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Cops believe teacher ate piece of ear she bit off man

I want to urge caution here. Enough time has past since the Zombie Wars that the risen dead are quite rare. Odd behavior is not enough to indicate someone is a zombie. Play it safe, follow the standard protocol:

  1. Clear the premises.
  2. Alert the authorities.
  3. Monitor all exits.

Don't risk going to jail on a murder wrap if you can keep everyone safe without resort to violence.


After Armageddon on the History Channel
After Armageddon on the History Channel

Aired on The History Channel

I DVR'd a bunch of stuff that aired during "Apocalypse Week" on the History Channel back in January. I was reluctant to watch this one since it's a talking-head-SMEs-with-reenactors show typical of the History and Discover channels. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that it was both informative and entertaining.

The show posits an outbreak of a virulent disease that wipes out the vast majority of humankind. We follow the experiences of a family during and after the pandemic, through multiple cycles of delay, deliberation and action stretching over years. Their experiences clearly demonstrate fundamental aspects of a survival mentality as well as practical advice.

The show reinforced some basic skills that we should all be familiar with now:

  • Don't be a picky eater
  • Look for water where ever it may be
  • Beware of strangers

I was bemused to learn a new way to gather fuel that would have saved me many a foul mouthful of gas: Puncture the tank and drain it. Why didn't I think of that? I feel like a n00b. If you don't need the vehicle containing the gas, this is much easier than siphoning. I would imagine, though, that you'd need to be careful not to create a spark.

More important than the tactics of survival are the approaches they recommend:

  1. If you have a valuable post-SHTF skill, it's probably best that you hide that fact until you'r certain of your position. You wouldn't want to be held against your will just because the town you passed through doesn't have a doctor.
  2. Don't be stingy with your help, but remember your priorities. Lending aid when it would cost you little may pay you back many times over later.
  3. Understand that the old way of life is over. We were nice back then because we were well off. We could rely on people's good behavior because there was a long term cost to screwing someone over. But when your event horizon is no more than a day or two into the future, those long term concerns evaporate. This makes bad behavior easier.

Those who fail to grok all of these points tend not last long when TEotWaWKI hits.

Finally, the show ably addresses the issue of scale. Knowledge of the extent of the problem — the area affected and how long it will last — greatly increases the chances of survival. However, most people do not have access to this information or reject it when they do. It is hard to part with the world as you knew it. Most people were strongly invested in it: a nice house, a good job and kids in school. I've heard many comments criticizing the family's failure to act in a timely manner. But I understand, it's hard to let go.

I will usually applaud efforts to prepare for the worst. Even just thinking about what you might do in a given scenario can help you make the right decisions in a stressful situation. This is something all individuals and families should be doing.

I get a little leery, though, when larger groups of people or, especially, political entities do so. I'm not saying that it cannot be done right; with careful planning and a reasoned and transparent prioritization process, it can be most effective. However, it's been my experience that this is rarely the case.

First of all, who is or is not to be protected is a critical decision that is frequently not clearly spelled out. Of course, not everyone can be covered. No one has infinite resources, so you have to limit your efforts. The reason why these limits are not made explicit is because of the deal making in deciding who is included and the bigotry in the exclusions.

Secondly, the lack of training and skill in those implementing the plans can make the situation worse than if nothing at all was done. The last thing you need is some jack-ass shooting of his mouth or gun at the wrong time and you'll have mass panic on your hands.

A case that worries me: Louisiana Cops Plan for “End of the World” Scenario.

Deen’s plan is to protect Bossier Parish’s vital resources, like food and gasoline, in the event of a catastrophic event, such as war or a terrorist attack. Deen said he had been thinking of the plan since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reports Drew Pierson.

Under Deen’s plan, the police will use volunteers, supplemented with active public safety personnel, that will be dispatched to vital areas in Bossier to protect them from looters and rioters. Deen listed as examples grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals and other public meeting places.

Instead of normal riot equipment such as shields and batons, the volunteers will be armed with shotguns and have access to a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a vehicle dubbed “the war wagon.” On February 20, the volunteers were trained in hand-to-hand combat techniques.

I think I'd be a little worried if I lived in Bossier Parish.

