Fanny Packs

Fanny packs are coming back in style.

Yes, you heard me right. Those packs that went the way of the Dodo around the year 2000, have made a comeback. I started noticing bicyclists were wearing fanny packs in 2019, but then the gays started wearing them at bars, and I’ve even seen a few straight men sporting a pack. How did this happen?

Let’s describe what a fanny pack is so Gen Z and Alphas know what we’re talking about.

The kangaroo pouch fanny pack was designed to be worn on the waist of the wearer, in front of the crotch area. This is to help protect valuables from pickpockets in crime-riddled urban areas. The intended use became moot when people started wearing them on the side of the hips, or even on the lower back.

That’s the exact opposite of how it’s supposed to be worn!

Around the year 2000, pretty much everyone forgot all about the fanny pack. It was a time of great change. We got caught up in the Y2K scare and we “part[ied] like it’s 1999”, in 1999. If they were seen after the dawn of the new millennium, they were worn by “boomers” on vacation (to the embarrassment of grandkids everywhere).

Fast-forward 20 years, and they’ve made a comeback!

I first noticed that die-hard bicyclists were wearing fanny packs during group rides I participated in. Instead of on the waist, they wore the pack over their chest. I thought it was a neat idea, because most athletic clothing lack pockets.

Even if you happen to find athletic shorts that have pockets, a true athlete or enthusiast won’t bother using them because it messes up the workout. I hate keeping my wallet, phone, and keys in my pockets while riding. They flop around, dig and cut into legs, and tend to fall out. It’s too much of a distraction and hassle.

But wait, here comes the fanny pack!

You can strap this to your chest and keep all your essential items in an easy to access pack. You’ll even look stylish in the process. No-one will look twice if you choose to wear it on the back of your waist either.

Fanny packs are a useful accessory for bicyclists, but they started getting smaller and smaller… and men began wearing small leather packs at the gay bars. This new form of fanny pack is obviously intended to be a sexy accessory. It accentuates the muscles and shows how flat your chest and belly are. Unfortunately, a lot of guys with “average” bods (like my body) wore them, and it didn’t look hot.

The strap made the dad-bod and moobs more prominent.

There have been a lot of successes using new versions of the packs in the Downtowns of most major cities. Business dress seems to match well with some of the higher-end packs. Spurred on by this fashionable success, fanny packs experienced even more alterations and began looking like form-fitting male purses.

And then, some of the prettier men began sporting actual purses.

It’s rare, but I’ve even seen the occasional straight man wear a high-end leather fanny pack. I think the only times I’ve seen straight men wearing them is at sporting events, or if they’re out with family.

Most times it’s painfully obvious the wife or girlfriend made him wear it.

***

From bicyclists, to gays, to metrosexuals, the fanny pack is making a comeback, but is this fashion trend here to stay? Or will it fade away and only resurface in awkward family get-togethers, like all those 90s photos your grandparents keep digging up from storage?

Who knows…

Vacations are Hard Work

Vacations are fun, but it’s a job to plan a successful one. You need to set a budget, decide where you’re going, find lodging, figure out what you want to do, pack for your trip, and prepare your home. That’s a lot of things you must do before you depart on your vacation. 

In this article, I’ll describe how to plan a vacation for 2 people who live in the United States. You will need to adjust your own planning based on how many people you’re taking. I’m going to assume a few more things: 

  1. You’re planning this vacation months in advance, because that’s going to play a major role in how much you save on the 2 largest expenses on your journey: travel and lodging. 
  2. You aren’t traveling in peak or holiday seasons, because travel and lodging will be expensive no matter how far in advance you book everything. 
  3. You’re leaving your pets at home. 
  4. You aren’t renting a car.

Budget

So, you want to go on a vacation. What’s your budget? 

What! You don’t have one?! 

A budget is the most important part of planning a vacation. It dictates your entire experience from: where you can go, to how long you can stay, to what you can do while you’re there.  

Check your bank account now to see how much money you can throw at a travel experience. Okay, it looks like you have $2,000 to put toward a vacation. That’s awesome! We can work with that[1]

Now, where can you go with that kind of budget? 

Almost always, the largest expense is traveling to and from your destination. With our budget, you could theoretically travel to Europe[2], but the airfare alone will consume your funds and you won’t be able to do much when you get there. Realistically, you should be able to purchase round-trip flights to any major city in the continental United States for only $200-300 per person. 

If you want to travel somewhere inside your state or in a neighboring one, then you should consider driving your own car[3]. That could be a great cost-saving option for you, but we’re going to proceed with the assumption you’re going somewhere far away from home.

Pick a city, any city… Seattle, Houston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Tampa, New York, etc.

Use your phone to check airfare rates from your city and save that info for later. This will help you decide how long you can stay at your destination. 

TipDo not use your phone to book airfare later. The travel websites save your personal data and use it to charge you more later, when you’re ready to make a purchase. 

Now that you’ve picked a city and recorded possible flight dates and pricing (including the return trip), use this information as the basis for the rest of your vacation. The next step is to figure out where you’re going to store your stuff and sleep. 

Lodging

Using the flight information as a guide for your vacation, you need to find out where you want to sleep. You can find lodging for as low as $20-30 a night if you use a hostel. That’s not an option for most people. Especially, if you’re not very trusting when it comes to leaving possessions in a communal bunk room… even if there’s a locker. Another thing to consider, is you won’t know what your roommates are going to be like until you meet them… and try sleeping over their snores.

And then, you need to worry about their Covid-19 vaccination status. 

Let’s assume you want a private room, in a reputable hotel. One can be had for about $100-150 per night in most downtown hotels. Hotel rooms get cheaper the further away you get from tourist attractions. 

An alternative to hotels and hostels is Air BNB. Air BNB hosts can have pricing which is just as competitive as a hotel, and they can be located anywhere. Just like hotels, room prices increase the closer they are to attractions.

Deciding When to Travel

Chat with your traveling partner and decide when you want to travel and where you want to stay each night. You can expect to pay about $100-150 per night, for a private room in a nice hotel (or the Airbnb equivalent). I’d recommend staying no more than 5 days on a $2,000 budget. 

Now that you know the cost of airfare and lodging, go ahead and book your flights and hotel (remember not to book using the same device you did your research on). The days you travel may be dictated by the cost of airfare, which means you’ll need to be flexible with your outbound and return flights. Thankfully, hotel prices won’t change much from day to day.  

Tip: When booking your hotel, the facility will require your credit card information, but will not charge it until after you check out. That means you must save that money and account for it as a floating expense.

So don’t spend it.

Fun & Games

With airfare and lodging booked, you should have about $1,000 left over to play with. I like to do a Google search asking for “things to do at [CITY NAME]”. The results almost always take you to the city’s tourism page, which is a great starting point to building a list of things to do when you’re there.

While you’re looking at the city’s tourism page, be on the lookout for monuments and tourists attractions. These are either free, low/medium-cost, or expensive. Examples of each are:

  • Free: monuments, statues, parks
  • Low/medium-cost: Museums, tours, local experiences (like an observation deck)
  • Expensive: Shows, plays, popular or exotic activities, extra-city excursions such as: a wine tour, a helicopter flight, or going to the Hoover Dam (Las Vegas)

Tip: I recommend making a list of interesting things in a Word document or Notepad (Notepad removes all formatting and link info). Be sure to record the daily hours of operation[4] and the price of each activity for 2 people.

If you’re making a list of things to do, share that list with your traveling partner to eliminate any activities they have no interest in. This also gives your partner an opportunity to add things they want to see or do. 

Another source of activity ideas can be found in a travel guidebook. I mention guidebooks now, because I prefer to have a list of activities long before the trip starts and the book is used to supplement what I’ve already planned. I normally buy my city books a couple weeks before our departure date, to build more excitement prior to our journey. Any tips or new destination ideas found in the book can be worked into the existing schedule. 

One of the brands I’ve used in the past is “Lonely Planet”.

Logistics

Once you agree on a list of activities, you must plan the logistics of how you’re going to get to all of these locations. It doesn’t make sense to go to each destination based on how they appear on your list. 

You MUST have a plan… or plan to miss out on fun activities! 

The easiest tool you can use with logistics planning is Google Maps, on driving (car) mode. Don’t worry about how you’re going to get to these locations yet. This will work even if you intend to use public transportation. 

Use your hotel as the starting location, and add each destination to the directions. You may need to use a few browser-tabs. Click and drag each destination on the map to create an orderly route from one point of interest to another. Here’s an example:

You may notice that some of your activities are located further away from others. Be sure to dedicate extra time to travel out to those destinations, and if there’s a time-crunch, you may need to reconsider how important those activities are to your vacation. 

I like to use multiple tabs to plan out my days, with each Google Map representing 1 day of travel. I recommend organizing your days like this: 

Day #1 Airport >> Hotel (check-in & drop your stuff) >> Attraction 1 >> Activity 2 >> Dinner with friends[5]

Day #2 Hotel >> Attraction 3 >> Activity 4 >> Attraction 5 >> Activity 6. 

Day #3 Hotel >> Attraction 7 >> Activity 8 >> Attraction 9 >> Activity 10.

Day #4 Hotel >> Attraction 11 (near hotel) >> Hotel (check-out) >> Airport.

Some attractions require that you to book a time to visit, so be sure to organize your activities with that in mind (example in Figure 1). 

Tip: While we’re on the subject of scheduling paid activities, you may need to be flexible with the order which you go to these destinations. I’ve found that most companies do not allow you to book your activity more than 2-3 weeks ahead of your trip.

