Monday, February 25, 2013

more reviews and bp musings


MORE REVIEWS AND BP MUSINGS

To unremembered minion, thank you kindly for the copy of Fahrenheit 451 and Enders Game with the bonus pack of snaplights ( something that will certainly come in handy yet I’d never buy myself ).  To Grey, thanks for the copy of The Laws Of Physics Are On My Side.  It looks very interesting.  Both boxes came today and were a nice surprise, better than Christmas.  These occasional bursts of extra kindness certainly add to the pleasure of writing.  As to the occasionally extra bonus while reading, I can’t believe I just read not one but TWO very enjoyable post apocalypse books.  Last weeks mentioned Grid Down sequel and this weekend Slow Apocalypse by Varley.  Now, Slow was exactly as the title suggests, although not as slow as the Druid Dude seems to lust after.  Slow as in a month or three for everything to unravel.  Some douchebag designs a super microbe that turns oil into a solid, after which the hydrogen is released to the surface and explodes ( or something like that ).  Not terribly original, by my count being the third sci-fi book to use the similar premise.  But it does speed up the slow ass Peak Oil like we’ve seen since 2005.  I don’t know if the author lives in California, perhaps he was influenced by one of their many gas shortages.  The story is set in Los Angeles, and I couldn’t help but keep remembering those Saturday Night Live skits were they do the Valley Guy/Gal speech and keep talking about all the freeways mentioned by numbers they used to get to the house they are all in ( dude, I went to the 301 and then Cucamonga Canyon and across from the 224 and, like, here I am ).  You might want a map before you read this thing.

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But aside from that irritation, this is a pretty darn good novel.  It isn’t your typical MRE and poodle shooter macho dingus as the hero post-apoc genre book.  It is your “Yuppie’s barely able to pull their head out of their ass strive to survive” story, and one of the best I’ve seen.  The main character is a failing sit-com writer that just happens to get warned by an insider ( he is trying to interview a military consultant for movie ideas ), but has enough doubts that while he is better prepared than most after stocking up at Cosco, he isn’t by any means turned into a super survivalist type.  Because this is California, a place I’ll never go back to because they are rather cavalier about their unarmed citizens lives, there is that pesky waiting list for ANY firearm purchase.  The character ends up buying the guns on the black market and can only buy limited amounts of ammunition.  So the gun side of things is pretty realistic ( and a bit prophetic as today the whole country is like California as far as firearm availability to a certain degree ) with the characters armed with shotguns and revolvers, not larded down with twenty three semi-auto’s each.  The end is a bit slow in coming, there being weeks before the bioweapon evolves from local injection to airborne, and weeks more while the gas slowly runs out ( if you refine the crude, the finished product isn’t effected.  And, in a surprise move, the FedGov is smart enough to mostly drain the reserves and refine them in time ).

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Then, while not as slow, the breakdown in law and order isn’t instantaneous.  While I think there is a bit too long of collapse to be realistic, the story is darn good about asking the question, “how easy can you prep as shortages are going on”.  I’d say the ending was a slight bit disappointing, but not overly much.  Overall, a darn fine treatment of how a fast but not instantaneous collapse will look.

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My mission this weekend was to find vaguely remembered reference books on old timey black powder manufacture.  I went back to “Gunpowder” by Jack Kelly ( after looking for a damn hour in the storage trailers freezing my feet ) and reread it.  Here are the four books I came away with as being pertinent.  The one I really want is “Gunpowder, government, and war in mid-eighteenth century” by Jenny West.  That covers the English gunpowder industry.  No good for individual manufacture, but great for pre-petroleum large scale industry.  The books start at $30 which is a bit steep, but I just got my first check from Kindle sales ( $25-thanks everyone! ) so I’m not too worried about the price at this point.  You can buy the digital version for about $7, but I want the paper.  “Dangerous Energy” by Wayne Cocroft looks promising, but I’d sooner put a gun to my crotch than pay $70 for ANY book.  There is a 1905 book by Oscar Guttmann, “The manufacture of explosives” that is affordable which I’ll get.  And the ancient book I was trying to remember was “Pyrotechnia” by Vannoccio Biringuccio.  I might or might not get that one, as the mood hits me.  I think it might be helpful to have, as it starts its assumptions from a cottage level of industry and it might have general ideas good for a really devolved technical and resource base.  But of course it will also have issues from using archaic names. 

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One thing I picked up on from reading “Gunpowder” again was Britain and its control of India.  I never really understood why India was so important.  Important as being the number one priority almost the complete period of colonization.  I just assumed it was the control of the ship routes and perhaps for importing food to the home country.  Nope.  India, due to its climate, is a vast source of saltpeter.  Think about ships at sea and artillery on land and the huge amount of powder they needed.  You don’t get that amount by scrapping white crystals off human crap heaps, but by shoveling out tons from natural formations.  India must have been the primary source long before Chile or the few islands they controlled.  Fascinating stuff, and you’ll be hearing more soon.

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Improvised Munitions Book, ( NOW FREE!!! Free, I tells ya! )







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By the by, all my writing is copyrighted. For the obtuse out there.

 

3 comments:

  1. A little pricey, but a nice little black powder repeating carbine:

    http://www.cabelas.com/product/Shooting/Black-Powder/Traditional-Rifles-Shotguns|/pc/104792580/c/104701680/sc/104641380/Uberti-Cattlemans-Carbine-44-Revolver/740066.uts

    Purchase the cartridge conversion cylinder, and you will have the best of both worlds.

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    Replies
    1. Well, still cheaper than an AR. And it does give you a little leeway, as perhaps you can buy 44 when all the 223 is gone. The carbine and the pistol and the converter together should be not too much over a grand.

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    2. The converters are around $300.00 James. I forgot to add that you can use smokeless in these conversion cylinders, as long as the loads that you are using are Cowboy loads (1000 fps or less). A .45 long colt using 7.6 grains of smokeless HP-38 (850fps) is around 921 loads out of a pound can of powder (7000 grains). Very economical. Get a mold and free lead is easy to come by.

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