Festively Preparing for the Apocalypse

I asked my daughter to prepare a list of things she wanted for her birthday, which is about a month away now.

This is that list.

In case you have a hard time reading the list in the picture, here’s what’s on it: A horse, a machete, throwing knives, gun lessons, survival classes, a book of edible plants and a taser.

I’m vaguely curious to know if she knows something I don’t regarding the immediate future.

151 thoughts on “Festively Preparing for the Apocalypse

  1. It really does sound like she’s expecting the Zombocalypse before too long. Beyond that I will refrain from comment, as from all appearances you have the parent thing well in hand.

  2. Are you familiar w/ Mimi Smartypants? Athena’s list reads much like Mimi’s daughter Nora’s list. The kids may indeed know something we don’t.

  3. You sure this isn’t the old “surround the one thing I want with stuff I know they’ll never get me so I’ll get the one thing I want” trick? I mean, she might be concerned you won’t get her a machete otherwise.

  4. Good stuff . . . I would disperse with the tazer and throwing knives, and substitute instead a good fixed blade knife (adding basic knife-fighting lessons would make for a nice surprise). The machete is good, but perhaps you should consider getting her a tomahawk instead.

    She did not specify the type of gun, but there is lots about that on the interweb. I would suggest a carabine and a revolver, preferably sharing the same ammunition.

    A horse is nice, but a mule might be better. Less health problems, better lugging-to-weight ratio, requires less food, tolerates heat better . . . the list goes on. Plus, when someone makes a crack about it, she can challenge them to a gunfight.

    As opposed to a restricted book on edible plants, I would get her (it’s free) the army survival manual, which includes all sorts of good information.

  5. She needs a hand-cranked generator for the Taser, else after the power goes, it’s just a paperweight.

  6. Well, every good girl deserves a horse and a machete. The gun lessons are only prudent (as long as they include a lot of respect for the gun and gun safety). But the throwing knives, while good for eye/hand coordination and skill building are slightly less than useful in an actual zombie apocalypse (no matter what Hollywood thinks). Owning and knowing how to use a k-bar is more practical.

  7. I would’ve included two canteens and water-purifying tablets. Also a flint-and-steel fire starter. Otherwise, this is one well-prepared kid. Brava!

  8. I feel that as my birthday is also a month away, and your daughter is clearly tuned into something the rest of us do not know about, I should ask for a similar Apocalypse Preparation Kit.

    Also, if you find out what she is preparing for, please let us know! We’d all like to be survivors too!

  9. This looks like a conservatives check list. Are you sure she isn’t a Republican at heart? What a great girl!!!

  10. @disperser, the problem with mules is that they’re infertile, so when it dies, game over. If you have two horses you can make more horses.

  11. @Miche . . . I’ll stick with the mule . . . it would probably outlast me (30-40 years lifespan, with a longer working life than a horse) , and the idea of caring for a pregnant mare, and the eventual fowl to maturity, is more than I would want to contemplate.

  12. Actually, John, this got me thinking: would Athena enjoy Karate classes? My folks enrolled me when I was a preteen, and after a few years I got to learn Bo (staff) and sword fighting. It was great fun, and I can’t even tell you how useful a couple of decades of martial arts training has turned out to be. (I’m thinking of getting back into it, actually, now that my arthritis has improved. Whee!)

  13. Well, she’s not named Cassandra… so maybe you’re safe, and she’s just being prepared?

    Throwing knives look cool, but aren’t terribly practical. Me, I’d rather have a flamethrower. :D

  14. …actually, I posted too soon. Survival classes would be awesome, esp. if you could somehow find one that combined all the other presents.

  15. Maybe she just intends to brave the wild jungles of Ohio to rescue Cthulhu?

    But seriously, the potentially most useful item on this list are gun lessons, because learning how to handle guns also includes learning how to *not* use guns.

  16. Molly (my 12-year-old) thinks you should get her the survival classes. But, she’s also asked for outdoor survival classes, so this may be something she thinks all middle-school-aged girls ought to have under their belt.

  17. Well, then. As I said, one well-prepared kid. I just hope she includes her parents in her survival plan! Being alone can be a severe pain in the ass, especially if you need to carry something heavy, like a dead elk.

  18. There seems to be a number of outdoor survival skills school around where ohio and indiana. They range from a bit foofy shamanic though to apocalyptic. For the gun skills thing a a ruger 10/22 with TechSight (brand) and an Appleseed course can be pretty fun and cheap. It is worth noting that target shooting a rifle done properly is very meditative. I took a class w/ a verified Marine Corp sniper trainer and the mental focus stuff he talked about was the most newage’y thing I had heard in years and I work at a hippy college.

  19. Outward Bound courses can be pretty handy in more ways than one. There are also “primitive” survival schools where you can be trained in archery, firemaking, atlatl hunting, etc. They’re surprisingly popular.

