Yes, Wire HANGERS!!!

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

Disaster struck, the apocalypse happened, or the SHTF… You’re safe (for now) and are taking stock of what’s in your home. It looks like you’ve got a good supply of the essentials, but notice there are several closets full of unused wire hangers. They’re leftovers from all the dry cleaning you’ve been using over the years. You planned to throw them away, eventually, but never got around to it.

A wise survivalist knows it’s a good idea to reuse everything, but how can wire hangers make living after the SHTF a little easier? This article provides some ideas on how those hangers can be used as-is, bent out of shape to make simple tools, or destroyed to make something completely different[1]

As Hangers, to Hang Stuff

Hang Clothes to Free Up Storage

First and foremost, hangers should be used as… hangers. You’ll need an efficient way to store clothes and hanging is the best way to use vertical space. Take as much clothing out of the dressers as possible and hang them. This will free up storage space for more useful items like: canned or freeze-dried foods, tools, and supposedly useless electronics.

Aside from freeing up storage space, hanging clothes is faster than folding, which gives you more time to work on other survival tasks.

To Dry Clothes Faster

You can even hang wet clothes on hangers, and then hang the hanger onto a clothes-line. Use the wooden clothes-clamps to space the hangers and stop them from sliding to the center of the line (I use this trick while camping). Here’s how this drying technique makes doing laundry easier:

  • The hanger allows more air to circulate within the clothes and they dry faster.
  • The hanger eliminates those annoying clip wrinkles at the shoulders.
  • Using hangers allows you to dry more clothes if you don’t have much rope.
  • Taking clothes off the line is faster with hangers.
  • The hooks can be bent shut to keep the wind from blowing your laundry away, and can easily be reshaped for hanging in the closet.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • Unless you have a clamping pants hanger, this trick won’t work with pants and shorts and they’ll need to be hung on the wire with clamps.
  • You can use hangers with socks and underwear, but they need to be clipped on. It’s a good idea if you’re running out of space on the clothes line, but I find it easier to clip them directly onto the line.

As a Whip

As the movie, Mommie Dearest, showed us in 1981, hangers can be used to punish children. This long-lost method of correcting bad behavior will make a comeback after the SHTF. Think about it. Socialist media will be a thing of the past, and there won’t be swarms of opinionated people to shame and criticize parents for spanking their kids. 

Disobedient kids will quickly learn how to behave once they realize they can’t report their parents to CPS because they got spanked for stealing. However, there’s a big difference between discipline and abuse. I know this from personal experience, so please don’t cross that line[2].

Lockpick

Straighten the hook part of the hanger and use it to pick a lock. A hanger lockpick will only work on internal doors because exterior locks are more complex (for good reasons).

  1. Stick the straightened end in the hole at the center of the doorknob.
  2. Feel around for the locking mechanism. This can be as easy as pushing a spring-loaded latch, or as frustrating as twisting the lock back to the unlock position.
  3. Twist the handle and open the unlocked door.
  4. Bend the top back into a hook, so it can be used as a hanger again. Also, try not to lock yourself out of that room again.

For Cooking

Starting with cooking, the following methods of using a wire hanger will destroy it as an actual hanger.

Hanging Meat

Clean, stainless-steel hangers are great for hanging meat while smoking or making biltong. I must emphasize that you shouldn’t use hangers coated with plastic because that will melt into your food.

Shish Kabobs

Again, only use stainless steel hangers to stab meat and soft vegetables before cooking over an open fire. This is great for roasting marshmallows too, but good luck finding them after the SHTF.

Drain Snake

Finding a plumber after the SHTF will be impossible and you’ll have to fix things yourself. If you’ve got a clogged pipe, take a wire hanger out of the closet and use it to unclog a drain.

  1. Straiten the boomerang shape out of the hanger, so it’s stretched out.
  2. Stick the hook-side of the hanger down the drain and rotate.
  3. Pull the hanger out of the drain and clean off any hair and gunk.
  4. Repeat this until the hanger comes out of the drain clean(ish).
  5. Store your new drain snake and reuse it the next time it’s needed.

I guess you could technically reshape the drain snake back into a hanger, but… eww! Why?

S-Hooks

Wire hangers can be made into s-hooks to provide quick and easy organization in the kitchen, workshop, or any room. Just keep in mind these are made of wire hangers and can’t hold large objects or multiple tools. The process of making an s-hook is simple:

  1. Use wire cutters to cut the hanger into 6-inch strips.
  2. Bend one end to form a hook. This can be done using your hands.
  3. Bend the other end, the opposite way to give the wire an “S” shape.
  4. Hang the s-hook on a rod to hang plastic spoons, spatulas, small tools, etc.

The hooks don’t have to look pretty, but they need to be functional. Some of my homemade s-hooks have pointed ends on one side, like a “V”. I find this makes the wire able to hold heavier objects when hooked to a wire shelf.

I’ve even made a few hooks with one circular end, so it functions like a hooked keychain for individual tools.

Trellis

Wire hangers can be turned into trellis to support vines and other weak plants. Plastic-covered hangers are especially good for this because the plastic protects the metal from rusting. The easiest way to make trellis out of hangers uses 6 to 8 hangers per vertical row. You’ll also need something to nail or staple them to, so if you’re building a freestanding trellis, that’s at least 2 wooden posts.

  1. Set 2 wooden posts in the ground, 14 inches apart.
  2. Orient the hangers on the side, with the hooks pointed toward the space between posts.
  3. Staple the “top” and “bottom” of the hangars to the posts.
  4. Twist the intersecting hooks together. This should also stretch the boomerang part of the hanger into an “X” shape.
  5. Repeat the process until you reach the desired height. 6 wire hangers should make a trellis about 4 feet high.
  6. Add another post and repeat this process to expand the trellis.

I’m not a visual artist, but the hangers will be situated like this and will have more of an “X” shape.

For a slightly stronger trellis, space the posts about 8 inches apart. The process is similar, but instead of twisting the hook-ends together, they get stapled onto the opposite post. The hangers will be crossed like this:

There are many other ways wire hangers can be made into trellis, but these are the 2 easiest methods I can think of. You should experiment based on the materials at your disposal and what makes sense for the garden.

Border Markers

Cut the hook ends off and straighten the wire to make thin rods. Similar to what surveyors do, the rods can be used as border markers to help visualize how much yard-space a structure will take. They can also mark where you plan to dig or as a reminder of where root vegetables are planted.

Make the rods more visible by tying a thin strip of cloth or brightly colored rope to each rod. Using different colors in a garden is a waterproof way to identify plants.

Cement Rebar

Stainless steel wire hangers can be used as rebar when building a small cement slab. Don’t use hangers with plastic coating because the cement won’t bind properly. Rebar usually isn’t needed for most small projects, but rebar could definitely help the floor/foundation support heavy equipment.

I needed a slab to support the weight of a full bathtub in a greenhouse bathroom experiment. Pouring a small slab probably would have been good enough, but I wanted to err on the side of caution. The general method I used to make the rebar was:

  1. Measure the area, fit the wooden border-planks, and pour concrete to about half the planned thickness.
  2. Cut the hook ends off and straighten the wire to make rods. Each rod should be about 30-36 inches, which is the width of most bathtubs. For a 60’x30” tub, I used about 40 wire hangers.
  3. Lay the rods. The rods should be spaced about 3-4 inches going down the length of the slab. Then lay a perpendicular layer of rods over the first layer, in a pattern similar to a chess board.
  4. Push the wire into the cement, so it’s slightly submerged at parts. This kept most of the wire from moving all over the place when I poured the rest of the concrete.
  5. Pour concrete to fill the top half of the slab.

