Category Archives: Zombie Apocalypse?

Rule Number 32: Enjoy the Little Things

Hostess is going bankrupt…..which means you better stock up on Twinkies now, before they all disappear.  Woody Harrelson’s worst nightmare may have just come true.

 

As an estimated 18,500 Hostess Baking workers join the unemployment line, CEO’s are pointing their money-stained fingers at their former employees, who they claim “ruined” company productivity after a nation-wide strike, even though they were paid “far beyond” what they should have been earning.  Just my two-cents: it’s kind of hard to blame it on the workers when Hostess has been in and out of bankruptcy court since 2004, factory workers have been taking pay cuts to help the company stay afloat, and higher-ups have been giving themselves massive raises throughout the whole debacle.  Poor management wins again.

Hostess will be liquidating their “assets”- namely, the delicious Ho-Ho’s, Sno Balls, and afformentioned Twinkies- to various rival companies.  With American lunches built on baloney and Wonderbread since the 1950’s, we can only hope that all of these tasty creations will be reincarnated under the guise of different, and hopefully more responsible, brands.

For tips on how to survive a possible flesh-eating apocalypse, click on the related links below:

[Surviving the End of the World Part I] [Surviving the End of the World Part II] [Surviving the End of the World Part III]

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Zombie Hayrides: you want romance, go shoot some paintball

So Hurricane…..no, wait, SUPERSTORM SANDY is hard at work ruining the nation’s Halloween fun, smothering the dreams of candy-hungry little tots and eye-candy-hungry frat boys (sadly, a close resemblance) in its wake of post-tropical rage.  With trick-or-treating being cancelled across the coast and slutty costumes being “weatherproofed,” will this year’s Halloween be reduced to a moldering collection of cannibalized pumpkins?

Not if the zombies have anything to say about it.

Parents, kids, and college students alike have been partaking in a new Halloween tradition this year, one that only gets more incredibly awesome with the muddy, rainy weather.  Zombie.  Hayride.  Paintball.

BRO! NO WAY!!

Combining most things we all love about Halloween– scares, fake violence, and those lovable, brain-munching flesh-bags– farms around the Midwest have been revamping the traditional autumn hayrides with mounted paintball guns and eager zombified employees.  Participants wishing to step things up from their usual video-game conquests can don a pair of safety glasses and punch holes through the marshmallow-wrapped (and hopefully well-paid) “walking dead” in several strategic stops on the nighttime tractor ride.

My boyfriend and I went last weekend, and I have to say, it was one of the most unique (and knowing my obsession with zombies, awesome) dates I’ve ever been on.  Besides, it can’t hurt to prep your moving-target shooting skills, right?

Happy Halloween!

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Surviving the End of the World Part III: Choosing your Melee-Weapon

Disclaimer: I am not sponsored or paid in any way for these reviews.  I am merely rather zombie-obsessed.  Some of these products are ones I own and have tested myself, while others are ones I’ve heavily researched in anticipation of buying them.  I also only advocate the use of these weapons against man-hungry corpses, not living human beings.

In the zombie apocalypse, it’s a kill-or-be-eaten kind of world.  Sadly, human beings are not yet equipped with built-in claws or cyborbtronic laser-swords- we must depend on using manufactured tools in order to defend ourselves.  While movies like Zombieland prove that almost anything can become a highly-effective weapon in a pinch (carnival strength-guage sledgehammer, anyone?), it pays to be prepared with actual products designed for the express purpose of killing adversaries and aiding in other survival activities.

Okay, but how useful would that sledgehammer be in building a shelter?

I’m pretty clueless when it comes to guns.  The closest I’ve come to firing a (non video game) weapon the tactical games of paintball I used to play in highschool, though I’m proud to say I now have experience shooting zombie-actors from my latest prepping escapade.  Now THAT was money well spent.

My area of “expertise” (and I’m using that term pretty loosely) comes with manual weapons.  And honestly, that doesn’t bother me too much.  In a true extinction-event, guns are a finite resource.  When the ammunition runs low, hand-to-hand combat will be the way to go, and my years of camping and chopping down trees on the family farm will definitely pay off.  I’ve spent a lot of time researching prospective additions to my B.O.B.  Here, I’ve rounded up some of the best zombie-killing weapons on the market:

 SOG Specialty Knives F01T Tactical Tomahawk:

The SOG has a 2.75 inch stainless-steel axe head that’s coated with oxide to reduce reflection from the sun, useful when you don’t want to be seen from far away.  Side-hammered checkering allows the axe to be used as a hammer-like tool as well, great news for the survivor who needs to pack light, and a steel ferrule (bracelet-like clamp) around the handle for added strength.  The glass-reinforced, ergonomic nylon handle is bolted to the axe head for secure chopping and a no-slip grip.  Weighing in at just 24 ounces, this packable weapon is great for younger warriors who want some security in their back pockets.  Reviewers stated that the tomahawk was amazingly sturdy considering how lightweight it is, slicing easily through cinder blocks, tree limbs, and even a truck hood (I cannot question the bad-assery of that particular reviewer).  Sure, a higher-priced axe head will give you more chopping power, but at only twenty-six dollars, this weapon is a true bang-for-your-buck quality zombie-wacking machine.  Purchase one on Amazon here.