  20. No music? I’d add a box set of music by the Velvet Underground. Somehow it seems appropriate.

    I do like the book of edible plants. It’s a good idea. But guns, throwing knives and a taser? Not for me. I’ll take a crossbow. Almost as good as a gun but silent. The horse isn’t a bad idea but zombies might eat it. That would make me feel bad. On the other hand it wouldn’t need gas.

  21. Further proof your daughter is made of concentrated awesome. The only thing I’d add to that list would be a hand-cranked portable radio to listen for any survivors with access to radio broadcast equipment.

  22. When our kids make lists like this, then something might just be around the corner. This is perhaps what keeps them up at night. Then again, horse dreams may be what keep some up at night.

    Gun lessons only apply so long as bullets remain. Arrows can be made easier than bullets when shells and ammo are scarce. Archery lessons should also be on that list. I’d prefer a crossbow to start with, but a strong person can use a bow and arrow for faster reload times and use it at closer range to multiple hostile targets. Crossbow is good for hunting for food without every nearby creature with ears knowing you’re there and what you’re up to.

  23. I wouldn’t think a taser would be effective against zombies.

    (+1 on gun safety training. I’m taking my 14yr old daughter to the range after I teach her the safety basics over xmas break)

  24. If she’s into survival lore the Boy Scout Field Manual isn’t a bad buy. And a horse isn’t a bad idea either except that it’s hard to eat a whole horse before it spoils (you can’t count on civilization falling during winter). Maybe a book on drying and preserving foods would help.

    And get a ham radio license! One of the most bogus things about ‘The Waking Dead’ is that nobody is listening on shortwave or the HF ham bands.

  25. In the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame, some champion knife throwers are still in the junior division. Only the bottom inch of a throwing knife should be sharp, which makes safe handling pretty easy. Education-wise, you only need a few starter lessons. The rest is practise. Most people get started at the Great Throwzini’s website because it offers so many free resources, including contacts for local throwers.

    Hey, it’s a cheaper hobby than horsemanship. You can still walk your way through the apocalypse.

  26. I would suggest Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart. It is available on amazon for $12.50ish
    here’s a link:
    http://www.amazon.com/Wicked-Plants-Lincolns-Botanical-Atrocities/dp/1565126831/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353884750&sr=1-1&keywords=dangerous+plants
    I got it for christmas a few years ago, and it was informative and interesting. It is more about the dangerous than the helpful, but it will help her avoid the bad plants. Happy Apocalypse!

  27. she is getting a good pre-shopping list for the 21st. Excellent thinking on her part! Happy Birthday to her!

  28. Horseback riding and care lessons should precede “horse” by at least a year. I say this as a former horse owner, and parent of one very-fond-of-horses child.

  29. She just wants gun lessons because she knows that Mike Williamson’s daughter already knows how to shoot and has really cool rifles :)

  30. Just FYI, Amazon has a basic Eton hand-cranked flashlight / charger combo that can recharge a cell phone or anything with a mini-USB connection for fifteen bucks ($15). If you go up to $40, then you can also add AM/FM/ Weather and some models have shortwave (might be a little more).

    Side note: you live in the country. Athena won’t be able to claim she is a “country girl” unless she can ride and shoot. So there’s that. Plus, shooting a rifle long range requires a surprisingly high degree of skill, math, patience, discipline and focus. Cleaning up afterward also requires attention to detail, prescision, mechanical aptitude and care to preserve the gun. My brother shot on his high school rifle team (yes, friends, there was once a time when high schools sponsored rifle teams and nobody thought anything about it) and enjoyed it quite a bit.

    Knife-throwing is just plain cool, particularly if you go to a local Renaissance Fair – always good for a free soft-drink coupon and the look on the attendants’ faces when you sink all blades in the star. Add in fencing just for grins and exercise. Maybe she could compete in the pentathalon (shooting, swimming, fencing, equestrianism, and cross country running). More likely, you’ll make finishing a pentathalon a qualification for getting some of this stuff.

  31. Might want to get a copy of The Anarchists Cookbook there too. A lot of good survival and improvised tools/weapons in there. And a .22 is a great gun. You can tape a 20 oz bottle on the barrel and make a supressor for it if you want to be sneaky. Thats what my old neighbor did so the cops couldn’t hear him shooting squirrels in town.

    As far as weapon handling and safety go, remember:

    -Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
    -Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
    -Never point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
    -Keep your weapon on safe until you intend to fire.

    That’s what they taught in boot camp and they’re what I swear by on the range. After that, its all about breath control and sight alignment/picture.

  32. Throwing things — knives, axes, …, rolling pins, and frying pans — is a very traditional marital art form. Juggling can be a softer version of these arts more appropriate for indoors in the winter time. If you’re going to practice juggling cast iron fry pans, I recommend steel-toed boots and a sheet of half-inch plywood for a practice carpet.

    Firearms training ++ … I can’t put enough plus marks. Not that she has to become a great shooter, but that she needs to become a safe shooter, knowing when someone else is either mis-handling or dangerously handling a firearm and what to do when she sees that. Sometimes it’s to gently correct the mistake, sometimes it’s for her to quietly leave without trying to save the others so that she can send those better able to deal with the fools. Foolish behavior and firearms is a very bad mix.