OK, before the first wise guy comments, I know winter is nearly over. I had considered writing this article in November, but I realized that it's too late at that point to prepare. You need to start now if you want to be ready for the next winter.

Stop and think!
Take Time to Plan!

These are some basic steps to help you make it through the cold, dark months:

  1. Plan for the long haul. Assume you're going to be isolated, without chance of resupply, for at least 6 months. Sure, this may be more than enough even for the Canadians, but you shouldn't count on a normal winter pattern. Make sure you have enough food, water, heating supplies, sheltering material and entertainment (don't forget about mental health). Even if you over plan, you have left over stuff. That's certainly better than the alternative.
  2. Establish more than one location. That effort you did up in step 1, repeat it at least once more. The last thing you want is to be forced to abandon your shelter in the middle of sub-zero temperatures with no other place to go. This is a very real possibility: You could be attacked by others or maybe you just got careless and burnt your house down. Having the option may save you from risking your life unnecessarily.
  3. Do not reveal your presence. Smoke discipline is a year-round skill you probably have already mastered. Snow tracking, though, can trip you up. Try your hardest not to leave any tracks in the snow around your shelter. I realize that this might not always be possible. Judicious use of hedges can hide your trails in such cases. If that doesn't work, then go to the other extreme. Leave tracks all over to make it appear that large numbers of folks frequent the area.

There is no guarantee when it comes to winter. The meteorological gods may be against you such that no planning would suffice. However, if you think it through ahead of time, you can increase your odds.

Apocalypse Man starring Rudy Reyes
Apocalypse Man starring Rudy Reyes

Starring Rudy Reyes

The History Channel recently aired their Apocalypse Week. I had very low expectations, but surprisingly, they were exceeded. There is enough useful advice in the shows that I watched to make it worthwhile watching.

Case in point: Apocalypse Man. Rudy Reyes, a former Marine, walks you through the steps necessary to survive a general TEotWaWKI event. Since this was made pre-SHTF, he didn't know to include advice about the undead. Still, he gave some useful advice. This ranges from the general — make your shelter on the second floor of a building: high enough to be defensible, low enough to still escape if necessary — to the specific — steel wool and a 9-volt battery make for a great fire starter.

Still, not all of his guidance is tenable. I'm not talking about about instances where zombies render his suggestions invalid, like making for the hospital (truly, that would be the LAST place I'd've gone). Rather, he seemed to contradict himself by saying, on the one hand, keep a low profile, don't let others know of your existence, yet, on the other, literally broadcast your plans to anyone with a radio. Also, while he's transmitting his destination over the shortwave, he's telling you to get there 24 hours before anyone else so you can scout them out. Wouldn't that be a little difficult now that you've communicated your intentions to everyone within a 20 mile radius?

My daughter also raised the issue that it's fine and dandy if you've had the training it takes to be a member of a Marine recon platoon, but what about the rest of us? I nearly concurred, but realize that this is just the point. You need more than the knowledge of the strategy and tactics of survival. You need to be in shape, you need to have useful skills and a crisis shouldn't be the first time you're doing these tasks. Perhaps that is the real lesson Rudy is teaching.

Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead

Directed by Edgar White

I'll be straight up with you: I hate zombie comedies. It's not just because they're overwhelmingly stupid, but they have no redeeming value. They're usually just a vehicle for idiot frat-boys doing things to unrealistically portrayed undead. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that today's teen-age male population would be wiped out should we have another widespread outbreak given that they probably believe everything they see in those movies.

Let me be clear: Shaun of the Dead is NOT one of those movies!

Yes, it is a comedy. It is hysterical on many levels, not the least of which is the realistic portrayal of how folks typically reacted to the fact that their world is overrun with the undead. But don't let the hilarity fool you. Beneath it lies good advice and excellent examples of how to act (or not) in a catastrophe. Allow me to use the format described in The Unthinkable to describe the movie.

Denial: I'm not talking about those who were thrown into a mental shut down by their inability to cope with the concept of the walking dead, though this was a majority of the deniers and, indeed, several characters in the movie. I'm thinking of people like myself who went on blithely with their lives despite what was happening. Is my behavior any different than Shaun's? He stumbled to the store in a hungover stupor, while I boarded a plane to New York for business. Both of us could have seen the news or even the stumbling corpses in our streets, but didn't connect the dots. It's not really denial, but rather blindness on our parts. Good thing it didn't kill us.