Tip: You can “save” your activities by sharing the map via email or text. This is useful because you can resume or edit your plans simply by clicking on the link.  

Calendar the Activities

Now that you know the proper order of each activity and destination, put everything onto a calendar. Be sure to allot an appropriate amount of time for each activity. For a statue or a small monument, 30 minutes should be enough time to look at it and snap a picture or selfie. However, plan to stay at least an hour in a museum or at a popular tourist attraction. I like to divide each activity with hour-long spaces to ensure I have plenty of time to travel between each location.

Be sure to add the destinations to each calendared activity. If you’re using Google Calendar, it will give you a notification reminding you to catch a bus to reach your next activity on-time. 

Pack, Clean, and Pets

Now that the hard part is taken care of, it’s time to get everything ready for the trip. 

First and foremost, make sure your pets are taken care of!

Find a friend you trust enough to feed them, and give them a copy of your house key. If you don’t have anyone you trust, and you’re only going to be gone for a few days, you should evaluate weather your pet’s food and water will last the entirety of your trip. Consider boarding your pet if you aren’t confident in how long the food will last. 

Pack your bags and clean your house a few days before leaving. Having a clean house will prevent any embarrassment when your friend visits to care for your pets. When packing your bags consider a few things:

  1. The climate and weather of your destination – Be prepared to dress in warmer clothing if traveling to a northern state in the fall or winter.
  2. The number of days you’ll be there – Pack individual outfits for each day. I like to fold my shirts and pair them with a pair of pants/shorts, and then add socks and underwear. I’ll fold them all together to make it easier to grab an entire outfit and dress each day. 
  3. What you’re allowed to carry onto the plane – Normally, airlines limit you to one small briefcase and one smaller carry-on item. I can fit my 5 outfits into half of a small briefcase, with enough room for my traveling companion to do the same. Don’t pack like you’re moving there, pack what you need (Clothes, toiletries[6], and entertainment).

***

All that’s left is to travel and enjoy your vacation!

I’ve used this planning method for most of my vacations and it’s served me well over the years. So much so, I’ve been able to plan a complex, multi-city vacation without a hitch. It started from Houston, travelling to Chicago, then we boarded a train and traveled to Seattle, and then travelled back to Houston again… all with full itineraries of activities at each city.

That’s how good planning works! 


[1] Budget: A travel budget can be as low as a few hundred dollars, and you can still have a good time. If your budget is on the lower end, you will need to be creative and find free or low-cost things to do.

[2] Europe: I’m also assuming that you have a passport. If you don’t have one, then you may not be able to book passage or leave the airport.

[3] Intra-state Driving: If you don’t own a car, consider renting one and factor that added cost into your budget.

[4] Activities: Some cities are harder than others to plan for. The hours of their attractions may seem to be random. Some places aren’t open on days you’d think they should be open.

[5] Friends: It’s easier to schedule diner with friends who may live in the city you’re visiting on the first day you’re there. You get that social nicety out of the way, and can focus on doing everything else on your activity list. If you like to maximize your time on vacation, you probably will plan to do a couple things after you check into your hotel and shouldn’t be tired when you see them on the first day.

If you don’t have friends in the city you’re visiting… Great! No distraction. 

[6] Toiletries: Toothbrush, hairbrush, small cologne bottles, toothpaste, shaving supplies.

Using a Public Toilet 🚻 A Ritual 

You walk into the restroom and smell that first waft of stale piss, but that doesn’t stop you. No. You are on a mission to sit and expel solid waste. You rush to the toilet not knowing who or what has sat on it before you. You don’t even know if the toilet has been cleaned recently.

It doesn’t matter. There’s a golfer trying to bore its way out and you absolutely must use this toilet.

OR…

You enter the restroom to the pleasant scent of Pine Sol and walk to the nearest stall. A heavenly sight awaits you as you open the stall. The water is still dyed a deep blue from the cleaning detergent used by the janitorial staff. You’re the first person to use this toilet today, and it’s as clean as it’s ever going to be.

This is a virgin toilet! 

Regardless of how clean the toilet may be, you still have a cleansing ritual to perform before your cheeks will touch that seat. The ritual is:

  1. Grab some toilet paper and wipe the seat. Some people use sanitizer to clean the seat.  
  2. Use even more toilet paper to cover the seat.  
  3. Only when the seat is covered to the point it looks like a flat bird’s nest, do you sit to lay your rotten “eggs”.

Don’t lie, you’ve done this ritual.

We all have our reasons for doing it. It may have been a learned habit from walking into public restrooms and having to clean the seat so many times. Maybe you remember missing the bowl yourself and are pretty sure everyone else pees on the seat too. Or maybe you’re a germaphobe and feel an extra compulsion to clean the seat. My father drilled it into my head that public toilets were disgusting sources of disease. 

Some restrooms have those thinner than paper seat covers mounted on the wall. Those seat covers are psychological constructs designed to keep people from wasting valuable toilet paper. They’re so flimsy you run the risk of destroying the cover while trying to get it out of the holder. You end up wasting not just the liner, but the precious few seconds remaining before that gofer runs out of your hole.

Lifting the Seat

If there’s no urinal and you only need to pee (and if you’re male), it’s polite to lift the seat so you don’t dirty it when the next person uses it. This type of situation is becoming more common now that unisex public toilets are appearing in restaurants and coffee shops.

But I don’t want to touch that thing, and then touch my junk!

If we bother to lift the seat, we use our feet which are protected by “germ-proof” shoes. We balance on one foot and use the other to lift the seat. It sort of looks like a martial art’s fighting stance.

***

We all share the same cleansing ritual to help put our minds at ease about using a public toilet of dubious cleanliness. We clean the seat, cover it, and sit on it. And once we’re comfortable, or are sitting and there’s no turning back, most of us will whip out our phones to brows our news feeds.

Who knows, you may be reading this story while on the pot!

Religious Groups Will Take Over

If an apocalyptic event happened that causes our civilization to fall, religious communities will almost certainly try to take over. If they don’t succeed outright, they’ll still be the dominant socio-political force in the land.

Under normal conditions, people of faith are just like ordinary Americans. They hold very strong beliefs and political views on a few major subjects, but hold many of the same values as modern liberals when it comes to the majority of our laws and common social etiquette. Individually, they aren’t too dissimilar to Agnostics and Atheists either. It’s the greatness of our nation’s justice system and the availability of information, which maintains this harmony.

However, that respect for thy neighbor will disappear once the centralized government is gone. Things will start getting bad once rural communities are forced to come together as a group. There won’t be reliable sources of media to provide news and information to the shocked and stunned survivors. You’ll be amazed at how quickly people will ignore rational thought and start believing any story or rumor. It only takes one person of authority and influence to turn a good Christian community bad.

Let’s consider the ingredients that can make such a terrifying dystopian nightmare happen.

  • The location where most conservative Christians live.
  • Lack of centralized oversight and control, coupled with a newfound ability to abuse power.

Location, location, location!

The United States has a “Bible Belt” across the southern and rural states, where conservative Christians tend to live. This “belt” stretches as far north-east as Virginia, then goes down to Florida’s panhandle. You can feel the spirit in the vast middle-of-nowhere regions of Texas, and the belt snakes up to Salt Lake City. There are other pockets of isolated religious communities everywhere in the country, but the “belt” is where they seem to be concentrated in the United States.

Aside from a few scattered minuteman missile facilities and silos, there’s virtually nothing of strategic importance in these rural areas. Nobody’s going to waste a nuke on a small town or village out in the middle of nowhere, like Lufkin, Texas. Heck, I doubt anyone would try targeting our missile facilities since they’ll be empty by the time the attack hits them.

It stands to reason that small towns and rural communities will be safe from the attack, but accidents and mistakes in targeting can happen… Barring any bad luck, these communities will rise from the ashes of our civilization.

They were once meek, but will seek to inherit the earth if left unopposed.

A Shocked & Stunned Population

The apocalypse just happened! People are going to be assaulted by a cocktail of extreme and stressful emotions. They will be shocked that the world as they know it has ended. They grew up in a society with computers everywhere, even in their pockets. They grew up knowing that information and entertainment can be had at any time of the day. Now they can’t even turn on a TV, and the only radio they own is in the car that probably doesn’t work anymore. Emergency services were available at the touch of 3-buttons on a phone, but now the phones don’t work.

Yes, the occasional natural disaster caused all of us to suffer some time without our technological tools and toys, but everything returned to normal within a few days. Nothing is going to be “normal” again, and people are going to be brought to a mental breaking point once that realization sets in.

Ordinary people will recoil in horror at the knowledge of their, and their loved ones mortality. People will start dying of treatable chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. People will start dying from easily curable diseases and infections too.

And what do you do with the body of your most cherished loved one? In the past, you’d call 911 and the paramedics would declare the death and take the body away to be processed by professionals. All you needed to do was arrange for memorial services, and then pay for it.

Now, it’s all up to you. You have to accept the responsibility and summon the energy to: dig a hole, drag or carry your loved one to it, and bury the body of the person you loved. You’ll be so focused on surviving, that a proper memorial service may be impossible. You may even wake up the next day to the horrific realization that you didn’t properly dispose of the body, and animals dug up and desecrated your beloved family member.

It will take people a couple weeks to fully realize and accept that things will never be normal again. That sort of paradigm shift can shatter a person’s psyche, and make them more susceptible to radical influences and manipulation. This can happen to the best and most rational of us.

