best we can with what we have before us.
I've been a big fan of this guy since I was a kid and found his mail order catalog, along with Loompanics Unlimited, lying around in the dusty recesses of my father's bookstore.
December 27, 2012 2
During a winter storm is the worst time to get stranded in your vehicle. It's also the most likely time you could be stuck in your car for a few days.
The ice storms, deep frozen slush, and thick snow that would bog down a perfectly functional vehicle can create some dangerous survival conditions inside the vehicle, and deadly conditions outside if you were to try to walk for help without the right gear and clothing.
Unless your ride is on fire or about to slide off a cliff, you should always stay with the car or truck in a stranded winter survival situation. The vehicle provides shelter and a bigger target for searchers to find. So how do you get by for a day or two or more until help arrives?
Here are some important things to consider before and during a stranded vehicle scenario.
Don't Drive Around Empty Handed
Your vehicle should be stocked up for emergencies, especially in the winter. Shelter items, spare clothes, first aid, food and water should be plentiful in your vehicle, along with jumper cables, road flares, starter fluid, and some quality hand tools.
Don't Use Up Your Gas All At Once
As long as your exhaust pipe is clear, you can run the engine periodically to run the heater for warmth. But even with a full tank, you'll only have a few precious hours to idle the engine for heat. Run the vehicle for no more than 20 minutes at a time, with the heat running as high as you can get it. Try to hold off as many hours as you can between periods of running the engine.
Be Obnoxious With Your Signaling While The Engine Runs
The battery alone will only honk the horn and flash the lights so many times before it runs out of juice. But while the vehicle is idling, you can honk the horn and flash the lights as much as you like. The engine is providing the power, not the battery.
Insulation is the key to keeping warm in any situation. All of the metal in a vehicle will make it hard to keep it heated in cold weather. So rather than trying to heat the whole cab with your body heat, insulate your body with any material you have. Ideally, you would have a good sleeping bag for each seat in the vehicle, or at least a few blankets. Failing that, try wrapping up in clothes, outerwear, or even the carpeting ripped from the vehicle.
Car Cooking And Heating?
If you have food that you would like to warm up, pop the hood and place the food securely by the exhaust manifold. I've heard of a guy who had enough engine compartment space that he was able to weld a small Dutch oven to his engine block. He'd clamp down the lid to keep the food secure and away he'd go. A two-hour drive would cook a pot roast to perfection. Building on the concept of portable heat, you can turn rocks and bricks into space heaters that could be brought into the vehicle. First, you need to set up a heat-proof platform in the vehicle's cab. Try tearing out the floor carpet to get down to the metal. A platform of bricks or rocks in the floor board will work, too. Then, get some rocks from a dry location, or maybe a few bricks if you have some in the vehicle. Next, you can build a fire outside of the vehicle, and throw the rocks or bricks in the fire to heat them up. Heat them for about 30 minutes in the fire and then scoop them out with a shovel or any other tool you have. Dust all the coals and sparks off of the bricks or rocks, and carefully set them on your fire-proof, heat-proof platform. Repeat as needed every few hours.
Is it a crime to be an 'alarmist' when there is actually cause for alarm? How many will we persecute for crying fire before we realize the theatre is actually ablaze? It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.
Full Wikipedia Entry
I love you Cory Doctorow. Read 'Makers' this summer. Quite possibly the most amazing contemporary science fiction-y book I have read in my lifetime. - Sky Cosby
Original post on Boing Boing.
at 11:23 am Wed, Nov 28 on Boing Boing
Is the world about to end? Think about it: in just three days, a presidential election of epicker proportions than Joseph Smith's snow-white lapels will come rambling to a halt, and we will know-- nay, we shall feel the powers-that-be shake, volcano-like, in their subterranean lairs.
What's at stake in this election? Well, besides the obvious question of "Whose supporters will peel their candidate's electoral bumper-sticker from the rear of their (i.e. the supporters') cars in shame?," there are the so-called 'issues.'
'Issues' like "marriage rights for the Gays," "getting the so-called 'economy' running again," and "whether or not to pre-emp a nuclear holocaust upon Iran or some other convenient villain" are all the pundits talk about, sure. And of you want to believe the mainstream so-called 'news' media, with your head in the sand and your ass in the air, like a cruising ostrich, then you go right ahead. It's not my business to enlighten you from the bonds of your brainwashed ignorance, now is it?
The Council's name has changed since then, but its mission has not. From inducing the first World-War (by strangling the Archduke Ferdinand and then framing his death as a gun-assassination) to faking the Korean War (on the same set, by the way, as the moon landing), to electing the Reagan-triplets to the US presidency in the 1980s (the first successful application of clone-technology), the Council's reach has been deep and penetrating. The successful encroachment of DEA jurisdiction into Iron-Curtain countries after the fall of Hitler (and his unsuccessful attempt to lead the knights of the Templar back into power) set the stage for a coup de tat by the so-called American economy against the Soviet Cold-War machine in 1988 (though video footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall was successfully covered-up until the following year). All that was left to be done, from the perspective of double-agent Ross Perot and his neo-moderate supporters, was a little mopping-up action vis-a-vis Brazil and Walmart.