RATING: High-quality back-up weapon AND a great builder’s multi-tool.

 Smith and Wesson Bullseye Search and Rescue Fixed Blade Knife:

This Smith & Wesson fixed blade is 5.88 inches and made of solid stainless steel, also coated with the same non-reflective black coating as the SOG tomahawk, a matte-finish which improves wear.  The most important feature of this knife is that it’s full tang, meaning that the blade travels all the way through the handle, resisting breakage much better than a cheaper knife.  I was a little bit iffy about the rubber/aluminum handle, but it seems to hold up well against heavy use.  At 9.4 ounces, this blade is solid, yet easy to wield.  In my opinion, a modest sized knife will do you much better in a survival situation than a huge, heavy weapon.  If you want to go big, go with a katana or a machete- the point of a survival knife is to have something sharp and sturdy that can be used as a weapon, yet kept on your person at all times.  The included sheathing is reinforced with steel and a hard inner liner for serious durability, and the knife even comes with a free sharping stone.  Priced at twenty-five dollars, it’s a little more expensive than other options, but definitely worth the extra money as it performs just as well as even pricer knives.  As a Smith & Wesson product, I wouldn’t expect anything less than good quality.  You can buy yours on Amazon here.

RATING: Cannot leave your side.

 M48 Ranger Hawk Weapon:

This.  This.  THIS.  When I think of the one, trusty blade I would have to have by my side at all times, the ranger hawk is my perfect weapon.  Zombease.com reviewed it as an excellent melee weapon: lightweight, sturdy, and easily wieldable, good news for all those zombie-killers on the smaller side.  At 1.9 pounds with a 4 inch frontal blade and a 3.5 inch back spike, the stainless steel edges hold up well against a variety of test surfaces.  The para-cord handle outdoes the SOG Tomahawk’s glass-reinforced nylon handle in my book for durability, and it even comes with a nylon sheath and built-in compass, always a useful addition to a multi-tool when you often have to leave possessions behind a la end of Walking Dead season 2.  The only thing I don’t like about this particular tomahawk is the absence of a full tang blade (a blade that continues all the way down through the handle to prevent breakage).  However, Zombease assured readers that the 3.5 inch tang was securely bolted through their most rigorous testing.  All-in-all, the pros MAJORLY outweigh the one small con on this weapon.  You can get your own M48 Tomahawk here.

RATING: Absolute must-have in a B.O.B.

These are only the creme-of-the-crop products I’ve found in my prepping research.  Some weapons, like the highly-recommended Innovation Factory’s Trucker’s Friend multi-tool, didn’t make my cut, because they seemed too heavy or too hard to wield in a close-quarters fight.  While some of these longer, larger multi-tools seem like a good idea in theory, they are more useful for certain body-types, namely taller and burlier warriors than my tiny 100 pound self.  When creating your own personal B.O.B. and weapons arsenal, be sure that the products you chose reflect the physical strength and skill level you yourself possess.  It doesn’t matter how many weapons you have if you can’t use them effectively.

It’s also highly advised to (carefully!) practice your kill stroke on non-threatening objects like pineapples.

playing this game does not count as zombie-killing practice.

[related links: Surviving the End of the World Part I: Getting out of Dodge means being Prepared][Surviving the End of the World Part II: Defending Against the Other]

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Season 3 of the Walking Dead- are you ready?

Highly anticipated by avid cable fans everywhere (but not dish, as AMC likes to remind us constantly), the season 3 premier of the Walking Dead airs tonight at 9.

As true die-hard zombie fans, my boyfriend and I spent most of the weekend watching a marathon of Walking Dead’s past two seasons, comparing them to the comics and trying to guess what will happen in the mysterious West Georgia Corrections Facility.  All we know is, Lori looks WAY too pregnant in the teasers compared to how flat her stomach was at the end of the last season, Michonne is a bad-ass, and Rick is about to go ape-shit on these zombie prisoners.

If the world does go up in zombie-esque flames, I will feel even better prepared having watched others deal with the destruction of society as we know it.  We all know they’re just characters, but somehow, the Grimes Family & Co. have come to mean something to us, a tight-knit zombie-induced family group.

Oh yeah, and Merle?  Welcome back, you stumpy bastard.  We missed you.

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Cleveland: the Safest City of the Apocalypse?

When the zombie-shit finally hits the proverbial fan (do zombies even take dumps?  Where do all those man-wiches go?), or other earth-shaking disasters rock society as we know it, where will you and your fellow survivors run to?  Chaos theorists suggest Cleveland.

Yes, that’s right bitches.  My little “Mistake on the Lake” hometown would kick SO MUCH ASS in the apocalypse.

Pro # 1: No natural disasters.