Here are a few things to note with this project:

  • I am not an architect and what worked for my specific project may not be suited to your needs. Use your best judgement and experience when building any structure, or hire a professional.
  • This type of rebar should not be relied on for large-scale construction.
  • The method I use is similar to rebar used on streets, but I think highway workers use thin wires to bind the intersecting bars together. I didn’t.
  • After step 4, I noticed a few rods shifted while pouring the second half of concrete. Binding the wires would have prevented this, but I wonder if letting the concrete sit for a few hours would have worked to keep the wire in place.

Dowsing

If you’re in touch with inner psychic energy, using 2 hangers to make dowsing rods can be a way of finding resources. Albeit, a non-scientific and very unreliable method.

***

As you can see, there are several ways a survivalist can use wire hangers after the SHTF. Stay openminded and consider how other common household items may be used to make life easier in a survival situation.

I have a couple more ideas on how we can reuse common items during a survival situation. Be on the lookout for these in future articles.


[1] OMG Wreaths! I already had a nice list of dreamed-up ideas on how to reuse wire hangers after the SHTF, but thought someone else had better ideas. Most of the articles I saw online were about how to make wreaths out of them. After spending an hour looking at wreath-frames, I decided it was a damn waste of my (the author’s) time trying to research further.

I’m glad Christmas is over and won’t have to look at another wreath till November.

[2] Personal Experience with Abuse: The 5 years of hell I endured while living with my first step mother left a scar that may never fully heal. CPS was called 3 times, so you can imagine how easy it was for me to write a book about it. Writing a book was my way to come to terms, and get a little revenge from that vile woman. However, after the SHTF, such passive revenge will be a thing of the past and abused children may seek their revenge by more violent means.

Please remember readers that I do not condone violence or vigilante justice.

Survival Tool… A Towel?

In The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, the most valuable piece of survival gear is a towel. The novel’s entry for towels can be found in the footnotes of this article[1]. In summary, the guide states that a towel can be used for: warmth, shade, defense, cushioning, as a sail, chemical warfare filter, or defense against the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

But seriously, how useful is a towel during a survival situation?

Obviously, a towel can be used for warmth and make-shift shade, but I’m dubious of the other uses listed in the Guide. Here on Earth, a towel won’t be much use as a sail or defense against a large monster. Nor does it provide much comfort as a mattress, but it makes a decent extra-firm pillow[2].

Here are some ways towels can be used during a survival situation by us Earthlings.

Wave to Signal

The easiest way to survive a disastrous situation is to get rescued. If you’re stranded and see a plane or helicopter flying nearby, grab a towel and wave it around to get the pilot’s attention. Even if the aircraft flies away, the pilot probably saw you and reported your location to other rescue teams. Keep waving the towel at passing aircraft until you are rescued. If one pilot doesn’t see you, maybe the next one will.

For Warmth and Cooling

There are a few ways a towel can be used to stay warm or to cool off.

Shade

Tie the corners of a towel onto a low tree branch and sit under it to shelter from the sun. Just don’t expect it to cover your entire body if you want to lay down for a nap. If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, in addition to applying cool water or ice to the skin, providing shade to the upper half of the body can help cool the victim while waiting for medical assistance.

Insulation

If your home has a drafty door, tuck a towel into the cracks at the bottom to keep the hot/cold air out. Similarly, if there’s a small hole in a wall, stuff a towel in the opening to temporarily seal it.

During Hurricane Harvey (2017), the storm pushed rain through the masonry of my building. I was faced with having to pat-dry that wall nonstop for multiple days, with less than a dozen towels, and no way to dry them. It was an impossible task and I had to be creative with the materials at my disposal. I managed to rig up and adhere a few towels to the wall so they soaked up the water, and guided it into a bucket (so I could sleep).

Warmth

A towel makes a decent blanket for the upper body, but won’t cover much more than that.

I once had to use a towel as a blanket while attending school in North Texas. I was returning from Spring Break when a late Greyhound stranded me overnight at the station near my campus. The weather can be bipolar in that part of Texas, so the warm day quickly became a frigid night. I found a towel in my luggage and used it to stay warm enough to get a few naps in before the school shuttle picked me up the next morning.

To clarify, the “station” was little more than an office with 2 public restrooms, all of which were locked. Also, this was about 10 years before Uber became popular and taxis didn’t serve the area.

Head Covering or Scarf

The derogatory term, “Towelhead” gained usage after 9/11 as a slur against Arabs, Muslims, and desert nomads. During a survival situation, it’s wise to adopt the traditional garb of those desert cultures to shield your skin from the sun. Here are a few examples of how you can use a towel in this situation.

Turban

Wrap a towel around your head into a turban to serve as a makeshift hat. Wetting the towel helps keep your head cool as the water evaporates. If you have a really large towel, alternate forms of a turban can be fashioned to cover your neck as well.

Scarf

Similarly, using a damp towel as a scarf can provide additional cooling if you already have a hat. Even a dry scarf helps to absorb sweat and cool your skin through evaporation.

Alternately, a towel used as a scarf can help cover or insulate your neck when exposed to the cold.

Lawrence of Arabia Turban

This is a simple head covering and may be easier to wear than a turban, but you need a rubber band or rope. This two-piece “turban” is worn to shield the wearer from the sun and provides additional cooling by directing breezes toward the head and neck.

  1. Center the towel and cover your head as far forward as the mid-forehead. Don’t cover beyond your eyebrows, because that will ultimately cause distractions and limit visibility.
  2. Use a large rubber band (or a string/rope) to fasten the towel, so it stays in place. Fasten it midway up your forehead and around the back of your head.
  3. Experiment with how you wear the turban. If you wear the “turban” lopsided, or longer on one side, you’ll have enough towel to use as a scarf or face mask.

Makeshift Clothing

What if you suddenly find yourself naked and afraid, with nothing but a towel?

Don’t panic!

Use that towel to cover your very public, pubic areas. If you’re female, wrap it over your chest. Most towels are wide enough to cover the breast and pubic areas of the body. It’s a little easier for men because we can simply wrap it around the waist.

However, the width may be too long and may hinder a man’s ability to run quickly. I find it useful to fold the towel in half to reduce the width. It still covers what you need covered, while providing unrestricted movement.

Plus, it’s sexier… if you’re young or muscular, or generally attractive looking. Humans tend to be more willing to help those we find sexually attractive and wearing that towel in a sexy way could help with finding a survival companion. Who knows, maybe you’ll find love in a hopeless place (or time).

A Diaper

Finding fresh diapers will be impossible during a survival situation, so you’ll need to use towels as a substitute. It’s best to have multiple towels when using them as diapers. I think 5 towels are a good amount to have per infant, but more are always better. It’s a good idea to use the following rotation plan.

  1. One towel is worn by the baby.
  2. Wash each towel immediately after soiling.
  3. Dry soiled towels (could take hours if air-drying).
  4. One towel should be ready for the next diaper change.
  5. One towel should be ready as backup.