    Caring for horses can be a real chore, and a way of learning about friendship between people who help each other.

  33. Disperser: “the idea of caring for a pregnant mare, and the eventual fowl to maturity”

    Horses give birth to chickens now? The things you learn on the internets these days…

  34. As someone who drinks from rivers most summers on extended paddling trips, I recommend either a ceramic filter or a UV light-based system…chemicals don’t work for many pathogens. Of course, not much works for heavy metals or water heavily contaminated with human viruses. Also, individuals pretty much cannot preserve the meat from large mammals in warm (above freezing) temps. Snaring smaller game makes more sense, unless you have a crew of friends around to do a complete job of cutting up/smoking/drying a deer (or something bigger) in a day…

  35. @htom: “Throwing things — knives, axes, …, rolling pins, and frying pans — is a very traditional marital art form.” [sic, emphasis mine]

    Yes, yes it is. My mother threw all sorts of things at her first husband… knives, cast iron skillets… eventually she threw him down a flight of stairs. He survived, although the marriage did not. Good point, htom!

  36. @mintwitch — the mind does funny things. I remember thinking “be careful to choose the correct one, this is spell check’s opinion, after all” and :blush:

    @Sam — I learned Cooper’s 4 Rules as

    1. All firearms are always loaded.

    2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you don’t want destroyed.

    3. Never put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

    4. Always be sure of your target — and what is above, below, beside, beyond, and through that target.

    That all safeties and warning devices should be considered to be broken was sometimes taught as rule 1.a; and rule zero that drugs and gunpowder shouldn’t be mixed.

  37. horse.
    Moo. (Sorry)
    ~
    machete
    Probably better would be a Japan style short sword.
    Better metal that can keep an edge, a few pounds lighter.
    Teacher? yes.
    ~
    throwing knives
    Fun.
    Teacher who can throw a knife required. Making the teacher prove knife
    throwing competence also required.
    ~
    take gun lessons.
    Yes.
    Every one who may at some time hold a gun needs to know when to put
    a bullet through or into where/what ever that gun is pointed at, and when
    not to do so.
    First rule: All guns are always loaded, even when they are not.
    ~
    join a survival class.
    Don’t bother is my first instinctive response, but I don’t know what
    survival classes are in this century. Ignore me on this.
    ~
    A book of edible plants.
    My book of poisonous plants has never been useful to me as I already
    knew to not eat the pretty red berries (Mom told me) from the only local
    poisonous plant it mentioned–Nightshade.
    Poison ivy? Not in that book.
    But back to edible plants. This book would require some very careful
    research–The ones I’ve read did not mention corn or dandelions.
    And, alpine strawberries (wild strawberries)?
    Not listed.
    ~
    Tazer
    Pretty. Me want.
    Shiny sparks, plus if I want to kill somebody this is a non lethal weapon.
    So, definitely an accident.

  38. In all respect to Sam, the Anarchist Cookbook isn’t that useful (many recipes are far more dangerous for the anarchists than whoever they are miffed at!). For any real social breakdown the U.S. Army improvised munition handbook is less likely to get yourself blown up (it is available online for free). Also do NOT try ANY sort of suppressor for any firearm without total social breakdown (unless you have the appropriate forms and taxes). The ATF has such a lack of sense of humor that they make Nietzsche sound like Mel Brooks!

    Personally the whole family should take a firearm safety class if you are going to have them in the home. And then spend at least a couple trips to the range. It really isn’t hard to keep firearms safe as long as you are willing to spend a small amount of effort and common sense. People have already listed the important rules (other than the guns need to be cleaned asap after range time)

    A Ruger 10/22 is a safe/accurate/very effective teaching tool, that virtually anybody can handle.

  39. First – John, if the SF writing thing doesn’t work out, you and the Mrs. could probably make a career of teaching people how to raise awesome kids. Maybe Athena is more influenced by nature than nurture, but for most Americans that would not matter. You could get RICH!

    Secondly, I’m not a shooter myself, but my late husband was. He came by it honestly, due to a couple of generations of police officers in the family. His grandfather passed on two simple rules, which I think are worthy additions to those already posted here.

    1) Never draw your weapon unless you intend to fire it.
    2) Never fire your weapon at someone unless you intend to kill them,

    These are obviously post gun-safety rules – safety comes way before even thinking about using a weapon of any kind.

    Third, this blog has the best commenters ever!

  40. sgr: Well, Athena is the goddess of just warfare, is she not?

    FTFY. Athena isn’t dead, and she never stopped being a goddess.

  41. When making a list of things more practical than throwing knives, I don’t think I would start with flame thrower, though I suppose may may be marginally more practical.

  42. Since folks have already pointed out the issues with throwing knives, I’ll just pipe in that a possible replacement would be a good first-aid kit and EMT classes.