When most of my friends in Cincinnati start complaining about Cleveland, two main issues always seem to come up: 1. the crime rate (ranked 34th most dangerous city in the U.S.) and 2. even worse, the long, cold, snowy winters.  Now personally, I’d have to say I’ve been scared for my life infinitely more times during my four years in Cinci than I ever was in my EIGHTEEN years of being a Clevelander, but that’s just me.  [read Surviving the End of the World Part II: Defending Against the Other for basic self defense tips].  Or maybe everyone down in here’s just a big sissy because they can’t handle more than two inches of snow in one winter.  If they could look past the wet weather to see the big picture, they’d realize that Northeast Ohio is blessedly free from most tornados (and those annoying Cincinnati tornado sirens that sounds eerily like alien music at two in the morning), thanks to our comfy spot in the Appalachian Foothills.

A typical cleveland winter. No biggie.

And speaking of precipitation, Cleveland’s snow-belt, lake-effect snow coupled with our ever-present chance for rain means that we have no serious droughts, no wildfires- and surprisingly, very little in the way of flooding.  Situated on the southern shore of Lake Erie at a comfortable 653 ft. above sea-level, the most flooding we get comes from the large amount of rainfall during late spring, hardly a comparison next to the constantly ravaged floodplains of the Mississippi.  Hurricanes and tsunamis are also highly unlikely on any of the Great Lakes, since the leftovers from tropical storms and earthquakes in these areas are usually small-scale and happen infrequently.  The worst we get on our waters are seiches, huge fluctuations in water levels caused by thunderstorms or sudden changes in air pressure and wind speed.  While this causes a large standing wave, truly destructive ones are extremely rare and cause only a fraction of the damage to shoreline properties that tsunamis do.

Pro # 2: Proximity to fresh water.

All those water shortages you hear about on the news?  People think it’s bad enough when Nevadans have to give up green lawns and buy bottled water, but can you imagine living in Death Valley with no air conditioning, ice cream, or earth’s favorite life-sustaining beverage?  I sure wouldn’t want to be in competition for something so scarce with other apocalypse survivors.  Between Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie, we wouldn’t have the same struggle to procure clean drinking water like our country’s desert or southern states.  Some politicians even want to divert water from the Great Lakes in order to supply golf greens in places where grass has no business being grown.  Sorry, but I wouldn’t trade hot showers and cold drinks for perpetual beach weather any day of the week.

Pro #3: Resiliency.

Proving, once again, the “Rust Belt’s” reliability in dangerous times, Jeff Opperman, senior adviser at the Nature Conservancy, recently ranked Cleveland number one among U.S. cities’ ability to bounce back from significant climate change.

He also ranked Miami number 50.  If the bathsalts don’t get ya, a fiery asteroid the size of Arizona will.

Fred smells delicious.

Whether it’s caused by supervolcano, an asteroid, or global warming, Northeast Ohio would not be as highly affected as other regions of the country.  But if Cleveland seems to be getting rather crowded at that point, one of the other top five safe zones in the country: Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, or Minneapolis, are good second picks.

Well, okay, we may get screwed by a supervolcano.

So, in case of a second dinosaur-killing meteorite scare, the ice caps melting, or your neighbors suddenly acquiring the taste for human flesh, your best bet for survival lies in high-tailin’ it over to the city of snow.

And yes, you’ll have to help us shovel.

[related links: Surviving the End of the World Part I: Getting out of Dodge means being Prepared]

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Toxoplasma mind-control: how your kitty’s litter box plans to take over the world

If you have a cat, chances are you have toxoplasmosa in your brain.

“What?! I have toxo-something in my BRAIN?!”
photo courtesy of “the brownhorse” a.k.a. Adam Bronkhorst

Whoah there, friend.  Put down the powerdrill.

I most likely have it too.  What can I say?  I love my kitty and she needs someone to scoop her poop.

In fact, according to my anthropology professor, about 50% of the world’s population has these tiny little guys chilling in their craniums.  But that’s okay, because toxoplasma is microscopic and no match for our advanced human immune systems.  We are, as the term goes, an evolutionary dead end for these creepy little parasites.  Up there in our heavily-guarded skulls, Toxoplasma gondii can’t lay their eggs or socialize with other little parasitic friends.  They can only watch in horror as you tune in to yet another episode of the Jersey Shore and curse the day that felines started relieving themselves in a box cleaned by easily-entertained hominid morons.

That’s right.  Much as we like to think of ourselves as Mother Nature’s darling creations, most parasites don’t want to have anything to do with us.  Toxoplasma, for instance, would rather hang out inside kitty’s tootsie-rolls until something much smaller than a litter-scoop comes their way.

Rats, for instance.

Toxoplasma LOVES rats.  Once these greedy little bastards get inside a rat’s brain, it’s one step closer to achieving what drives pretty much the entire biological kingdom: sex.

See, toxoplasma can only reproduce in the stomach of a cat.  In order to get there, it needs what we disease-mappers call a vector, or what Fluffy calls dinner.  So what toxoplasma does is implement some rodent mind-control.

Instead of being afraid of the smell of cats, an infected rat confuses the smell of cat urine with that of a sexually-charged rat female.  While normal rats run away, this poor, love-blind rodent ends up getting eaten, or as I like to think of it, screwed in the much less pleasant sense of the word.

All for being a horny parasite mind-slave.

nyan cat poops rainbows, not horrible brain-changing beasties.