And, this is happening to people all across the country.

The Rise of Religious Communities

The secular government won’t be around to keep these communities in-check anymore, and ambitious religious leaders will use this disaster as a perfect opportunity to seize control and spread their dogmatic ideals. It’ll be easy, and will probably happen several hundred times across the country.

The majority of these survivors are already inclined to believe in immaterial forces based on faith alone. The apocalypse may be the only proof necessary to make them loyal followers of a religious leader. Then you have the remaining population of shocked and stunned survivors who, ordinarily, wouldn’t believe in superstitions and things of a spiritual nature. But some will latch onto any idea, or person of authority which claims to provide salvation, answers, and hope.

A small minority of strong-willed or intellectual people will be left who won’t “see the light” and “come into the fold”. This minority can grow as more people realize what is happening and shake the religious influence, but I doubt this will happen. Humans like things to be easy, so the minority will probably shrink as ever-growing desperation or blatant threats of violence forces them to conform.

There are several things a leader will do to rise to power and solidify their authority. He[1] will start with speeches, then perform “good” deeds, and scapegoat others to maintain his hold on power. 

Speech and Preach

The religious leader will first claim their connection to divinity by reminding community members that they have been warning us this was coming for years. Expect speeches like the following:

The leader will start the speech in a modest and self-deprecating manner.

“In his divine wisdom, God chose to share his vision with me. Me, a poor wretched soul…”

Pause for dramatic effect before continuing with a scolding tone.

“He instructed me to spread his warning that a day of judgement will come. That our society will be punished for its sins of pride, lust, and greed. You didn’t heed those warnings then, but now you remember…”

The leader may dust off a few of the “Armageddon” chapters and verses to claim it was further ordained in Revelations[2].

The leader will close the speech in a way that solidifies his power and influence by instilling the belief that their community was spared from the apocalypse because they are the chosen, righteous, people. The speech will change to have a powerful and inspirational tone.

“God chose me to be here to help guide you through this time of great turmoil. You, his most devout followers are his chosen people. God’s wrath struck down the heathens and sinners, but he chose to spare you from his divine judgement. Us chosen few were spared to carry out his will, and we must work to rebuild this nation in His image!”

The speech might be slightly different, but it should carry the same meaning. You’ll be amazed and disappointed at how many people will be influenced by such a speech.

I hope I didn’t just write a future theocratic dictator’s speech.

Deeds

Speeches alone won’t be enough to persuade some people to follow and remain loyal to a leader. The leader will have to perform deeds to entice more to join as followers. They will establish the church as a bountiful provider by pooling the resources of the community and distributing supplies to those in need.

If the church hasn’t wrested control from a secular community, it will passively proselytize in the sidelines by providing “care packages” to the poor and needy. This simple deed makes their church look good and gives them a chance to speak and engage with potential converts. Alternatively, if the church already has a firm grasp on power and control over resources, the leader will distribute rations during church services. They’ll organize communal housing and dining for the homeless. They will preach during meals and before bedtime in an effort to indoctrinate those benefitting from the services being provided[3].

All of these tactics ensure the followers become and remain dependent on the church for their survival. Their continued safety and well being is linked to obedience to the community’s dogma, and violators will be punished by withholding supplies or being exiled from the community.

Being self-sufficient may not protect you either. Depending on how insecure (or evil) the leader is, he may see your independence from his church as a challenge to his authority. You’ve proven that you can support yourself, and can be a highly valuable member of society. He can’t have you showing his flock that it’s possible to live outside of his influence. He needs to get rid of this challenge by either converting you into a productive follower, or eliminating the threat to his authority.

He’ll send his followers out to convince you of the error of your ways. They will use words and incentives to entice you to convert, and if that doesn’t work… threats. They will force you into the fold by terrorizing you and your family. And if all else fails, they will eliminate your family to serve as an example to others.

Scapegoating

Things won’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time. The actions of the leader may cause misfortune to fall upon the community, but you’ll never hear that. No. The infallible leader will do everything in his power to distract the followers attention away from his ineptitude, and onto scapegoats. You’ll hear things like:

“Yes, the Smith family is suffering from hard times, but they brought this upon themselves when they chose to ignore the abomination living in their home! God is punishing them for not casting out that sinful harlot of a lesbian daughter[4]!”

“God wants us to love thy neighbor and to give alms to the poor, but he is angry at us for aiding heretics.”

The leader may use this as an opportunity to get rid of competition or those who have spoken against him. In this type of situation, the guards may drag out a few of sinners or Satan-worshipers, who conveniently have had their tongues cut out so they can’t sway the community with their evil words (or defend themselves).

“I have sad news to report. We’ve discovered that Satan has been filling our ears with vile lies, and has seduced some of our most respected community members to do his bidding. These sinners have poisoned our well water with disease and they must be punished.”

Or the leader will rally his followers against an external threat. The threat could be another community that will not follow his dogmatic belief system. This tactic serves to blame the external threat for all of the community’s problems, and he gets rid of the challenge to his authority.

“Our crops are being sabotaged by those who hate our devotion to God. These nonbelievers revile in our misfortune and will do anything to make us turn our backs to God’s loving arms. We must root out this evil! We must fight the infidels![5]

If there’s a rival crack-pot religious upstart who wrongfully thinks he’s the Second Coming of Christ, substitute the last sentence with:

“We must slay the false prophet!”

Scapegoating doesn’t have to be limited to times of hardship, it can be done during the good times too.

Birth defects are going to happen, especially after radiation or chemical exposure mutates our genes. Unfortunately, most of the survivors aren’t going to have much scientific knowledge and will probably believe the defects are of supernatural origin. Meaning, birth defects are going to become marks of Satan or signs that God is punishing a family for some misdeed[6].

What can we do if faced with such a nightmare?

In short, hope and pray I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Barring a cynical thoughts & prayers approach, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of survival when a totalitarian religion, or religious figure takes over. You can either speak out, blend in, or hide; but you should always be prepared to defend yourself.

Speak Out

Let’s say you live in a community of people with moderate values, and only a few devoted Christians. People start holding town meetings after the dusts settles, but the church leader and his followers start proposing some radical changes to the town’s laws. You should speak out early on to nip the religious movement in the bud before the vile takes root. There are others who share your reasonable point of view, and fear your community will repeat history by persecuting anyone who is different. They only need someone to voice that first objection.

The bad thing is, if you push too hard against bigotry, you run the risk of becoming a target yourself. These religious types always have henchmen who do their master’s bidding and respond to his suggestions. The henchmen will attack or kill those who threaten their rise to power. You’ll need to make sure your closest neighbors are on your side, or generally like you for being a good person. They’ll be there to warn you when the attack comes, and may even jump to your defense.

Blend In

Maybe you stayed in your basement a little too long and found out the religious fanatics took over while you were sheltering. You climbed out of your basement and emerged into a nightmare. That first time you traveled to City Hall, you saw people hanging from trees with signs showing their sins. You know you can’t fight the establishment, so you need to hide what you are and blend in.

Enter the community with the knowledge that every single person is watching you, so be careful with what you say, how you say it, and how you act. They will watch you for any weakness or sign that you aren’t a true believer. Do not volunteer much information about yourself.

With that said, you mustn’t isolate yourself from the community either. Being seen in the community has its benefits. The more people that see you, the less they’ll suspect that you’re hiding a secret. You’ll need to attend community meetings and remain in contact with your neighbors to make sure you know what’s happening. Being aware of what’s happening will help you get ready to defend yourself should you find that you’re part of a group being targeted for persecution.

Another good way to blend in is to display historic symbols of conservatism and hate. If you can find a Confederate flag[7], hang it outside where the locals can see it as they pass your home. This will help to convince the hillbilly survivors you’re one of them, and definitely don’t hold any liberal values.

Having a cross on your property can help ward off fanatics too.

Hide

If you own a large wooded property that’s hard to access, you could try hiding. This depends entirely on how self-sufficient you can make yourself. You need to be able to grow your food, purify or distill your water, and scavenge from nature. You also need to scare trespassers away to make sure nobody knows what you have hidden away. Firing a warning shot at a trespasser should do the trick, but if it doesn’t, you may have to resort to more drastic measures.

Just know that if too many people go missing in or around your property, the community will unite and converge upon your home in a mob.

What if there’s an emergency and you need to travel into town to trade for supplies? This is very risky. It’s a religious leader’s job to know everyone in their flock. It’s how they empathize and gain the trust and devotion of their followers. If you come out of hiding for any reason, you run the risk of being seen as an outsider. The leader may have you followed back home. If it’s found out you live within walking distance to the town, they’ll never leave you alone.

Always be Prepared to Fight

Fanatics are irrational and will turn on you in a heartbeat if they think it will make them look more devoted to a religion or leader.

Always be prepared to defend yourself in town.

Always be prepared to defend your home.

Always have an escape plan when the mob turns against you, because you can’t fight them all.

Is there no hope for the future after they take over?

You should always hold tight to a small kernel of hope. Even in a community full of devout fanatical followers, there will always be moderates or generally good people who don’t approve of the crimes being committed by the leader and his followers. They’ll be hard to find because they’re hiding their true beliefs, just like you are. You might not know who they are until they discretely approach you. The identities of these people may surprise you, because they may be better pretending to be a fanatic than you are (or they’re spies).

Just know that you are not alone. One day the leader will screw up so badly the closet-liberals will rise up against him. You need to stay alert to these opportunities[8] and be ready to speak out. It only takes one voice to encourage others to speak up. And don’t forget that accidents can happen too. The leader is merely mortal and will probably die from disease. The organization is most vulnerable during the transition between one ruler to his heir.