You’ll have 2 towels washed and drying at the same time, while still having 2 available when the diaper needs to be changed… in theory.

Absorb Water

Imagine finding an open well with water, but no bucket in sight. This is the only water you’ve seen all day, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find more tomorrow.

How can you get that water?

The basic function of a towel is to soak in liquids, so use it to soak up and collect that water.

  1. Tie a rope to the towel and drop it in the well.
  2. Make sure the towel is soaked before pulling it back to the surface.
  3. Wring the water out of the towel into a cooking pot, or some other container.
  4. Repeat the process until your container(s) are full.
  5. Make the water potable before consuming (filter, boil, germicidal tablets, etc.).

Makeshift Water Filter

It won’t remove microbes, but you can pour water through a towel to filter out debris before making it potable.

Air Filter or Mask

A towel can be used as a mask to keep sand and dust out of your airways. Used as a mask, it can muffle the germs of an infectious person and reduce the distance germs travel away from the wearer. As the Covid pandemic has shown us, masks don’t provide much protection from germs that are already in the air, so this is more of a preventative measure to help keep infectious people from spreading diseases.

A dry towel can even be used as a make-shift respirator to reduce the amount of smoke inhaled during a fire. According to most sources, wetting the towel doesn’t provide much additional benefit, and can make it harder to breathe through the towel.

What about Chemical warfare?!

Well, a towel can help… and it can’t.

According to FEMA[3], you should cover your mouth and nose while seeking shelter, but it should not be relied on as a safety measure in place of getting to shelter immediately. Covering your mouth does not prevent exposure to chemical vapors, but is effective against smoke and aerosols. Such byproducts would be released to the immediate area of a biological or chemical attack. Although, you’re most likely to encounter smoke during a house fire or wildfire.

In studies, using a dry folded handkerchief (or towel) was the most effective filter for particulates or aerosols[4]. As previously mentioned, wetting a towel doesn’t provide any benefit, and can make it harder to breathe. Placing a wet towel at the bottom of a door or window does not prevent vapors from entering a room, nor does it reduce the amount of chemicals entering[5].

As Defense

There are several articles about using a towel or other piece of clothing to defend against an assailant armed with a bladed weapon. Watch any “kung fu” movie to see how the unarmed protagonist fends off attackers with clothing, and even disarms them with it. In real life, the goal is to constrict the weapon or arm to disable or disarm the assailant, and then escape the situation.

It’s possible to use a towel to defend yourself from an attacker armed with a dagger, but it may be harder if faced with a larger blade like a sword. The best way a towel can be used to defend against a bladed weapon is to redirect the force away from your body. However, you shouldn’t go into a fight expecting to use a towel as a medieval shield, because a sharp sword (or katana) can easily slice through it.

If a stabbing attack is unavoidable, try using the towel to reduce how far the blade penetrates the skin. 

A Torture/Interrogation Device[6] 

Do you recall how painful it was getting whipped by a towel in the high school locker-room? The same principle applies when using a towel to interrogate a prisoner. Hold the towel at opposing ends and roll it into a long, towel-like rope. Then crack that whip at random parts of the body until the prisoner talks.

If used with enough force, a towel-whip can even leave bruises.

Wetting the towel can cause additional pain, but don’t get the towel soaking wet. If the towel is too wet it’ll only create a sloppy mess and won’t cause the prisoner much pain. You need enough water to moisten it. The perfect amount seems to match up with the dampness a towel gets after drying an average-sized adult as he walks out of a shower.

To Dry Things… A Towel’s Basic Function

Don’t forget the basic function of a towel is to dry stuff. Knowing how to use it for other things is great during a survival situation, but towels are best at doing the following.

  • Dry yourself, objects, and surfaces (of course).
  • Absorb liquid.
  • Wash yourself (most towel sets come with rags, which are made of the same exact material).

Last Resort Uses

Useful things can be made out of a towel, but doing so will destroy it. If you have no other option, a towel can be scrapped to make bandages, cut for cordage, or used as kindling for a fire.

***

When I read The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, I knew the claim that a towel is the most valuable piece of survival gear was meant to be a joke. However, a towel can be very useful during a survival situation.

Use this article as inspiration to see how ordinary household items can be used differently to improve your chances of survival. I’ve already found a few things we tend to throw away and will share their potential uses in future articles.


[1] Towel – The Guide’s Description:

A towel is just about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can carry. Partly because it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it around your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Wiki. (n.d.). Towel. Retrieved from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Wiki: https://hitchhikers.fandom.com/wiki/Towel

[2] Towel Pillow: A towel makes a good extra-firm pillow if folded. Its flexibility means it can be formed into any shape you need without flattening out, which is great for ergonomics… or so my doctor says.

[3] FEMA Guidelines: I know that many of my readers don’t exactly trust FEMA. Some of you don’t trust the government at all. Hell, I don’t have confidence in it either because it’s repeatedly ruined simple common-sense laws and messed up so many straight-forward public works projects. HOWEVER, the scientific data it acquires is originally designed to help our soldiers and we shouldn’t disregard its value to us as survivalists.

[4] FEMA. (2020, February 5). Using wet towels in chemical attack? Retrieved from Federal Emergency Management Agency: https://www.fema.gov/faq/using-wet-towels-chemical-attack

[5] Door/Window Covering: Placing a towel at the bottom of a door or window will not prevent vapors from entering. All points of entry (door, window, AC vent, dryer vent, plugs, etc.) need to be sealed with plastic and duct tape. Unfortunately, even that may not be good enough considering that some plastics are semipermeable, and there are likely deformities in the room or house which could allow vapors to enter, such as: cracks in the wall, floor, and internal ceilings (and/or standard features in a home, like attic vents).

[6] Crime/Violence Disclaimer: The author does not condone violence or breaking any laws, nor does the author support vigilante justice. The intention of this article is to educate readers on how to improve personal survivability during a theoretical disaster, and does not promote or entice anyone to steal, loot, or commit any other crime in any ordinary circumstance.

Songs with Misheard Lyrics 🎵

We often mishear the lyrics to music. We’ll sing and hum along to the songs we like, and would be embarrassed to learn we’ve been singing the song wrong. There are several ways the musical experience can be diminished and cause us to mishear lyrics.

  • Transmission degradation could happen, diminishing sound quality and causing slight static to occur at certain parts of the song.
  • The speakers in a car (or radio) could be damaged and sound scratchy.
  • The acoustics in the car could make the music sound hollow depending on which seat you’re in.
  • And, of course, there’s the ever-present background noise of the road and/or passengers when driving.

I grew up before music was available instantly on a phone/computer, and the only way to listen to music was over the radio or via cassette/CD. For me, mistaken lyrics occurs most often when the song was heard over the radio or in the background of a large gathering.

Nowadays, it’s easier to understand the music we hear. Most music apps download songs via a data packet to protect the music quality, and won’t play the song until all or a portion of the data (song) is downloaded. Some of those apps allow us to see the lyrics and sing along too. And most of us listen with headphones, which lets us hear the songs without background noise.

The following is a list of songs compiled from my experience to explain this phenomenon. See what I heard vs. the actual lyrics, and think of how you may not know the true words to your favorite songs.

