Thursday, November 20, 2008

In case of zombie attack, break glass

The other night, I came home to my roommate watching Shaun of the Dead. Being a better movie than most I tend to walk in on him watching, I settled into my usual indentation on the couch. Eventually, being the people we are, we got into an indepth discussion about what we could do in the case of a zombie invasion. Our emergency zombie plan, if you will.

This is serious, people. How often are you watching a zombie movie, thinking to yourself (or perhaps yelling outloud depending on your current level of obnoxiousness) "What are you doing? Don't go there! It's not safe! And while your at it, chop off their damn heads. Everyone knows that's how you stop a zombie. Come on! Don't you watch zombie moves?!"

I've said it. You've said it. Ever since the original Night of the Living Dead ("They're coming for you, Baaarrrbbbrrraaaaa"), we have no excuse to be zombie ignorant and not to be prepared for an invasion. Even grade school kids know the quickest way to incapacitate the undead.

Go for the head. Damage the brain or spinal cord. None of this mucking around hitting them with bats or shooting them in the chest and screaming "Why won't they go down?! Oh god they just won't die!!" Duh. They're undead. A little critical thinking can go a long way people.

Anyway, back to the original topic I was to discuss, before my tangential rant (speaking of which, math related post to come soon...I know you've all been waiting eagerly on the edge of your seats for one). In our discussion, we came up with some criteria for an appropriate zombie safe house.
  1. Control of all entrances and exits. This is hugely important. If you can't lockdown your hiding place, I guarantee some clever zombie will find his or her way in. In every zombie movie, if someone ever utters "this place should be safe, it only has the one glaringly large hole in security; but really, what are the odds they'll find that one way in", within ten minutes the zombies' hunger for brains has driven them to solve this particular puzzle.

    Following this requirement, there are a couple of things to consider when choosing a location with a known, limited number of exits. Make sure it is small enough so that you can really guarantee safety; don't be space greedy if it is going to put you in danger. However, don't lock yourself in the first garden shed or cellar you come across. You want some living space, who knows how long you'll need to tough it out until some organized effort is put forth to deal with this living dead issue. Think ahead.

  2. You and your rag tag team of survivors are going to need to eat. Don't plan on delivery or being able to pop down to the local pizza joint as options. Therefore, you're safe house of choice should come stocked with food. Preferably canned or other non-perishables (electricity will most likely be spotty, at best). This leads one to think of grocery stores as an ideal location. However, considering the previous point, this may be unwise due to the number of possible entrance points and sheer size of these buildings. Also, most grocery stores won't be able to fulfill the remainder of our criteria for safety. Not to say we ruled them out, though.

  3. So what happens if you need to leave your safe location for a brief period? Or perhaps you become overrun and a zombie or two happens to slip through your security perimeter (hey, it happens to the best of us)? Whatever the situation, it is inevitable that at one point or another you will be forced to have a face to face with a member of the recently risen. And just like the the popular rhyme us unpopular kids would sing to make ourselves feel better, words really won't hurt them. You are going to need something to deliver a large helping of violence, with a side of steaming ass-kicking.

    Now, depending on the variation of zombie you are dealing with, different levels of automation and efficiency will be required of your weapon of choice. For dealing with those annoyingly fast zombies a la 28 Days Later or the remake of Dawn of the Dead, a gun is most definitely preferable. You can't really afford to get up close and intimate with these guys. But if your flavor of zombie seems to be more Night of the Living Dead-ish (i.e. sluggish, imbecile, less dead human and more living inanimate object), a more personal or improvised weapon is acceptable; as long as it is capable of damage or removing the head. Shovels, axes, sharp bit of wood, street sign, mangled piece of metal. The key here is to be creative, since you have the flexibility.

    Keeping all of this in mind, your choice of hideout will need to be amended to ensure you have access to the appropriate level of weaponry. This requirement sort of rules out traditional grocery stores; however, hybrids such as Fred Meyers, Super Walmart, Super Target, and the like are still possible options.

  4. One key factor to consider is travel time. The less time you spend getting to your designated safe house, the less chance it will have become overrun or that you will get bitten (and therefore doomed to cause the downfall of your party) en route. You can't be roadtrippin' it; who knows, the roads may even be blocked with debris such as traffic cones, trees, other cars, or bits of ex-people. Having a large truck, in this case, would be beneficial. However, it still may be a better idea to locate a safe location within a mile or two of your most probable situation with the invasion begins.

    Again, the most important point here is to plan ahead. With all the stress of having to dismember your neighbors while keeping their brain-thirsty jaws away from your person, the last thing you want to be worrying about is where you will be sleeping tonight. Also, having a goal is requisite for survival. Those who end up having a lie about, moping at the injustice of it all or other such nonsense will more than likely get eaten in the next act. While being goal-driven doesn't guarantee survival, it certainly helps keep your mind off of the depressing fact that the girl you've been crushing on for the last few weeks is probably a zombie now and dammit you really should have asked her out before this whole mess happened because seriously the worst she could have said was no and since she's undead now anyway you wouldn't have lost anything plus as a bonus if she had said yes she'd probably be with you now in your rag tag group creating the necessary romantic tension to drive the story forward.
After discussing these issues, we began brainstorming on possible prime locations. Our first thought was Home Depot. It is fairly close (probably about a mile away), and would have plenty of the construction materials needed to properly barracade any exits. Plus we could build a neat fort. Unfortunately, Home Depot severely lacks any sort of food more substantial than candy bars and bottles of soda. Also, in case of the scary fast Olympic sprinting zombies, we'd be gun-less.