Just know there are risks involved with opposing the leader and his followers. If you are caught helping persecuted people escape, you’ll probably suffer the same fate as them. If you stage a revolt, you must be prepared for the probability that you may die in the act. And if the revolt fails, leaders of this type tend to make examples of entire families. Things truly must be horrible enough for you to risk it all, for the chance your family can have a better life afterward.

Another thing to remember is that this nightmare won’t last forever, and you may be able to wait it out.

What’s left of the country’s military and political leadership is still battling for its survival against an external enemy. Once that enemy has been neutralized, they will focus on reestablishing control over the country.

There’s also the possibility that we’ll lose the external war and be conquered. In either case, the religious nut-job will lose his totalitarian power. I’ll finish under the assumption our country will successfully fight off the external threat and will work to reestablish control over our country.

The problem with religions is that they tend to divide more than they unite. Even religions that follow the same core belief system, further divide themselves based on how they worship or which texts they decide to prioritize. Some even create their own lore or origin story, setting themselves further apart from the other religions. And the largest dividing factor of all is the belief that each of them is the true and correct religion, and the others are wrong or blasphemous. 

This divisiveness will be further compounded by the lack of communication. The various religious leaders will be so entrenched and drunk with their own power, they’ll react violently when a slightly different religion or sect is encountered. Unless they give up their belief system and conform, the opposing religious community is an immediate threat to the leader’s authority and connection to divinity. Both leaders are going to have this mindset, and if the threat isn’t removed, it will undermine the leader’s authority in perpetuity.

If any semblance of a federal government is ever reestablished, the conflict between religious communities or the inherent lack of cooperation will help ensure that no single religion has the upper hand in a nation-wide political system.

Thankfully.


[1]He” – The majority of religious leaders will almost certainly be male. Most radical religions are patriarchal by nature, and fanatics are more willing to follow a strong man.

[2] Armageddon – I think the majority of the end-of-days verses are in the “Book of Revelations”, but I haven’t read a Bible since I was in elementary school.

[3] Indoctrination Services – We already see this type of passive recruiting with the homeless who rely on church-based charities for shelter and daily meals.

[4] Lesbian Daughter – I do not condone hate speech. This statement is used to describe the possible method by which an evil person may victimize others to achieve their agenda.

[5] Fanatical Speech – Don’t fool yourself into thinking this can’t happen here in the US-of-A. We have fringe groups that are arguably the Christian version of Al Qaeda, who think every single Muslim is trying to eradicate people of Christian faith. The same people think it’s okay to punish Jewish people for the treachery of Jesus Christ.

[6] Birth Defects – This has been happening to people with albinism in Africa for centuries. Even today, albinos are hunted down for their body parts because, according to witchcraft rituals, they can promote wealth, power, and sexual vigor.

[7] Symbols of Conservatism and Hate – I do not condone hate-speech or the proliferation of paraphernalia intended to intimidate or make any group of people feel uncomfortable or in danger. The survival strategies are designed to maximize the chances of surviving in this hypothetical nightmare-scenario.

[8] Opportunities – Religious leaders can get overconfident in their selection of people to victimize. They will focus on easy targets like: homosexuals, other religions, and probably other races. You’ll be surprised at how many people will accept this. But their faith in the leader will be shaken if he targets someone who’s obviously innocent like a child, or possibly a mentally disabled person. You should speak out when they target people like these.

Making a Living After the Apocalypse

In a previous blog I described how agricultural products will be the most important commodity in the new world. So much so, whatever currency is used may hold a foundation based on calories, and non-edible products will be traded based on the perceived caloric value.

Your main goal in this new world is to survive. To do this, you need to make sure you can feed your family and fight off those who would steal from you. But, how do you make a living if you don’t have a green thumb?

In this article, I’ll outline what I think will be the easiest ways to make a living after the fall of civilization. I’ll describe what you can make or grow to trade for food or other valuables. Certain products or services can be produced with little effort, some will need a certain level of skill, and others will require skill and specialized equipment.

Don’t Bother with These

Let’s start with what you should avoid. Precious metals and jewelry aren’t going to be worth much. You can’t eat a diamond ring, and they don’t have much utilitarian value. Precious metals can be worn as jewelry and that’s pretty much it. Speaking of which, I personally don’t recommend wearing jewelry. You’re basically inviting people to steal it from your cold, dead fingers. I recommend you hide any jewelry you may possess or discover and maybe use it to trade with later.

I don’t think there will be much of a market for new clothes, since there’s already an overabundance of clothing. Clothes will likely be abandoned and free for any passerby to take. However, once the economy has stabilized and clothes become scarce, there may be a market for new clothing. I just don’t think much profit can be made as a seamstress[1] unless you’re doing it in your free time as entertainment.

Passive Products

There are a few things that can be produced or grown with little to no effort on your part. Some herbs and vegetables can be grown “wild” and thrive without human intervention. Plants like: green onions, mint, potatoes, ginger[2], mushrooms (starter spores required), some peppers, and some established trees.

Most of these foods will grow year-round.

You can raise chickens and produce honey almost wild too. However, both require an investment in shelter and you need the proper skills to harvest the final products.

If that’s not enough, or if you tend to kill plants and animals just by looking at them, you can forage[3] for your food. There’s plenty of food to be found growing in the wild. You can find: wild tree nuts (acorns[4] & pecans are easiest to identify), loquats, dandelion greens, clovers (save any 4-leaf clovers for luck), roses, carnations, honey, and psychedelic shrooms (medicine/trade).

If done properly, you can easily survive on passive foods and trade any excess you produce.

Mid-value Products & Professions

If you can make products from raw materials or provide services no one else can, you may earn enough to be part of the new middle-class. I don’t think people will get rich making these because they’ll have to pay suppliers for the building materials and maybe pay to distribute the products. 

Preserves

If you have the knowledge and have the equipment, almost any food item that can be dehydrated and made into a powder will be valuable. Foods like grains, potatoes, corn, and nuts are the most common and easiest foods to dehydrate and turn into powders.

Pretty much anything that’s made into a powder will last forever, and that longevity will make preserved foods great cash crops. The only requirements to preserve dry foods are… to keep it dry, and don’t allow humidity or pests to infest the food.

Don’t be too reliant on conventional crops. It’s not likely you’ll live near a region that grows food grains like wheat. That means you’ll need to think outside the box [5] and convert what you can produce or harvest into equivalent products. If you have pecan trees growing more or less wild on your property, harvest those nuts as they drop and use them as a flour alternative[6].

Food will quickly lose its value when things settle down and supply stabilizes. But I still think you can gain wealth manufacturing and trading food.

Soap

Hygiene products will be extremely important to prevent diseases and infections. Simple bars of soap only require 3 ingredients and can be transported easily, but require time to make (and you’ll need some practice to perfect your recipe).

Regular customers of soap makers will be medical facilities, Laundromats, and, if they exist, communal baths. Although, I have a lingering fear that many people will forego bathing. We’ve seen this happen with various degrees during the Medieval period, (also known as the “Dark Ages”).

Laundromat

Many people may turn their noses up to this, but another profession could be cleaning clothes… from piss[7]. Urea from, well, urine has been used to clean clothes since ancient times. The process is much the same as it’s done today, and I’ll briefly describe it since it’s such a gross-sounding task:

  1. Add clothes and cleaning agent (urine) into a container and agitate the clothes. Agitation was done by stomping on the clothes in ancient times.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the clothes.
  3. Hang the laundry out to dry. I imagine the sun and breeze airs out any lingering urine smell.

The launderer could charge a premium to wash clothes with scented soaps. Another upcharge could be to offer an expedited service to rapidly wash and dry clothes by using precious electricity to machine-wash and dry them.

Going into Labor

Labor is a mid-value product too. You can lend your hands to help on the farms, work to construct buildings, or labor on an assembly-line (if any factories or workshops exist).  Your earnings will always be capped at what your boss can “pay” for your labor, which may be as simple as food and housing, or other valuable supplies. Remember that food and housing are scarce and valuable now that millions of newly homeless people are roaming the countryside. You may make more money if you already know a trade like plumbers or electricians. But don’t bank on this because the raw materials (power and water) may not exist.

Quick Cash

Tools will be the gold bars of the post-apocalyptic world, but they won’t make you rich. You can make a quick profit by trading any tools you don’t need. Alternatively, if you need them for work, keep them under lock and key. You should be prepared to defend your tools and even kill for them, because people will try to steal them for a quick “buck”.

What are the best ways to get rich in this new world?

The cash-crops, so to say, are going to be commodities required to power technology, luxury products satisfying vices, and medical labor. All of these are going to require knowledge or skill.

Energy

If you don’t have a green thumb or don’t have anything edible growing wild, then maybe you can make and sell luxury items like fuel and alcohol. There won’t be a reliable supply of energy, and your local gas station won’t be getting a resupply. The refineries will almost certainly have burned down and if they haven’t, there won’t be any labor to operate them.

If you happen to be lucky enough to live in an area that still has working pumpjacks that produce oil, it may be possible to refine it. That is, if someone in your community knows how to do it[8]. If you have the knowledge and are able to make a simple refinery powered by fire and horses, you’ll be rich. 

Some generators and cars can operate using ethanol, which is easy to make by fermenting food waste. You just need a container for the food waste, bacteria to allow fermentation to occur, and something to distill the alcohol (ethanol) out of the mash. You may need to redistill the alcohol to achieve a higher ABV.