Before you marvel at the lengths a one-celled organism will go to perpetuate its own kind, you may be wondering what affect this has on you.  If the little buggers aren’t interested in living in your stomach, then why should you even care?  Researchers observed people with and without the parasite in their brains and learned an interesting thing- toxoplasma may actually have some sway over our own behaviors, too.

They found that men infected with T. gondii are more introverted, more physically reckless and generally tend to ignore social rules.  On the other hand, women with toxoplasma have lots of friends and are usually regarded as more sexually attractive than parasite-free females.  Both are free from normal fear responses, similar to our aforementioned ratty pals.  They are more independent, more interesting, and generally unconcerned with how others view them- just like cats. Some studies even show a shrinkage of the cerebral cortext in schizophrenics, hinting that the protozoan might trigger the disease in genetically-susceptable individuals.  Some less scientific studies think that toxoplasma might be the harbinger of the zombie apocalypse (you knew I’d work that in there somewhere, didn’t you).

“you shall do my bidding, zombie rat slave”

So while you probably won’t go searching for the nearest Bengal tiger to chomp down on your liver, there’s a very good chance that T. gondii has influenced some of the major decisions you make in your life.  What you wear, where you go, and who you choose to go with you could all subliminally be impacted by tiny little parasites inside your brain.

Perhaps we should all just take a cue from our dogs and make our cats poop outside.  Let Mother Nature deal with all that infected kitty crap.

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Surviving the end of the world Part II: defending against The Other

Welcome to Part II of the apocalypse/disaster survival guide!  (For Part I, click here)  Now that you have what you need to be prepared for the worst, are you prepared to defend it against all the other knuckleheads who didn’t read my blog?

Important Disclaimer: I do not advocate nor encourage fighting, using weapons, or hurting other human beings for any reason other than self-defense.  I can’t even squash bugs without feeling bad (I leave that business to my kitty, who takes an undisguised joy in killing and eating them).  The only time it is acceptable to employ self-defense methods is when verbal diplomacy has failed and there are no other options besides getting hurt or getting tough.  It is your right as a human being to keep yourself and those you love safe; however, it is your responsibility to know when it is appropriate to fight, and when it is better to back off.

Moving on…..

The majority of us aren’t lucky enough to be a bad-ass Scarlett Johansson ninja-assassin- or have perfect hair after hours of fighting.  However, dangerous situations can happen to anyone, whether they’re dressed in a versatile skintight catsuit or jogging shorts from 1983.  Visions of a post-apocalyptic existence aside, there are plenty of normal people who spell trouble- a.k.a. muggers, murderers, or scam artists looking to take valuable resources for themselves.  Even if you’re not prepping to survive some huge disaster, there are basic safety techniques every man, woman, and child should know to survive everyday life.

First on the list is a simple but obvious rule: trust your intuition.  Call it instincts or just a gut feeling, most of us know when something doesn’t sit right.  And when the facts don’t add up to anything good, your body’s fight-or-flight mechanisms are your best friend.

However, in order to listen to what your brain is telling you, you need to be tuned in to what is going on.  A sharp intuition won’t do you any good if you’re plugged into an iPod or yapping on your cell phone.  You need to read the signs of your environment.

Patrick Asay’s blog, Applied Martial Arts, outlines how easily an average early morning can escalate into a deadly encounter.  A woman’s ex-boyfriend broke into her sister’s house, located in a small, cozy town where she was staying with her and her ex’s young sons.  He then proceeded to shoot everyone in the family, burn the house down, and commit suicide.  While this sounds like the typical random act of violence we always hear about on the news, there were several factors that could have made this crime preventable.  Earlier in the day, her ex had been sending her “the most delusional psycho-crazy manic” text messages, indicative of his violent past.  According to the woman’s coworkers, the man was highly abusive, and threatened to kill her if she ever left him.  She had prior knowledge and experience of the man’s hateful actions.

Ok, but it’s not her fault he came to her sister’s house and murdered her, right?

Absolutely not.  However, given his “violent past” and the threatening text messages, she could have taken more preventative measures.  Basic ones, like notifying the police of harassment and locking the doors at night.  I’m also from a small town where no one locks their doors or cars and you have a better chance of hitting a deer than being robbed.  I understand that feeling of “we’re safe here, this is a nice neighborhood.”  But when you’re dealing with a possessive and obviously abusive ex-boyfriend who is sending you ugly messages, you need to be more careful.  Although both women might not have been able to overpower their attacker, they left themselves much more vulnerable by not acknowledging the warning signs.  Their best defense would have been taking steps to prevent the violence in the first place.

Asay’s breakdown of this crime proves that even the average person untrained and unskilled in martial arts or the use of weapons can greatly improve their chances of survival by simply avoiding survival situations altogether.  Remaining tuned in- not paranoid- and cognizant of your surroundings will allow you to switch from relaxed and aware (or as my brother the future Marine would say, “yellow”) to alert (“orange”), concerned (“red”), or, in the worst of cases, on the defense (“black”).  You can’t do that if you’re “in the white,” completely oblivious to what’s going on.