Chains – By Patty Loveless

What I heard: “James, James, jackal, and flames” 

Actual lyrics: “Chains, chains, shackles, and chains

I heard this on the radio when I was about 5 years old and thought she was singing about a “love taking, heartbreaking” man named, James. I saw The Omen (1976 version) at an early age, so I think I heard “flames” because jackals are associated with Satan and the flames in Hell.

Blinded by the Light –By Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

What I heard 1: “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche in the roller of the night”

Actual lyrics 1: “Blinded by the light, Revved up like a deuce, Another runner in the night”

What I heard 2: “… And little early birdie gave my anus-curl a whirley…”

Actual lyrics 2: “… And little Early-Pearly came by in his curly-wurly…”

Turn the beat around – By Vicki Sue Robinson

What I heard: “Turn the beat around, got ta hear obsession

Actual lyrics: “Turn the beat around, love to hear the percussion

No Scrubs – By TLC

What I heard: “Boy, I don’t want no shrub

Actual lyrics: “Boy, I don’t want no scrub

I had a hard time with this one in my teens. I had no idea what a scrub was and the radio made it sound like she was singing about a shrub.

Thank U, Next – By Ariana Grande

What I heard: “Bacon and eggs, Bacon and eggs

Actual lyrics: “Thank you, next. Thank you, next

I first heard this song while driving to work one morning and it honestly sounded like she was singing, “Bacon and eggs”. The morning radio DJ/Hosts regularly air parodies of songs, so I thought it was a joke because people were commuting to work (with empty stomachs). That is until I heard it again, at a different part of the day.

Levitating – By Dua Lipa

What I heard: “You want me, I want you, baby. My sugarboo, I’m irritated.”

Actual lyrics: “You want me, I want you, baby. My sugarboo, I’m levitating.”

What Other People Heard

I knew the lyrics to the following songs, but others didn’t. When these songs play over the radio, I think of those people… and their version of the song.

Who Are You – By The Who

What was heard: “Who are you? Hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot

Actual lyrics: “Who are you? Who, who, who, who?”

I could understand the lyrics, but my 2-year-old sister thought they were making owl hoots. I think it’s a hoot now that I look back at the memory.

Losing My Religion – By R.E.M.

What was heard: “That’s me in the corner, That’s me in the spot-light, Losing my virginity

Actual lyrics: “That’s me in the corner, That’s me in the spot-light, Losing my religion

While on a road trip, I heard my boyfriend sing along to this song. The radio was pretty clear, but he sang, “Losing my virginity”. I looked at him and asked if he just said virginity?

I laughed when he said yes.

I told him it was “religion” and called him a doofus.

He was skeptical at first, but heard it for himself when the phrase repeated later in the song. He grew up thinking the lyrics were “losing my virginity” his whole life, and laughed at the revelation.

Because It’s Christmas Time

It’s the holiday season and stores, restaurants, and some radio stations are blasting Christmas music… nonstop. I grew up hearing these songs, but a couple of them stumped me.

Hark the Herald Angel Sing – By Charles Wesley

What I heard: “Peace on Earth and nursery rhymes

Actual lyrics: “Peace on earth and mercy mild

We Wish You a Merry Christmas – By Unknown

What I heard (v1): “Oh, bring us some frigging pudding”

What I heard (v2): “Oh, bring us some fluffy pudding”

Actual lyrics: “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding”.

I’m happy to finally learn the actual lyrics because I love figs and now feel compelled to Google the recipe for “figgy pudding”! (It’s more of a cake than pudding.)

I’d also like to point out the song makes the carolers sound very demanding. If listened from an alternate perspective, it sounds like a bunch of people (in a chorus) are wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

That’s nice and all, but then these bums start demanding some “frigging/figgy” pudding, and threaten to not leave until they get some. And that’s not all… they want you to “bring it right here”. 

The poor homeowner must provide the carolers with pudding or they won’t leave. How will he/she get any sleep?

An Argument for Tea

Do you remember learning about the transcontinental railroad in school? I learned about it a little more than 2 decades ago and don’t recall much about the railroad part. However, I retained a greater life lesson from that chapter in history class.

This article describes the most important part of the school lecture, and how we can use that information during a survival situation.

First, A Warning

I went to school long before everyone became “woke”. Hell, “political correctness” just started to be a thing when I was in high school. My teacher came from the back-woods of Liberty County, Texas and proudly claimed to be of “Indian” descent (I think she was ¼ Cherokee or Wichita). She was a country girl, but her teaching method was probably influenced by how her ancestors were oppressed by the “white man”.

The History Lesson

My teacher told us that Chinese people were used as cheap labor to build the railroad, and some were even forced to work on the project because they were shanghaied and stranded here in the United States. The Chinese workers bore the brunt of the work and were often discriminated against. The practice of making and drinking tea was often looked down upon as inferior by white people. The funny thing is, the Chinese didn’t die from illnesses as often as whites.

She explained that white people drank water from questionable sources like streams or stagnant water from barrels, and oftentimes got sick from waterborne illnesses (like dysentery[1]). The Chinese boiled water to make tea, which killed harmful bacteria in the water.

Of course, no one knew about germs because Germ Theory was just being discovered in Europe when the transcontinental was being built. They observed that Chinese people were hardier workers and, obviously, were better suited to labor.

Modern Takeaway

If a disaster causes civilization to end and we have to survive on water of dubious cleanliness, brewing tea will help ensure the “water” is safe. If you have kids, the process of making tea could be a good way to teach them about the importance of making water safe by boiling it[2].

Basic Tea Recipe

Growing up, I was taught to use 1 teaspoon of tea per 1 cup of water[3]. Use the ratio as a guide when making a whole pot/kettle of tea… because I know you aren’t going to waste time and energy to boil water for one-single-solitary-cup 😉

Metallic pot and kettle sizes vary, but the average size in the USA is about 1.5 quarts (6 cups). I use this amount in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (6 tsp.) tea leaves or chopped herbs (or 4-6 teabags)
  • 6 cups water

Directions

  1. Pour water into a pot and add tea or chopped herbs.
  2. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for no less than 10 minutes.
  3. Cool to a comfortable temperature and drink.

Sun-Brewed Tea

If you’re getting tired of tasting the iodine or chlorine from water purification tablets, you can use tea to enhance the flavor. The amount of ingredients is a bit different for this recipe because the size of most glass pickle jars is 1 gallon. Also, sun-brewing takes much longer to make and allows more time to release the tea into water.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons (9-12 tsp.) tea leaves (or 8-10 teabags)
  • 1 gallon purified water[4]
  • 1 glass jar with lid[5]
  • Optional: Aluminum foil

Directions

  1. Pour purified water into a large sealable glass pickle jar and add tea.
  2. Seal lid and set in the sun to brew for about 6-8 hours. You may use aluminum foil or some other reflective material to deflect more light into the chamber and get a better brew.
  3. Drink.

[1] Dysentery: The Oregon Trail was a popular videogame when I was in elementary school, so dysentery was a perfect example for this lesson.

[2] Truly Safe Water: Boiling water may kill microorganisms, but it cannot remove harmful chemicals and metals. Other low-tech methods may be necessary if forced to drink water from a source that may be contaminated by chemical or metallic substances. Distilling water kills microbes, removes metals, and some chemicals with low boiling points.