Liquor & Wine

Of course, you can sell your ethanol as a beverage commonly known as vodka or white-whiskey, or moonshine[9]. You can charge a premium for whiskey aged in wood barrels.

I think wine will be pretty hard to make and sell. If you can’t find or make a still, you may have no other choice but to rely on wine as an alcoholic beverage. First, you have to grow the grapes, or other sugary fruits like apples, pears, or peaches. Then, you have to keep yourself and others from eating the fruit. If you still have fruit, you’ll need to pulverize and ferment it. Once fermented, bottle it.

It sounds easier than distilling, but the hardest part to wine making is getting past the first 2 steps: growing and not eating the raw materials. Distilled liquor, on the other hand, can be made with leftover food waste.

Another use for ethanol is sterilization. You can sell or trade your high ABV liquor to medical professionals for “money”, food, drugs, or services.

Medical

If you happen to be a doctor or nurse, you’ll be a very valuable member of society. Medical professionals will be hard to find, and any community will guard and treat these professionals well to ensure they’re happy. Medical supplies will be scarce or non-existent, so a good doctor will need to know how to treat ailments using herbs. A good doctor in this new world will need to know how to manufacture drugs as well.

When the civilization-ending disaster starts, most medical facilities aren’t going to be concerned about payment. A triage system will quickly be put in place, but I don’t think hospitals and emergency clinics are going to be concerned about payment until resources become scarce.

As medical resources run out, payment will be demanded up front. Food will likely be accepted, but the most valuable forms of payment will be fuel, cleaning supplies, and sterilization materials (alcohol). Facilities or private practices will maintain the triage system as a standard practice, even after things calm down and we get used to the “new normal”. It simply doesn’t make sense to waste time and resources to treat people who are going to die regardless of medical intervention, or even those who cannot contribute to society.

A wise government or medical facility will socialize medicine to ensure medical treatment is available to the community. This is smart because the medical staff can provide a list of drugs and materials that are running low or are depleted to the community. The local government will be in the best position to ensure the medical facility has the fuel necessary to operate, and can scrounge or trade for drugs and other resources. And the government can easily provide security to the facility.

Ironically, socialized medicine may win in the end. The caveat being medical staff will be required to adhere to strict government rules dictating who they can treat and how.

Drugs

Criminals who made and sold drugs prior to the apocalypse, may find their craft newly legalized if they can retool their operations and make useful drugs for doctors. Any excess drugs can be sold to other communities. Don’t forget the inconvenient truth that there will always be a market for recreational drugs, but be careful with the new laws.

The laws of the local community can go one of two ways regarding the sale and use of recreational drugs: legalize or ban. A devoutly religious community will likely outlaw such vices and severely punish (kill) those caught in the manufacture and distribution of drugs. Whereas, a moderate or practical community may allow the manufacture of recreational drugs, if they aren’t sold within the community.

If the community doesn’t have a specific policy, the authorities will likely turn a blind eye, if you make it worth their while. Don’t be naive and think that bribery won’t exist. Bribery has always been the oil that lubricates government since the dawn of human civilization. Some countries legalize and profit from bribery by renaming it to permits. Some politicians accept bribes in the form of campaign contributions, and charitable donations to organizations they may have a stake in.

The Oldest Profession

Prostitution will still exist, and may even thrive now that centralized state or federal laws are no longer enforced. If the local community doesn’t ban it, we may see the rise of brothels. These brothels will cater to all of your sexual needs, both hetero– and homosexual. As always, be prepared to pay more for male prostitutes.

Why will men be paid more in yet another industry? I remember seeing a documentary several years ago about “straight” porn actors who describe their pay as 10 times that of women[10]. The reason is because they are rare, and it’s an exotic taste[11], and men are willing to pay more for discretion to hide the fact they sought the services of a male prostitute.

It’s going to be a rough life for female prostitutes, and it’s going to be even harder for male sex workers. Willing gay men are going to be hard to find because they’ll die at a much higher rate than women of the same profession will. Just like women, they’ll have to endure the usual risks from abusive clients, jealous lovers, and sexual diseases. But on top of that, the religious fanatics won’t have anything to stop them from murdering gays en masse, and don’t forget about opportunistic gay-bashers who will prey on gay sex workers to prove something to themselves or their peers.

We live in a very accepting and inclusive world now[12], but that will change once civilization falls. Religious communities are going to be common and we need to expect a return to the historic religious persecutions of people who don’t fit with the dogma. Prostitutes are shunned by the major religions, and gay prostitutes are going to be double-negatives in the eyes of fanatics.

Straight men won’t have much work, because women have historically patronized brothels or individual prostitutes less often than men. There may not even be a demand for straight male sex workers.

Of course, if you follow this career-path, you’ll have to worry about the local laws. Just like drugs, the community will either allow or ban prostitution. If you happen to be in a religious community, expect the penalty to be death or worse.

***

Producing and trading these products or services will help ensure you can survive and can help generate income or wealth (or the post-apocalyptic equivalent). Some will be fast tickets to wealth, or they’ll make you a target for exploitation by any potential overlord. 

Let’s hope for a not-so-grim outcome.

I’d like to close by saying that while I use a nuclear attack as the cause of the fall of civilization, it’s important to remember that chemical and biological warfare can have the same effect. A chemical attack can render entire cities uninhabitable until the agent has been cleaned, or enough time has passed that weather has disbursed the toxic chemicals. The same may even be true for biological attacks, but biological warfare is much messier and harder to manage (as evidenced by our democracy’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic).


[1] Fun Fact: The male version of a “seamstress” is a “seamster”.

[2] Ginger – Some  caution should be taken with growing ginger, as other wild tubers can easily be confused as part of the plant.

[3] A word of caution regarding foraging: You absolutely must know how to identify plants, or you could kill yourself and your family. The same can be true for gardening. It’s possible to accidentally pick and eat the poisonous parts of edible plants, or unknowingly pick a poisonous weed from your garden and eat it.

[4] Acorns – Acorns need to be processed by boiling out the tannins. You will need to boil them and replace the water several times, until the water is clear or the acorns aren’t bitter. You can remove the tannins from acorns using cold water as well. The process is similar, but will take over a week to achieve the same product.

[5] Thinking outside the box is probably the best survival practice anyone can have.

[6] Pecans fall from the trees with an external shell, protecting the shell we’re familiar with. Remove both, and pulverize them to dehydrate the “meat” using the sun or an oven. This can be ground down into a fine flour.

[7] Laundromat – I’m  pretty sure I learned this from one of my history teachers. I remember someone asked how the ancients kept their clothes clean, and the class was grossed-out to learn they used pee. I had a very subtle reminder about this method of cleaning laundry from a show I binge-watched recently, Plebs.

[8] I think a crude (pun intended) explanation of refining is distillation of oil to make different gases at certain temperatures. I’m not a chemist or an oil expert, by any stretch of the imagination, so I’m sure there are other processes I’m missing. Refining oil is very dangerous, and if not done by an expert can cause severe injury or death.

[9] Moonshine is just vodka or whiskey that hasn’t been taxed. Also, there’s no real difference between spirits distilled as moonshine and vodka.

[10] Male Porn Stars: I want to say it was I’m A Porn Star: Gay 4 Pay, but I’m not sure.

[11] Rare & Exotic: Free online porn and services like “OnlyFans”, made it more readily available and reduced the demand for male sex actors.

[12] Inclusive World: 10% of the population has been the standard calculation of LGBTQ population in the country for nearly 2 decades. But if you consider the fact that many men who like having sex with the same sex, don’t identify as either homo- or bi-sexual; or those who just want “fun”, the percentage is almost certainly twice that… and that’s not counting all those other sexual identities (there were over 100 when I graduated from college in 2018).

My Commute to Work

I wake up to the sound of my phone’s alarm clock and throw the covers off my body. I swing my legs over the side of my bed and try to use the momentum to carry the rest of my body into a sitting position. It didn’t work this time and I’m forced to push and pull myself up the rest of the way. The alarm is still chiming, so I reach for my phone on the side-table to tap the “Dismiss” button. My hand moves to the remote control for the ceiling fan right next to it, and I push the button to turn on the light. Before reaching my arm back, I grab my phone and learn how to walk again as I hobble to the kitchen for a glass of water.

I’m still carrying the phone when I walk to the bathroom. I set it down next to my smart speaker and bark my usual order at the speaker, “Alexa, play my news brief.”

Reuters begins playing an annoying commercial which is obscenely too loud compared to the rest of the newscast. Why can’t we regulate the volume of ads on our podcasts or smart devices, similar to TV[1]. I listen to my news brief from my 5 preprogramed sources and do my normal 3-S’s grooming routine: shit, shower, and maybe shave.

My news brief is on the 4th news source when I turn the volume up to counteract the usual mumbling from the British[2] as I check to see if I need to shave today. I don’t think a shave is necessary today, maybe tomorrow. I grab my phone and leave the room, leaving Mr. Mumbles behind. I think about how nice it is to have a slow-growing (yet full and not patchy) beard. I set the phone on the dining table next to my gym bag and other daily items, thankful that I only need to shave twice a week.

I walk into my closet and pick out which shirt and slacks I want to wear today. I only have a few pairs of pants that fit now that I’m obese from being Covid-ly sedentary for pretty much a year. Working out these past few months has improved my waste, but isn’t making the dang pant legs fit better. I’ve always had muscular legs, and pant or slack manufacturers seem to think that everyone must be the ideal skinny white guy with chicken legs. I decide on a purple shirt and grey slacks, and grab them as I walk to the bedroom to get dressed.