I still remember the most important self-defense rule I ever heard: “don’t run away from danger, run towards safety.”  Again, most people think this is a fairly obvious rule, but all you have to do is consider the numbers of kidnapping, rape, and murder to see that this is definitely not the case.  In my own survival situation back in my senior year of high school, this was the rule that probably saved my life.  Jogging along a lonely country road, I was understandably more aware of any cars that happened to go by then if I had been in a busy city environment.  A white van drove past going in the same direction as me, continuing on down a steep hill.  I thought nothing of it until they turned around and passed me again, this time traveling back the way they came.  Ok, I thought.  They are probably looking for someone’s house and got lost.  After all, GPS systems had just recently become more common.  Most people still relied on maps to get around.  However, I wasn’t stupid.  I knew that even in my sleepy country town, the world wasn’t as safe as it should be.  Now on high alert, I continued my jog, looking over my shoulder every so often to see if the van came back.  As I began to descend the hill, the van came barreling past, coming to a screeching halt at the bottom.  A man leaned out of the passenger side window, waiting for me to catch up.  I immediately turned around and ran as fast as I could back to the nearest house, a good half-mile up the road.  I didn’t stop until I had collapsed in the middle of a neighbor’s driveway, legs shaking from fear that the van would return before I could get home.

That hill seemed like the steepest, most insurmountable road I ever climbed.  Looking back, I realize where I had gone wrong- running by myself on a deserted road, even a road I had traveled many times before, I should have turned around after the van made its second pass.  I was lucky that my iPod was on low, the men didn’t stop closer to me, and even at my young age, I was paying attention to my surroundings and my gut instincts.  I have little doubt that I would have been kidnapped or worse had I continued down the hill that day.  However, I’m still whole and healthy because I not only ran away from the van, but to the safety of another house.

Think back to all those kindergarten safety classes and seminars you had to sit through your first few days of college.  What was the recurring theme?  “Don’t talk to strangers, travel with others, be aware in a strange environment, and when something doesn’t feel right, you need to leave.”  All very basic and valid security details, with one major flaw- they don’t actually tell you how to survive.  Why?  These tips only help you to AVOID danger.  But what if danger comes to you?  Anyone with realistic sense knows that bad things often happen to good people.

So when your prevention plans have failed and you’re in a potentially life-threatening situation, how do you deal with it?  I’m certainly no expert on guns, martial arts, or tactical defense.  My knowledge comes from my life experiences: extensive worldwide travel, living in the 34th and 47th most dangerous cities in the U.S. (Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively), and of course, Girlscouting.  So while I can’t speak to firing anything other than a hunting bow, the following tips are methods I’ve used in my own life or have learned for those just-in-case moments (may they never come).

1. Fight to get away.  Don’t be looking to prolong or “win” the fight.  Don’t move in close if you don’t have to; try to stay out of reach of your attacker.  There is no shame in walking or running away from a fight when you are outmatched; your main goal is to achieve safety.

2. Just say no.  Verbally communicate with your attacker.  Legally, and if you’re lucky, physically, you will be in much better shape if you give no doubts about your intentions.

3. If you cannot avoid confrontation:

Keep your limbs and body free from containment as long as possible.  It is much easier to defend yourself when you have a chance to run away or inflict more damage on your attacker.

Target the vulnerable points of their body.  The places you hit will depend on where your attacker is, how close (s)he is to you, your level of skill, etc.  Eyes, nose, neck, and knee are the basic ones.  For close encounters, gouge the eyeballs with nails or fingers or use the heel of your hand to strike the nose upward.  If they grab you from behind, using your elbow to break or bruise the nasal bones will usually cause the desired effect.  Elbows or fists to the hollow of the throat with the weight of your body can incapacitate an attacker for a minute or more, giving you enough time to run away.  The knee is perhaps the best place to begin your attack, since it is vulnerable from every angle and reachable from farther away, your ideal defense location.

When throwing a punch, do not curl your fingers around your thumb.  That’s a good way to break it.  The smaller the surface you use to strike, the more concentrated the force to the target.  This is why many martial arts moves use only the first two knuckles to strike.  Using all four knuckles provides greater stability and less strain on the wrist, which may be better for a longer encounter.  Strike fast and hard, and aim for an imaginary point about an inch or two beyond the actual target, which will give you more driving force.  Punching with your entire body behind your fist lends your attack more power; for example, pushing the ground with your legs and twisting your upper body gives you more torque.  Always guard your head with your arms and try to pull back from an attack quickly, so your opponent cannot grab you.  If you want to give yourself a better edge in a fight, consider some basic training you can do at home over a couple of months.  Simply punching tough objects with light force and softer objects with heavier effort will greatly toughen your fist, increasing the bone density of your hand by causing miniature fractures that heals even stronger, and therefore gives your punches more force.

Know how to use any weapons you own or carry with you.  Carrying a taser or gun won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use them or don’t maintain your skills.  Most non-lethal weapons run on batteries- is your device charged?  Most stun guns need direct or close contact to incapacitate an attacker.  Pepper spray expires, and doesn’t do any good unless it can be directed at the face.  If you keep these devices in your purse or on your keychain instead of in your hand, recognize that they can easily be unreachable in a time of crisis.  Any of these items can be taken away from you and used against you by the assailant.  Always be prepared to fight without their aid.