  43. The machete, throwing knives, and gun lessons seem appropriate if she is dating or will be soon… Survival class and book on edible plants seems eminently reasonable you just never know when you might need that knowledge… I was without power for over a week thanks to hurricane Sandy. The horse is just a normal kid thing. LOL

  44. This looks like part of *my* daughter’s list, who is about a year older than Athena, IIRC. (Both got bows last year too. ;)) Sans horse, though – she likes them, and can ride, but knows she wouldn’t have the patience to deal with one 24/7.

  45. Please please please please please follow through!

    I want to hear about the Dad & Daughter survival camps where you try putting the literature to the test and find that most of it was written by experts who’ve never seen stinging nettles, much less left their armchair to research whether they actually do make a good haemorrhoid treatment :)

  46. My 11 year-old gets her new bow on Saturday, having outgrown the one I bought her this summer. (I had no clue what to buy.) In the past several years, the girl has learned to knit, spin, weave, whittle, cook some basics, grow veggies and bake her own bread. She also sewed her Halloween costume which included a fancy silver dress with princess seams, set-in sleeves and a zipper. She added some kick ass boots, fake leather wraps for her hair, a quiver and some silver arrows and called herself Artemis.
    You might be amused to hear that she was supposed to get her bow this Wednesday, but she chose to reschedule because she needs to focus on finishing her novel for NaNoWriMo. (Like her mother, she’s a procrastinator of the highest degree. Like some other authors I may know of, she has finished the story in her head, but much of it is unwritten as the deadline looms.) I’m biased, of course, but I was just allowed to read her book so far, and I’m honestly impressed. Sure, there are some cliches and very obvious influences, but I truly have no idea where this will go, and I’m intrigued. The characters have surprised me, too, but not in ways that seem wrong, just interesting. I love that in a story.
    I seriously love that I get to *like* my kids. They’re pretty cool people, and I dig that part. I know we’ve got tough years ahead, but I have no doubt that later, when we get to be friends, we will be. I bet we’d be friends with Athena, too, if we ran into her. She seems pretty amazing.

  47. If she doesn’t know how to cook from scratch, grow a garden and save seeds intelligently, raise animals and slaughter them, and preserve food various ways — make sure that those are in the survival classes (which tend to be sales pitches for expensive outdoors stores and prepared tinned supplies).

    When I was doing (computer/grid/communications/logistics) support with the Lane County Oregon Y2K Preparedness Committee I was stunned that in a mostly rural and agricultural county the size of the state of Connecticut, 70% of the households (not individuals) didn’t have anyone who could take Sterno and a box of matches, clean water, a pot, and a pound of dry legumes, and turn them into food. This didn’t even require them to create a fire from a firedrill and tinder or anything requiring that kind of skill.

    As a rural Vermont kid who has those kind of skills (largely going to waste in my urbanized life) I was boggled that most Americans apparently have lost the ability to cook without a restaurant. Or at least a microwave or at minimum a can opener.

    Literally most children do not understand how milk and meat are produced, probably because their parents don’t want to cope with pushback.

  48. I could have told you that “Take Your Kid To ‘Hunger Games’ Day” was a terrible idea, but did you ask me? NO.

    I’m going to ignore every previous comment and suggest either Civil Air Patrol or Air Force JROTC. If the kid really wants to be deadly, those are the safest places to start. And sure, throwing knives are cool, but when you’re piloting an unmanned aerial vehicle that can drop a Hellfire missile on somebody, that knife starts to look pretty tiny.

  49. also, in my experience a nicely balanced axe combines the utility of a throwing knife and a machete, and is the ultimate camp multi-tool.

  50. How many times has she seen either the Hunger Games or the Avengers? If she decides to dye her hair red and/or take archery lessons, you are *really* in trouble.

  51. I also have a favorite “survival manual”, which is available online.
    Mine is Two Little Savages by Ernest Thompson Seton, which is available from Project Gutenberg here:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13499
    Make sure you get a version with images, the story is just a story without them.

    Also, my 9yo daughter’s been asking for a pocketknife lately. She hasn’t read or seen The Hunger Games yet, so there are no projectile weapons on her list yet, but she and her younger brother do have a working trebuchet and catapult, and can both weave. She can also knit and sew, and is happily making Christmas presents for all her friends.

    I think we just all have cool kids.

  52. Apocalypse concerns notwithstanding, this is a fairly practical list. Anyone that is interested in camping, hiking, hunting, or some other outdoor activity should know some basic survival skills in case they ever get lost. A machete is a useful tool. I am a part time instructor, so I am biased in this regard, but I think knowing how to use a firearm is also a useful skill. In my experience, children make excellent students for learning how to shoot. Most of them haven’t developed bad habits and are better at receiving instruction and criticism.

  53. I’m interested to see how The Hunger Games impacts survival skills interest and classes among this generations young women. I know my daughter’s archery classes had a huge boom and she felt all superior because “I was into archery before it was cool” (yes apparently I’m raising a hipster) and all these johnny-come-lately’s were ruining it because they wanted to rush learning rather than building up from basic technique.