I half-hear my last source of news declare: “This is a Bloomberg Money Minute.”

I throw on a white undershirt to absorb the inevitable sweat I’ll exude several times throughout the day. I slip on the purple shirt and button it as I lament the high cost of having my clothes dry-cleaned just to satisfy an outdated social imperative that requires office workers to play dress up. I look at myself in the bedroom mirror and jokingly think to myself: Okay boomers, we’ll play it your way for now. You won’t be working much longer anyways.

I walk back to the closet and frown at my uncomfortable shoes I wasted $500 on, but haven’t worn in years because they’re too uncomfortable. Hardly anyone makes dress or work shoes for people with wide feet. I still remember the sales person said I simply need to break them in and they’ll feel better than going barefoot. My hand glides past the shoes and I think of how I wore those damn shoes for nearly a year and they never got any more comfortable. Instead, my hand grabs the much more comfortable, $30 pair of grey “leather” shoes I bought on Amazon.

I grab the shoe horn from the front door and take the shoes to the couch. As I slip my oversized feet into the shoes, I think about how someone told me that people pay attention to the shoes you wear. What kind of weirdo with a foot fetish pays that much attention to people’s shoes? The only time I purposefully look at someone’s shoes is to check if there’s anyone in the stall at the work restroom. I’m not like that one attorney who bursts into the room, like the T-rex from the original Jurassic Park movie, and scares the occupant shitless by yanking at the stall door without checking.

I get up from the couch and walk to the refrigerator. I grab the leftover shrimp fried rice I put in the water-tight container last night, and rush over to the dining table to shove it in my gym bag. I throw the gym bag over my shoulders and drape my Bluetooth headset over my neck and balance the earbuds over my upper chest. Before heading to the door, I quickly stuff my phone, keys, and wallet into their respective pockets.

I hang the shoehorn back at the door before opening it.

I feel a refreshing wave of cool air as I step into my floor’s main corridor and lock the door to my home. I enjoy the crisp and cool air as I walk to the elevator and press the button to call it. I turn on my headset while squeezing the earbuds into my ears. Only when I’m satisfied the earbuds have a perfect seal, do I push a button to continue my Audiobook. I’m rereading Dune: House Atreides for the 4th time as my ritual preparation for the new Dune movie that’s coming out in October[3]. I have just enough time to tap House Harkonnen in my library, starting the download process, before the elevator doors open.

I hide my displeasure at seeing “Nagatha” in the elevator, and quickly pause the book just in case she said something during the ride down to the first floor. I left the elevator as soon as the doors opened again to escape the awkwardly silent ride. I walked to the table in the lobby and collected my daily newspaper.

I set Nagatha’s paper aside along with one belonging to the nice lady on the 11th floor. I turn when I hear the garage door slam shut and wonder if she’s in a hurry. Since I’m safe from socialization, I push the button to continue my audiobook.

Paper in hand, I open the front door and step out to Houston’s sweltering heat and near 100% humidity. I barely walk a block before noticing the first trickles of sweat form on my face. There’s only a block and a half more to go before I reach the nearest tunnel entrance. Can I hold it together until then?

I dodge a zombie-like homeless person before reaching the next intersection, having already decided not to wait on the light to change before crossing. I remind myself that I’m not brainless, and should at least check to make sure there’s no oncoming cars. Thankfully, there aren’t any, and I keep walking. The sweat is getting worse now, so I grab a rag I stashed in my bag for situations like this.

Just 50 more feet!

Yes! I’m in. It’s not cool in here, but at least the air’s dry.

I walk to the elevator and push the call button. I need to recover from the short trek through the steam room most people confuse as a city, and start fanning my face with the newspaper. The elevator arrives and I’m thankful to have this elevator to myself. I continue the fanning while riding down to the tunnels.

The elevator doors open and I immediately walk to the air conditioner unit in the wall next to a parking validation machine with an out of order sign taped to it. I set my newspaper on top of the machine and take a moment to soak in the gentle cool breeze coming from the A/C unit. I know more people are going to come out of the elevators soon, so I fumble for my facemask as I steal more time under this bastion of cool air. As predicted, three people spill out of the elevator and each one of them looks at me. One man isn’t wearing a mask, and he averts his gaze as he walks by. The other two people look at me with approval because I’m doing the responsible thing by stopping to put on my facemask before continuing into the tunnels.

I smile and silently chuckle to myself content with the knowledge that my act fooled all of them. Right now, I care more about this air conditioning than Covid-19 safety precautions.

With my facemask on, and with paper in hand (again), I start my trek through the vast network of underground tunnels. I fear working up a sweat again despite the tunnels being air-conditioned, so I slowly plod past the floodgate which kind of looks like a blast door from the Cold War era. As I walk up the stairs immediately beyond the door, I recall seeing the real blast doors in the tunnels linking the courthouses a quarter mile away. And when I reach the top of the stairs, I think of how a lot of sections in the Downtown Tunnel system aren’t very accessible to handicapped people. I walk down the narrow tunnel and try to remember all those places where I have to climb stairs and think about how embarrassing it may be for someone in a wheelchair to have to take an alternate route when having lunch with coworkers and friends.

I’m halfway through the first tunnel before becoming aware that another wave of people entered the tunnels behind me. I glance back and make a quick navigational calculation. I figure they’re far enough behind that I don’t need to increase my pace. They can’t overtake me before I reach the next building, unless they start running.

I continue at my slow pace as I enter the JP Morgan Chase Tower wondering what might make the people behind me start running.

Rabid dogs? No, how’d they get down here.

Free coffee at Starbucks! Yes. That’ll definitely do it.

I see my reflection in the polished chrome elevator doors, but don’t really look at it because my attention is drawn to a trio of sexy businessmen who walk past the building’s ground-to-tunnel escalator. I try picking up my pace toward them and am forced to look at my gross midsection while walking past the mirror-like panels covering the escalator.

I notice the gaggle of sexy men had queued into line at the Starbucks as I walk on by.

I leave the building’s tunnel and enter the next building. Upon entering, I walk past a dry cleaning drop off unit and wonder if that company is cheaper than my current one. The container says they deliver to your office, and one of the benefits to living in Downtown is that our lofts are close enough to the rest of the offices to be included with that delivery promise. I commit to check them out when I get to work.

That commitment is immediately forgotten when I see another gaggle of hot men standing in line at another café. I notice how they playfully banter with each other like they’re from the same fraternity. These face masks really are great because nobody can see my smirk as I think of frats and hazing…

I reach the end of this food hall, and restrain myself from touching the chain-rope curtains and satisfying a lingering curiosity of how cold those chains must be.

I know I’m about halfway through my journey when I reach the Esperson building. The building blasts 50s and 60s music through their part of the tunnel system. The music is so loud I can hear it over my audiobook, despite the noise-cancelling function. I like this era’s music, but I push the volume up two levels to compensate anyways. I still hear “incense and peppermints” in the background a couple times[4] as I walk through this section of the network.

I’m passing the threshold between the Esperson and the 919 Milam building, when I notice a piece of lint on the ground. From my perspective, it looks remarkably like the “Playboy Rabbit Mascot”[5]. I don’t slow down to ponder this coincidental find any further.

I fully enter the most boring section of the Downtown Tunnels and pass several vacant retail units. Some of these units were vacant for at least a year prior to Covid-19. I can’t imagine how horrible business must be for landlords and property managers in Downtown nowadays.

I pass what used to be a Subway restaurant and began to reminisce about how I used to get $5 footlong “Veggie Delights”, but dreaded smelling like the store afterward. That stench permeated my clothes after a mere 5 minutes of being inside the store. I remember being hard-pressed to wait through the line, order, and then pay as quickly as possible to save myself from smelling foul. I make a sharp right turn around a corner where the former Subway restaurant was and half-smell that iconic aroma, but know it was just my memory playing tricks on my senses.

I veer off to the left and head toward the tunnel leading to the Commerce Towers. As I enter the tunnel, I’m reminded as to why I don’t wear my facemask outside. This section isn’t air conditioned very well and my breath begins to make my face feel warmer than it should. I pick up my pace because I only need to get past the convenience store and turn the corner to enter the McKinney building, and cooler air.

A man half-limped into sight from the corner I need to turn at. I instantly know he doesn’t belong. He has a look of amazed wonder, like he discovered a magical cave. Another office worker notices the outsider and looks at him with disgust before passing around him. I’m almost at the corner and start hoping and wishing this guy doesn’t ask me for money, or worse, directions.

The outsider looks at me and, thankfully, doesn’t say a word. He seems too amazed at his new discovery. I imagine he’s mentally rubbing his hands with delight as Aladdin must have when he entered the Cave of Riches. So many business people to solicit money from! Mwah hahaha!

I scold myself for thinking such an ugly thought when I make my turn.

I pass a raggedy accordion-style gate and notice a hall where restrooms are supposed to be located, but always seem to be locked. There’s some sort of berry-colored fluid trailing from that hall and appears to be leading me past a hair solon. There’s a smoothie store just beyond the salon and I guess that someone’s smoothie must have leaked and the owner must have ran to the restroom to rinse the cup off.

I wonder how the person got into the restroom?

I follow the trail to the smoothie store and smile at the lady working there. As I walk past, I realize she can’t see my mouth smile, but comfort myself with the possibility that my eyes probably did the smiling for me.