My next inclination would be Fred Meyers. It is even closer than Home Depot, has much of the construction materials we could need (sans raw wood, but we could improvise), and would have more than enough canned food to last us quite a while. The large supply of food even means we could support not just our rag tag team, but any other survivors who perhaps had the same idea as us. We run into the same lack of gun problem, though, and also Freddie's is quite large; securing the location could prove problematic. Although the thought did just occur to me that we could definitely take advantage of the built in security cameras (provided we had electricity). Despite not being ideal, I don't think I'd rule it out yet.

After a while, Allen became sold on the idea of using Bimart as our fallback. All the canned food benefits of Fred Meyers, with a subset of the Home Depot construction tools, and the bonus of guns in stock. I mostly agree that this seems to be a better choice; the store is much smaller and therefore easier to secure, as well as being less popular so the chances of having to clear zombies out when we get there is lower (seriously, who actually shops at Bimart other than my mother?).

Our own apartment was ruled out fairly early due to the fact that I put very little faith in the construction of this building to withstand a wave of undead. Yes, Allen may own a sword, but in the confines of our living room I think we'd be more likely to chop off one of our own limbs while practicing our ninja moves than actually putting it to proper use.

In the end, Bimart seemed to remain our best option. It offers the most in terms of supplies, tools, and protection. So when the revolution invasion comes, head on over to our place and we'll set off on a daring escape through the streets, hacking off bits of living dead, making incredibly witty banter of course, only to reach the final showdown with the king zombie in the parking lot of the Bimart where he will force us to make either a terrible choice or heroic sacrifice in order to not only save ourselves and all of humanity, but win the girl (or guy, depending on your persuassion).

Yes, we did talk about this for over an hour. Hush.

Sidenote: So, what happens when a friend is infected? Do you immediately kill them to avoid the possibility of their eventual turn endangering your entire group? Or do you wait until the moment they turn since, after all, they're still human up to that point.

My argument was to leave them alive. First of all, do you really have the heart to kill them? Really? They're still human, you know. Could you be such a cold hearted bastard? Ok, even if you could, hear me out.

While still alive, this person can offer necessary utility to the group. Now that their life is basically forfeit, they could provide a much needed diversion or be the one to make the heroic sacrifice that tugs at the audiences' heart strings. Of course, this all depends on the turn time; the average time seems to be several hours. Considering most people don't even seem to last that long uninfected, why needlessly kill off a useful member of your party prematurely? Also, if you let them live you can get a better understanding of how the plague spreads, how long it takes to turn based on the severity of their injury, and other very important data you may need to not only survive, but ultimately defeat the king zombie.

Plus, how badass would it be to have a zombie friend? Think about it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things I've learned as a bicycle commuter

  1. Most drivers are courteous enough, but there are still those that forget I weigh about two orders of magnitude less than them.
  2. It's all fun and games until it rains.
  3. Beaverton smells. Really bad. Sometimes it's fallow pools of water (what the locals may call "a wetland", but most sensible people call a mosquito breeding puddle), sometimes it's the piles of garbage on the side of the road, and sometimes it's just good old fashion car exhaust. At least the variety keeps things interesting.
  4. You can still sweat in sub 40 degree weather. Which of course just makes you colder. Which also brings me to...
  5. ...butt sweat. Yup, it happens.
  6. There is a reason you see bikers rolling up their pants. And no, it's not just to look ridiculously hip. That just happens to be a pleasant side effect.
  7. No roads are actually flat. However, the hills you always imagined as being torturous are usually not quite so torturous.
  8. Planning is key: although the 10 mile ride may be fun, keep in mind you usually have to make the return trip.
  9. Not oft used bike lanes = all kinds of fun sharp things to run over.
  10. Yes, you can be pulled over.
  11. Despite as much as I try to convince myself otherwise, 4 working gears out of 10 really isn't adequate.
  12. My tires are exactly wide enough to fit nicely inside of the street car tracks. Unfortunately, this makes steering, and staying upright, difficult at best. Also, the best time to discover this is in front of a large group of people.
  13. The best bike lane traffic signal sensor is in front of the Beaverton library. Seriously, the moment my front tire crosses over, the opposing light immediately turns yellow. Too bad such technology is wasted on one of the least busy intersections around.
  14. Wet brakes + hills in Portland + trying to stop = not going to happen. (Astute scholars may note that the derivative of this is "nearly crapping my pants").
  15. It's farther than you think.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chronicles of Public Transit: Chapter 1

I take MAX into and out of Portland about four times a week. On my way home, I usually board during rush hour (anytime between 4 and 7 really). The newer trains have four hooks to hang bikes on, so I try my best to maneuver myself towards those. Unfortunately, this means I usually have to 1) shove my way through the crowds, knocking over old ladies and small children with my two wheeled monstrosity; and 2) stand next to my bike, staring aimlessly and uncomfortably at my fellow commuters.