  54. Everyone knows that you need a blunt weapon against the undead. Minimum of +1 bonus. And if you can find something magical, probably get to at least +3 with a light weight I recommend the Estwing Deadblow Hammer Mallet. Weighs just over 2 lbs, so you won’t get tired vast, and excellent balance. Go Tyreese style.

  55. Shava: I was stunned that … 70% of the households (not individuals) didn’t have anyone who could take Sterno and a box of matches, clean water, a pot, and a pound of dry legumes, and turn them into food.

    Meh. Instructions could be printed on the package of beans. “Soak overnight, replace water, boil for ten minutes, simmer for one hour.”

    The problem isn’t knowing how to cook the beans. The problem is getting the beans in the first place. The only scenario where someone in Ohio will need to survive permanent apocalypse is runaway global warming. At which point, depending on who you ask, a lot of the midwest farm land is going to turn into useless desert.

    If someone in Ohio needs to deal with some temporary situation, such as wide spread, long term blackout, then the solution will probably be something more like shipping in beans, sterno, and water, (with instructions printed on the beans) rather than figuring out how to survive Thunderdome. Or as the kids call it these days, Hunger Games.

  56. I have seen my daughter’s future birthday lists and I am in awe. What an great kid. Is she planning on living in the Amazon? I thought getting my daughter the bow and archery lessons at 8 were a good start (I live in a city so the horse is always a no). I love all these suggestions and I now have some new ideas for Christmas for my 11 year old son. I would like to add, as someone who spent most of my life with strong anti-gun beliefs and who is now in a gun loving family; that most counties will offer affordable gun safety classes as young as 11. In MN they were amazingly good with some actual hands on time as well.

  57. I love this list. If Athena is really prepping for a ‘sticks and stones’ scenario, she might want to add chainmail (hauberk?) and a good sword. I’d suggest a katana. Also, a good book on making primeval booby traps. Preferably Montagnard design. Which reminds me, she should also ask for bamboo shoots or seeds. Those things grow like weeds and get rock hard once fired a bit. You can make them into spoons, forks, or pungi sticks.

  58. My three daughters, ages 18, 20 and 20, like the list and think Athena has her head in the right place. Of course this may be mitigated by some of the crazy pictures Himself posts of himself, but you would have to ask them.

    My own opinion is suspect, since I own or have done four of the items on the list. And my wife swears she will never buy me a horse. Sigh.

  59. Similar to my son’s birthday list this year…Survival Vacation…Gas Mask…Pick Axe…what are these darn kids up to?!?

  60. Survival Vacation…Gas Mask…Pick Axe…what are these darn kids up to?!?

    I assume the “Hunger Pangs” kids are sick and tired of the “Twilight” kids and have decided to do something about it.

  61. I take it the Scalzi’s are big fans of the National Geographic show ‘doomday preppers’. I love that show. They had a teenager on last week. He got his stash by stealing it from his mom.Then told her he would leave her behind when the end of the world came.

    I’d bet the Scalzi’s could get on that show if they really wanted to. Could be good publicity for your books.

  62. If you get her sharp implements, make sure she has a whetstone and knows how to use it, otherwise the throwing knives and machete will become flat pieces of metal after a while.

    The Army survival manual and Foxfire books are good. I’d also suggest she scavenge secondhand book stores and find copies of the old Euell Gibbons books, Stalking the…(fill in the blank). I am unfamiliar with the suggested herbal, but a working knowledge of beneficial herbs can’t hurt; in your area, did you know that jewelweed or touch-me-not is a specific against poison ivy (crush and apply externally after exposure to the ivy)? She might get a giggle out of an old book by “Nessmuk”, called Woodcraft and Camping, as well as some practical hints on setting up camp for both short and long duration. Finally, the much maligned Scouting manuals are actually full of practical information.

  63. Get her gun lessons because you love her and, dammit, it’s the right thing to do.

    For her birthday, get her the gun she prefers after she knows enough to have a preference. The traditional first gun is a rifle, often a .22 boltie, but that’s by no means universal. If you get a handgun, get a pistol she can comfortably carry concealed. (Even if she chooses not to, or is prohibited by law from doing so.) Whatever you get her, get about 600 rounds of ammo to feed it. For 9mm or .45 pistol ammo, that’s a box a month for a year, which is the minimum she’ll need to gain and maintain real proficiency.

    If she’s interested in rifles, look up the Appleseed program for training. That’s on my to-do list.

    Look into competition.

    Safety: I’ve never had a gun instructor who wasn’t a militant religious fanatic about safety.

    The apocalypse: the more people who are armed and “well-disciplined”, i.e., the larger the citizens’ militia, the less likely the apocalypse will be, and the shorter and less severe it will be if it comes.

  64. @ TheMadLibrarian

    The Army survival manual and Foxfire books are good.