Deliberation: It sounds so simple, let's make a plan and execute it! As the movie shows, it rarely worked out that way. What are your objectives? How best can you achieve them? It's one thing if you're acting alone (which I was in many cases), but the complexity increases geometrically with the size of your group. This is how groups fall apart AND coalesce. I liked how, in the movie, various groups kept encountering each other, exchanging information. Since the period covered in the film was just the first few days of the outbreak, people were inclined to help each other. It would have been interesting to see how the interactions would have turned out if their crisis lasted longer. They may not have been so friendly.

The Decisive Act: What this movie clearly demonstrates is that you cannot judge how someone might behave in a crisis based on their everyday, pre-SHTF behavior. Let's face it, Shaun was a loser. However, when it came to it, he stepped up. I'd've been proud to number him in my group.

I just offed my mum, don't ask me to do my friend.

There's only so much one can take. Shaun proved more able than most, but he still had his limits. That just proves he retained his humanity.

This is an entertaining movie worth watching purely for it's artistic merit. The fact that it ably demonstrates how a good group should act is just icing on the cake.

Green River by Credence Clearwater Revival
Green River by Credence Clearwater Revival

Hope you got your things together
Hope you're quite prepared to die
Looks like we're in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

These morbid lyrics are hidden behind seemingly happy music. The writer, John Fogerty, certainly had an ear for what was coming.

Though familiar with this song long before the SHTF, a specific incident locked it into my memory. I've always been a fan of rockabilly. The beat can't help but raise my spirits. And I was desperate for that. At the height of the crisis, I needed to make a night time foray. As you well remember, the dark is the worst time for a jaunt amongst the undead. CCR's playing in the background, I've pulled on my ass-kicking, steel-toed Doc Martens and I'm touching up the duct tape wrapping on my sleeves (a surprisingly effective defense against bites). I see rising from the eastern horizon a full, orange-tinged moon. I was ready


The Road directed by John Hillcoat
The Road directed by John Hillcoat

directed by John Hillcoat

As I mentioned before, I feel so strongly about Cormac McCarthy's story that I feared a movie version could do nothing but bring it down. That would have been an atrocity. It is this fear that kept me out of the theater for so long. To my great relief, though, I am happy to report that this is a movie I gladly recommend to anyone, regardless of their interest in the end of times subject.

Mr. Hillcoat takes just enough liberties with the story to keep it fresh for those who have read the book, but not so much that he subverts its meaning. Most of the scenes are there, but the order is slightly jumbled. There is a lot more dialogue than in the book (Bill, how can you tell without the quotation marks? Shut up, you!). He flirted several times with taking the story in a different direction such that it kept me tense, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was thinking that given the nature of the setting, an approach used in Beowolf or 300 might be best, but while the special effects were spot on, it was the acting of Viggo Mortensen that makes the movie. That man was born to play the role of the father.

Given the number of times I've read the book, I was surprised to gain a new insight into the story: The catastrophe had been going on for nearly a decade! I think actually seeing the boy brought this home for me, from his birth through to the age of what I guess to be nearly ten years. Think about that. Ten years of nothing but constant and ever worsening struggle. I don't think I could have done it. This is why the boy is so important to the story. He gives meaning to survival, the reason for the father to keep fighting. Without the boy, it truly would have been pointless.

This gets to the point of survival. I believe those whose had their children by their side at the outbreak were more likely to survive. True, in the short term, they were disadvantaged: their movement was encumbered; extra food was required, but little work could be expected in return; and, the constant fear of what may happen. But that made you fight hard, gave you a reason for going on. The Road is ultimately an optimistic story because of this. Because as long as the flame survives, there is hope.


Alas, sources have told me that at least one thing hasn't changed since pre-SHTF times: Publishers shun those who write negative reviews. At first I was outraged. How dare they infringe upon my free speech! But I realize I am not prevented from saying anything, there's just some consequences to what I might say. Despite this, I will not change what I say, but I might be more careful how I say it.