But, in the late nineties, a new player entered the field: Willard Mitt Romney. Born of a Kangolese goatherd and the monarch-in-exile of New Amsterdam, Romney (then called "Obuntu") quickly took steps to mask his outsider identity by infiltrating the Romney estate at age three and switching places with the real Will Mitt Romney. The latter's fate is murky, but 'Romney' went on to attend the private school known as Hogwarts Eton Cranbrook, where he received his introduction in the grey arts. Bluffing his way through Harvard and Bring 'Em Young! Bringham Young U., Romney quietly established contacts with a variety of the rearguard-vanguard, who intro-docrinated him to counter GHW Bush's New World Order with their own, new New World Order.
Last Earth Distro will soon be carrying this 2 DVD series, stay tuned. Ain't nothin' like improvised weaponry to tickle my fancy.
and here's the teaser for Volume II:
(Reposted from www.earthlightbooks.blogspot.com)
Weird observation: on the one hand, books are the object of solitude par excellance. When you read, you read alone. Chuck Palahniuk has a whole essay about how to escape the lonesome writer's shack and how being a successful author is composed of a cyclical flight from, and then return to, being alone. Jonathan Franzen's essay anthology How to Be Alone is titled after the reader's solitude as a kind of political/spiritual attitude: the question of preserving one's integrity amid mass-culture is the same as the question of how to be alone. Neil Postman writes of the breakdown of individual, critical thinking under the force of mass media. We've all had the experience of trying to read Dickens or Tolstoy or Wallace in the library or a cafe and found ourselves utterly incapacitated by the jabbering gossip spewing from some guy on his cell phone, one table over. Everyone's read the same sentence twelve times without it registering, as we try in vain to tune out lady behind us on the bus as she narrates, to no one in particular and everyone in general, the minutia of her day. We've all flown, like substance-starved refugees, from the toiling, yowling masses into the blessed silence of churches, single-stall toilets, locked cars, and after-hours offices. To read. In peace.
But then over on the left hand is the fact that reading cum books cum writing cum bibliophilia is a fundamentally communal thingy. Let's skirt past how books are basically conversations (okay, monologues; but still, it takes two people) on prostheses. Let's ignore the publishing industry, libraries, book clubs, lit. classes, the canon(s), and the new, infinite psuedo-book, the Internet. Forget all that. I want to concentrate on one particular aspect of how books are social objects.
I'm talking about seminars. (Disclaimer: your author is an Evergreen grad, and hence makes liberal use of the concept and term "seminar" in all its forms: as a noun, verb, present-progressive verb, modifier, etc.)
You've no doubt heard (or read) the old trope that "Reading a good book is like devouring a meal" or some such analogy. The comparison of reading to eating is obvious and perennial: food sustains the body; books, the mind. But just as there are different sorts of dishes, there are different flavors of book.
Writers like Dan Brown and Michael Crichton are, as Steven King has put it, "The literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries." They feel good while being consumed, they're addictive, and they're basically devoid of subtlety and nutritional content. These are the meals you eat and the books you read while you're on the go: during a layover or pit-stop, you wolf one down.
Then there's real food: salmon fillet with rice and steamed greens, or yellow curry with veggies and tofu. These take time to create, time to consume, and work to digest. Ditto for the literary equivalent of The Magic Mountain or The Fall or Moby Dick or Lord Jim. Thomas Mann didn't bang out The Magic Mountain in a couple months; it took him years to compose. And it takes readers nearly as long to complete.
Here's where the digestion comes in: one cannot, alone, begin to properly understand The Magic Mountain, which has next to no plot, but is a densely packed marvel of metaphor, suggestion, intellect, and psychology. This is the kind of novel that lit majors can (and do) spend decades unpacking. There's so much in this book. So my suggestion is that we think of seminaring (ha HA! see?) as a sort of collaborative stomach, in which dense, heavy books get unpacked into their constituent parts. You can read The Pelican Brief from cover to cover and pretty much get all there is to be gotten out of it. A book like The Magic Mountain, on the other hand, has so much more than meets the eye that it's almost like the literary equivalent of a fractal or an iceberg. You'll never get to the bottom of it, but with help, you can get deeper into it.
So, oddly, it turns out that books are props for both solitude and collaboration. The actual reading occurs in silence, alone; you cannot read a book together (excluding kindergarden and church). But you cannot understand most of the great books without a community of readers with which to explore them. Like a search party, each reader ventures out into the territory of the book, sees what they can see, and then reports back to the seminar where everyone compares notes. To put it another way, great novels are epistemically complex: you can't understand one at a single reading, and you can't unpack its meaning into a specific expositive statement.
Of course, anyone who's read a great novel in a community of like-minded explorers knows that just because there's no bottom to their meaning and interpretation doesn't mean that they're not worth investigating. Quite the opposite. The bottomless nature of a novel is effectively a guarantee that however much one might get out of them, there's always more to be had.