Make noise.  Scream loudly, yell, try to intimidate them.  Alert others who may be in the area.  Some, but not all attackers will lose interest or leave more quickly when witnesses are present.  Having more people on your side makes you less of a target.

Always watch for a weakness or opening.  You can never be completely prepared for this type of situation.  The weather, the skill of your attacker, the location of the fight- all of these things contribute to your success or your downfall.  The best thing you can do is take advantage of any mistakes your opponent might make or any resources your environment presents you with.  An open door, a passing car, or a momentarily slip can make or break your survival.

And finally, while it is your right to defend your life or another’s from attack, you need to always be aware of the consequences of your actions:

1. Killing or hurting someone changes you, forever.  Obviously, in a zombie-fied world, massacring the undead is your only option if you want to stay alive.  However, we all have a natural aversion towards killing our own kind, which is basically the only reason we can coexist in such large human populations.  Even Rick from the Walking Dead showed hesitation in killing his first zombie, the half-eaten corpse affectionately dubbed “Hannah,” regardless of the fact that she tried to munch on his feet.  Quite obviously, defending against a cognizant, uninfected human being is a different matter.  Even if you are completely justified in taking drastic measures to protect yourself, the memories of the encounter will probably remain with you the rest of your life.  Always try to verbally reason with an attacker first, even if you only have time for a single “no.”

2. There are physical and emotional consequences to fighting.  As Patrick Asay from Applied Martial Arts says, “violence wouldn’t be violence if somebody didn’t get hurt.”  Someone- you, your attacker, innocent bystanders, the person you are defending- will get hurt in an escalated scenario.  At the very least, a violent encounter will take an emotional toll.  Reaching out to close friends, family, or a professional after dealing with such a situation is a necessary part of the coping process.

3. Expect the worst, aim for the best.  Just look at the news almost every day- violence and crime are always unpredictable.  After all, if criminals followed statistical patterns 100 percent of the time, law enforcement would have a much easier job keeping crime rates low.  Does this mean you need to be pessimistic about your chances of survival, should you be forced into a dangerous situation?  No, I would say that your survival depends on striking a balance between being realistic about what is happening, and doing your best to tip things in your favor.  Think Liam Neeson in the awe-inspiring movie Taken: even though his daughter was kidnapped while he was talking to her on the phone, he kept calm and was able to prevail over crazy, probably unrealistic odds in order to get her back.

Don’t kid yourself.  The situation is what it is; you may end up dead or worse.  The survivalist will stay alert and take every opportunity to change the factors to help them come out on top.

4. Cover your butt.  As a (hopeful) future law student and part-time law clerk, I’ve seen how easy it is for perpetrators to turn things around on their victims.  If you are lucky enough to survive an attack, always, always, ALWAYS go to the authorities in a timely manner.  Clearly and coherently document what happened from the moment the situation began.  Defense lawyers are very good at their jobs and will use any inconsistencies in your story to their client’s favor.  And don’t forget the most important issue of legality- verbally communicate to your attacker that what is happening is NOT ok (again, even a simple “no” will do).  In a very interesting article on how to classify rape, Time Magazine showed that while the definition of rape is still up for debate, the perception of most people: that an adult woman must say “no” for a sexual encounter (even a forced one) to be considered unlawful, remains the same for most women, men, and even children.  In any situation where you are being threatened or attacked, one of the best things you can do to avoid sticky legal issues is to communicate, even if it does not deter their actions.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide to self-defense.  I believe I’ve covered the bare basics: beginner fighting techniques, real-life applications, and tips to avoiding danger in the first place.  If you want to learn how to increase your self-defense skills, consider taking some martial arts classes or earning your concealed carry license.  Remember- even the most well-trained attacker can make mistakes; your best chance at survival is to be aware, keep your cool, and always look for an unexpected advantage.

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Miami Zombie Attack Prank

Everyone’s heard of the Miami Zombie Attack.  This guy decided to take a not-so-great idea and run with it.

As featured on Tosh.0, the Miami Zombie Attack Prank:

Notice at about two minutes into the prank, he almost gets shot.  While I’m very glad this guy didn’t get hurt, if I were any of those people I would have shot him too, or at least tried to whoop his undead arse ninja-Girlscout style.

Ain’t nobody gonna eat MY face.

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Surviving the end of the world Part I: getting out of dodge means being prepared

As the zombie-like attacks continue to pop up in the news, I’ve been forced to consider (not for the first time) what a probable end of the world would be like.  And while I’m certain a flesh-eating infection is probably one of the most unlikely ways humanity will meet its doom (thank goodness!), it’s also the most fun to talk about.  Besides, many of the situations we would face in a Zombieland society would still exist in any other post-apocalyptic world- desperation for ownership of resources, the letdown of modern technology, the need to pack up our easy, familiar lives and start over somewhere new.  Whatever the reason, self-reliance and quick-thinking will always be key.  In homage to one of my greatest fears, I’ve decided to post a several-part series compiled of survival and thrival tips for when the shit hits the proverbial fan.

Along with my many years as a GirlScout, where our motto is “be prepared,” I’ve been turning to my favorite survival movies and shows for inspiration.  Whether you’re concerned with becoming a Walking Dead Daryl or avoiding a widespread government breakdown, please enjoy the first installment of surviving the end of the world: being prepared for the worst.