Going forward, I will make these changes:

  1. I'm ditching the star based system. Upon reconsideration, it is at best superfluous. At worst, it prejudices the readers' conclusions. Truly, I don't want you to buy (or not buy) a book based on how I feel about it. I hope that I provide enough information in even a bad review for you to determine whether or not you might like it on your own terms. If I haven't done that, then I have failed.
  2. I will be clearer in the delineation of fact and opinion. This applies to the positive as well as negative. I will still ding a writer for factual mistakes and poor writing, but I will be more circumspect when it comes to differences of opinion.
  3. I will not rule out bad reviews, but since I cannot review everything I read or watch, I will focus on those that I think will be particularly useful to the readers of this blog. Lest you feel you can no longer trust what I say, or rather not say, I have set up a Twitter account (TEotWaWKIDiary) where I will list what I have seen, read or played. Just give me 2-3 weeks before you infer anything from a lack of a review.

I admit that this has taken some wind out of my sails. It depresses me, but I must remember that publishing is a business. It make money by producing stuff people buy. Whether it is great art or not is almost coincidental.


The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley
The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley

by Amanda Ripley

I almost didn't read this, didn't feel I needed to. After all, I survived an unthinkable that was inconceivable to the author when she wrote this book. Also, I have absorbed Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales into my DNA. I didn't believe that Ms. Ripley could add anything useful. I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn that I was wrong.

From My point of view, The Unthinkable provides insight that differs from Deep Survival in two general ways. First, the later focuses exclusively on individuals and how they interact with their environment, while Ms. Ripley widens her focus to include that of groups large and small. Second — and this addresses my initial thoughts regarding the book's utility going forward — The Unthinkable, I find, is a great tool to allow me to understand what happened during the catastrophe rather than as a guide for my actions in the future. That's not to say this couldn't be useful for those in the future who did not live through the Zombie War.

Ms. Ripley's thesis is that there are three mental stages one goes through in a crisis: denial, deliberation and the decisive moment. This matches my experiences, personally, and what I witnessed in others over and over again, from the outbreak all the way through the War. The author talks about this in two stages: dealing first with your immediate situation, then the realization that the world at large is affected, too. Think 9/11 and an escape from the World Trade Center only to find that you aren't yet safe from the collapsing towers. My personal experiences are similar to others who survived and I probably cycled through that process a dozen times in the first week alone.


This was the primary cause of death during the outbreak. How could pre-SHTF folks possibly deal with the dead rising? And what if that zombie was a loved one? I'm surprised anyone survived. But that was just the beginning. How many people were in denial that their fellow survivors could be more dangerous than the zombies? How about that first winter? It felt like each succeeding crisis made it harder to move beyond the denial stage.

This is where The Unthinkable complements the work of Mr. Gonzales. One's ability to keep your mental map in sync with reality goes along way to predicting who gets out of denial quicker and able to act effectively.


This is the critical step. Once you accept that the shit has hit the fan, what do you do? Unlike the crises detailed in the book, we had to think in the long run. It wasn't enough just to get through the immediate situation, you had to also think of shelter, food and rest. It was too easy to let that slide in the name of hasty escape only to ensure you eventual death.

Another factor in deliberation is that most people were unable to get through this stage alone. They needed someone to lead them through it. I fear I was not always the person I wish to be during this stage. I didn't always help those in need. It's not hard to find an excuse in a crisis: I need to get to my family, I have only enough food for me, etc. And there was once or twice where someone snapped me out of it in time. Ms. Ripley talks of heroes being a rare breed, but our situation was long enough, replete with plenty of opportunities, that I dare say everyone, at one time or another, was both a hero and a villain.

The Decisive Moment

If denial gets harder to shake off over time, the ability to act gets easier. The less you have to think about it, the likelier it will happen. How this played out varied greatly with the type of crisis you faced, but there was one commonality: suicide. From beginning until even today, years after the end of the War, suicide seems like the only viable option to some. I've talked about this before, my feelings are known, so I won't discuss it here.

Think of this book as a call to action. You cannot blithely go on about life as if nothing bad will happen. You need to be mentally prepared. I'm not saying you should live in constant fear. I am suggesting that it couldn't hurt to always be aware of your surroundings and to at least play out certain scenarios in your head. You don't want the first time you think about escape to be when your life depends upon it.