The only way to remove 99% of everything is to use a reverse osmosis filter.

[3] 1 Tsp. to 1 Cup: It’s probably a good idea to use a little less tea than the old 1:1 guide because you’ll be boiling the tea for a longer time, meaning more flavor will be released. Plus, the supply of tea is going to scarce. The exception to this frugal advice is if you’re brewing tea for medicinal properties. If you’re using medicinal herbs, use the full amount to ensure a good infusion.

[4] Use Purified Water: DO NOT use unpurified water for sun-brewed tea. I don’t think it’s necessary to say this to most of my readers, but the lack of common sense displayed by some people will amaze you.

[5] Glass Jar: I emphasize using a glass jar to make sun-brewed tea because glass will allow more light energy into the jar and retain it. Another reason is that plastic jars will leach chemicals into the water, especially when exposed to UV radiation or sunlight.

Cooking after the SHTF

Depending on the world-ending scenario you subscribe to, the method of cooking everyday meals will change. I guess it’s possible our cooking habits won’t change if we’re lucky enough to “suffer” a candy-ass sort of disaster. A disaster that merely knocks out most government services, but somehow keeps the power running and leaves our food supply chain intact. If you believe that, I’ll use the condescending insult popular in the Southern USA…

Bless your heart.

For those of us with more realistic views on how the world will change after the SHTF, I’ll provide some ideas to help answer the following questions.

  • How will you cook without basic utilities required for electric/gas ranges and ovens?
  • How can you adapt meals to fit the ingredients you’ve stockpiled or forage?

Different Preparation Methods

Humans have been cooking with fire since the dawn of time[1]. Just start a fire to sear, roast, or boil your food. Campfires, hearths, and wood/coal-burning stoves are the first things we tend to think of when it comes to cooking, but there are many other sources of heat you can use. Some of these methods don’t produce smoke and shouldn’t attract unwanted attention.

Coal & Gas

I’m not a fan of using propane or coal for cooking in a survival situation, because those sources of fuel won’t last forever. I personally think you should save propane for emergency heating during winter, but use it if that’s the only way you can cook food.

Unscented Candles

It may take a while, but you can use the heat from unscented candles to boil water and cook a soup[2]. Cooking with candles can be difficult because the flames tend to go out every time there’s a slight breeze and it’s hard to control the heat level. You can try controlling the heat intensity by raising or lowering the cooking surface, or by snuffing out a candle. However, such measures can remove too much heat and stop the cooking process entirely.

I’ve come to realize that when cooking with candles, it’s high heat or no heat.

Kerosene Lamp

Someone recently gave me a kerosene lamp, that’s missing a globe. I don’t have a spare globe and thought I’d just use the oil contained inside, but I noticed the globe clamps look similar to the pot holder on my compact gas grill. This made me think of how people around the world use kerosene for cooking and heating, so I should be able to use this lamp to do the same.

The clamps are too flimsy to hold a pot (obviously), so I built a crude platform out of bricks and an old stainless-steel grill. That “broken” kerosene lamp cooked a 1-pot meal better than tea candles. Not only was the lamp better able to tolerate a breeze than candles, but controlling the heat was easy too. I was able to bring the stew to a rolling boil and then lower the heat to simmer for an hour simply by adjusting the height of the wick!

Solar

If enough light energy is directed to a contained focal point, you can boil water and bake food[3]. Boiling water and cooking is easy if you invest $70 for a solar oven[4]. If you don’t want to spend that much money on a specialized oven, you’ll need to build something similar[5]. It may not be as nice and probably won’t boil water, but a homemade solar oven can reach temperatures around 200°F on a sunny day[6] (which means it can’t boil water).

The primary complication with solar cooking is access to direct sunlight, so cook with fire if it’s cloudy or looks like rain is coming. Regulating the temperature is impossible because you’re at the mercy of the sun and the amount of light you can focus into the cooking chamber. And baking takes longer because the cooking temperature is much lower than what conventional ovens can reach.

Automotive Dehydration

A sealed car in direct sunlight can’t reach temperatures high enough to safely cook food. You may not be able to bake food in a car, but the sweltering heat can be used to dehydrate fruits and vegetables to make them last longer in dry storage.

How else will you use a car if there isn’t any gas?

Different Ingredients

When the SHTF and access to food becomes scarce, the ingredients you have for meals will be limited to what’s in the stockpile and whatever you can forage. That means you may not have all the ingredients to make your favorite meals and will be forced to improvise.

How can you adapt your recipes?

  • “Powdered” ingredients will be used for things like: milk, butter, potatoes, and even tomatoes.
  • Specific meats will be unavailable and you’ll need to substitute beef with deer, rabbit, squirrel or whatever you can catch.
  • If missing a specific ingredient (like spice), you may have to cook without it.
  • If missing a vegetable, you could replace it with something similar or double up on another ingredient. For example, hardy greens like kale can be substituted with foraged dandelion or rose leaves.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be substituted with vegetable oil, ghee, or lard. Similarly, butter may need to be substituted with oil (preferably, a clean oil if baking cookies).

Different Planning

Meal planning will change after the SHTF. Certain foods will need to be prepped a day in advance, like beans. You can quick-soak beans in less than 2 hours, but a wise survivalist won’t waste fuel on shortcuts.

Alternately, you can’t store perishable ingredients if you don’t have electricity to power a refrigerator. Which means meal prepping will be restricted to 12-24 hours prior to dining. This also means you can’t easily store leftovers and shouldn’t waste food by cooking too much. It doesn’t make sense to cook a huge pot of soup if you’re only serving 2 people, so cut the amount of ingredients a recipe calls for in half.

Speaking of ingredients, the amount of ingredients used in recipes won’t be an exact science. You can’t afford to waste an onion if a recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of diced onions. Use the whole thing!

***

The way we cook our meals will change after the SHTF. Ovens probably won’t work and it’ll be impossible to go to the grocery store for ingredients needed for specific recipes. It’ll be inconvenient and maybe a struggle at times, but survivalists adapt and learn to make do with the tools and ingredients available.

A phrase I’ve learned to enjoy is “Eat it, or starve”. Well, in this case:

Cook it, or starve.


[1] Fire Safety: Fire is a potentially hazardous tool and should be handled responsibly. Never leave a fire unattended, even if it’s contained in a seeming innocuous vessel (candle, lamp, etc.). Always take precautions when using any form of fire, or when handling or storing any type of flammable substance. Always have fire extinguishing equipment or substances available in case a fire gets out of control.

This disclaimer provides a few general fire safety guidelines, which do not encompass all safety precautions related to using fire.  

[2] Scented Candles and Lamp Oil: DO NOT use scented candles or lamp oil to cook a meal, even if using a tasty-smelling scents like vanilla or cinnamon. Most scented candles and oils are made using paraffin wax and other synthetic chemicals, which leach into the food you cook. This gives the food a chemical or plastic flavor and can be hazardous to your health if consumed regularly or in large quantities.

[3] Camp Oven: I own a small portable camp oven that works using the heat from a stove top burner. It works, but it’s incredibly hard to regulate the temperature and may not be practical in a survival situation. Plus, it’s hard to use the oven over a campfire because it becomes a smoker.