Now, I have something new to smile about. I finally made it to the garage elevator where my car is parked. I reach to call the elevator, but one of the doors are already opening. An unmasked lady smiles at me while she exits. I enter and see someone turning the corner heading to the elevators, but the doors close so fast I can’t reach the “Door Open” button in time.

The elevator is hot and I fan myself with the newspaper as I ride the sauna up to the level where I parked my car. I rush out of the elevator and walk half a block to my car. I can already feel sweat forming on my face and am already unlocking the doors as I approach my car. I open the back door to throw my bag inside and close the door so fast, I can’t believe I didn’t slam the door on my hand. I open the driver’s door and throw my body into the seat and turn on the car. I toss the paper into the front passenger seat and notice the air conditioner is pushing air out too slowly and impatiently increase the fan speed.

I’m in no hurry. I have about an hour before I need to be at the office, so I just sit there for a couple minutes, basking in the refreshing coolness of blessed air conditioning. I notice that in my haste I forgot to pull my phone out of my pocket. While listening to Pardot Kynes rant about terraforming Arrakis, and telling his would-be assassin to “Remove yourself,” I lean back in the tight quarters and pulled my phone out of my front pocket. The assassin fell upon his knife by the time I was able to fish it out and place the phone in the holder clamped to the A/C vent closest to me[6].

I decide I’m cool enough to travel and drive the car out of my usual spot. I must be the only person who leaves the garage in the mornings, because the attendant always steps away from her desk to help me. I quickly scan my keycard and “roll” the window back up when I see the gate arm rise. She stops halfway between her desk and the office’s door when she sees the same arm lift. I’ve been using this garage for a month now and the attendants may not be used to me leaving, while everyone else is entering.

I follow the winding driveway down the ramp to exit the garage. There’s an angry-looking old man with an orange flag who waves me by. Despite his implied clearance, I don’t take his word for the path being clear of pedestrians and slowly roll out of the garage.

I continue listening to my audiobook through the rest of my work commute from Downtown to Houston’s Upper Kirby District. Once I park the car at my job’s parking lot, I pause the audiobook so I can focus on reading the newspaper I carried all this way. I have to read it now, because I have to be ready to handle anything and everything the instant I walk through the door of my office building.


[1] The CALM Act is a law regulating commercial volume and requires commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. It became effective December 13, 2012.

Federal Communications Commission. (2015, December 11). Loud Commercials. Retrieved from Federal Communications Commission: https://www.fcc.gov/media/policy/loud-commercials

[2] BBC really needs to increase the gain on their microphones.

[3] Dune’s release date is: October 22, 2021.

[4] Incense and Peppermints, by Strawberry Alarm Clock. (1967).

[5] The Playboy Rabbit Mascot should not be confused with Playboy Bunnies, who are cocktail servers and hostesses.

[6] If you are familiar with the book, please note that I listen to audiobooks at 3.15 times the normal playback speed, which means that it didn’t take me very long to fish out my phone.

Exploring Dirt Roads

How many people can honestly say they’ve had the privilege (or horror) of driving on a dirt road? It’s hard to come across roads such as these in our paved and urban society. Let’s assume you have a car and want to go on a day trip out of the city, how would you encounter a dirt road? To find such a road, we must drive out of civilization and into the wilderness just for a chance to find a dirt road, which isn’t someone’s driveway.

No, you can’t drive into the first town 20-30 miles out of civilization with the expectation of being able to drive down a dirt road. Just because these people live so far outside the loop[1], it doesn’t make them savages. You’ll need to drive a little further out to be sure you can encounter a dirt road. I’d recommend driving as far as 50 miles, and then get off the main interstate or highway.

Don’t bother searching the nearest town for a dirt road because they tend to have enough money to build paved roads. Instead, start driving on the side roads between towns, through the county[2]. Use the green city and mile directional signs to guide you to a village you’ve never heard of. You’ll almost certainly find a dirt road to drive down around one of those small villages, and you may even find something interesting or unique inside one of these tiny communities. Villages tend to have flea markets, which are large outdoor resale malls and may have rare treasures or hard to find items. You may also encounter a historical marker in your travels.

Wherever you may encounter such a road, be sure to drive safely:

  • Don’t drive on dirt roads marked as private property or designated as a construction site. These roads are clearly marked. Trespassing aside, driving into a construction site or other privately owned property can be hazardous for you, your vehicle, and the owner’s property. You will be responsible for any and all damages.
  • Slow down and don’t drive like you’re on a freeway, even if it seems fun. Your dust can make it hard for other drivers to see. People tend to live off dirt roads and it’s not a neighborly thing to zoom by so fast your dust covers those homes. Also consider the possibility that the road comes to a dead end, and you may have to drive back and have an angry asthmatic granny shaking her head and wagging her finger at you in disappointment as you drive by her house again.
  • If you happen to find yourself in a “Road Runner’s” dust trail, turn on your lights so oncoming traffic can see you.
  • Dirt roads tend to be narrow, so be prepared to stop for oncoming traffic.
  • Watch for pot holes, dips, humps, bumps, and large rocks. The road is made of dirt, and will easily get weathered away by rain or fast cars.

I happen to enjoy going on road trips, just for the fun of it. I’ll turn on an audiobook and drive out to a random destination to discover what that small town or village has to offer. Oftentimes, I’ll need to drive down a dirt road to get to my destination. I guess I’m weird like that, which is why I don’t recommend you go on a road trip solely to find a dirt road to drive on. That’d be pretty boring. However, I do recommend that you pick a general area to explore, and just be aware of the different kinds of roads you take to get there.

It’s a cool feeling when you notice you’re doing something you don’t normally do. It’s refreshing to see the beautiful landscape of a dusty road cutting into the woodlands. Fans of horror films may laugh nervously as they continue to drive past mobile home after mobile home after trailer, and notice the country people staring at the outsiders driving a city-car as they sit on their front porches. Thrill-seekers may enjoy encountering a flooded creek and feeling that rush of panic as you see a local forge through and decide to risk it (I personally like the relief in deciding to “turn around, don’t drown”).

The thought of driving on a dirt road may not sound very appealing to most people, but I hope this story helps motivate you to step out of your normal routine and go explore someplace outside of your city. Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with going on road trips. Maybe you’ll make a hobby out of it as a historical marker pilgrim. Or maybe you could be a successful American flea market “picker”.

You never know unless you get out there and explore.


[1] “Inside/Outside the loop” is a common phrase used by city snobs. The act of leaving the innermost zones of a major metropolis is akin to leaving civilization itself. The distance a location may be from the heart of the city can be classified as the following:

  • Civilization = Everywhere within a freeway “loop”, that typically surrounds the inner core of a major city (like Loop 610 in Houston, Texas). Almost every major city or metropolis has such a loop.
  • The Fringe = Everywhere outside of the freeway “loop”, but inside any outer “loop” some major metropolises have (Houston’s Beltway 8 is an example of an outer “loop”).
  • The Wilderness, also known as “The Middle of [Fucking] Nowhere” = Anywhere outside of the outer “loop”. If the city doesn’t have an outer loop, the middle of nowhere pretty much starts 15 miles outside of the heart of that city’s downtown.
  • Might as well be on another planet! = Located in another city, or at least 30+ miles away from a major metropolis.

[2] County – Some people who’ve lived in a metropolis their entire live don’t actually know what a county is. If they live in a city as huge as Houston, which basically takes up all of Harris County and spills over into some of the neighboring counties, then it’s understandable that these people wouldn’t know the difference. To them, the county courthouse is just another name for a courthouse in the “Law” district of the metropolis.

A county is a large region in a state, which serves several administrative functions. Depending on how poor the county is, those services may be the bare minimum of recording marriages, deaths, and property transactions. Or if it’s a rich county, it may administer recreation centers, hospitals, and even airports (mostly small non-commercial airports). There normally are several villages, towns, and cities within a county.

Why are we giving “unskilled” laborers as much pay as “skilled” workers who earned their wage?

UPDATE 08/25/2021: OnlyFans backpedaled on their decision to ban porn 1 day after I published this article.

We’ve seen the news talk about a labor shortage for months, and some of us have joked on socialist[1] media that: “there isn’t a labor shortage, people just don’t want to work for you.”

In response to this labor shortage, many major employers are offering absurdly high hourly wages to attract more employees. Most of the people who benefit from these absurdly high hourly wages didn’t earn a degree in college. Most didn’t spend 4-6 years to acquire a bachelor’s degree to land a high paying job. (Nor are they in debt to pay for that education.) Most of these people didn’t spend years of networking and ladder-climbing to build up a career either.

How did this happen, and what will come?

This is happening because of a new lower-class movement focused on improving their livelihoods. This is nice and all, but we’re just handing these laborers wages they really don’t truly deserve. And it’s the participation trophy generation (my generation), who are fanning the flames to push this absurdity into reality. We are so focused on making everything equal, that we are forgetting that most people make the salary they deserve because of their hard work.

So why are laborers getting paid equally or more, than people who put in the time, energy, and effort to get where they are in their careers? Why are they getting a free pass to higher wages when the rest of us had to work for it?

But, at what expense to we hand these unskilled laborers a virtually free lunch? Do we alienate and impoverish those who served their time in the college system just so they can get good jobs? 

I’m okay with increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. I may even approve of it getting bumped to $15 if I get at least a 20% increase to my own pay. But $22 or almost $50 for unskilled labor?

Hell no! 

To misuse a Star Wars: Mandalorian quote: “This is not the way!”

