Parking lots are hilarious. I went to the store a bit ago and since it is two days before Christmas, it was packed. In the parking lot people were lined up to get the ‘best’ parking spot they could. Even in the off season, I find this practice hilarious. I parked a ways away where there was plenty of parking and walked into the store. The time it takes me to walk, even from the farthest reaches of the parking lot, is usually less time that it would be fore me to sit around in my car and hope a closer spot opens up.
What is even more funny is that I only needed a few things, so I was in the store five minutes tops. When I came out of the store, the car that was ahead of me pulling into the lot was still waiting for a parking spot close to the store.
I frequently get the question, “What are you reading right now.” Not an uncommon question, but of late I have gotten a few odd looks and have had to explain myself. You see, I’m reading The Second World War right now. No I’m serious. See:
I was recently gifted a complete, first edition printing of Winston Churchill’s The Second World War, his memoirs of the war which he played such a pivotal part in. To say the least, it is riveting. If you enjoy British Parliamentary intrigue, air power figures, defense maneuvering, and reading correspondences between Churchill and various figures of importance then I highly recommend picking these up!
I’m sure many of you think I’m joking, but really, I’m not. I just finished volume one and immediately started into volume two. It is just fascinating to read. Churchill kept meticulous records and his writing is just candy for the brain. Certainly, if you have even the remotest interest in WWII, this is a must read.
DOCIS 3.0 is here. No really, it’s here in my home slowly devouring time and space! It has created a rip in the space time continuum that is allowing for blazing fast internet speeds! 22MB/s minimum! Death to lag!
But oh how part of me longs for playing Quake 2 on a 56.6K modem and having to anticipate a players move by firing far ahead of them. Setting super high network latency in StarCraft to deal with slower players. The frequent drops in SC that caused everyone to sit around for a minute and hope beyond all hope that the player would return.
Sigh… The good old days. Not that I play games online anymore anyway, but I miss them.
Now I can stream videos with little to no lag. Websites are just popping up with no load times. It’s like getting high speed cable all over again! Awesomeness is all I can say.
I’m sure that I’m not the first, nor will I be the last to say this, but Battlestar: Galactica’s design staff is AWESOME! From the sets and costumes, to the DVD packages. Just so cool!
There has been some discussion amongst the circles that I run about the perfect “Post-Apocalyptic Vehicle”. Many people examine this question from the perspective that they have plenty of time to plan for said apocalypse and that they have ample funding to prep such a vehicle. While this is all fine and dandy, I tend to think that this is a bit optimistic. Most catastrophic events that happen are quick and unforeseen. Additionally, unless you are totally paranoid, most of us do little more that basic preparation for ‘the worst’.
So here I submit my list of vehicles for various post-apocalyptic scenarios. This is not a comprehensive list, by any stretch, but just some that I thought of. Each one is selected based on the type of event that may transpire, which I will also explain. The list goes from most likely to least likely.
1. Localized Natural Disaster – Large Earthquake, Tornado, Hurricane, Blizzard, ect.
In a situation such as this the challenges that you will be presented are things such as damaged road networks, debris from fallen trees, light poles and building. Abandoned/damaged vehicles in the roadways, collapsed highway bridges, flooding, lack of electricity and the possibility of chemical spills or failed sewage systems.
Survivors of such as disaster will likely be disoriented and preoccupied with trying to cope with the events that have transpired. There is a small probability of looters and opportunists criminals, depending on your locality the likelihood of this will vary. You probably don’t need to worry about roving bandits as most looters will be concentrating on robbing homes and stores, not moving vehicles.
If you do need to travel, you will likely be heading to an unaffected area, FEMA camp or some other aid station. In all likely hood, your current vehicle, if left unharmed, will do just fine. If not, and you feel the need to go GTA, you would probably like to find something with reasonable ground clearance, 4WD and decent cargo space. Seeing as I am in the American west, I would venture to say that the best vehicle to get would be a body on frame SUV. 1990′s Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango or Toyota 4-Runner would probably do just fine. They all get decent fuel milage, enough to get you to an unaffected area at least. They offer off-highway capability to get you around and over the aforementioned obstacles and have plenty of space to haul you and whatever else you feel the need to take.