Sexy-ass Daryl from the Walking Dead

The first, and most important thing to remember about being prepared is, well, you have to be PREpared.  Seems like a “duh” comment to make, but clearly a necessary one.  Unsurprisingly, the largest downfall of most of our favorite horror movie characters; and indeed, of most people in real-life disasters, is their last-minute approach to survival.  Yes, it’s true that no one likes to think about unpleasant things.  We would much rather focus on the good things in life- if you’re like me, passing your exams and having enough money to still buy drinks after paying rent is a cause for celebration.  I’m one of the last people who wants to spend time and money setting resources aside for a possible future.

However, ask any one of the richest and most powerful people in the world (not those fifteen-minute reality stars, I’m talking Bill Gates and Michael Symon here), and they’ll tell you that their success stems from hard work and saving for tomorrow.  In the recent economic downturn, we all saw the free-spending McMansion owners lose their houses and their credit-bought possessions to foreclosure and debt.  Every theater-major college coed knows that Mommy and Daddy will eventually cut off the gravy train, and their student loans will have to be repaid.  Even Aesop told us that being prepared means copying the ant, not the grasshopper.  The idea of using the present to better secure your future is a tactic passed down from the first human to drop from the evolutionary tree.  Sadly, many of us Americans reject this time-tested wisdom and chose to live in fantasy land, a place that tends to come crashing down once its support systems are taken away.  After all, if there is no more government to run the delivery trucks (or the drivers all get eaten by voracious zombies), where will the groceries come from?  The tools? The life-saving medications?  THE TOILET PAPER?!?!

With that thought in mind, surviving ANY disaster depends on what you do NOW to prepare.

1. Get in shape.  This is probably the most important rule of surviving.  No matter how many weapons or cans of food you’ve stashed in your bug-out-bag, if it’s too heavy for you to lift and you can’t run more than a minute without being in danger of a heart-attack, you’re boned.  As a violently addicted foodie with a jam-packed schedule, I understand that it’s hard to find time to exercise and avoid those chili cheese fries.  But with two-thirds of adult Americans classified as obese, this is a point that needs to be made: start taking the stairs and packing your lunch.  If you’re so fat you can’t get out of bed, there is no way you are going to survive any situation where McDonalds is closed.

2. Be able to survive at least three days off the stuff in your house.  This means you need to have enough canned or dehydrated food and bottled water to make nine meals without stepping out your front door.  If the government declares marshall law, riots ensue, or a flu-like disease begins running rampant, you won’t be able to stop at your favorite restaurant for dinner.  As a farmer’s daughter who grew up in a family of six, it amazes me whenever one of my friends admits they have nothing but butter and Red Bull in their fridge.  Speaking from a place of practicality, it just makes logical sense to have basic supplies lying around.  Rivers flood, blackouts happen, and snowstorms abound every single year.  It is just plain stupid not to stockpile some canned food.

3. Brush up on basic first aid and survival skills.  Does a high-powered executive living in New York need to know how to skin a rabbit and climb a mountain?  No.  Should he know how to tread water, build a fire, and dress a light wound?  I sure think so (especially in New York!)  In today’s modern society, we are all WAY too dependent on our technologies and conveniences.  Making yourself more self-sufficient will only help you to survive.

4. Have an exit strategy. This entails several different things:

a. Identify at least three different ways to be able to leave your place of residence and high-tail it out of your town or city.  A big SUV won’t help much if all the main roads are jam-packed with other panicking citizens.  Consider another method of travel, or map out a back-roads route that will be less populated.

b. Build a Bug Out Bag (or B.O.B.) and always have it READY TO GO.  Massive hurricanes and roving bands of looters won’t wait for you to gather supplies.  You may not have more than a few minutes to grab your stuff and run to safety.  This is where my dad fails in his “just-in-case” planning- for all his Y2K paranoia, he never had any supplies packed up and instantly portable.  My folks may have massive amounts of canned spam and plenty of other tricks up their sleeves, but when it comes to being able to leave the family farm in under five minutes, I highly doubt they could do it.

This is where the handy Bug Out Bag comes into play.  Also referred to as a 3 day or 72 hr. kit, the point of a B.O.B. is to keep you alive until you can get somewhere safe.  Everyone’s kit will be different to reflect their environment, level of skill, and personal needs; however there are a few basic items everyone should have.

-Three ways to gather water.  You’ve heard the saying: an average human being can only survive three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food.  It is a good idea to not only have some water already stored, but to be able to collect it in at least three different ways, in case one method fails you.  Drinking straight from a pond or stream can be a bad idea because of those pesky, invisible viruses and bacteria that can lay you up with diarrhea, vomiting, or worse.  Hand-pump filters, water-filtration caplets, and even a light-weight kettle for boiling water will get rid of most pathogens.  A refillable canteen is also a must.

-Three ways to start a fire.  Are you noticing a theme here?  The preppers cardinal rule of three- ensuring you always have a backup.  Magnesium fire starters are a great resource because they last much longer than matches.  However, it is always a good idea to have waterproof matches stored in a film canister or small jar.  Old egg cartons filled with flammable candle wax and stored in a plastic ziplock bag are great, inexpensive, portable tinders we used in GirlScouts to start our fires the lazy way.