Paying undereducated and unskilled laborers wages they haven’t earned is going to cause several things to happen in our country.

  1. Skilled professionals are going to quit because they’ll start asking: “What’s the point of doing this job when I’m getting paid less than that laborer who’s mindlessly moving products? If I can get the job, I’ll get paid more and get more exercise as a bonus.”
  2. Housing is going to spiral out of control when landlords figure out tenants can afford to pay more rent. Which will eat into that newly acquired salary.
  3. Employers are going to be forced to move jobs overseas, compounding unemployment. This has been going on for nearly a century for raw materials and consumer goods, but the practice will increase very shortly.
  4. Employers are going to be forced to spend capital on automation, further compounding unemployment. We already see this in many fast-food restaurants. You can walk into most Taco Bells, and nobody will be at the counter to take your order. You have to use a kiosk to place an order[2]. This was tried at Jack in the Box about 10 years ago successfully, but they dropped the concept. I’m pretty sure they’re reconsidering kiosks right about now and we’ll see them in stores very soon.
  5. It’s going to drive prices for basic products through the roof, because the labor costs more to make the goods.

Rinse and repeat the above, and you’ll see it’s an endless spiral.

Even if we give the unskilled laborers everything they want, they still won’t be happy. There will always be a very loud minority of unemployed and unemployable[3] who are going to rattle the cage and rile minimum wage workers in perpetuity. They can and will do this because they have the free time on their hands to lament how unfair their condition is instead of working to improve themselves. 

Please notice that I said, “a very loud minority”. Most unskilled laborers are hard workers, but many cannot (or will not) spend the extra time, energy, and money to improve themselves. I understand it’s hard to raise a family on minimum wage, but the reason most people get where they are is a consequence of their own actions.

Yes. You can argue the various unique circumstances (rape, poor upbringing, family obligations, moral obligations, etc.) until the sun goes nova. But the bottom line is, that everyone makes the wage they deserve based on their own actions and life choices. Unless the person has a genetic disease, suffered an accident or assault, or had any other physical hardship forced upon them.

I myself am a product of my past actions:

  • I don’t have a job at any of the major oil or energy companies because I refuse to play the patronage beauty contest. Meaning, I can’t make nearly as much money doing the same work as my peers in my profession.
  • I chose not to adopt any children and probably won’t in the future because I enjoy having my fun lifestyle and a healthy savings account. And now I live with the small lingering fact that I won’t have anyone to depend on when I become elderly.
  • I chose not to invest that extra cash, which means my extra savings will not grow as quickly as it could in the market.
  • I choose to run up credit card debt, even though I have the money to pay for my needs. Now, I have to spend several hundred dollars a month to pay interest and pay off debt.
  • I chose to stare at a practically naked runner while riding my bicycle instead of watching the road. I got a busted lip and a broken tooth, which were expensive to fix (even with good health and dental insurance).

Most of the minimum wage laborers are in the positions they are because of their own life choices, and we shouldn’t cheapen the accomplishments of those who earned their positions and rates of pay by giving higher wages to those who didn’t earn it. I applaud the single mothers and fathers who work all day and commit to night schooling. I applaud those young adults who spent several years earning a bachelor’s degree with no support from their families (it took me a decade to get a “4-year” degree). These are examples of people who decided to work to improve their lives and earn a better paying job. These aren’t people who were given more pay in response to an emergency. These aren’t people who’re taking advantage of a hopefully temporary pay hike in a temporary labor shortage.

To wrap up on a humorous note, I’m glad OnlyFans is banning porn. Because, hopefully, when the (sexy) laborers lose that source of income they’ll return to conventional jobs. This will cause the labor shortage to subside and drive wages back to reasonable rates. Then we’ll start seeing the higher paid laborers who benefitted from what will then be called an emergency rate, get laid off because they cost too much when compared to the rest of the market.

I bet you didn’t think of that long-term possibility. Did you?


[1] Yes, you read that right. I called it socialist media.

[2] I personally prefer ordering using a kiosk, solely because I dislike having to yell at someone so they can hear me to place an order. 

[3] Unemployable is defined as unskilled, potential, workers who cannot get past the interview process because of: no address, no SSN, no valid ID, no cleanliness, and no positive demeanor. 

Oh no! I’m one of “those” gays 😱

While washing my hands the other day, I noticed the walls of the men’s restroom were painted a dark grey color. I never noticed the color of the walls before, and as I was scrubbing my hands, I corrected my initial observation that the color was merely grey. It was charcoal grey.

I instantly stopped my scrubbing and took a long, horrified look at myself in the mirror. I had the sudden realization that I’m one of those gays who knows the specific names of colors! 

As I finished rinsing my hands, I asked myself: How could this happen!?

While struggling to make the automatic paper towel dispenser, dispense a couple towels I thought:

I don’t even care about colors. When someone asks me what my favorite color is, I have to think about it for a long time because I don’t have a favorite. I just tell people grey is my favorite because it’s in between black & white.

I finally got a couple paper towels from the stingy machine, and continued thinking about colors while drying my hands.

I guess if I had to pick a normal color, I’d choose dark green. But, that “oxidized avocado” colored shirt I have is hideous. I only keep it because it-

Dammit! I did it again!

Why is this happening? I hate colors!

I used the damp towels to open the restroom door and tossed them in the trash bin as I left the room. I continued my mental tirade as I walked back to my desk.

If I had my way, I’d never paint or repaint the walls of my home because changing the color is the worst investment of time and money. Why bother? I won’t notice the color after the paint has dried, unless someone comments about it.

I was about halfway back to my desk when I remembered I had spent about 30 minutes helping the family look for a list of paint-chips at Home Depot recently. I felt a wave of relief because it makes perfect sense that I’d still have those weird color names rattling around in my head[1].

Before then, I had no idea different shades and hues of colors actually had names. The isle littered with a collage of colors was an abstract location in the store, and I don’t normally need anything from that section. The last time I noticed the name of a different shade of color was when I had to pick a color to differentiate my comments in a group email. The color I picked was: Dark Blue, Text 2, Darker 25%.

Now, I’m keenly aware stores sell colors named: Charcoal Grey, Thudercloud (greyish blue), Glacier Pearl (dark blue), Beavertail Brown, Shiitake Mushroom, or Dove (off-white) … and the list goes on.

***

I’d like to preempt any misconceptions, by explaining that I am proud of being a gay man and I enjoy all aspects of gay culture. “I’m not one of ‘those’ gays.” “We’re not ‘those’ kind of gays.” Are phrases which may pop into a conversation in or out of the gay community. It’s said as a description of oneself to inform the other party that the stereotype does not apply to us.

I’ve certainly seen many people who fit the gay stereotype, including a few straight men. I don’t particularly think there’s anything wrong with the stereotype, or anything is wrong about being the embodiment of it. I just tend to see myself as an average guy who happens to like other men, including those who fit into the gay stereotype.


[1] I think I invented the color “Oxidized Avocado”.

Swine Flu vs. Covid-19

This is an old sociopolitical commentary I recently found tucked away in a safe from about 12 years ago, when Swine Flu[1] was a thing. 

I think Americans need to be terrified of Swine Flu, because, Americans are pigs.

  • Americans are pigs because we eat and eat till our glutenous bodies expand. We are such pigs, that over half of the population is overweight or obese. 
  • Some men are pigs because of the way they chase after sexual partners.
  • Politicians… oh there’s a lot of swine there. Pork-barrel spending is evidence they are feeding their piglet constituents.
  • I really don’t like calling the police pigs, but the old nickname has been around for decades, so I must include it. 

Most Americans are swine, and should be terrified of the Swine Flu.

It turns out the Swine Flu didn’t amount to much back then, but now we have Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Us freedom-loving Americans really know how to manage a pandemic. Enough so, that people have gone out of their way to help our society as we fight the Coronavirus. 

  • People have shared video on social media of them pouring Corona beers down the drain.
  • People wore lingerie on their faces when told to wear face coverings.  
  • Common people have tried a psychosomatic approach to treating the disease by providing their expert analysis to convince people Covid-19 is a hoax. How can you get sick from a disease that only exists in the minds of others? Many of these experts shared “evidence” from their conspiracy-theorist uncle whose brain is so powerful, he has to hide from the government in a basement, at an undisclosed location. 
  • As a show of support, many people assembled, unmasked, in large groups for parties. Similarly, many others assembled for protests or riots (depending on who you ask). Both had the gall to blame the inevitable surge of cases on 2020’s Memorial Day Weekend when there was little evidence to support their claims. 
  • When a vaccine became available, many Americans graciously allowed others to take the vaccine before them. Many people think these are the real reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated.
    • Some thought it would impinge on their civil liberties. 
    • Some theorized about a massive tracking program to keep tabs on them. (If you’re that worried, stop using your phone. The number 1 way to track you and your activities is through your phone. Also, what criminal activities are you involved with that makes you so scared of being tracked?) 
    • Some stated they were worried the vaccine was a massive medical experiment and they were being targeted because of their ethnicity. While, on the same breath, the same people bemoaned that other communities had higher vaccination rates. 
    • Some said the vaccine was rushed and were worried about side effects (cue the memes ending with: “… you may be entitled for compensation”). 
    • All want the vaccine when it’s too late. All ask for the vaccine when they are carted into an ICU for contracting the hoax disease.

I was wrong back in 2009. It wasn’t the swine flu Americans needed to worry about. It’s not Covid-19 we should be worried about either…

It’s our own stupidity.


[1] Swine Flu is also known as H1N1.