    The US Air Force Search and Rescue Survival Training (AKA Air Force Survival Handbook) [AF Regulation 64-4] is better than the Army Handbook. Both are public domain and free to download, in any event. Last evening I tried linking to a place Scalzi could download a PDF version, but WP ate all three comment attempts. It’s even money if this one posts. Anyway, both handbooks are easy to find online if Athena wants some study material.

  65. I have always suspected I would get along well with that kid. Bring her on the JoCo nerd cruise and I will tutor her in water, food, shelter and fire survival training. and snorkeling. and buffet ninja general skulking. Or whatever Kristi says.

  66. Gun lessons are an excellent idea. I’ll also add an item to her list which Athena didn’t mention: training in general handyman/fixit skills (and especially how to safely handle power tools). At the age of 49, I dearly wish I’d taken wood shop in high school rather than cooking class!

    (The horse is of course what she really wants, but even with the sky-high price of ammo these days, the firearm will be less expensive – and probably more practical as well. But riding lessons are ALMOST as much fun as owning your very own horse, and a lot more affordable.)

  67. I own a machete, which my parents purchased in 1968 on our first visit to meet our cousins in Mexico. I used to wear it when I appeared as the ghost of Pancho Villa, but these days, you can’t really take a machete out of the house. Therefore, if you want to shock her with something from her list, the machete is yours.

  68. @Miles Archer: “I wouldn’t think a taser would be effective against zombies.”

    The taser is for the non-zombies. Remember, she doesn’t have to be faster than the bear (or zombie, or zombie bear), she just has to be faster than you. The taser just helps with that if she joins up with a bunch of Olympic sprinters or something.

  69. I said “All guns are always loaded, even when they are not.”
    My bad. Should be.
    “All guns are always loaded, //especially// when they are not;
    the most dangerous gun is one that is not loaded.”

  70. Malovich, do you own a biolitestove? I must say I’m intrigued. Fire goes to a thermo-electric generator whicih makes electricity which powers a fan which makes the stove burn even hotter? And then gives you some extra electricity to boot?

    I’m curious.

  71. Children are our future. Mostly because we’re going to be so out-survived by them when the zombie/virus/libertarian world threat comes & kicks in the cabin door. The future is no country for old people, alas.

  72. Here’s a serious recommendation: Any book by Cody Lundin, especially 98.6 degrees, the Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive (Amazon Link. He’s extremely practical, and a hoot to read besides.

    Here’s a less serious but more fun recommendation: have Athena check out http://www.himalayan-imports.com/, and see if she might prefer a khukuri over a machete. Here are the cool features of HI khuks:
    –they’re “fair trade” tools (the father of the woman who sells them owns the shop in Nepal that make them. They sell them here so that their low-caste smiths make a living wage).
    –They’re artisanal, every one’s a bit different (see above)
    –They’re made from recycled products (in this case, car springs from junked Mercedes, sourced from India), brass, horn, wood, and leather
    –They’re designed to last two generations with proper use and maintenance.
    –There’s even a place on Blade Forums where forum members get a chance to buy special/weird blades as they come in.
    –There is (or was) a community of collectors, some of whom are very cool about things like safety tips, proper usage, teaching kids, and even reshaping edges (I had one where the edge was too thin, and a member reground it for free. It works wonderfully now). At one point, they even held a long series of raffles to put the son of one of the HI smiths through medical school in Europe.

    Unfortunately, HI Khuks and swords are a lot more expensive than a machete, and they’re a lot heavier. Then again, they’re cool and definitely designed to last.

  73. A good hatchet. Does almost everything a knife does, plus you can chop wood with it. Then you can make her chop wood to get in practice. Win-win all around!

  74. I’ve used some of the edges from http://www.himalayan-imports.com/ and they’ve been very good. There is a you- get- what- you- pay- for thing; the fancier products are much fancier, the lower priced ones are just as functional (maybe more so, since you won’t worry so much about damage or loss.) If you’re actually cutting sugar cane, the machete might be a better tool, but for brush, a big khukuri (18″-21″, maybe for her 15″) can be better.

    Hatchet. I’d usually rather have an actual axe. There are small axes, don’t tell her it’s a “boy” size. Or maybe do tell her that. Hatchet works with arm strength, axe is upper body and waist.

    http://www.amazon.com/Northern-Bushcraft-Mors-L-Kochanski/dp/0919433510 Hopefully more than she’ll ever need to know about axe and knife care and use, with some good deep woods survival that’s not gadget related. The very basics, very well covered.

  75. With this list in mind, I think what she is really telling you is that she wants to go hunt zombies. Which, fortunately enough, you can do in Melbourne, Australia, right now. Look up https://irlshooter.com/ for more info!

    Of course, this would also mean taking the family on a holiday to Australia, which may in and of itself lead to falling in love with the place and moving here permanently.