[4] Solar Oven: I don’t make specific product recommendations unless I’ve personally used them, so do your own research and buy a solar oven if you’re interested. I don’t make commissions on any products I describe in my articles either. Hell, my website doesn’t even have ads… I wonder if I can, at least, get a tax deduction from paying for the website account?

[5] Homemade Solar Oven: The goal of this article isn’t to teach how to build cooking devices, but here’s how to make a basic solar oven: (1) build a box, (2) paint the inside black, (3) top the opening with glass (not plastic), (4) place in direct sunlight, and maybe (5) consider using a mirror or panel covered with aluminum foil to direct light into the box.

[6] Internal Temperature: A homemade solar oven may be able to reach 200°F, but you should always check to make sure meat has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Do this regardless of the cooking equipment used in cooking.

Our War with Russia & Risk of World War III

We are at war and we’ve been at war for several months now. It may not be a declared war, but it’s a war nonetheless. There’s the physical war fought by Ukrainians, who are defending their right to exist as a sovereign nation. Their success on the battlefield would not be possible without our continued support. 

Russia may have threatened the USA & NATO with its nuclear arsenal to keep us out of direct conflict, but make no mistake, we are at war. Ever since the Soviets- er… Russians invaded Ukraine:

  • America is providing funds, materials, and weapons to help Ukraine fight our enemy (Russia).
  • America is waging economic war against Russians, by imposed sanctions. 
  • American weapons are killing Russians. 

Our economic and military support of Ukraine continues to increase as the war drags on and escalates. The USA recently escalated our material support by providing technologically advanced anti-air defense systems.

Keep in mind this is a nation we don’t have an official alliance with, so the aid isn’t being sent there out of the kindness of our heart. Either by economic or political gain, the US government will expect a return on our investment after Ukraine wins the war. Heck, it could be argued that we already are benefitting from the aid sent to Ukraine. From one point of view, Ukraine is a mercenary force the USA is paying and equipping to attack an enemy (Russia).

If any nation imposed crippling sanctions against the USA and supplied money and arms to an enemy we’re actively fighting, we’d be getting ready to fight a war with them. Now I’m just a simple American writer, so what do I know. Anyone possessing the sense God gave a cockroach should realize that powerful Russians see our military and economic support to Ukraine, as acts of war and are pissed. A sensible person should be concerned with how they are preparing for that inevitable conflict and when their counterattack will happen.

As the war in Ukraine drags on and Russia becomes more desperate to turn the tide, possibly with unconventional weapons, I can’t help but think of the interconnected alliances which helped spark World War I. The USA is part of a large military alliance of nations, specifically designed to counter the Soviet Union (now Russia). If any one of our NATO allies is attacked, it will start World War III.

Russia and China have been in an implied military alliance for over two decades. While they have their own agendas, they both share a historic animosity against the USA. If China makes good on its threat to invade Taiwan, it’ll open up a new front for us to deal with and start a global conflict.

And now, the damn North Koreans are escalating tensions in response to the most recent USA-South Korea joint military exercises. North Korea has a famously long history of military cooperation with China and currently has a friendly relationship with Russia. They have a long hatred of the United States and our alliance with South Korea, which stems from our intervention in their almost complete conquest of the south back in 1950.

There are many hot-spots in this Neo-Cold War with the most powerful totalitarian/authoritarian nations on the planet. All those “Presidents”, who hold the power of absolute monarchs, are escalating tensions and all it takes is one fuck-up to spark a hot war. A war we are ill-prepared for because:

  • Most of the world’s attention focused on Ukraine.
  • Most of our NATO allies’ weapon stockpiles are depleted as they support Ukraine.
  • Most of those allies are reluctant or unwilling to spend money and resources to replenish those stocks.
  • Most of those allies won’t be able to lend much support and may even back out of the treaty when called to fulfill their treaty obligations. Turkey in particular is a concern because of its close ties to Russia and animosity with other NATO members and prospective members.

We are at war. It’s a cold, proxy-war which our weapons are killing Russian forces in droves. This war can easily escalate out of control to become an active “hot” war, which will quickly turn into a global conflict as our ideological enemies flex their muscles and strike out against us.

I fear that’s a conflict we will ultimately lose.

***

A Comment Regarding My Support of Ukraine

I recently had an internet troll attack me for showing the Ukraine flag on my Facebook profile pic. This was in response to a post I made to one of the many “prepper” groups. I responded to the bunker-dweller by stating a lot of people show the Ukraine flag because they support the country and their fight against our ideological enemy… if not outright enemy (recall that Russia has hired mercenaries to kill our troops in the past).

I display the Ukraine flag to show my support for the country’s struggle against Russia. But it’s also a symbol that I’m not a Russian sympathizer or a traitor to the USA, our allies, and democracy & free speech.

The troll didn’t have a response and blocked me 😉

We’re all Preppers

TV and other media sources have done a good job depicting “preppers” as militants, racist, and borderline terrorists. While there certainly are some people in the prepper community who fit that stereotype, it doesn’t mean all of us fit that mold. If you think about it, everyone is a prepper to some extent.

You don’t show up for an interview looking like you just rolled out of bed. You prepare by making yourself look presentable and arrive with the supplies necessary to survive the meeting. Similarly, you don’t go camping naked and afraid[1]. You prepare for the trip by packing supplies, tools/weapons, and shelter.

Preppers are just more dedicated at being prepared for any occasion than most people… including civilization-ending disasters. Let’s look at how people prep from one extreme to another.

Simp Prepping

At the basic extreme, we have those who prep for small events. If preparing for a meal, you’d buy ingredients and arrange them to be cooked later. The prep-work is slightly different when going out for dinner, because you dress for the occasion and wear perfumes to be more attractive. 

Some people take PrEP to prepare for a “really good time”, whenever it may happen.

Older people take Cialis, for when the moment’s right.

This may be simple and short-sighted, but it’s prepping… sort of.

Short-term Prepping

Most news agencies along the Gulf Coast tell people to prepare for potential tropical storm activity during hurricane season. Families buy bottled water and non-perishable foods to prepare for this dangerous season.

At least they’re prepping for something.

Wannabe Prepping

These preppers purchase everything they think will help in a survival situation, and maybe a state-of-the-art bunker with all the luxuries of modern life. These wannabes may have all the right things to survive, but probably don’t know how to use all that fancy equipment.

That posh bunker is probably useless without electricity to power all those bells and whistles. 

Well, at least they’re trying to prep. 

Activist Preppers 

Activist Preppers are the type who prep because they fear our country will become a police state. They fear our civil liberties will be taken away and are prepping for a possible confrontation which they, theoretically, may be called upon to defend the nation. They may or may not have bunkers full of supplies, but they probably have enough guns and ammo to equip a small army or well-regulated militia, which may prove necessary for the security of a free state.

Technically, it’s prepping.

Hobbyist Preppers

Hobbyist preppers follow the usual “SHTF” or “Prepper” social media groups. They read prepping or survivalist-themed books and have hobbies that complement the lifestyle[2]. Circumstances may force hobbyists to be less equipped than what some consider ideal, especially according to the most opinionated in our social groups. Many hurdles faced by some preppers stem from how expensive prepping is:

  • Land – Most people can’t afford to buy a second property out in the wilderness, and building a bunker is probably out of the question too.
  • Supplies – Non-perishable food is expensive, especially if you want variety. The price for specialized water purification tools are outrageous too. The retail turkeys in our prepper groups squawk about and worship Berkey Water Filters all the time, but those filter systems start at $200 and the replacement filters cost almost as much! There are cheaper alternatives for camping, but they tend to hover around $50. That’s a lot for some people.
  • Storage – Hardly anyone has space to store several years’ worth of food and water, much less a lifetime supply. And, it costs money to buy that extra storage capacity.
  • Familial restrictions may forbid “hoarding” or owning firearms too. 

