Southern Man

Friday, July 17, 2009

Popular Science

Southern Man has been a long-time reader of Popular Science, which (like Wired) is vaguely futuristic and optimistic and pretty to look at but (unlike Wired) generally features lots of pretty pictures of high-tech gadgets that will never actually be built and lots of gushing reviews of fantastic technologies that will never actually exist. Yes, these are the folks that promised us that we'd have cities on the Moon and our own private jet helicopters and electricity too cheap to meter by the beginning of the next millennium so Southern Man views this magazine as cheesy (but entertaining) science fiction more than anything else. Until this month.

The August 2009 print issue dives into disaster preparedness. Now, Southern Man isn't a hard-core survivalist by any means but he has put a bit of thought as to how to manage the oncoming collapse of society that will inevitably follow much more governing by the Democrats so he read this article with some interest, only to find some of the most hilarious advice ever seen in print. Some of it was just silly, such as "fill several empty milk jugs with water" (Southern Man prefers "have a well down and windmill-powered pump up on your generator-equipped, provisioned, and fortified rural acreage") but here's Southern Man's favorite, copied directly from the pages of the magazine under the noble auspice of "fair use" and with emphasis added:
Situation: You're blasting down the highway when you notice something ominous in your rearview: a monster twister.

Solution: Your best bet is to take refuge in a permanent shelter, such as a basement. If you don't see one, get out of your car and lie low in the ditch next to the highway. If you have a few moments and a good wrench, you can improve your survival odds by anchoring yourself to the ground. Shimmy under your muffler and then locate and remove four U-bolts, usually found along the exhaust system. Return to the ditch, strip out of your shirt and pants, and use the wrench to pound the bolts through your sleeves and pant legs into the hard ground. Slide back into your clothes and watch for flying cows.
Freelance author Jason Daley (who is apparently paid actual money to write this stuff) has obviously never removed the U-bolts from around a tailpipe, an operation that requires approximately two hours, three pairs of Vice-Grips, and a full can of WD-40. Southern Man predicts that if you actually try this the tornado will be gone long before you're done and you'll be struggling to explain to the nice man in the Highway Patrol uniform why you're lying naked in the ditch pounding U-bolts through your clothes with a wrench. Take Southern Man's advice instead: if you see a twister while on the road, put the pedal to the metal until you either outrun it or reach an intersection and can turn away. Mr. Daley continues to give advice you'll surely need if you and your home are caught in a mudslide. Instead of heeding the wisdom of Southern Man (which would again be along the general lines of "run like hell") Daley suggests that you disassemble the vent over your hood, strip out the wire screens, and manufacture a pair of what he calls "mud shoes" but given the condition of Southern Man's vent screen might be better called "Slip 'n' Slides." It doesn't matter as you'll still be looking for a damn screwdriver when you and your home are relocated down the mountain. Southern Man bets that the adrenalin rush that comes with being trapped in a mudslide would enable him to run across molten lava without much difficulty and mud probably wouldn't slow him down all that much. Or instead of "mud shoes" just kick off your boots and run barefoot instead. Or, better yet, don't build on muddy hillsides (if you want to take home-location advice from a man who chooses to live in the center of Tornado Alley). And if you want actual useful advice on disaster preparedness, look somewhere other than MacGyver and Popular Science.


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