Spending this much time on public transit, given the distribution of nutty people, the probability of "interesting times" is high.

To begin, three stories.

The pick up.

About two weeks ago, I boarded MAX downtown near the Pioneer Place mall. I'm pretty sure it was a Thursday, which meant it must have been around 4:30 by the time I grabbed the train, coming from a grueling session of Differential Equations (math with numbers, not my favorite; petition to keep numbers out of math!). To keep myself occupied I usually bring along my iPod, which serves the two additional purposes of keeping my glasses from falling off while biking it up and lets me ignore most of the crazies mulling around.

On this particular day, I had left my precious headphones at home. Mistake number one.

A few minutes into the ride, the man standing next to me asked me a question; I answered it. Mistake number two.

What started out as an innocent enough conversation began to get a little unsettling. I'll try to recreate as much as I can remember. Enjoy.

Him: "So do you work downtown?"
Me: "Uh nope, go to school."

[3 minutes of silence]

Him: "What do you go to school for?"
Me: "Math"

[2 minutes of silence followed by another couple unrelated questions and increasingly personal questions]

Him: "Do you go to a gym and work out?"
Me: "Nope, just ride the bike."
Him: "Oh, well you have nice mass" as he motions to my chest/back region.
Me: "Uh....thanks?"

[4 minutes of very awkward silence]

Him: "So what are you doing tonight?"
Me: "Just going home."
Him: "Where is home? Who do you live with."
Me: "A friend"

[Why oh why did I forget my headphones today, I think to myself]

Him: "What are you doing for dinner tonight?"
Me: ".....Not sure yet. Eat at home probably."
Him: "Do you like to dance?"
Me : "....."

Me: "No."
Him: "So you have a girlfriend?"
Me: "Uh, yup." Pretty much a lie, but it seemed like the right answer.

The last few minutes before my stop were spent in more awkward silence, with myself attempting to do anything except make eye contact with this very persistent man. The train finally pulled into my station, I grabbed my bike, and realized he was also getting off at the same stop. As I jumped on my bike and began peddling like mad, I looked back and noticed him crossing the platform to board the eastbound train back into Portland.

I have a new found sympathy for the ladies who are constantly accosted at bars.

The botched bike theft.

This happened a few nights ago. I had just taken a Group Theory midterm, after which myself and two friends from the class met up at the Market St. McMenamins to drink and commiserate. Much beer and tots were consumed, with a healthy dose of bitching and griping.

Afterwards, two of us walked down to the 10 st. MAX stop, mostly engrossed in slightly too loud conversation. While standing around waiting, a man and a woman walked up from behind us, stopping a few feet to our left. It wasn't entirely clear if they came together, or just happened to arrive at the same time. I'm not sure which would be more disturbing, considering what the man said next.

"Hey, you two, stop being such big losers and talk to this woman. Don't you want to talk to this woman instead of standing around like losers and watching this bike here? Go over there and talk to her and leave this bike here. Stop being such freaking losers, seriously. Just leave this bike here."

Really? That's the best you can come up with? I honestly expect better from crack-head would-be-thieves that hang around MAX platforms.

The typing teacher.

I saw Mr. Bristow, our high school keyboarding/journalism/yearbook/probably something else teacher, get on today at Pioneer Courthouse square. He looks exactly the same. I don't think he recognized me.

True story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama wins, country heaves collective sigh of relief.

The outcome was expected, but I didn't want to get my hopes up until the moment we knew for certain. Congratulations to America, lets move this thing forward now.

Also, I have to mention that after watching John McCain's concession speech my respect for the man has been resurrected. He seemed to return back to the McCain of 2000 and 2004 who actually stood apart from his party affiliation and spoke with integrity. I'm sure many of his flipped positions in this election were due to a need to please the Republican base, despite McCain's history of moderation. It is a shame he had to run the way he did, but I suppose politics will be politics.

I nearly convinced myself today that maybe McCain was running a subpar election on purpose; in some kind of underhanded way to backstab the Republican party. Like he was a secret Obama supporter, and really wanted him to win, but had to make sure it wasn't too obvious. Sounds like a good movie idea...

A few of us got together tonight to watch the results, either to celebrate or commiserate the results depending on the outcome. Like many others, I'm sure, we decided to make a drinking game of all the coverage. The rules went like this.

  1. Every time the electoral college map was shown, take a drink.
  2. Every time an American flag was shown, take a drink.
  3. Every time someone in a suit made a prediction or analysis, take a drink.
  4. Take a drink to celebrate whenever a state was called for Obama.
  5. Take a drink to wash away the pain every time a state was called for McCain.
  6. Whenever blah blah blah, take a drink
  7. Blah blah drink blah blah blah blah.

I think we all won this game.

Now for two months of everyone insisting this will be the most important election of all time and the insurmountable wall of obstacles Obama will face upon inauguration. Oh well, a step forward is a step forward. The news channels need something to talk about I guess.

Yes we can? I think we just did. Go us.