    Incidentally, I will be doing this activity on January 12 next year, and cannot wait! ;)

  76. @Origuy: Himalayan Imports has made a sgian dubh-like knife in the past (with Nepalese fittings, which gets a bit weird). You have to be on their blade forums list to hear about such things.

    Actually, thinking about it, the side knives the biggest khukuris come with are about the size of a sgian dubh. You might actually email HI and ask them whether they have any blades of the right size sitting around. They also do commission work, although given the translation issues, the results can be…odd.

  77. Tim Morris sez
    http://www.armysurplusworld.com/product.asp?ProductID=1265
    Me sez No.
    Standard machete. Very poorly balanced. Using this item is very
    exhausting–Extend the handle six inches and put on a counter
    weight and you’ll almost have a useful blade, IFF you’ve learned
    how to move in a circle.

    About guns.
    Second or tenth most important thing to know is most guns have a
    safety. If the safety is on safe the gun can’t fire and is just a club.
    —— SCREAM ——- Gun At my forehead!!!!!! SCREAM.
    Okay? got that?
    If you know where the safety is you can do panic and make that gun
    ‘harmless’* (if you’ve good hands).

    ‘K. About that Gurkha blade.
    It would take some practice to use it well, but it looks like an awesome
    multipurpose sharp thing–If I hold it just like, like, no, a bit to the left.
    Yeah!
    Yeah, that. Looks like I could make a chest of drawers with it.

    SDT
    *Gun is still a heavy thing.
    Getting hit with a heavy thing hurts.

  78. Just wait a year, and ask anyone.
    They will supply zillions of better actions.
    (BTW, a few decades ago somebody told me “Why don’t you just say
    ‘Fuck you?’ ” I answered that I thought I had.)

  79. Well, if you know what you’re doing, a machete isn’t hard to use. Cold Steel does sell two-handed machetes, but there’s a reason most machetes are made (and used) one-handed. Remember that it’s designed to chop, and it’s not a katana.

    Khukuris–it took me a while to learn how to use it right. That ridge in the middle isn’t there for decoration or to raise a blister (which it does it you use it like a machete, swinging with lots of wrist rotation). instead, it’s designed for a “draw chop” that’s equivalent to a draw cut with a katana. You pull down along the hilt, your fingers engage with that ring, and you use your shoulder and elbow to power the stroke, pulling the blade through the target, rather than building up rotation with your wrist. Oddly enough, that bend is almost perfectly aligned to let the Khukuri cut with the sharp edge when you use a draw chop. It’s one of those orthopedic angles, really.

    Anyway, khuks are expensive, machetes are cheap, and until Athena really gets used to having and caring for sharp objects (and possibly picks up a few well-earned scars learning), a machete is not a bad thing at all. Unlike a khukuri, it won’t take off her toes if she drops it, and it won’t require stitches if she unsheathes it too fast, unless she makes some sort of epic fail. That’s the advantage of such a light blade. When I was her age, I even rigged an old machete for a shoulder carry, using the strap from a shoulder bag and lots of duck tape. I just mentioned the khuks, because I think that asking for a machete is just waaaay too conventional for anyone with an imagination. Also, HI makes blades right, while machetes are mass industrial products that are often badly made with crap steel and badly made handles that chew up your hands.

  80. Oh, I should add one separate thing: you see that list of books of edible plants–DO NOT GET IT! That’s my advice as a professional botanist. Most of the books I’ve seen don’t do enough to help amateurs learn how to identify wild edibles and differentiate them from poisonous ones. The classic problem is poison hemlock, which looks like a white carrot and smells very carroty, but which will kill you horribly if you eat it (that death of Socrates is largely BS–it’s actually quite painful, according to a coroner I talked to). This is a case where a little knowledge can cause a lot of trouble, and all of the books I’ve seen assume you have more knowledge than you actually do, unless you already know something about plants.

    If you’re going to insist on getting a book about edible plants, get one that focuses on fruits. The best test for a non-expert is to see if they tell you to forage for wild carrots (Queen Anne’s Lace, which is weedy in much of the US). If they do so, but don’t tell you very carefully and explicitly how to distinguish it from hemlock, put the book down and walk away. They’re assuming you know what you’re doing already.

    This is one area where you need an honest-to-goodness teacher to learn to do it right.

  81. Greg: Ordered one online after reading the related articles (the engineering team brought a bunch of them to NY after Sandy struck for real life disaster testing. They got a very warm reception http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/10/warm-up-cook-recharge-a-smart-tool-born-of-hurricane-sandy-aftermath.html ) and got excited at the idea of having an electrical power source in a total blackout as long as I have a few twigs.

    It’s shipped already; the campstove is about $130 plus shipping costs and cross-border taxes.

  82. Malovich: excited at the idea of having an electrical power source in a total blackout as long as I have a few twigs

    It’s quite a bit more expensive than a hand crank usb charger, but then again, most phones take a while to charge, and I can’t imagine sitting there and cranking for an hour to get enough charge to use the phone for a while.

    Hm….

