Monday, April 14, 2008

Contest Update

Looking good folks! So far, to my thinking, The Disgruntled Chemist is a clear front runner. Skills in chemistry would be invaluable. Especially when it comes to things like being able to sort out the various compounds that occur organicly and turn them into more focused and utilitarian products.

I can make black powder but there are more than a few times where dynamite would be called for. In a situation like this things like abandoned cities and landfills would be turned into veritable mines for getting things like wire, metal for scrap.

Sorry Jesse, but a paramedic while nice to have wouldn't be compared with somebody who might be able to synthesize morphine. Or make soap. Things like bicycles would have a very limited shelf life. Where would the materials for tires come from? What good would a bike be when there is no such thing as a road anymore? Thing is, you'd be able to put your ability to adapt and to learn to good use.

Chemist, I know how to get yeast from culture. We would start by harvesting wild yeasts from the air for sourdough and then keep refining the process down until we get yeast. It might also be something that could be gleaned from the abandoned zones and then nurtured. The yeast that wineries and breweries use had to come from somewhere.

Anybody got soap? The contest will be running for a couple more days. Let's get creative. Don't forget bribery and flattery, those will all be useful skills.


Blogger seventh sister said...

Bolgger seems to have eaten the comment I left on your previous post. In addation to a fair amount of gardening skills( which would be useful only if there are any heirloom seeds left that Monsanto has not had its way with) I have other skills including making sourdough, cheese, and yes, soap. These are,of course dependent on the availablity of materials. I have worked first aid at a few concerts and can make do with what materials are available for the treatment of minor injuries and aillments. Hoever, I feel that the skill that I possess which would be most useful in such a situation is my ability to be peaceful when others are panicking. (I go off by muself and panic after the fact, but that does not bother anyone.)

9:22 PM  
Blogger seventh sister said...

If there is a consulation prize for typos, I am sure I am in the lead for it after that last comment. Too much massage work to type.

9:23 PM  
Blogger BadTux said...

Unfortunately I'm mostly a mechanic, albeit one currently being paid to wrangle electrons rather than steel or wood. I can fix anything, given enough time, effort, and motivation, and can fabricate also (yes I know how to weld as well as how to do basic carpentry with hand tools and how to work with masonry), the problem is that these skills depend upon having various technological artifacts available that presumably aren't available in your scenario (without gasoline, the need for auto mechanics is seriously diminished, methinks). I suppose said skills could be re-purposed into building a charcoal kiln for baking charcoal to fire pottery in a pottery kiln (charcoal burning hotter than wood and thus working better for this purpose), not to mention building a pottery wheel for throwing pots to begin with, but someone who has actually thrown pottery would be much better suited for that, I'd be working from first principles to get to where I was going.

In short, I don't think I'm going to win this little "contest", because while I know the theoretical basis of much of "primitive" technology, I have no practical experience with it and would have to re-invent from first principles. And some of it is just *hard* without having modern stuff like, well, nails, available (though I suppose your blacksmithing skills could bang random stuff into something similar to a modern nail, albeit squarish rather than round).

11:20 PM  
Blogger Sherry said...

oh i can bribe and flatter.tho i think you can't beat the front runner. we'd really need him.

; )

5:09 AM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

I think you have made the exact right choice.

5:12 AM  
Anonymous tata said...

I think that in a post-oil economy the ability to locate manuals and use them would be very valuable, sort of like dowsing for information. See: you don't already have to be able to do something if you can find out how. Or maybe this is an opportunity to figure out survival skills your readers would like to learn.

Example: I know a food forager. Maybe I should listen when he talks about edible foliage.

6:51 AM  
Anonymous oddjob said...

Anybody got soap?

Another thing that would be up Chemist's ally. I forget the recipe, but I know it involves lye (or a similarly caustic substance) and a fat. Many fats can be used, so whatever happens to be handy should work, whether it's fat from a duck, goose, pig, cow, olive or walnut.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous oddjob said...


7:25 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

lye can be easily made, fireplace ashes are saved and water is trickled through them. fats from cooking (or olive and nut pressings) are saved also.

the big iron pot outside does the rest of the work.

it's soft, and yellow, and does the job.

yucca root makes a damned fine shampoo.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous carolyn said...

Oddjob pointed me over here from Shakesville. *waves*

I have all kinds of skills, but it would all be moot when civilization fell, because my supply of Happy Pills would dry up and I'd go back to being curled up in a corner, non-functional and waiting to die.

I'm a cheerful sort, it's true. ^_^

2:14 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

welcome carolyn. hope you like your visits.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Jesse Wendel said...

You're confusing road bikes with off-road. Off-road rides ANYWHERE. Including up and down the sides of mountains.