Verdict: 90′s Vintage Body on Frame SUV with 4WD.
2. Epidemic – Regional outbreak of a disease
Lets say that my home town of Salt Lake City suffers some sort of epidemic disease. This would rapidly spread up and down the Wasatch Front and the I-15 Corridor. The challenge then is getting yourself out of the affected area quickly. You will likely be confronted with panicked pedestrians, erratic drivers, vehicles stopped on the roadways due to abandonment or the operator falling ill. Additionally, you will have other people thinking the same as you. Finally, the government will undoubtably begin to establish a quarantine area, so you will want to try and get out before that can be established.
Ok, so unless you are already in possession of a high performance vehicle, it’s time to go GTA and get one. Depending on the number of people you are transporting comes into play here as well. If its just you and one other person, it’s time to jack a 911, Lotus Elise/Exige, Miata, M3 or something else small, quick and deadly responsive. If it’s four people, start looking for any BMW sedan, WRX, Evo or G8. More than four? Start looking for multiple vehicles or kill the outstanding number.
What you want is something with speed and maneuverability. You’ll be required to drive like hell towards the ‘Safe Zone’, avoid abandoned vehicles and outpace the other drivers on the road. The roads will be fine, your biggest worry is getting out before you get locked into the quarantine zone.
Verdict: Lotus Exige or some other high performance/maneuverable vehicle.
3. Pandemic – 21st Century Plague
Take the pervious situation and make it global. So now everyone is dying from some horrible disease and you’re one of the few standing. You know that there are safe zones, but you’ve got to get there. The previous vehicle choice is probably the best bet, yet again. In America, with our vast network of roads, you should be able to get anywhere you need to using them. Since most people are dead and dying, you just need to get from point A to B as fast as you can. Roving bandits are probably of little concern, so a small, fast car will do just fine.
Verdict: Lotus Exige or some other high performance/maneuverable vehicle.
4. Failure of the Government
There are MANY different ways that a government could fail, but lets take the most drastic. Federal, State and Local governments cease to function. This means no law enforcement. Here we begin to get into the question of dealing with roving bandits and other potentially intelligent dangers. The scenario that I would perceive is that the city has fallen into chaos and its time to get out. Where will you head? Well ideally to a stable area such as another town, but you don’t know where. All you know is that its time to get out and go somewhere.
To me, this denotes the need for a high clearance, very capable 4WD vehicle with ample storage. You will likely need to get into the backcountry far away from main roads in order to avoid bad guys. As always, if you aren’t already set up with a vehicle that can accomplish this, there are some options. Any Jeep Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, 4-Door Wrangler JK, older Toyota 4-Runner, 4-door Suzuki Sidekick/Vitara or similar vehicle. Any of these provide you with capability and reasonable storage space for a week plus in the boonies.
Verdict: Jeep Cherokee, Toyota 4-Runner or the like.
5. Large Scale Nuclear Assault
Ok, Jericho style here. All major cities are nuked, the Federal government is gone and likely so are state governments. Local governments of surviving cities/towns are probably still intact. Here we run into the situation that the surviving towns will likely be relatively stable (depending on who’s in charge) but there are likely roving bandits and other opportunists in the voids between. Additionally, it’s a wasteland out there! Fallout, destruction, the works.
If I where in this situation, I’d try to make it to the closest stable town, and stay there. Again, we have this fantastic road network but who knows how much is intact or accessible? For this reason, I would venture that a Subaru WRX is the best bet. Why? Fast enough to outrun most of the baddies out there, ability to handle modest off-road conditions, good MPG and plenty of storage room.
Verdict: Subaru WRX
6. Zombie Apocalypse
So lets say that the vast majority of the planet goes all crazed and brain eaty. Your goal will be to stay out of harms way, get fuel and supplies where available and then move on. Likely you will have little opportunity to stay in one place for long and will have to be constantly on the move. This will require a vehicle with stellar reliability and good fuel milage. My recommendation would be anything Japanese and older than 2000. Toyota, Honda, Nissan or Subaru being the best bets. All get good milage, all are highly reliable and there are lots of them! This means parts or the ability to switch to a new vehicle as needed.