Don’t be overly critical of hobbyist preppers. They may not have the materials most preppers have, but they tend to have the knowledge to find or grow what’s needed to survive. Afterall, anything can happen to a stockpile and leave you with nothing except knowledge and skill.

They’re prepping as best they can.

Serious Prepping

Most of the preppers I’ve seen in various social media groups appear to fit in this category[3]. They’re the people trying to prepare for the next major long-term disaster. A SHTF situation so disastrous, it causes economic hard times, civil unrest, and/or famine[4]. They store food, water, ammunition, and some have an extra property to which they can move (or bug-out).

Most of these preppers have trained themselves to be self-sufficient if necessary. They can live off their supplies for months, and have the skills to find or grow more food to live for many years.

This is prepping.

Extreme Prepping

TV shows and the news have promoted this extreme form of prepping and it’s what most non-preppers tend to think of when they hear about prepping. Preppers of this type usually own a home out in the wilderness or have an extra property they can bug out to if the situation becomes dire. Their property almost certainly has a fully stocked underground bunker too. 

Preppers of this sort are prepping for cataclysmic civilization-ending disasters. They’ve stockpiled enough non-perishable food, water, and other supplies to last a lifetime or longer. They usually have the knowledge and ability to find or produce even more supplies. They also tend to have an arsenal of weapons to defend their hoard. 

They’re prepping for doomsday… and will wage war to defend the hoard.  

What type of prepper am I? 

Based on the criteria described in this article, I’d consider myself a “serious prepper”.

  • I own property and can relocate or “bug out” if needed.
  • I’ve stockpiled enough food to last over a year (by myself), and know how to grow more.
  • I’ve trained myself to use the equipment I own, and am proficient with firearms. 

I’m not a wannabe prepper, but I definitely want-to-have some of the stuff extreme preppers claim to possess. If I win the lottery or land a high-paying job, the first thing I’m buying is a small bunker (with no technological bells and whistles). 

Unfortunately, my spouse isn’t very supportive of prepping and sees it as an embarrassing hobby of mine. He jokingly calls me a hoarder and doesn’t approve of the numerous ideas I have for my property. Needless to say, firearms are forbidden in our household[5].

Of course, my self-assessment could be proven wrong if I don’t actually survive the incident or attack which causes civilization to fall. Heck, I’ll probably be murdered by a snowflake who can’t handle the fact that I have a different point of view, but that’s a story for a different article.  

I’ll close by saying that everyone is a “prepper” in some small way. Some people are prepping for one or two scenarios they’re convinced will happen, while others try to prepare for every possible disaster. Some preppers can only afford to stockpile knowledge, while some are rich enough (or took out a loan) to own: a bunker, food to last several lifetimes, and enough weapons to supply an army.

We all prep in different ways and should remember that no one has a perfect preparation plan. Now go hold hands and start singing “Kumbaya, My Lord”, like a bunch of hippies.


[1] “Naked and Afraid”: Even on the TV series,  the “survivalists” are allowed one helpful item.

[2] Prepper-like Hobbies: Activities can complement a prepper lifestyle and allow people to practice their preps or survival equipment. Such activities include: Camping, hiking/backpacking, gardening, hunting, fishing, martial arts, beekeeping, and much more.

[3] Most Preppers: I already know this article is going to trigger some of the more extreme preppers. They seem to be driven to exclaim they know a lot of people who’re just like them. People who own a mountain of cash or are in debt from taking out a loan to build a bunker to survive for all eternity.

[4] Disastrous SHTF… Now? It could be argued that we’re already living through the beginnings of such a disaster. There have been supply shortages since 2020, fertilizer is in short supply and the 2 largest suppliers (China & Russia) are hoarding it, famine is starting in Africa, WW3 almost seems inevitable now that the Soviets invaded Ukraine and are probably sabotaging Western infrastructure AND keep escalating the war.

I mean, pick a disaster.

[5] Firearm Prohibition: Firearms may be forbidden in my household, but we aren’t defenseless. I’ve worked in law for enough years to recognize and take advantage of loopholes when I see them, so despite the prohibition, I’ve made certain we have many weapons to defend ourselves if the SHTF.

Driverless Trucks, An End of an Era

I recently heard that driverless freight trucks were being tested on I-45, between Houston and Dallas. I immediately thought of the news as yet another example of how automation is taking our jobs. That was on my mind when I saw the trucks driving on the interstate.

It was cool seeing something newsworthy, in real-life. But after I left the truck in the wake of my dust, that cool feeling took a somber turn. As I drove alone in my thoughts, I started thinking of how that automated freight truck isn’t just delivering cargo, but also the end to truckers. I first thought of the stereotypical activities attributed to truckers, but as the miles went by, I pondered how automated trucking makes good business sense.

The Truck

The trucks are impressive looking. They are bright blue and have a large array of sensors attached to the roof of the (almost obsolete) driver cabin. I could clearly see the video cameras and what looked like radar spinning on both sides of the truck. And as I passed the truck, I caught a glimpse of a man sitting behind the wheel[1].

Automated Trucks Make Sense

Automated trucking makes good business sense because it fixes problems associated with logistics, such as: human limitations, scheduling, legal liabilities, and transportation costs.

No Pesky Driver – There isn’t a driver to pay and companies won’t have to worry about truckers striking because of overwork and low pay.

Operate 24/7 – The trucks can operate 24 hours a day without stopping to eat, pee, or sleep. Automated trucks don’t care about holidays either. They can work 365.25 days a year without complaint or needing overtime pay.

Legal Compliance – Without an impatient or reckless human behind the wheel, automated trucks won’t feel tempted to drive above the speed limit[2]. If the truck travels above the speed limit, there will be a digital record of the traffic violation somewhere in the company’s servers. Whether the company shares information on such legal infractions is another question. All the cameras and monitoring equipment will almost certainly be used to protect the company if/when accidents occur.

Reduced Costs – Automated trucks should drive down costs because: there’s no driver to pay, reduced shipping delays, and insurance premiums should decrease over time. But will consumers see lower prices at the store? Don’t hold your breath.

Automation is a tool for improving the company’s bottom line. Not yours. 

Humanity in an Automated World

What jobs will be available to humans in a driverless world? Freight trucks need to be refueled somehow[3], so the job of Gas Pumping Station Operator may be resurrected. At least, until they find a way to automate that process too.

Even if a safe automated process for pumping gas is developed, it makes sense to keep gas pumping operators around. At minimum, they can perform inspections and clean bugs off the optical sensors. Pump station operators can be trained to perform more detailed maintenance as well. Just like the computer in my car, the computers in an automated truck or logistics system should detect if scheduled or emergency maintenance is needed. The system can calculate the optimum location to perform maintenance and automatically send a work order to local operators.

This is starting to sound like that 1997 movie, “Trucks”.