Magnesium fire starter

-Food: dehydrated and freeze dried are the best because it’s lightweight and lasts longer, though canned foods are usually cheaper and easier to find.  Don’t forget a can opener.

-Cooking supplies: you can usually get nestled camping pots and pans, which fit inside each other and take up less space.  A collapsible bucket takes up less space than you’d think and is invaluable after a few days.

Seattle Sports Collapsable Camping Bucket

-Shelter and Extra Clothing: a warm, mummy-style sleeping bag, a foldable rain cover or tent, and most importantly, a waterproof tarp or mat to put underneath.  Nothing sucks heat out of your body faster than lying on the unprotected ground.  Gloves, a hat, and extra socks and underwear are the minimum.

-First Aid.  This is one of the most important things you can take with you.  Traveling without the help of modern conveniences will always put you in danger of hurting yourself.  Bandages, scissors, a cloth brace, a sewing kit, activated charcoal- all these things are relatively cheap and can be put together for a personalized first aid kit.  Pain and prescription medications are also a must.

-Lights and tools.  Consider two forms of illumination: a battery-powered LED light and a crank-powered light.  Imperative tools include survival knives with a full tang (the blade goes all the way down to the end of the handle), fishing line and hooks, rope, and a lightweight axe.  Simple plastic bags take up almost no space and are always useful.  Duct tape can be used for anything from keeping bandages clean to repairing tools.

Smith and Wesson survival knife with full tang

Energizer crank-powered LED flashlight

-Weapons.  This is really much more of a personal preference, but a strong knife or machete wins out over guns in my book.  They’re quieter, require less maintenance, and don’t use any finite ammo.

c. Lastly, make sure you run an evacuation drill or at least discuss with your family or friends ahead of time where you would meet and what you would do in an emergency situation.

I know this was a long article, but it doesn’t even begin to cover everything in a “get out of dodge” plan.  Though recent movies and shows like “Doomsday Preppers” definitely over-hypes rather unlikely situations, they all provide an undeniable kernel of truth.  Those who are prepared will survive, those who are not will have to rely on the mercy and kindness of others.  History has proved again and again that society is not immune to total anarchy.  And if there’s one thing an un-serious comedy like Zombieland proves, when the rules break down, humanity often goes with it.

Click here for the next installment of survival planning.

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The Real-life Zombie Attack of 2012: Why “Bath Salts” are only for the Tub

Umm, so the zombie apocalypse just became a teensy-bit more real today.

I’m referring to what the media experts have dubbed the “Miami Zombie Attack” incident.  Apparently, a naked man “on bath salts,” 31 year old Rudy Eugene, chewed off the face of a 65 year old poor homeless man, Ronald Poppo, under the Miami McArthur Causeway bridge.  A passerby saw the horrible attack and called police.  Although an officer repeatedly told the man to stop, the zombie-man simply turned to the policeman and growled, then continued to eat the victim.  The policeman then fired some non-lethal shots at the deranged attacker, who was unaffected by the bullets and still wouldn’t stop eating the homeless man.  The officer had no choice but to kill Eugene.  Poppo was taken to the hospital where he is  still in critical condition, as his face is literally unrecognizable as a human being.

I’m not going to post the videos or pictures on this blog- they’re unnecessarily gruesome and will probably give me nightmares tonight.  If you want to see them they are literally all over the internet (or you can just tune into an episode of the Walking Dead).  I have to warn you though, if the pictures of Ronald Poppo are real, they are nothing you really want to see.

Both law enforcement personnel and friends of Eugene have stated that the probable cause for the attack was the influence of bath salts, a drug with effects much like LSD.  I’m not really sure people can equate CHEWING A MAN’S FACE OFF to a bad trip, but I really hope that this drug doesn’t cause more incidences of zombie-mania.

As a huge fan of zombie movies and the recent television masterpieces the Walking Dead and Doomsday Preppers, I am absolutely convinced that something like this COULD HAPPEN.  Do I think there is enough evidence that a zombie apocalypse is descending upon us?  Hell no.  Right now, I don’t think it’s on the list of things the world should be concerned about: let’s fix our economy and the AIDS epidemic before we go worrying about non-existant science-fiction-like diseases.  However, as one of my worst fears, anything remotely pertaining to human cannibalism in the news always makes me nervous.  It’s scary to me that a grown man could hold another human being down and eat him.  It’s even scarier that multiple gunshot wounds and the presence of witnesses did not deter Eugene from continuing his unholy feast.  I guess the takeaway from this tragedy is to refrain from sticking fancy soaps up your nostrils and to always have an emergency plan and supplies ready, just in case.  I’m not talking about those huge storehouses you see crazy people building in their basements.  A few cans of food, some bottled water, and medical supplies will go a long way to make sure you are prepared for whatever circumstances may be surfacing in the future.  I myself have a small bug-out-bag and first-aid kit that I keep in my apartment, which is hopefully something I will never have to use.  If you’re curious on how to make one on the cheap, check back for my next upcoming post!

Until then,

Bri

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