  83. @Heteromeles
    I will read what you said, and have read enough of it to think that I wish
    to read it well enough to understand you.
    Comment—
    In my experience, using a machete is more exhausting than using an axe,
    and using an ax allows one to start a nice warm fire.

    Warm is good.

    ‘K.
    We are talking about a gift wish list. Uh, What did did the kid want? Oh.
    Right, that, a horse.
    Mooooo.
    (sorry).

  84. ShawnT: Second or tenth most important thing to know is most guns have a
    safety. If the safety is on safe the gun can’t fire and is just a club.
    —— SCREAM ——- Gun At my forehead!!!!!! SCREAM.
    Okay? got that?
    If you know where the safety is you can do panic and make that gun
    ‘harmless’* (if you’ve good hands).

    Dude, WTF?

  85. I doubt this’ll be seen down this far, but Trackers has a periodic camp program for Zombie Survival and Zombie First Responder (the adults version). http://trackerspdx.com/youth/summer-camp/day/stealth-archery-and-zombie-survival.php#.ULjCRaxX3ng for reference.

    In interests of full disclosure, I don’t work for them but a number of my friends are counselors there. They’ve also done a BPRD camp that was officially endorsed by Dark Horse comics that I had a hand in running. (helped safety-scout the abandoned power plant they used for a night mission, did some video FX work)

    Seems like they’d be up your collective alley.

  86. Rather more fun than a taser (and far cheaper, and safer to carry at school): Peter Brusso’s Defenders. http://www.pdws.biz/

    They work as advertised, and as seen in The Men Who Stare At Goats. It’s amazing that a simple piece of plastic can hurt like hell, yet not leave a bruise, and that a child can learn to use one in an hour or two. Fun for the whole family, although I think the animals will use their own rather better pain compliance tools if she’s stupid enough to practice on them.

  87. Greg:
    If you have a gun to your forehead you are going to die.
    You really will, and depending on things that I don’t wish
    to know about that death may be instant, painless and total
    or may just be a partial death where the bullet takes out half
    of forehead person’s mind, and leaves person functioning at
    10 percent.
    Or 90 percent that’s with speech and hearing but without the
    portion of the brain that can understand those.
    If you know that guns have safeties getting hysterical may
    amuse the gun holder enough to allow you to hit that safety
    and turn the gun into a club.
    What will probably happen next is the gun holder will beat
    you to death with that club.

    Mr King has written some stories that I will re read again,
    but he doesn’t know what true horror is.

  88. Ehh, maybe Mr King does know what true horror is, and knows to
    write stuff that I’ll re read because it sells better.

    Song.
    I’m out jogging on a country road.
    Thumpa thump thump
    Hospital.
    Ouch.

  89. No, Shawn, you might not. I wouldn’t try for a safety, though — they break. Takeaway and takedown are what you want.

  90. Okay, I’m confused and don’t know anything.
    Uhm, buggerit. Guess it’s time for me to tell a joke.

    And the old farmer bought a chainsaw what he’d been promised
    could cut five cords of wood in three minutes, but didn’t.
    And he went back to the store and told sales that the damn thing didn’t
    work.
    And Sales pulled the starter cord, the chainsaw _roared_ to life and
    and the old farmer said….

  91. HTom vis safeties.
    When one is down s*** creek without a paddle anything is a hope (if you’re
    up that creek you’ll probably drift against a shore, perhaps even before you
    drift to being down the creek).*

    Heh, what the kid really wants is a riding mower.
    And tell her not to mow in narrowing circles as this scares the local critters
    into the center of the circle.
    Mow in a way that will scare wildlife away from the mower; not concentrate
    them for shredding.


    *Unwanted advice: Don’t take a sleeping pill and a laxative.

  92. Heteromeles:
    I think I understand.
    May I tell you how to cut down a tree with an axe?
    Don’t slam the axe into the tree: Cut bits off at a place
    that’s easy for you to hit until the tree falls down.
    If you know how to move in your axe in a circle you
    can chop bits out of that tree trunk without having
    your axe lose its momentum.
    Kinda like bouncing your hammer (a little bit) off of
    the anvil.
    For the tree and the axe, actually is more of an arc.
    Swing at the tree, cut a bit off, let the axe continue,
    turn it over and let it swing down and chop and swing
    up and….
    Quite restful, kinda hypnotic, and Timber!
    .
    Much easier than just chopping.

    Aside: And now, wordpress is going to tell me that I
    have to log in to WP when what WP actually is doing is
    trying to log in to Gravatar and is asking me for my G.
    login info.

  93. Oh, kitten kicker.*
    Note to self: Oh, something.
    What I said is above is valid for using a scythe to cut weeds (which
    can be almost half inch diameter saplings) and is good exercise but
    is _Not how one uses an axe.
    I’d /so/ rather not be told about what is wrong with my vis my making
    this error.


    * Is a joke about Mother…. that has a father and son in it.
    I’m not any only child, and that joke caused me to think.
    So? Kitten kicker is now the worst thing I can think of to say.

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