Safety

It’s given that accidents will happen. Tesla cars are in the news all the time because the autopilot feature keeps injuring or killing people. If these companies can’t get it right for consumer vehicles, what makes you think commercial vehicles will be safer?

How will these trucks be programmed to handle collision avoidance once they’re approved for completely automated operation? If a collision is unavoidable, how will the truck decide to maneuver and cause the least amount of damage? We don’t really know what types of sensors the trucks have, nor do we know what processing capabilities the on-board computer has. I doubt the trucks have the ability to see how many people are in each vehicle, so I’ve got to ask if the computers are programmed to prioritize avoiding certain vehicle types?

Most people would think an automated truck will maneuver to prevent human death or injury, but I can’t help wondering if the programming will prioritize company property over the lives of everyday drivers. We all should know by now that making money and avoiding liability is what drives greedy corporations, so I’m skeptical when I hear that safety is foremost on their minds.

What’s Next

It’s not just truckers who’ll be driving into the sunset, I can see automation taking other jobs too. Sanitation jobs are probably the least liked on the market. Most city garbage trucks already have an automated claw to grab your standard garbage bin and chug the contents into its maw, so I can see our cities taking a step forward by automating the entire process.

How confident are you in the maneuverability of automated garbage trucks in your neighborhood? Think of where your kids play, because we know the cheapest cameras will be used on city vehicles. If that’s the case, the vehicles may not be capable of detecting humans. If the vehicle notices at all, your child may be noted as an unregistered speed bump.

End of an Era

As more and more automated trucks are put on the road, truck stops and gas stations won’t cater to truckers any longer. You won’t be able to look up and see sexy truckers while driving down the interstate[4].

The writing’s on the wall… of the truck stop bathroom.

UPDATE DECEMBER 2022

With the recent risk of a rail strike and the subsequent economic disaster such a strike would cause to the economy, I’d like to point out that automated railroad transportation would definitely benefit the nation. Arguably, automating our railroad logistics makes more sense than automating the trucking industry.

  • Trains move on rails and only go forward and backwards.
  • Trains don’t weave in and out of traffic because they only “turn” at junctions.
  • I’m not a programmer, but the programming needs for trains has to be simpler than trucking. Using collision avoidance as an example, there’s no need to enact elaborate collision avoidance maneuvers because trains can’t swerve out of the way. If the system detects an obstacle blocking the rail, it can easily trigger emergency brakes and blast the air horn faster than a human operator can react.
  • Similarly, digital monitoring of the rails can help identify damaged tracks and trigger a maintenance work order. The system can detect and react to rail deformities faster than human operators, whom may not even notice until it’s too late. This could substantially reduce the risk of derailments.
  • The signals at almost every railroad intersection are already automated and usually relies on a sensor near the intersection. These safety devices won’t require much modifications… if any at all.

I wonder why trains aren’t already automated.


[1] Human Infesting a Driverless Truck: In Texas, a human must be able to step in to operate the vehicle if necessary… at least, for now. Drivers may have to share the road with completely automated trucks in about 1-2 years.

[2] Speed Limit: There’s a possibility automated trucks will be granted exceptions to speed limit regulations. I don’t see the need for an exception to the speed limit because automated trucks can operate 24/7, but corporations are greedy. If there’s a business need for these automated trucks to move faster than established speed limits, the businesses who control our politicians will lobby to ensure these trucks are above the law.

[3] What about electric vehicles? It’s possible a fleet of automated trucks will be converted to electric if the technology is perfected. I doubt this will happen because gas/diesel power is quick and more reliable. The current battery technology allows cars to travel about 250 miles on a single charge, but those cars aren’t hauling several tons of freight. It takes about 30 minutes to recharge normal vehicle batteries, so consider how long it’ll take to charge a battery designed for freight trucks. Electric vehicle batteries cost a lot to replace and tend to wear out quickly, and are prone to exploding if overheated or overused.

The infrastructure already exists for gas-powered vehicles and it stands to reason that automated trucks will continue using diesel for years to come.

[4] Sexy Truckers: NSA-style relations with roaming truckers will be a thing of the past. Which means the guy advertising “services” on the wall of truck stop restrooms will have to find something better to do.

Opinion: Nord Stream Probably an “Inside” Job

Most media sources have elaborately described possible scenarios on how the Soviets- er, Russians could have sabotaged the Nord Stream pipeline. Most news sources are amazed at the scale of the attack, and how it was executed without anyone noticing. All media sources I’ve seen focused on how it could have been done externally. The scenarios currently presented involve the use of: a submarine, drones, mines, torpedoes, and even deep-sea divers.

Nobody (yet) has considered how easy it is to sabotage the pipeline internally.

“Inside” Job Explained

It’s easy to destroy these pipelines without anyone noticing… from within.

I’m not talking about sending someone inside the pipe to destroy it James Bond-style. Not only is the internal space less-than 4 feet wide[1], but that’s a claustrophobic journey over 500 miles from the Russian side of the pipeline!

Think of how oil/chemical companies maintain pipelines. I once worked at a major oil company and underwent cross-training to better understand how the company maintains pipelines. According to the training, internal inspection and maintenance is performed by devices commonly called “pigs”. Most pigs are propelled by the flow of product, but self-propelled models have been used for years to maintain stagnant pipes and do detailed investigations[2]. More extensive inspections can be done using self-propelled robotic drones, which come in handy when the pipe is stagnant.

All someone needs to do is attach explosives onto these devices and send them down the pipe on a maintenance run. Pigs and drones have tracking devices built-in to allow operators to monitor them as they move down the pipe. Once they reach the desired location, all it takes is a few key-strokes and…

BOOM!

You sabotaged a pipeline!

Recall that I mentioned the distance was over 500 miles? If the pipeline was pressurized, a pig could make the trip in about a day (depending on flow-speed). Since the pipeline was supposedly shutdown, it would take a self-propelled drone or pig 1 week to reach the sabotaged locations. Maybe 2 weeks given the explosive nature of such a mission.

What if it wasn’t sabotage?

HOW?!

  • How, given the current situation between Russia and the western world?
  • How is it possible for a spontaneous and incredibly localized earthquake to rupture the pipeline at so many locations?
  • How can a maritime accident do the same?
  • How could such leaks happen at different locations, simultaneously (according to most media reports)?

I’d sooner believe that terrorists from Skyrim[3] sabotaged the pipeline. Imagine a bunch of Nords yelling:

“This pipeline BELONGS TO THE NORDS!”

***

I’m just an average guy who paid attention and remembers the training received working at an oil company, so take my “expert opinion” with a grain of kosher Himalayan salt. With all this talk about covert military sabotage, I can’t believe nobody thought to ask anyone who worked in the oil/chemical, or natural gas industry how it could have been done internally.


[1] 4 ft Wide: Offshore Technology. (2022, March 1). Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, Russia and Germany. Retrieved from Offshore Technology: https://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/nord-stream-2-pipeline/

[2] Pressure/Self-Propelled Pig: Since the Nord Stream pipeline hasn’t been in service, The Russians would have needed to use a self-propelled pig. Otherwise, the pipeline would need to be temporarily pressurized for maintenance to allow the flow to transport a pressure-driven version.

[3] Bethesda Game Studios. (2011, November 11). The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda Softworks.