The Wright Brothers built bicycles. If you think roads are going away, even after an oil blowoff, you're mistaken. Horses... they'll be around. Trails. All these call for bicycles, the single most efficient means of transportation ever invented. Even people who can't afford a horse, can afford a trail bike.

The WHEEL has been around forever, and there are plenty of wheels which don't require -- at all -- a rubber inner tube. There is enough other rubber in the world that in my lifetime, I'm not at all worried about running out of tires for bicycles, even if it is re-purposed use.

Again, what is going to matter isn't road bicycles, the kind the Tour de France rides on, but off-road bikes. With shock absorbers, that can go anywhere. Or the bicycles which are just for putting around, go down to the market and back, haul a load behind you back to the house. EVERYONE will have a bicycle. We are rapidly getting all of the tools to repair them right here in my home. Chelsea (daughter #2) works (when she's not in college) at the leading bicycle shop in our town) and is getting better and better at bike repair all the time. Not to mention all the various bikes I personally own.

As for being a medic, when was the last time you had someone put in a chest tube on the fly when your lung was collapsing? Made out of improvised parts? I can chest tube you or someone you love, using ordinary household goods including a glass bottle (just like those found in caning though bigger is better) successfully put in a chest tube when your lung decides to collapse due to your pulmonary edema from having smoked your whole life. I can also successfully do most minor surgery, for example, open your airway with a knife and a ballpoint pen casing. I lost count years ago of how many (100s of) c-sections I've watched, scrubbed in or passed instruments for. I'm not going to open the cranial cavity (short of drilling bore holes with a neurosurgeon talking me through it) or chest cavity, although I won't hesitate to stick a needle in your heart or do a pericardial centesis (sticking a big-ass needle in) to relieve a tamponade (a heart which is leaking into the sac around the heart.)

You should think of me as the hands and eyes of a full-blown emergency physician, who just is not likely to settle down in your town. That isn't how things are going to shake out in terms of their practice after this oil outage. But I will end up in your town. It's towns like yours which will need medics. And I can do much of the day-to-day'ness of what she (the emergency doc) can do, right now, and will learn the rest, fast. Because medics are going to be your doctors.

In the absence of oil, expect the standards of practice for medics and nurses practicing alone to change massively; we'll be allowed to radically increase our scope of practice. With a video camera and high-speed internet over my shoulder, I can hold the scalpel for a surgeon at the ivory tower medical center, whose job it now is to supervise 30 medics in the field who are performing surgeries and day-to-day primary clinical care. This is the kind of restructuring of standards-of-practice one would expect to see VERY fast in the absence of oil. It isn't that in this new community you're building I might fill in for a doc; it's that I would BE your doc, working remotely under telephone/video conferencing/supervision.

*smiles* Chemists are important. We all need medicines. But you have to be alive to use them. Worst case, you can trade for drugs with a neighboring town. When you need someone to put in a chest tube, you need them to come right fracking now. I am that NOW. And I have my own bicycle and up-to-date medical and surgical kit. *laughs*

Finally, people talk to me. With my walking stick, I am the picture of the old family doc. If we really do go back to this small-town no-oil world, what makes the difference is the internet and being connected to the outside. It won't be the dark ages. We'll have enlightened practice standards. But it will be folks like myself, and clinical nurses doing the actual surgeries and day-to-day work, under the guidance of docs in the main med centers in the metropolitan areas. Those docs -- just like Judges used to do -- will "ride circuit", once every three months, and see the worse cases, the ones which are too tricky for us to touch. But day-to-day, we're going to do all of the medical care, appendectomies, ob/gyn, routine bowel work, asthma/copd, hearts not requiring open heart work, heads not requiring surgery (bore holes okay in a pinch), and so on. We'll have say, two ICU beds locally, maybe three, one surgery and a recovery room. The autoclave for our surgical instruments if nothing else, can be fired with wood/steam.

This will work just fine. The small town will get better medical care than many people in the U.S. get now, because they'll have someone ready-to-hand who follows them from birth, who knows them all, and for whom preventative care is a must.

This is what I'm bringing to the table.

I graduated second in my class from the #1 ranked paramedic program in the United States. You can always trade for drugs. You want your doc living and working right there in town, available 24/7. Plus, um, with my own bicycle, in repair, ready to go. Heh.


(Damn, I get competitive. *cracks up*)

4:42 AM  
Blogger Jesse Wendel said...

Sorry... it's late, I'm half-asleep, and I'm pretty sure I repeated myself a couple of times there.

Going back to sleep. (Of course, after a nice bike ride to a patient, I'd be wide awake when it came time to put in the chest tube. Presumably. Hopefully. Probably.)

4:44 AM  
Anonymous oddjob said...

Jesse makes his point! I don't know that I would want Jesse on a day to day basis the way I would want Chemist, but damn I know I would hate not having Jesse there when it mattered!

Some kinds of specialists are worth having even if you don't need them all the time.

6:10 AM  

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