Verdict: Any pre-2000 Toyota, Honda, Nissan or Subaru
Thanksgiving weekend and beef. Not the usual combination, normally it’s turkey or tossing the pig skin (some sort of sports reference I’m sure). But Thanksgiving weekend 2009 was tied with Beef Basin.
We departed Salt Lake at 7:30 on Friday morning with the goal of making our camp by 3:00 that afternoon. Our caravan linked up along I-15 as we headed towards Spanish Fork canyon. Kurt and I in his Tacoma were quickly joined by Greg and his son Oakley in his awesome HZJ-75, Sully and Erica in their Tacoma and Cody caught up after hitting some Black Friday sales in his Grand Cherokee.
We made some excellent time on our way down to Moab, reaching our lunch stop at Smitty’s Golden Steak before noon. After indulging in the deliciousness of that greasy spoon we hit the road again.
After another hour or so on pavement we hit dirt on the turn off for Beef Basin. We stopped for a few minutes to air down.
The road out to Beef Basin was a typical BLM graded road, quite smooth and lended itself nicely to some high speeds. We hit some shady areas that still had a fair amount of snow from the last storm.
As we descended down towards Beef Basin we were greeted with the spectacular vista so common in South Eastern Utah. No matter how many times I’ve been there I don’t think I will ever tire of these scenes.
We hit camp up Beef Basin Wash around our target time of 3:00pm. As usual everyone spent the next little while finding that perfect spot to pitch your tent or park your vehicle. Greg and Kurt had the luxury of rooftop tents, Sully and Eric were smart enough to hole up in the shelled bed of their truck while Cody and I camped like real men in our tents.
Our campsite was nicely situated about halfway up the wash and right below the ruin of a cliff dwelling which we intended to hike up to the next morning.
The weather for Friday night was quite agreeable as well, clear, fairly warm for late November in southern Utah and not much wind. Contrary to most trips we had camp set before dark and had time to make dinner with plenty of light.
After a relaxing Friday night around the campfire Saturday dawned clear with a slight breeze but definitely a bit more of a chill in the air. Much to Kurt’s chagrin, our start to the day was a bit later than we had anticipated with most of us rolling out of our sleeping bags sometime after 9:00am.
The first order of the day was to cook up some breakfast, which Kurt and Cody did with gusto in Greg’s enviable camp kitchen setup.
Once we had eaten heartily (well aside from me and my oatmeal) we began our hike up to the cliff dwelling. One can quickly see why the Anasazi chose this location. There was no way to approach the dwelling without being seen from it. And once you got to it, there was only a narrow path to get to the entrance.
The ruin was remarkable. Still had some of the wood that formed the second floor and the stairs, the mortar holding the stone was still there and the view was incredible.
We hiked back down from the cliff dwelling, finished breaking camp and headed out. Our next destination was an area called Ruin Canyon. As the name suggests, there were several ruins up the canyon.
The most spectacular being about a quarter mile from an overgrown portion of the trail. We attempted to hack our way through, but decided it was just as easy to walk.
The ruin was a couple hundred feet up from the canyon floor on a fairly narrow shelf. We hiked up and poked around it for a bit. Its amazing that even though the elements have washed away all the mortar that held the stones in place it still stands.
As we looked around this ruin we found one up above us.
It is in remarkably good condition. Cody managed to climb up to it and found that it was very small, probably just a grainery. But the condition was just incredible.
We hiked back to our vehicles for lunch and pondered the rest of the day. The plan was to head out into an area called Ruin Park. We knew that there was the potential of a storm that afternoon, so high on our list was also finding a good camp spot as well.
We exited Ruin Canyon and got back onto the Beef Basin loop road. Now, since the area is called Beef Basin, there are a number of corrals. These can make for some fun pictures.
After our impromptu photo shoot, we headed into Ruin Park and found what is probably one of the coolest ruins I have ever seen. It is called Tower Ruin, and it’s awesome. A two story ruin that has a near perfect right angle. Very neat. There is some speculation that there may have been a number of these towers to be used for signaling each other and perhaps the inhabitants of the previous ruins we visited.
Greg and Oakley decided that they would head out and try to make it back to Salt Lake that night, so we parted ways with them. The rest of us could see the storm coming in and split up to find a good, concealed camp spot. Ultimately we found one up Butler Wash and we hurriedly began setting up before the pending rain…
…Which didn’t come. No the storm split right over us and aside from a strong breeze, we didn’t get anything. So we sat around the campfire to stay warm and argued the merits of cast iron versus aluminum for camp cooking. The final verdict being that cast iron is the only way to go.
Sunday dawned windy, cold and with a slight dusting of snow. I woke up early and hiked out a ways from our camp to a beautiful overlook of Needles. Unfortunately I only brought my medium format camera and have no pictures to share. I will tell you that it was spectacular in the crisp morning air.
As everyone else woke we stoked up the fire and made some breakfast sandwiches and indulged in Sully’s delicious peach/pineapple cobbler from the night before. With breakfast complete and camp broke, we headed out. Our route took us down Bobby’s Hole and into the Needles District.
Cody decided to take a quick detour and run Impossible Hill.
We headed towards Needles on a narrow two track and were greeted by spectacular view over every hill.
Through what remains of SOB Hill.
We finally made it to Elephant Hill. It’s been years since I was last on Elephant Hill, but it is much easier to make those tight switchbacks in a Samurai than it is in a Tacoma! But up we went.
And then back down.
And that was it. We had made it to the parking lot of Elephant Hill and pavement. We jetted out to the Needles Outpost for some fuel (fortunately without incident this time!) and then made a quick stop at Newspaper Rock.
The day ended with Kurt, Cody and I stopping at The Moab Brewery for Beer Cheese Soup and a cold one before trekking north and home. Aside from the cold, and even that wasn’t that bad, it was a great trip.
All pictures courtesy of Stephen Nielson and Kurt Williams
One of the most annoying things about being unemployed, or perhaps nicest depending on who you ask, is not having a schedule. I don’t have to be at work at a certain time, I can sleep in, I can do whatever I want with my day. To me this kind of sucks.
I’m not a workaholic by any stretch, but this is the first time I’ve been unemployed for longer than a week in seven years. I worked full time and went to school full time for six years, so you can imagine that I’m pretty used to having my schedule packed. Now that I’m doing neither, well it gets a little boring.
I think this also ties in with the thought that “You are your job.” For years I laughed at that, but the reality is that you are. We spend most of our waking hours at our jobs. When people ask, “What do you do?” You don’t answer, “Well I ski in the winter and 4-Wheel the rest of the time.” No, you answer, “I’m sales manager/software engineer/ect for X company.” Not having that identity is actually frightening.
In todays society you are stigmatized if you are unemployed. I know that has changed somewhat recently, what with more than 10 percent of us being out of work, but it is still there. When people meet me now and ask, I have to answer, “Well I used to work for X company, but things didn’t work out. So now I sit around in my underwear and drink beer.” Usually they ask what kind of beer. PBR of course.
I thought that once I got out of college, I wouldn’t have a problem getting a job. That degree being the Golden Ticket and all. I never had dreams of making it big, I’ve always wanted job security more than anything. I look at my father, 30 years with one company. Thats what I want. Is it there anymore? I hear more and more that the future is contract work, picking up odd jobs, anything to pay the bills. But is that secure? Perhaps more importantly, how does that define you?
A long time ago. More than a decade now, actually, if you can believe that! I had a website called The Ace Rimmer Page, or tARp (Yes, the irony today is noted). Back then my online identity was Ace Rimmer. That was my ‘nik’ when I would play games, log onto forums, the works. Once high school ground on and I had better things to do, I let that site die.
Today more than ever our lives are tied with our online lives. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… So I thought that it was time to reestablish my online presence with who I am today, myself.
Ten years ago the internet was populated by Star Trek nerds and Quake clans, now its not quite so exclusive. People who made fun of me for having a website in high school are now checking their Facebook updates every ten minutes and Tweeting their bowel movements. So, with one bold step I have again claimed my place in the World Wide Web! Welcome to stephennielson.com. Here you will find all that you could ever possibly want to know about me, my ramblings and any of the projects that I am working on. Enjoy!